Death is a harrowing ordeal. Death can bring friends and families closer together or drive them apart. Death can mobilize people into action or leave them in a perpetual haze; unable to act. I have witnessed the maelstrom of emotion evoked by the death of a loved one, but nothing has brought more heartbreak to me than suicide.
I once knew a man who had everything you could want; an elite education, a great family, an adoring niece and nephew, countless friends, enough money to live a comfortable life, and a thirst for adventure. He had been well spoken, but not verbose. Approachable, but reserved being more his style. He knew his way around a room and it had been clear when he spoke, his intellect shined through.
A year and a half ago this man took his own life. A year and a half ago a friend, a brother, an uncle, a son, a cousin, and so many other things to so many people decided enough was enough and ended his life.
Still today, I struggle with the idea of him being gone. He will never again light up someone’s face when he enters a room. This feeling still lingers in my brain. He never seemed unhappy to me. Constantly traveling. Constantly learning. A man of many talents with an abundance of wealth (and not just the monetary kind). He was one of the most educated people I had ever met and his laughter had been contagious. His thoughtfulness, patience, and compassion was ever-present but above all else, he seemed so together. Always in the moment when you were with him and you could see in his eyes he genuinely felt love for you as a person.
But underneath it all, deep down, hidden from everyone he knew, a dark and tormented mind became overwhelming. The constant pressure to do and be more was an unbearable burden he could not withstand. So, on a Wednesday evening, after an ordinary day in the life of my friend, he went to sleep with the intention of never waking up again.
You kick yourself around thinking, “what could I have done?” or “why didn’t he talk about it” but unfortunately for us, the ones who are left to pick up the pieces, we will never know. We will never fully understand why.
I miss him often. We all do. It comes at some of the most random times. Passing a picture on my refrigerator with his face staring back at me, my mind suddenly becomes thrust into the moment I found out. Thankfully, over time, those thoughts quickly move to the times we shared together and not just the tragic end we all experienced. I see his features in pictures of his niece and nephew and think of what they will miss out on, not being able to fully comprehend at the time he wasn’t coming back. No more soccer matches, no more birthday parties, no more impromptu visits because he missed them. They will never really get it and maybe that’s a blessing. I don’t know enough about the cognitive development of children to accurately describe what death does to them emotionally or developmentally, but for me, it hurt. Still, today, it hurts.
Many of us compartmentalize our emotions. Truth be told, it’s a coping mechanism for myself, but for those who are suicidal, it may be how they get through the day. Pushing things down and off to the side sometimes becomes the way they seem so together and happy when they need to be. These struggles are internal and often they will never see the light of day because of how adept their owner has become and concealing them.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there is one death by suicide every 12.3 minutes. Suicide among males is four times higher than females, and the prevalence of suicidal thoughts, planning and attempts is significantly higher among adults aged 18-29 than among adults 30+. This information is jarring. Even the act of looking up these statistics makes me fearful for the men in our organization who feel so trapped in their own mind that the only way out is to take their own life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, suicide warning signs or suicidal thoughts include:
- Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
- Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
- Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
- Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
- Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence
- Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
- Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
- Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this
- Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again
- Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above
But what do you do when you see someone you care for exhibiting these or others like it?
Your willingness to talk about mental or emotional issues and suicide with a friend, family member, or co-worker can be the first step in getting them help and preventing suicide. Something to keep in mind is to never minimize or shame a person into changing their mind. Trying to guilt them into not going forward with it will only deepen their guilt and hopelessness. When someone is suicidal, they are often not mentally able to make decisions and desperately need intervention by others. Reassuring them help is available and the feelings they are having are treatable is key. If someone tells you they want to take their life, offer help and compassion but know there are ways to ensure their safety too. You can report the threat to the police and in most situations, they can physically intervene and take them to a safe place.
Life can get better.
My take away from this experience is to not allow a moment to pass you by when you think, “I could have said something.” We can all say something and having an emotionally open dialogue with our brothers, friends and family about suicide is an important first step in prevention.
For more information about Suicide and Suicide Prevention follow the links below
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
1 (800) 273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
In a few weeks it’ll be time to cram for those final exams then it’s finally three months of freedom! Being from Maryland, this means boat trips on the river, Orioles games at The Yard, crabs doused in Old Bay, and of course a trip to Ocean City. But whatever your summer plans may entail, it probably involves trading in your sweatshirt for a Theta Chi tank. That means it’s time to start shedding the winter plumpness and getting in shape.
