Once upon a time, I was a cute, (somewhat) innocent, fun freshman. I wore bright lipstick to parties and tweeted ironic rap lyrics, just like any other sorority girl. After a fun freshman year, I was super excited to move into the sorority and start feeling like I was really part of it all. All my friends from the dorms had gone separate ways, and in a way this was like starting all over again. I was eager and ready to make more friends in my chapter.
I was already mildly involved in my chapter, as much as a first semester sophomore could be. I never missed a social, wore my letters proudly, and even held an officer position. I decided that to keep myself involved, I’d run for another. Sob, sob, I didn’t get elected, but I was only mildly crushed. A month later, I was appointed to Executive Council, or “standards” as some chapters call it (cue horror film music). I was pretty indifferent at the time, but God, do I wish it had come with a warning label.
The next year was an emotional roller coaster, and while the experience helped me build a resume and gain communication skills, it severely worsened my mental health, and drove me to the lowest point in my young adult life.
At first, it was cool and refreshing. I felt in control of my sorority experience. When people know you’re in the know, it’s a sure-fire way to get attention. I was no longer just myself, because now I was on standards. I felt like I was a familiar face of the sorority. I actually had announcements to make at chapter, and people (half-heartedly) listened to me. I would come home from exec meetings knowing all the gossip and everything that was happening. I felt really involved and it seemed like I was on my way to making friends, because more people were talking to me. But then things quickly took a turn for the worst.
First of all, everyone knows gossip is no fun when you have nobody to share it with, and I definitely didn’t share since I was sworn to exec secrecy. But bottling it up was just a minuscule struggle. I slowly began to realize that people weren’t being nice to me because they liked me. People either wanted to get on my good side, or they wanted something from me. Yeah, they’d invite me to sit with them, but they never invited me to parties, pregames, or even just a Taco Bell run. Did they think I was going to report their behavior? Did they think I was some sort of spy? Who knows? I’m not a snitch. I had to do my job sometimes, but I’m a normal college human, and I’m not against having a good time.
As a member of exec, I played a part in making some tough decisions that affected the whole chapter. Then I had to come home and live under the same roof with these people, which sometimes caused major angst on both ends. I understood why and how things happened, but often many of my sisters didn’t. One phrase I kept repeating to myself throughout my entire term was “they don’t know the half of it.” They don’t know the full story. But to many people, that doesn’t matter. They’re looking for somebody to blame and be angry at, and that somebody is exec, or more specifically, me. Standards. We’re the fun suckers. Debbie Downers. Sticklers. Thieves of joy.
While I understood this attitude, it really began to take a toll on me. It caused me a huge amount of stress during my term. After being diagnosed and treated for clinical depression my freshman year, I fell even deeper when I was on standards. Constantly worrying that my sisters hated me only made it worse.
I was afraid nobody liked me, so I just stopped trying. I didn’t like spending time at the sorority even though I lived there. I would disappear all day to my boyfriend’s place, or the library, and I’d pretend like everything was fine. People just thought I was busy. I didn’t like hanging out with people in my chapter because I thought they detested me. I thought they were afraid of me. Was it true? Of course not. But was it a tiny bit rational to worry about, considering the stigma being on exec has? Totally.
Maybe they weren’t all afraid of me, but I definitely became afraid of them. One of the hardest things was that I couldn’t talk to anybody. I couldn’t talk about how I felt like everyone everyone hated me, or vent about all of the intense problems exec deals with, and I definitely couldn’t talk about my depression. These girls were my sisters, and yet I felt like there was this huge divide between us. I just cried, isolated myself, and ended up gaining fifteen pounds.
Being depressed doesn’t mean I was always mopey and sad. I had a few close friends and a supportive boyfriend. I’d get excited about socials and t-shirts like any other sorority girl. But then I’d feel awful when nobody invited me to pregames or to take group photos. And yeah, I could’ve been assertive and invited myself, but with a crippling mental illness, that didn’t seem so plausible. It seemed scarier, because what if they said no? What if that just validated the fact that they didn’t want me there?
I felt so alone, though I was constantly surrounded by people.
I finished out my office term, and my fall semester ended up going unbelievably better. I bonded a lot with the new pledge class, made new friends, and haven’t spent night after night crying in my bed (except when binge-watching One Tree Hill). I get invited to things, have an awesome roommate, and a strong support system both in my sorority and out. I’m not over the bridge yet, but it’s progress, and any progress is good.
I didn’t write this to talk about what saved me, because in all honesty, I don’t really know. Maybe it was my sisters, medication, or time. Or maybe it was just myself. I’m not saying being on standards will make you depressed, or that it was the sole cause of my depression, because obviously mental illnesses are more complex than that. And I’m definitely not saying that my sisters totally suck and let me suffer alone. How would they have known I wasn’t okay? I was running away from them.
Maybe I wasn’t meant to be on exec. Maybe I would’ve been happier if I had just been a normal, dedicated member of the chapter, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I don’t regret my time on standards, because it did teach me a lot of useful skills, but if I could do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t run. For the sake of myself and my sanity, being in such a position of authority just isn’t for me. It was too much pressure, and I’m glad to be rid of the position.
But at least now I can say “fuck standards” and really mean it..