Monday, November 11, 2013

i said no. and it's kinda glorious.

unless you're new here, you probably know that i go to alma college in alma, michigan and i'm a senior wrapping up my fall semester.

if you're new, hi, i'm emily and i'm a senior at alma college wrapping up my fall semester.

moving on.

i could go on and on about how much i love alma college. and i do. all the time. to people that i know, to people that i don't know, to people that actually go to alma college with me. i can't shut up about alma college.

i love the campus. i love the professors. i love the classes. i love my major. i love the chapel. i love the organisations. i love the opportunities. i love my multiple jobs there.


but there is one thing that i don't like about alma college, and it's a certain mentality that a lot of students seem to have, and this mentality kinda goes like this.

student one: omg i have this paper that's due and it's sooo long
student two: dude did i tell you about my huge-ass project that's going to take me all night?
student three: bitch please i have three projects and i'm the president of an organisation.

and i just kind of stand there like, are you furreal right now?

but i'm not going to pretend that i didn't have that mentality, because i totally did. i used to be that person that was like, "hi i'm emily and i'm taking nineteen credits and i'm on the EC of this committee and i hold this position in this club and i have a huge paper due and by the way i'm a resident assistant and did i tell you that i'm trying to study abroad and single handedly end the patriarchy?"

it's gotten really annoying.

my friend ray wrote a pretty good article about this mentality in our newspaper, the almanian. it was basically like, "HEY ALMA, CALM THE EFF DOWN, YO."

it's taken me about... three years to be able to say no. because when you come to college and when you're someone like me who was over-involved in high school and just generally likes to do everything, you join all the clubs.

but what happens when you join all the clubs is this:

pretty much.

my senior year i'm pretty much in the second stage of this progression, which is where i sit in my room and i say to myself, "holy shit i have to do all the things and i seriously cannot."

there is one word for why i seriously cannot, and that word is ANXIETY.

emily's life with generalised anxiety disorder is definitely a fun life. and the past three weeks have been kind of... well, they've been pretty shit awful.

sometimes when you have crippling anxiety, like mine sometimes is, you can't really do anything. getting out of bed is a gigantic victory. going to class is like climbing a mountain and once you're actually in class sitting with people, it's really hard to concentrate because you feel like you're drowning. going to clubs and meetings is almost out of the question when you are so exhausted from just interacting with people that you're ready to sleep for a week.

my last two weeks have been like this, and it's been super tiring. but i'm getting back from it, seeing my therapist regularly and talking things out, figuring out where my anxiety is, and what i need to be doing to remain a functioning human being in society.

but part of that is realising what exactly is triggering my anxiety and working out strategies to dealing with it.

if we avoided everything that was triggering to us, we would never come out of our rooms. which i have done. and hiding in my apartment all by myself and being afraid of everything outside is not how i want to live my life. so when the new alma cafeteria is really fucking scary, i work on strategies for going there for meals.

new cafeteria, which we call saga. it terrifies me.

where i'm really going with this post is the fact that for my own mental health and wellbeing, i made a super big decision, one of the biggest decisions that i've made in my nearly three and a half years as a college student, and that was the decision to leave something, not join something.

it's very common knowledge that i'm in a sorority called gamma phi beta. my mother was in the local version of it when she went to alma. my cousin was in it in orange county, california. and i joined it my sophomore year.

this is my brother and i about thirty seconds after i joined my sophomore year.

no. we are not twins.

on friday, i signed a very official piece of paperwork that said that i, emily hollenberg, would no longer be a part of the sorority gamma phi beta.

it was something i'd been thinking about for seven months, so since last march. it wasn't like i woke up one morning and said, "wow, i think i'll leave my sorority today." this was a long and ongoing process that began with a very strange incident involving a mojito, a viewing of mulan at the service learning off campus house, and a formal dance. (you can ask about it. i'm not going to tell you.)

over the summer, when i got back from my month-long adventure in england, my anxiety sort of took over things that i used to have control of, and i took a gigantic step backward in how i was handling my life with GAD. it made me re-evaluate a lot of different things, and not just what i was involved in at school and what triggering things were for me.

it made me think about how i am as a person, what i am capable of doing as a person, WHO i am as a person as well as how i am, what i want to do for the rest of my life, and what i need to do for myself.

saying no is very hard for me. i'm a leader and a doer. i want to do everything, i want to lead everything. it's extremely hard for me to step away from something that i feel passionately about. 

i am very good at telling other people that they have the right to say no, but i am very bad at telling myself that i have the right to say no.

coming back to campus, instead of feeling a sense of relief at my first sorority meeting surrounded by my fifty-three beautiful sisters, i felt nothing but terrifying social anxiety. i couldn't figure out exactly what was happening, just that i needed to go back to my apartment and decompress. every single meeting i felt like i was drowning. at the last business meeting i attended, i was focusing so hard on not crying out of anxious terror that i honestly don't remember what was discussed. 

when you have anxiety, you learn a few things.

1. if things make you really anxious, you should leave the situation and work on ways to go back to the situation to deal with the anxiety properly. you cannot spend your life avoiding everything that makes you anxious.
2. if things that you used to love make you really anxious, you should probably talk to someone about it.

so i went to my therapist, confused and not really sure what was happening. because my sorority should not make me anxious.

but it did. and there was no getting around the fact that everything about it made me anxious. every facebook notification in the secret group. every email. every event that i had to attend. every time i had to go to the house. every time i had to be in a large group of my sisters.

i kept seeing my therapist. we worked on strategies. and it just wasn't working.

last week i had a list of things involving my sorority that were coming up. the idea of fulfilling these obligations made me so anxious that i had a complete breakdown in my apartment and spent some time anxious vomiting. which is worse than regular vomiting, trust me on this.

it was then that i decided for my own wellbeing that i could no longer be a part of the organisation.

it's very hard, leaving fifty-three sisters that you love and support and that love and support you. but what comes with love and support is actual love and support, and when i told our president that i needed to leave for my own wellbeing, she loved me and supported my decision.

last night my chapter found out that i "dropped my letters", which is the term for leaving a greek organisation. i have not spoken to any of my former sisters directly since, but i haven't felt any animosity. i wrote them a letter explaining why i was leaving and how i needed to take care of myself, and the best way to do this was to leave. i can only hope that they'll be supportive.

i stand by my decision. it was not easy, but i stand by it.

at one of the last meetings that i attended, we received a personal bill of rights. i was unable to hang it onto my wall because it somehow ended up in the communal kitchen trashcan of my apartment, but i remember most of it. and most of what it said finally made me realise that i have the ability to take control of my mental health and wellbeing and that nobody can stop me from doing that.

my name is emily and i'm taking control of my life by saying no.

i'm learning that no is a complete sentence, and that this is something that i need to embrace. no. is. a. complete. sentence. and it does not need to be followed by an explanation.

it feels really nice being in control of my life. i kind of feel like a superhero. 

like batman.

this batman cat is for my former sisters of gamma phi beta, who are obsessed with cats, and consequently, obsessed with batman.

(but seriously. you should see the dark knight rises posters that some of these women have. holy shit.)

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