I’m not going tell you to skip “wing night” or not eat Chick-Fil-A; you can still have fun, go out with friends, and eat the foods you like. I’m here to give you a quick rundown on how to eat a little healthier and still be yourself. Education is the first step to living a healthier lifestyle. One blog post cannot possibly cover it all, but it’s a good place to start and hopefully it will inspire you to continue the research and share the knowledge.
First, let’s talk about your diet. When I say diet, I don’t mean going on one, I’m talking about what you actually eat. Unfortunately, diet fads don’t work. Even though you may lose weight (awesome), they don’t focus on long-term health (not awesome.) The fat cells your body develops to store fat as you gain weight, never go away – even when you lose the weight. This is why it is so easy to put weight back on. If weight loss is your goal, you’ll need to develop a plan to change your lifestyle. That sounds daunting but I’ll break it down and offer some tips to help you out.
- Before you make changes, record what you eat and how much you exercise for seven days. You don’t need to spend money on this, there are plenty of free apps to help you: My Fitness Pal and My Plate are two I would recommend.
- Take your seven-day log, do a little research, and figure out what areas you can improve in. This is the hardest part so feel free to get help from a nutritionist or personal trainer. Chances are you might have someone in your chapter majoring in a health and fitness field that could help.
- Make a plan on how to incorporate your areas for improvement into your diet over time. The key here is not to quit “cold turkey”. If you have a few sodas each day, cut your limit to one per day then once you conquer that, every other day, and so on. You can still go out but consider grilled chicken instead of fried, downsize your unhealthy selections – then eventually eliminate them, hold the butter and salt, etc.
- Take a look at your exercise routine. If you don’t have one, incorporate an actual plan. Put your workout schedule into your calendar and try to keep it to the same time each day. It may be hard at first but once your body gets acclimated to this routine, it becomes almost second nature. Make sure you’re lifting and doing cardio. You don’t need to get big, but use weights to tone your body. Burning fat will happen through cardio. You can do as many crunches as you want but it’s actually cardio that will allow those abs to show.
- Continue tracking your food and drink intake and educate yourself about what is in your food so you know what you’re eating. This is really important. If you go through three sauce packets at Chick-Fil-A, that’s 400-500 extra calories. A large Baja Blast from Taco Bell is over 500 calories. Those items might seem rather harmless but they add up quickly and neither of those items have any nutritional value. On the other hand, guacamole (minus the chips) and nuts for example, are high in fats but in reality offer high nutritional value so they’re good, in moderation. This is why it’s important to know exactly what you’re eating.
Then what? Keep it going! Continue slowly eliminating the unhealthy aspects from your diet, exercising, tracking your food intake, and educating yourself on healthy foods. Get a brother or friend to join you. It adds a layer of accountability and even a little competition. There will be times you need the motivation. Don’t be afraid of a cheat day or cheat meal as long as you don’t make a habit out of it. After a while, you’ll find yourself not even wanting those unhealthy foods you used to crave.
Ultimately, It’s about living a healthy life and developing a healthy lifestyle while you’re young and can better train your body and mind. You’ll feel better, be more productive, be more confident, and just be all around happier. For those chapters I’ve visited you’ve already heard this but for the rest of you – buy a tux before you’re 30 and stay that size.
Marc Bodine, Field Executive
I sat down today to finish writing my weekly blog post but with the news of another iconic artist passing this year, I thought I would write something a bit different.
“Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.”- Prince
This is not a eulogy for Prince Rogers Nelson. I realize he is not the only person to pass away today but his life and his art touched millions. Prince’s musical catalog is vast and, up until this afternoon, seemed like it was never going to end. Fifty full albums and countless collaborations with artists from across all genres, his music gave us a way to fully escape into a world only he truly knew. Listening to the curated DJ tributes across most music streaming platforms have made this easier to write. One quipped “Look at all this music he gave us and imagine all the music he never wanted us to see. How many platinum records were waiting for the world in his “maybe later” pile?!”
His music was an experiment in human emotion, creativity and most notably, sound. He experimented with sound like no other musician at the time. “When Doves Cry” has no bass line which was completely unusual for an 80’s dance song but somehow it still pops. It did have a bass line before the final version was finished but in true Prince fashion, he removed it because it was too conventional. He was trying to transcend the establishment of music at the time and create, not duplicate.
