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December 2019

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By Emma Shortall
Multimedia Editor

Therapy isn’t for everyone. At least, I decided it’s not for me.

When I was in seventh grade, my mother took me to a therapist. I didn’t want to go in the first place. My mother sat next to me trying to fill my therapist in on what was going on in my life–a suicide attempt, a sense of having no one in my life who could help. But I felt this was going nowhere. I could handle it on my own. I knew my life was not good but what could this lady do for me? She didn’t know anything about me at all.

Being forced to go to therapy makes you resist. I was stuck in this experience that I wanted no part in. I was in middle school and someone had called my parents telling them I seemed off. They took note and instantly I was signed up for therapy.

I was a swimmer. But every practice seemed to destroy me. The physical exertion allowed me to release all of my pent up worries and anxiety. It gave me time to process what was in my head. I couldn’t swim a lap without having to get out of the pool because I couldn’t breathe from the hyperventilation of my crying. It was visible that I wasn’t okay. I was suicidal, I was depressed, and I had anxiety. Everyone noticed.

I eventually became known as the “suicide girl” on the team. When I got home I would squirrel myself away in my room so my parents wouldn’t notice.

I didn’t hate therapy, but I didn’t think it was helping. I liked talking with the therapist but I felt nothing was changing in my life. And it wasn’t just the therapist. I was also meeting regularly with my school guidance counselor and a social worker. Nothing was working. I was still depressed, I was still suicidal, my anxiety wasn’t any better. So, I stopped.

I was talking to someone who didn’t know me, and they were listening, but only offering informational support, not the emotional support I needed. The therapist would suggest ways to deal with anxiety, but none of them worked. I just needed her to listen.

I came away from this many months-long experience with nothing. I learned no successful coping mechanisms.

Eventually, my life did get better. I stopped the routine of swimming, the scrutiny of tough coaches, and I made new friends. I started working. I was able to take a mental break from my main stressors. But none of this came out of therapy, it came out of me changing what I was doing.

Therapy didn’t work for me, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for everyone. My sister goes and loves it, same with my friends.

I need more positives in my life, and therapy made me dwell on what was going wrong. During my sessions, I would talk about what was going on in my life, and it would force me to remember all the bad in my life, not the good. Bad always overpowers the good thoughts in my brain, and for me, that wasn’t what I needed.

I need a support system consisting of friends and family. I like having a personal connection between the person I’m telling my life stories to. There is an element of trust that I never fully built with my therapist, guidance counselor, or social worker.

There is a fine line on what I tell my friends and family. I never want to burden anyone with my problems. This isn’t their job to listen to my problems. I know when people tell me their problems, I feel a sudden urge to help them and it begins to stress me out when people dump everything onto me.

I still have what I call “relapses” of depression and suicidal thoughts. If my support system goes down then so do I. My family, including my parents and sister, are the ones who are always there.

Coping is hard when I’m still trying to figure out what the best strategies are for me. That’s not just because I don’t go to therapy. Everyone needs to figure out what their best coping strategies are, and it’s a process of figuring out which are good and bad for you. Right now, whenever I’m stressed out, hanging out with my friends really helps. Just chatting, watching movies, going shopping, anything helps.

So every time I’m feeling down all I hear is, “You should go to therapy,” and every time I tell them no. I promise I can do it myself. Therapy isn’t for me.

The point of this article is not to discourage people from therapy. Therapy does work, it works for my family and friends. This is just my story.

By Matt Heller

Executive Editor

After being referred to as “Res Hall 4” since being built, the newest residential hall on St. Michael’s College campus will soon be known as Cronogue Hall. This comes three years after the death of Father Mike Cronogue, a well known and beloved figure in the St. Michael’s community. 

Cronogue, who wrote the founding grant for Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts (MOVE), served as the first director of the Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice and also served for two terms as the Edmundite Superior General.  

This year’s second annual “day of giving” through institutional advancement was in honor of Cronogue. The event raised $415,000 between the Feast of Saint Michael on September 29 and the day of giving on November 19. Fundraising will continue until reaching a half-million, said Jen Conetta, Director of Annual Giving. 

The Society of Saint Edmund began by donating $500,000, then asking Institutional Advancement to match this value. The money, which goes to the St. Michael’s Fund, is unrestricted and can be used operationally throughout the fiscal year. This is different from money in the endowment, which is invested, so not all of it can be spent. However, some of the money was donated as pledges, which will be paid in installments over the next few years.  

Members of all graduating classes from 1956 to 2023 donated money, according to Krystyna Davenport Brown, vice president of Institutional Advancement. 

“The only reason we did this was because of Father Mike, it’s the only reason that it did so well,” said Father Brian Cummings, Vice President of the Society of Saint Edmund.

