In the beginning of my junior year, I went to a therapist for the first time.
Just a year earlier, as a sophomore, I decided I wanted to be a reporter. In a matter of months, I managed to somewhat unexpectedly become Pipe Dream’s News Editor and conduct a long, frustrating internship search that eventually yielded an opportunity at a fantastic local paper in Pennsylvania.
On paper, everything looked perfect. Inside, I was stressed, burned out and exhausted.
It wasn’t the first time I had been stressed. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was born stressed. As a child, I stressed incessantly over my grades. Anything less than an A was bad. Throughout my entire life, I had also stressed over my interactions with other people, convinced that I always came off awkwardly. But the stress had always been manageable. I actually defined myself as a person who thrived off it, who was infinitely capable of sucking it up, pushing through and looking back at it with pride. I never let myself look stressed. To others, I always appeared determined, focused and ambitious.
Then, on March 9, senior nursing student Haley Anderson was found murdered in an off-campus residence. I was the only person available to respond to breaking news quickly, so I went to the scene and interviewed neighbors. I gave the police my email address so they could add me to the list of reporters receiving press releases.
In the days following the tragedy, I talked to Anderson’s friends, handing them tissues when they cried while describing her life and her personality. Weeks later, I ran up to Mountainview College after freshman Joao Souza was fatally stabbed in his dorm room. I went inside Windham Hall and was met by a crime scene. Scared and confused resident assistants asked me to leave.
I complied and interviewed terrified students through their dormitory windows. They asked me what was happening. I didn’t have a good answer. Roughly 20 minutes after I arrived on the scene, I got a B-Alert telling me the unknown suspect was on the loose. I walked back to the Pipe Dream office, looking over my shoulder the entire way for an unidentified male in a black hoodie. It was dark outside, so I couldn’t see, but when I returned to the University Union, I realized my hands were covered in blood. It wasn’t my own. It was evidence of what had happened that night in Mountainview College.
That was when my stress rollercoaster really started.
For the next few months, everything appeared to be going well. I was getting good grades. Pipe Dream alumni were complimenting me on my work as a journalist. My editors at my internship were impressed with me. I even had a brief summer fling. But I was operating entirely on autopilot. Nobody told me that journalists could experience trauma, or that even before I was responsible for covering two tragedies, the amount of pressure and stress I was constantly putting on myself was unhealthy.
As a result, I was having nightmares and trouble sleeping. I was perpetually relying on junk food and soda to power my exhausted body and mind through each day. I was increasingly isolating myself in my room. Some days, I would sit in my car for 20 minutes before entering the grocery store because I simply didn’t have the energy or motivation to go inside.
Less than two weeks into the fall semester, I had a terrifying realization — I was trapped in a vicious cycle and I had no idea how to get out of it.
So I went to see a therapist.
For much of my life, I’ve been classified as a “control freak” — an aggressive, type A personality that wants things done now and wants them done her way. There’s a stereotype that because those types of people aren’t often publicly emotional, they don’t ever need to seek help. But that’s not true, and once I began to better understand myself and my stress, I realized that everyone, at times, needs help and some emphasis on self-care.
If I’m being fully honest, I don’t always have control over my brain and how it reacts to stress, and I likely never will. But now, I know when to reach out for help, and I’m learning new ways to cope with that reality. I try to talk through things with family and friends instead of just bottling it all up. I make efforts to plan out my schedule and I’ve learned it’s alright to say no to things. I make time for myself, usually in the form of exercise, and I’ve created healthy distance between myself and my role as a journalist.
With that, I’ve also worked on improving my eating habits and listening more to my body. I try to listen more to my friends, and I’ve put a lot of focus on improving my personal relationships. I’ve learned better, healthier methods of handling the chaos of my mind and the stress of my responsibilities — and I’ve started to accept a little more messiness in the life I lead outside my head, too.
That progress wouldn’t be possible without a lot of help from a lot of people. In fact, there are so many people to thank that I don’t actually think I can fit them all. Nevertheless, I’ll try!
Lesia, you were there through it all, and I can’t thank you enough. You’re one of my best friends because I can always rely on you to get me out of my own head. You’re one of the bravest and kindest people I know, and you’re doing amazing things in Ukraine. I know you’re facing difficult decisions and a lot of uncertainty, but always believe in yourself, because I believe in you. Know that I’d go anywhere and do almost anything for you. Also, as I say at the end of every phone call, I miss you and I love you.