This, for me, is a call to action for anyone who thinks they still have time. This thing that connects all of us can be taken away at any moment and it is our duty as humans to live every day to the fullest.
• Make time to shoot a text to your mom to say you’re doing alright.
• Ask that person who you’ve been catching eyes with all semester for coffee after class.
• Do something that you wouldn’t normally do.
• Be different if that is who you are or if that is who you desperately want to be.
• Stand up and lead if that is your calling.
• Write if that is who you are.
• Create if it means you will make sense of this life.
Prince was an artist, performer, dynamic producer, legendary guitar player and someone who never gave in. He was a lot of things to a lot of people but for me he was someone who lived his life with no regrets. Someone who pushed the limits and fought for his craft. He was political, creative, extraordinary, enigmatic, spirited, secretive, and above all else, authentic. Living an authentic life, I feel like is the most important thing for each and every one of us to do.
As a chapter, you cannot compare yourselves to the other groups on campus. Our Sacred Purpose already sets us apart from every fraternity on campuses across North America. Keep innovating and challenging the stereotype. Look to the other men in your chapter and challenge them to be extraordinary. Know who you are and be that person. Be that person no matter the consequences. What have you got to lose? Go out and get after it.
Be Prince; that’s what he would have wanted for you.
I received this post anonymously and it was too poignant not to share.
“There is a destiny which makes us brothers; none goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.”- Edwin Markham
-Anthony Dominguez, M.Ed.
Director of Education
“So, you joined a fraternity to buy your friends, huh?” I’ve been asked this question too many times to count. During recruitment events, telling friends about what it’s like to be in a fraternity or explaining why I joined one, this question came up constantly. Did I? No, I did not join a fraternity to buy my friends, and neither did any of my brothers. We didn’t join a fraternity to buy anything; we joined a fraternity to build and become part of a something bigger than ourselves.
Sure, at first some of us may have joined because of what we saw in movies, or because the beginning of college can be an overwhelming experience but we stayed because of the bonds we worked to build and, the bonds we created with one another. Brotherhood is a huge aspect of a what a fraternity strives for. Service, leadership, scholarship, philanthropy and friendship; we accomplish all of these things through brotherhood.
I realized this as an undergraduate and actively sought to encourage this in my own chapter. It’s easy to see the value that being part of a brotherhood adds to your life. Over the years, I’ve sought advice, assistance, and so many other things uniquely available to me because of the brotherhood of Theta Chi. Being a part of this fraternity has challenged and benefited me in ways I could have never imagined. The people I’ve met throughout my time as a brother, the relationships I’ve made, could not have been bought even if I had wanted to buy them.
The opportunity to be a part of this brotherhood is an opportunity that is wildly rewarding and I am honored to be a member. It is an opportunity capable of playing a role in personal and professional successes and it is capable of drastically shaping our lives for the better. Because of this, we must invest in, support, protect, and sustain it. Nothing made this more clear to me than my experience working as a Field Executive for our Fraternity.
While on staff I crisscrossed the Eastern United States, visiting different schools and chapters while meeting countless brothers. My time on the road allowed me to see the support our brotherhood provides is not totally unconditional, but when earned and invested in, it is near limitless. Undoubtedly my role on staff put brothers in a position where they may have felt obligated to treat me a certain way, but my encounters outweighed any expectations I had walking into the job. The genuine enthusiasm and care with which brothers welcomed me into their homes and lives is remarkable. After twenty-four hours of knowing someone, I learned about aspects of their lives, passions, and dreams which have not only inspired me but also demonstrated the significance and interconnectedness of our brotherhood. The conversations and moments I shared with brothers I just met have defied traditional timelines for growth and trust between people.
Before joining staff, I was convinced of the importance of supporting and building my own chapter’s brotherhood but after several months on the road, the scale of my understanding of our fraternity grew tremendously. My chapter visits have demonstrated to me just how widespread our organization is. Somehow this thing truly runs deeper than just the bonds of a specific chapter designation. The limitlessness of it all is overwhelming. Brotherhood can play a positive role in our lives not only in our own chapter but also in a city 3,000 miles from where I became part of it.
All of this has convinced me of how uniquely important the bonds we have worked to build and support are. The time, effort, passion, and care which all of us have invested in our own chapter’s livelihood in one way or another are investments that will continue to benefit us throughout our lives. Traveling on the road and looking for a place to crash- The Brotherhood is there. Networking for a connection in an industry you’re interested in- The Brotherhood is there. Looking to brothers for advice and knowing that you can count on them during a time of hardship-The Brotherhood is there. Hanging out with brothers from a chapter on the other side of the country… you get the idea.