According to Cummings, many people wanted to take action right after Cronogue’s passing. However, he and other Edmundites thought it would be best to let some time pass before formally honoring Father Mike. When he brought up the idea to fellow Edmundites to rename the residence hall in Cronogue’s honor, they were all in support. The executive committee of the board of trustees was in favor, allowing the idea to come to fruition. 

“I think when you name a building after somebody, the intention is to keep that there for a long, long time,” Cummings said. 

“Father Mike was such a big part of the student experience and community. A residence hall is where students live in a community with one another, so it seemed like a really fitting way to honor his legacy here,” Conetta said. 

According to Davenport, the formal renaming ceremony may occur during the 2020 reunion, from May 28 to 31, but no date has been finalized.  

By Molly Humiston
Contributing Writer

Some athletic programs try on coaches like a new pair of shoes. Other programs keep a coach as if it were their favorite pair regardless of how well they fit. I have experienced both in ten years of field hockey. For my first years playing I had seven different coaches, one for each year I played prior to college. The field hockey program in my hometown has suffered immensely with no consistency and little funding to anchor it among developing athletes. Like new shoes on a shelf, coaches came and went.

I had thought that this lack of consistency would be the greatest hiccup in my athletic career.

I was wrong.

A consistency in staff can also be the demise of a program. I know because it is killing mine.

The team itself changes every year. But every year the coaches remain the same, regardless of the previous year’s poor scores and our ever-growing mountain of aspirations relinquished.

For more than 21 years the same core coaching staff has stood on the sideline. Not even an assistant has changed. For the first five years, the program posted winning seasons and a full rotation of players, but for more than a decade, the program has maintained a losing record.

The trend exists across the athletic landscape at St. Michael’s, where the coaching staff remains unchanged even after years of losing records. Are we, the athletes, to blame, the coaches who guide us, or the college that sponsors us?

We’ve fallen into a defensive rut, and after denying 10 times as many shots as we take, the ball inevitably meets the boards with a definitive thwack.

In 20 years, SMC field hockey has tallied an overall record of 169-200 (wins-losses) with the 2019 season not yet included. Our season, with its ever-hopeful motto of “Find your fire,” was burdened with losses to teams we expected to beat. Our internal flames fizzled with each loss.

Following games, my team still gathers around in a semi-circle with expressions that vary from detached, sad, and angry to hear the same phrases once more: “Lots of learning today!” “Best game yet!”

The message never changes.

Our coaches, who no longer know how to guide us, let us down. This is not to say that the coaches are inadequate, it is rather that they are no longer the right fit.

Without funding and support, athletics can’t grow, coaches can’t improve. If they want to attract players, the college needs to invest in athletics.

Growing up, the news constantly reported coaches being cut from programs, both professional and collegiate, because they weren’t producing results. Even with teams that reel in wins, the core staff often includes change, introducing new perspectives and experience.

My team has had many talented athletes, but their ability to apply talents can only go as far as they are guided and given the chance to grow. This is the role we expect coaches to fill.

We play our hearts out, denying shot after shot, still hoping we might win, but the undercurrent of that hope is us wishing that we won’t be crushed.

The fire goes out.

Success for athletes comes in many forms, but the one that matters most in the longevity of a program, is winning. When the losses pile well beyond the wins the only way to tip the scale is to change the point of attack.

We need the college to put loyalty aside and open the doors to new coaches who can give us a chance of reclaiming what it means to be a Purple Knight. Athletes are the mouthpiece for their programs, give us a reason to be proud of them.

Molly Humiston ’21 is a Media Studies, Journalism & Digital Arts major, and a part of the field hockey team.

By Matt Heller

Executive Editor

Journalism: the relentless pursuit of the truth for the public good 

What would the world look like without objective journalism? Where would you get your news? How could you trust it? 

Many people today question the validity of mainstream media, denouncing everything that doesn’t fall in-line with their beliefs as “fake news”. A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, said that today’s notion of fake news has become an excuse to delegitimize factual reporting. This seriously harms the flow of information when the credibility and reliability of journalism are impacted. 

We live in a society that largely allows the unrestricted flow of information. Wrapped up in the Bill of Rights, freedom of the press is one of the most concrete rights that we have as citizens. It’s hard to find anything else that has endured without change for the past 228 years. 

In many parts of the world, journalists work every day in fear, reporting in societies where the government will not allow news that questions authority. America’s free press is a role model to the rest of the world, so actions taken against our system influences and affects people across the globe.

Not all news is good news. Frankly, there is not enough good news in the world. But we have the protection of the constitution that says we can report on this bad news. And we must. Pretending struggle, crime, loss and other hardships doesn’t exist, or choosing not to talk about them, undermines the duty of the journalist and the expectation of society. 

