Greek Beat: Mental health and Greek life

Mackenzie Broderick, Greek Columnist

Recently, never mind how recently, I was crushed to a crush party. As people laughed and danced and posed for pictures at the party, I found myself crying in the bathroom. But to understand what led up to this moment, we need to start at the beginning.

It’s always been difficult to turn off my brain. In middle school, my parents put me in therapy to find the root of my horrific nightmares, but the cause turned out to have less to do with an ancient curse on our house and more with my overactive imagination. For the most part, however, I considered myself a relatively well-adjusted person.

When I arrived on campus, I heard others speak about mental health, but I didn’t listen. As the year progressed, though, the stress compounded. Two thousand miles from home, I found it almost impossible to prioritize my feelings enough to talk about them. After all, how was my stress any different from that of my peers here at Northwestern?

The spring brought even more stress and anxiety, as my existence at NU revolved around my frustrations instead of my successes. Finally, I dug through the mound of papers on my desk and pulled out the pamphlet for Counseling and Psychological Services.

“Why are you scheduling an appointment, Mackenzie?”

“I listen to everyone,” my voice cracked as I spoke into the phone. “And I just want someone to listen to me.”

Even though it was a relief to schedule a counseling session, I also felt guilty. I don’t have a diagnosable illness, and yet I was taking up valuable space at our understaffed mental health center.

The lingering guilt followed me to the crush party that night. In a sea of people, I felt utterly alone. Music blasted, Eminem singing about the monster in his head, and my imagination refused to quit.

Every reason that had led to the call returned with dizzying speed, playing in an endless loop in my mind. In the midst of switching majors, I had yet to tell my parents. My peers were applying to internships while I considered myself lucky if I could get a summer job selling popcorn at the local movie theater. My friends were falling in love, or at least finding a warm body, and here I was, alone at a crush party.

Thus, crying in the bathroom. But I wasn’t alone because my sisters were with me. I’m grateful to the women, some of whom I didn’t even know that well, who took the time to hold my hand and assure me that things would get better.

Greek life itself can bring a lot of stress, from quarterly dues to leadership obligations to finding a date for the next social event. But it also provides a support system — we all should surround ourselves with people who care about us, whether affiliated or not. Right now, I need to expand my support group to include professionals, not because I am broken, but because I need to grow stronger.

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