All of these are examples of our investments in Theta Chi. Suffice it to say, our brotherhood is paying off. So whenever you think about the fraternity and what it means to be a Theta Chi, remember why we joined and what we’re here to do. Remember that an investment of time, love, and compassion in your own chapter is an investment in all of our chapters. Remember, we didn’t buy it but we did build it and we need to keep building it. So, invest. Invest your time and energy in one another, our brotherhood, and pay it forward.
A few weeks ago I was invited to The White House. Take a minute to let that sink in. This guy from Texas was invited to represent Theta Chi Fraternity at The White House. Only 24 hours have passed since I was sitting in a room with about 100 other folks and I still cannot believe it happened.
Get to the point – okay, I hear you.
I was invited on behalf of It’s On Us to represent Theta Chi Fraternity and, on a larger scale, Greek life across America to honor ten students who are doing extraordinary things to make a difference on their college campuses for sexual assault awareness and prevention.
Why was it important to have Greeks represented at this event? The Greek System is the largest network of volunteers in the U.S. Members of Greek life donate over 10 million hours of volunteer service annually and have roughly 750,000 active undergraduate members in 12,000 chapters on more than 800 campuses. Greek students are Student Body Presidents and Vice Presidents. Greek students are founders of spirit clubs and consistently the most involved on any given campus, year in and year out. Suffice it to say their circle of influence is vast. So what can we do as Greeks to bring about positive change on our campuses? Start the conversation.
The It’s On Us campaign is committed to ending sexual assault on college campuses in America. The campaign, starting in the fall of 2014, asks that we all take personal accountability for preventing campus sexual assault by working as a team and fully realizing it is on ALL of us to make the change. It’s On Us puts the control in the student’s hands and empowers individuals on campuses to affect positive change. It’s On Us asks individuals to take The Pledge. This pledge is a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault. It’s a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution. Taking the pledge is the first step.
The It’s On Us Champions of Change honored 10 students who have done some amazing things on their campuses. Jessica Davidson, a Chi Omega and Student Body Vice President of the University of Denver, led the charge in making comprehensive sexual assault prevention education and policy changes. She became a part of a national conversation on sexual assault with her blog post landing on the front page of the Huffington Post. Malayna Hasmanis is a Phi Mu and the founding member and president of Greeks Against Sexual Assault at Grand Valley State University. For the last four years, Claire Kelling has coordinated Take Back the Night at Virginia Tech and will begin her pursuit of a PhD in Statistics to bring the power of data analytics into the conversation.
These are just three examples of how students are leading the effort to eradicate sexual assault on college campuses.
Vice President of the United States of America Joe Biden has been an advocate for the end of violence towards women for over three decades. He too was in attendance yesterday. He addressed the audience for more than 30 minutes about how important this cause is to him. With the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, written by Biden himself, he began to slowly erode the age old established notion that domestic violence was a family issue. His words resonated with the crowd when he said “nothing short of changing the way women are treated on college campuses and high schools will be treated as a success. We can change the culture.” The Vice President made it clear when he closed with this statement: “My goal is setting the foundation so your generation, when you drop off your son or daughter at college, you will not have the feeling in the back of your mind ‘will they be a victim of abuse?’”
Many Theta Chi chapters across North America have taken the pledge, and have even organized events with It’s On Us to raise awareness. Gamma Tau/Drake University has used their influence on campus to create change. Iota Sigma/Towson, Zeta Sigma/ Wisconsin-River Falls created their own PSAs taking the pledge. Alpha Mu/ Iowa State hosted a sexual assault and domestic violence candle light vigil reflection for students and faculty on their campus. More and more chapters are participating in events hosted by other organizations with the single goal of letting their fellow students know, they are not alone.
We as men of Theta Chi Fraternity are charged with extending a Helping Hand to all who seek it. It is our obligation to help others and to find them help. We have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves every day, “am I doing everything I can?” As corny as it sounds, we are the future of humanity. If we are able to affect a cultural shift that pushes us away from the idea that intimate partner violence and sexual assault is okay, we will take that shift into the work force, into our own homes, and eventually into the lives of our children.
“When men can stand up and start conversations and end the jokes about rape and vulnerability, then we can have culture change.”- Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States.