We came to St. Michael’s because we saw something in the school that would lead to the betterment of ourselves. We have stayed here because we love the school and the surrounding area. But as in any situation, there are times of disagreement and disappointment among peers in the greater campus community. Like any publication, the Defender must acknowledge these concerns, whether it’s a decline in enrollment or the presence of racially-targeted events on-campus. We honor and respect our ability and freedom to provide you with this coverage in a way that we hope promotes further knowledge and discussion.

You don’t have to be a seasoned journalist to bring awareness to societal topics. Sometimes, a fresh perspective is the best perspective. This semester, the Defender only had seven editors. This, simply put, isn’t enough manpower to provide you with the caliber of news reporting that we strive to put out in each and every issue. When our staff decreases in size, the different facets of campus and the broader community that we can to reach are also cut short. 

The publication needs your voice. These are desperate times in the world of journalism, but there is hope. 

If you value writing that seeks the transparent transmission of information, consider the opportunity to help. While the main goal of a newspaper is to provide its readers with the news that impacts their daily life, we also value creative writing that has similar impacts.  

We would love to have you, as a member of the St. Michael’s community and a member of a free press, to help continue our relentless pursuit of the truth for the public good.

By Tynan Reed
Staff Writer

It might only be the first week of December, but we have already made the walk from Alliot to the academic buildings with snow at our feet and the cold wind in our faces.

When you think of winter, snow usually crosses your mind. From having to shovel the driveway or get in your truck to plow the streets, snow means different things to different people.

Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley’s, connection to snow led to international recognition. He lived in Jericho, from 1865 to 1931. In his teens, he had a fascination with ice crystals. This would lead him on his lifelong mission to photograph snowflakes. By the time of his death, he had taken close to 2500 photos, nearly all of them single or groups of snowflakes. You can see some of his photographs in a small museum in Jericho.

Like Bentley, some people, snow is a part of what they do for a living. Snow is essential for the Adventure Sports Center at St. Michael’s College because it provides opportunities for the activities that the center can run during the wintertime.

“Snowshoeing, ice climbing, and backcountry skiing are what we offer and without snow all three of those are difficult,” said Eben Widlund, assistant director of the Adventure Sports Center.

Widlund said that there have been seasons when they did not have any backcountry ski trips due to the lack or unpredictability of the snowpack. From a personal viewpoint, his commute to work takes a lot longer than he would like when there is substantial snow. Yet, he still has a very personal connection with snow, loving winter sports such as ice climbing and mountaineering, even though he has been involved in multiple avalanches in Smuggler’s Notch.

While people are at odds with the state of today’s climate, snow still has a beneficial impact.

“Snow in an environmental state is incredibly important to environmental science,” said Madaline Shanley ‘20, a sophomore environmental science major.. “The fact that snow happens is huge, and for animals everywhere, it is vital. When we talk about snow keeping the water cycle going, that is one of the main things that makes it super important to me,” Shanley is also a skier and says that skiing has given her a lot of happiness throughout life.

English Professor Joan Wry teaches a freshman seminar about snow and ice, which she calls the “snow seminar.” In the course, students learn about snow and ice through examples such as polar expeditions and the impact of climate change. Additionally, students get to go on a class trip to the Snowflake Bentley museum and the snowmaking center for Smuggler’s Notch.

“My own experience has been influenced by a family connection with the ski industry over the past 40 years, as my husband worked in ski area management in Vermont as well as in the Sierras and Eastern Arizona. He retired two years ago after 30 years as vice president of Smugglers Notch, Mountain Operations,” said Wry.

In Wry’s class, students gain an understanding of snow formation in nature and the science behind snowmaking at ski mountains. However, Wry said that what snow means to someone is based on their understanding and experience.

By Lena O’Donnell
Visual Editor

Next semester I will be one of the 60 students studying abroad. What if my anxieties affect me while I am in the Czech Republic? How will I take care of myself so far from my therapist, and friends, and family? How am I going to be okay when I am so far from my usual life?