“It was 4 years ago this month I was sexually assaulted.”
I finally said that out loud for the first time the other day and it felt like the floor beneath me had fallen out. Typing it was almost impossible, because now that I am writing it down, it makes it real, it makes that secret of my life public.
When I first thought about writing this piece I reflected on the fact that it was this month, April, 4 years prior that I encountered a person that would change my life. How unfortunate that this incident coincided with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
For as long as I can remember I have always struggled with mental health issues. This grew out of a place where I knew I was different; Growing up gay in Texas was not exactly a walk in the park, and everyone around me seemed to know before I did. I lived in a “glass closet.” I was constantly trying to fit into a masculine mold that just was not authentic to who I was, often at odds with the rural community where I grew up. When I went to college I wanted to put my best foot forward, so I toned down my flamboyancy, adopted a new wardrobe and image, and decided to be what I thought everyone else wanted me to be. I joined Theta Chi after the recommendation of some friends, and found a group of men that quickly saw through this front and supported me as best as they could. My first year in college was everything I needed, and helped tremendously with my self-image. My second year was probably the worst, as I fell into a depressing spiral that almost drove me to end my own life. Thankfully a number of brothers and administrators intervened and I finally got the help I needed.
I tell you all of this because I think the context of who I am, my identities, and the way I navigated my own sexual assault matter. These pieces all impact one another.
Just a few weeks prior to the incident I had just turned 21 years old. I was in my third year of undergrad and thought I was invincible. Likely harboring a few alcoholic tendencies, I was going out every chance I got. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, sometimes even on Sunday nights. It never negatively affected my grades, my involvement in co-curricular activities, or my friendships however, I was also drinking to nurse old wounds. After recently going through a break up with my first boyfriend, I was not in an emotional space that was healthy, and I was not willing or able to recognize it.
It was a Saturday night; I was out with my usual crowd by 9:30 p.m. (I had to take advantage of the cheap drink deals at the local college dive bar, 50 cents well drinks), and we found ourselves playing darts against a group of guys that we knew from intramural sports. Drink after drink, shot after shot, I likely had 10-15 drinks within a 3-hour period. I can remember every detail, the clothes I was wearing, the jeans, my shoes, even the way my hair was parted that night, but the last memory I have is being handed a drink by my eventual rapist.
From that point forward it is all a blur. A few images pop up every now and again of the room I was in, the apartment, things that were said, and the actual event itself. I remember saying, “No.” I remember crying. I can’t remember the whole event, just the memories of things that haunt me at the most inconvenient times (usually during a graphic scene in a movie, in the middle of a student staff training, or when I am in a particularly dark club). I woke up the next morning in my own apartment, sitting in the shower with all of my clothes still on. I did not move the rest of the day from my bed.
Feeling dirty, guilty, and helpless, I decided not to tell anyone for a while. The person who raped me was well-known on campus and I didn’t think anything would come of me reporting the information. I also felt like I had taken up a considerable amount of time from the student affairs administrators and the Greek life staff at the time, and I didn’t want to be a burden to them. Looking back, I regret not reporting the incident and wonder how things might have turned out had I decided to do so.
Additionally, I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I had internalized this message that gay men were inherently promiscuous, so this was likely my own fault. I had slept with this particular individual before and wondered whether or not I was asking for it.
“Did I consent? This is probably my fault; I was asking for it.
I shouldn’t have been so drunk and should have listened to my friends.
Some of my friends don’t believe me, why would anyone else?
What is my mom going to think? What about my dad?*
No one can know, I have things to do and don’t have time to be a victim.
It has been too long since then, I can’t report it now.”
*It should be noted that I did tell my parents this past week prior to this post becoming public, that is how long it took me to build up the courage to tell them this part of myself.
All of these thoughts ran through my head constantly (and sometimes still do). After a few months, I started to tell a few people, usually after getting drunk again and finally letting my guard down. However, it wasn’t until my senior year at my chapter’s senior night that I finally told my brothers. I was about to embark on the next journey in my life and it felt fitting to tell the group of men with whom I could be honest. I was met with compassionate reactions and hugs afterward; it was the perfect send off.
A few months later I went to graduate school in Vermont to become a higher education professional, and hopefully support students like myself that struggle with the same things. And while I thought I had finally dealt with all of my demons, we should know by now that it was just an illusion. Graduate school was difficult, and in the midst of grieving several deaths, I found it hard to survive.
It was not until my third semester in grad school that I decided to start seeing a counselor again. Here I was, an administrator referring students constantly to counseling services, constantly talking about how students should confront the deepest pieces of themselves, yet I was failing to take my own advice. If it wasn’t for my supervisor, friends in my cohort pushing me to receive counseling, and my faith in God, I’m not sure I would have finished my program. For me, going to church every Sunday, going through the sacraments, and finding peace in silence was instrumental in my recovery.
In retrospect, I think all of this means that we are never truly done dealing with our “crap.” It’s cyclical, and crops up every now and again. Even this past week as I was speaking with a student, I had to take a moment to process a traumatic piece of my past that was getting in the way of me being present. While I am in a better place of coping now, I know that I have a long road ahead of me.
But here are some things that I have learned thus far:
1. It was not my fault. No matter the circumstances, what I experienced was real, and it was not my fault.
2. It happens to men, and as a man it is my responsibility to end gender-based violence in our culture.
3. Tell somebody, when you’re ready, but please report it. Don’t let this person get away with it.
4. Take care of yourself, in whatever way is meaningful for you. If this is religion, meditation, running,
working out, Netflix-binge, whatever it is… THAT’S GREAT. Don’t let alcohol or drugs become your coping mechanism.
This is my story. It’s messy and horrible, but it is a part of my journey. It is also why I do the work that I do. If you ever need a helping hand, or a brother to talk to, I’m here.
Sean Smallwood (Delta Phi/North Texas 2013)
firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @SeanRSmallwood
This has been an incredible season for the Golden State Warriors. From their 24-0 start to seeing their head coach sidelined for the first 43 games of the season due to a back injury, the Warriors have made this season exhilarating to watch— but they are still not satisfied.
The Warriors are chasing history this season. The 24-0 start was its own success, yet are other spoils of war in the Warriors’ sight. They are looking to not only become the first team in NBA history to go through a single season without back-to-back losses, but to also best the current NBA highest single season win/loss record held by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls at 72-10. Things are now getting tight down the stretch for the defending champs. With the regular season coming to an end next week, the Warriors must win all 4 of their remaining games, including home and away dates with the San Antonio Spurs to make history.
Statistics show they have at least a 56% chance of matching the historic 72-10 mark but only a 14% chance of surpassing it and becoming the only team in history to go 73-9. The pressure’s on, right?
The Spurs are not the only thing standing in their way, of course, but this might seem like their biggest obstacle. Fatigue can lead to turnovers and miscommunication on the court. Lack of sleep due to their schedule (4 games in 6 nights) can hamper their ability to focus. Stress will play a huge role in their performance over the next 7 days and could even hold over into their post-season play. To make things even more difficult, the Warriors have still not secured the overall number 1 seed for the NBA Playoffs. The Spurs are only 3.5 games behind the Warriors in the standings and still have a shot at 70 victories if they win out. The night is dark and full of terrors, you know what I mean?
How can the Warriors manage expectations and still outperform the competition over the next 7 days? They have a resiliency never before seen in the NBA through their ability to, at this point, not lose back-to-back games. They have youth on their side with the average age of their starting 5 being 26.8. They have a coaching staff with a combined 7 NBA Finals victories, including their most recent victory in the 2014-2015 season. They have some of the loudest fans on earth with 120 decibels of raw sound power being unleashed in Oracle Arena. They have their families who not only are NBA veterans themselves (Dell Curry, Mychal Thompson, both with championships of their own) but a support network of wives, mothers, siblings, and children all there to pick them up when they feel overwhelmed.
So what does this have to do with collegiate men and their health and safety? I am really glad you asked.
At this point in every collegian’s spring semester, the pressure is on. Some brothers are on the last sprint toward graduation. Others are on a mad dash to catch up on all the reading they neglected during SPRING BREAK 2016. Some might even be frozen with fear for their fate is left in the hands of the professor they swear has a vendetta against them. Some are in a mad dash to finish strong and secure that 4.0 GPA to make themselves competitive in the summer internship pool. Making the connection?
Some of our brothers are the first in their family to attend college, let alone graduate with a 4-year degree (making history). Others are spread so thin with work, school, and other student organizations their mind has become mentally taxed to its limit (fatigue). Some brothers are active participants in group projects and all-nighters spent in the library with 4 tests or papers due over the course of 6 days (lack of sleep). Some may even feel like they are trapped in pressure cookers trying pass their classes so summer isn’t consumed with retaking courses (Stress carrying over). Luckily for our undergraduates, they do not have the San Antonio Spurs standing in their way.