Consider these tips from students and faculty on how to take care of yourself…

  • Get out of your comfort zone: “You definitely have to be willing to be out of your comfort zone,” said Sullivan Miele ‘20 who studied in Spain. He advised not to hold up in your room, which might be your first instinct. “You’re living there you might as well make it a home.” Miele said getting out of his comfort zone really enhanced the experience.
  • Work out: Miele found that this workout routine helped him destress during those anxious times. “I would go on a 30-minute bike ride to a local rock climbing gym. Climb for an hour or two. They had a bar at the gym, so I might have a beer after.” To top it all off he would finish with a, “ride a 30-minute bike ride home.” Full body workout.
  • Reflect: Greaves mentioned that her program recommended journaling as a way to document experiences throughout the semester. “I do journal every now and then if I want to process how I’m feeling on paper,” she said. It can also be used to document feelings with the experience. Looking back you have your own memories written down.
  • Get an international data plan: One of High’s top travel tips: “Having technology that works so you can stay connected with other people.” Which ties back to making connections with people at your program and at home. High found that wherever she was she could always find someone to reach out to. Depending on what plan you have this option may vary, but before you study abroad to talk to your provider to see if they have any deals.
  • Therapists (Bergeron, your own, online): “The counselors at Bergeron are available to support students in identifying and building internal resources before heading off on a study abroad adventure,’’ said Erin Altermatt, counselor at Bergeron. Continue your self-care routines while you are abroad. “ If you’ve been prescribed medications at home, continue them while studying abroad. Contact your Program director or host university to get support if you feel your mental health is becoming unmanageable,” she said. A costly but more adaptable option is online therapy. You can find an array of options.
  • Take to do something familiar: Rachel High ‘20 went to India last spring. “Really try to immerse yourself, that is what this program, study abroad is for,” says High. But it can be too much to completely assimilate yourself wherever you are. “If sad or stressed I think something that is really comforting is doing familiar things.” High would travel 30 minutes away to an American store to buy a block of really expensive cheddar cheese with her roommate, “we would just sit there and eat a block cheddar because we missed cheese and we missed our home.”
  • Have some “Me time”: “I’m usually aware of when I need my alone time or a quiet space to calm my mind,” Greaves said. When you are around people all the time on your program you need time to yourself.
  • Reach out to family: Amanda Greaves ‘20 is currently in South Africa on her study abroad adventure. “I continue to feel the same feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious as I would if I was at Saint Mike’s” said Greeves. “Taking care of myself has meant reaching out to my family when I’m feeling down and I need to uplift my spirits,” they are the people that know her best.
  • Make connections:
  • “I always had someone to call through my program and I knew that if something really bad was going on that I could get help,” said High. Knowing that you have someone, especially someone in your program, there put High at ease if an issue came up. “Having a local, maybe it’s a host family member, maybe it is a professor, maybe it is a program director, having someone who is from that area who can get you out of tight situations is a really important thing.”

By Lauren Walsh
Contributing Writer

I turned into a robot my senior year of high school. I remember when I came home at 7 p.m., hung out with friends until midnight, did homework until 4 a.m., and then woke at 7 a.m. Consistently I got three hours of sleep.

I’d been diagnosed with OCD at age nine and by high school I was getting panic attacks. I stopped eating and sleeping. I thought about killing myself.

That was my life in high school and in some ways, that’s my life today. I don’t know a lot of people that get a good night’s sleep and they act like it’s fine. It’s difficult to stop when it’s so normalized on campus. I’m not trying to blame my problems on sleep, but I’d feel better if I got the recommended 8 hours.

Some days I’ll spend more time in my bed than I have time to and still feel tired when I leave it. It feels like I am carrying weights on my chest. I have no desire to do anything and I’ll lay in my bed feeling unable to breathe for hours at a time. Not getting enough sleep enhances a negative cycle.

Anxiety, OCD, and depression each have their own set of symptoms that I struggle with daily and these become exacerbated easily. The less sleep I get, the more likely I am to self-harm or start getting suicidal thoughts because I am less capable of controlling my emotions. The less sleep I get, the more eyelashes I pull out.

The world feels bleak. The days begin to melt together. They leave me feeling out of control. The less sleep I get, the worse life feels.

I typically don’t get a full night’s sleep. I’m a senior leading three organizations on campus, working and owning a dog. My friends have watched as I burst into tears for seemingly no reason in the morning. They can’t tell that my heart is racing, that my body feels terrible. And I am so anxious. I just don’t want to face another day.

It’s very nice to say you can just go to bed early and it will fix everything, but what if you can’t? Sometimes my body is incapable of allowing me to sleep no matter how exhausted. My brain simply will not turn off. Much of the time, I am just too busy to sleep.

Maybe without the anxiety, depression, and OCD, the lack of sleep would be something a cup of coffee would fix. Everyone seems to think we come to college and part of the package is that we don’t sleep. We stay up all night to do homework or to party with our friends. But it’s a maladaptive coping mechanism to the world we’ve been placed in. Not sleeping is already causing more issues for me and it will eventually cause issues for everybody.

I don’t know if people just keep how this makes them feel to themselves, I don’t even know if others know how I feel, but it’s time to change that and talk about it.

Lauren Walsh is a senior biology major who writes more lab reports than newspaper articles.