But the record, fatigue, lack of sleep, and stress are not the only thing our collegians have in common with the Golden State Warriors. They also carry with them the resiliency which is manifested in their ability to study all night, wake up the next day and not only take but ace their last test before the final in organic chemistry. They obviously have youth on their side with most Theta Chi members being between the age of 18-22. Their coaching staff is made up of older members, Greek life advisors, chapter advisory boards, and actively engaged alumni who are there to help design the play and watch them execute. Their own brothers serve as their fan base; although I hope they can keep the decibel level down during study sessions or tests. Their families are full of college veterans and a wide support network who can provide encouragement and knowledge when things become overwhelming.
Staying healthy during this critical moment in the semester is imperative to the success of not only our individual brothers but to our brotherhood as a whole. Utilize your resources and know your limits. Remember how invincible you felt during March Madness before Michigan State was bounced in the first round? If you are lamenting over something similar, it is in this moment you have to pick yourself up and find a way to overcome the odds. It’s time to make the trek towards the end of the semester with composure and determination.
• Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night
• Exercise regularly
• Eat well
• Take Breaks
• Use your down time between exams wisely
• Don’t get lit
I wholeheartedly believe in our collective brotherhood to make history and outperform others during these vital moments of the semester. It excites me to know the men of Theta Chi Fraternity will live by their maxim this semester and truly honor “Alma Mater First and Theta Chi for Alma Mater…With that being said, The Spurs will prevent the Golden State Warriors from making history and will take them to 7 games in the Western Conference Finals to eventually win the 2016 NBA Championship.
Did I mention I’m a die-hard Spurs fan? I’m even wearing my lucky socks for tonight’s match-up right now.
Going off to college is like baiting your own fishing hook for the first time; It’s a rite of passage. You’ve been told by your father, his father, and maybe even his father about what to expect when you take those nervous first steps onto campus. They describe this utopia of free thought, open minds, flowing fountains of knowledge, etcetera, etcetera. All of these things sounded wonderful but one thing they warned me of was the dreaded Freshmen Fifteen.
Before I made this journey a reality I spent my first year out of high school working and saving money so I could have the ideal freshman year. No work, just school and fun. During this year I gave up soda, changed my diet, began to exercise more strategically and ended up losing 40lbs. I was ready to make a name for myself on campus. I knew fraternities were a thing but I hadn’t give it much thought until I found myself at a baseball game with a bunch of guys from Theta Chi Fraternity.
“I hope you’re ready for the best year of your life” felt like it was on repeat during the beginning of the recruitment process; almost like they practiced it over and over in the mirror. Even up to initiation, these words flowed from their mouths and into our ears and we were ready. Somewhere during the pledge process some of the older active members took me under their wing and began to show me the ropes. How to act during a social, what to do when you ask a girl to formal, how to properly handle a celebratory taunt when you score the winning touchdown during the IM all-campus championship and even how to handle the psychological damage of getting dunked on the next month during the IM all-campus championship; these guys knew how to conduct themselves. But something was off. We were being social, athletic, I was going to class but somehow the Freshmen Fifteen was gaining on me. Literally.
Flash Forward a year and I am living in the house and instead of just 15 lbs. I was now 30 lbs. heavier than when I started. My body was beginning to feel the effects of a year of abuse. I abused alcohol, food and apathy for anything that didn’t include drinking and chilling. I was quickly running out of money and the ladies who were giving me the time of day my first semester stopped texting. Something had to change.
When I told folks my plan to take year off drinking I was confronted with blank stares and confused responses. “This is college dude. No way you can last a year” was the refrain from the peanut gallery but I was determined to make this a reality. Brotherhood camp outs were tough, going out to the bars were even harder but something had to give. Some of my closest friends were enablers too. After all, “its college” was a mantra some of them lived by. But still, I knew I needed to make a change.
It wasn’t easy, and it had a sweeping effect on my social life, however, by the second semester of my junior year I had given up fast food too and was starting to see my hard work come to fruition. Eventually, I had the support of my chapter and brothers who wanted to tag along. We worked out at 6 a.m., ran 15 miles per week, and didn’t settle for a crunch wrap supreme after a night out. Yes, if you’ve been to Iota Beta, you know the struggle between healthy eating and late night Taco Bell runs(walks).
I had once again lost 40 lbs. and not only gained the respect of my fraternity brothers, but regained my self-respect. Defeating the Freshman Fifteen is possible and rewarding. Find a habit that gets you active and moving, and don’t be afraid to take a night off. We all go to college for an education but for some of us, the most useful educating comes from outside the classroom. Discovering and developing healthy habits will pay off when you leave school and free time is limited. Setting expectations, allowing flexibility and understanding how healthy living is a viable option for college and beyond is a great way to turn a habit into a lifestyle.
Check out this link for info on how to create a healthy routine.
Jordan Carter, Development Officer
I work for an amazing organization. Every day I have the opportunity to enact positive culture changes in the lives of undergraduates on college campuses. I have a master’s degree from a Tier 1 Research Institution. I have a dream job with a wonderful and gracious support network. I am supposed to have it together, right?
I suffer from anxiety.
Sadly, it took more out of me than it should have to come up with those words. A conversation with a friend brought up the topic of anxiety for a blog post. Yet being this vulnerable with people I don’t know fills my brain with anxiety. “Break the stigma” he said, “You have to write about it”. So here I am– typing.
I cannot tell you exactly when it started but what I can tell you is that I began exhibiting symptoms as an undergraduate. They only got worse as I navigated my way through the professional world and graduate program simultaneously. Panic attacks began to happen regularly. I had an inability to fall asleep. If I ever actually fell asleep it would be for minutes at a time, rather than hours. Sometimes a wave of dread would crash over me and I would begin to question everything I had done in the last 48 hours; wondering if I was going to make it into the next hour. The strangest thing about it is I cannot think of a particular moment that set these things in motion. It would just happen.
There were moments when I felt superhuman though. That is a peculiar thing about suffering from anxiety, it isn’t omnipresent in all cases. Months could pass without feeling anxious. I knew how to hide my feelings and keep things moving.
Elected to hold office in my chapter? Of course I want to lead (internal anxiety engine starting). Promotion in an office where those are few and far between? Of course I want the opportunity and the experience (internal anxiety shifting gears). Start a graduate program at the same time and my company will pay for most of it? Of course, I would be a fool to not take advantage of it (internal anxiety going into the red). Seek help? Not a chance.
I can handle it. Pressure is what makes diamonds, right? I wanted to take in everything I could to make a difference. I wanted to help people. I wanted to give back to my Alma Mater. I wanted to grow. I wanted to lay the foundation for the rest of my life. I wanted to help people.
I wanted to help.
I wanted help.
It was in those moments, curled up on my bathroom floor because I felt like my heart was going to explode where I found myself completely overwhelmed. I needed to get help. When I finally decided to get treatment I was met with open minds and open hearts. This was a weight being lifted off my shoulders. Identifying cause and effect in my own actions and how they can lead to increasing my anxiety was eye opening. The notion that I was not superhuman didn’t come as a surprise. The surprise was I didn’t need to be. I can ask for help. I can delegate responsibilities. I can say no. Actually talking these things through with a trained professional gave me an outlet. I was able to take off my superhero cape and be honest. Not only to myself but to my family, my colleagues, and my friends.
A recent study revealed nearly one in six college students has been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety within the last 12 months.
Research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness on college campuses shows that one in four students have diagnosable illnesses. The research also shows:
• 40% do not seek help
• 80% feel overwhelmed by responsibilities
• 50% are anxious because they struggled in school
“But there is a great stigma. Students don’t want to be labeled as crazy or feel ashamed because they are seeking help.” according to Dr. Karen Hofmann, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Central Florida. She says in the past 5 years, anxiety as taken over as the number 1 problem students have.
How can you help? Acknowledging that the issue is pervasive and is affecting someone in your organization is a great place to start. Dr. Hofmann suggests “getting people in the door” is crucial to navigating what is to come. For some students, smaller group programs that target specific populations could be an avenue to start the conversation. “Students need somebody they can see…they can call a staff member and ask ‘What should I do?’ if they are struggling” she said
So here I am. Still breathing and learning how to manage my anxiety. Recognizing what sets my mind off into a tailspin and removing myself from the situation helps. Finding my place on the spin bike every morning and cycling to clear my head does too. People who support me appreciate my honesty but simply having someone lend their ear and not judge has been the best treatment.