Vanessa, you’re my only friend from high school, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s nobody else I’d rather eat cheese with, get drunk with and explore with. We once set out to hike 30 miles of the McDade Trail and gave up halfway through because we were being eaten alive by mosquitos and getting poured on. It’s one of my favorite memories. You’re incredible and I’m so proud to call you one of my best friends. Cheers to all the adventures past, present and yet to come. Much love!
Katy — I don’t even know what to say, because there honestly aren’t words. I would’ve died this year without you and you’re the best co-captain I could have ever asked for. I am eternally grateful that I gathered the courage to talk to you when you first became Arts & Culture Editor because it has blossomed into one of my most treasured friendships. Please come visit me when I’m in California. I will buy us both bubble tea!
Maryam, we’ve both had a wild ride, and we’ve both vented at each other about it from our respective desks in the office. Two and a half years later, we’re still friends! You give the best advice and you’re amazing at listening to people — an area in which I often fall a little flat. You work your ass off, even though you don’t always get credit for it. Know that I see it and I love you for it. Also, you can sit on my lap any time you want.
Kim, you’re crazy good at everything you do and you’re on your way to great things. Be patient with yourself — it doesn’t always come all at once. I have absolute faith in you as next year’s News Editor, and I can’t wait to see what you do. Thanks for representing the small town 845 with me!
Justin, Sam and Ed, you guys went from people I barely knew to being some of my closest friends in the office. You’re also probably the most tight-knit section I’ve ever seen, and that’s very rare and special. I’m happy I got to say goodbye to all of you before leaving Binghamton, but I miss sitting next to you guys during production. Cherish your last year together, and please share a mega marg for me once the pandemic’s over.
Jake, Val and Leora, you all make me proud every single day. I couldn’t have hoped for a better group of people to take over my much-loved News section, and I know you will all accomplish amazing things. It’s been an honor to lead you, train you and watch you grow.
Jeremy and Ariel, you’ve got this! It’s a hard job, but at the end, you’ll be happy you did it and amazed at how much you can accomplish. I’m so excited to see all the amazing things you do together and witness all the new directions you take with this newspaper. If you ever need any help, I’m a phone call away.
To all of Pipe Dream’s current staff, thanks for letting me be your leader. I certainly wasn’t perfect, but I’m beyond ecstatic at everything we accomplished, and I’ll go on the record as stating that this year’s staff was one of the best Pipe Dream has ever seen. I’m incredibly lucky to have all of you by my side.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to have some amazing mentors. Noah, Shauna, Emily and Bridget, thank you for doing incredibly difficult jobs with grace and trusting me to continue your work. I’d be lost without your guidance.
Orla, I have so, so much to thank you for. You gave me tons of guidance, advice and constructive criticism when I needed it, and you still continue to help me today. You’re the best, and you’re also my favorite journalist. I’m so happy to see all you’ve accomplished, and I’ll always look up to you.
Alex, thank you for training me and believing in me. I haven’t forgotten about it. It means the world to me.
Mike, you’re probably most of the reason I actually managed to get involved in Pipe Dream in the first place. You’re also the best RA I ever had. Cheers!
Gill, Yuri and Amy, we were the original dream team. Thanks for everything.
To all the alumni who have connected with me on social media and in person, thanks for chatting and supporting me. It’s always heartening to hear from all of you, and exciting to see how much you still love Pipe Dream.
Alumni have lots to be excited about, because our new staff members are going to absolutely kill it. To all the new faces in the office, it’s been a pleasure to meet you and work with you in the last few weeks. I have no doubts you’ll do amazing things, and I can’t wait to see you take over. If you ever need help, advice or just to talk, please reach out.
Finally, to all of the sources who talked to me over the years, thank you for trusting me with your stories. No matter if you were a Binghamton University student, a faculty member, an administrator, a Binghamton resident or a visitor passing through the Southern Tier, it was an honor to meet you and speak with you. I’ve loved reporting in Binghamton, and I’m leaving with the knowledge that there are a number of phenomenal journalists, both on Pipe Dream’s staff and in the local community, who will continue to bring you information and make your voices heard.
My story doesn’t have a perfect ending because dealing with stress and mental health is always going to be a work in progress.
But it’s my story, and I’m damn proud of it.
I look forward to writing the rest.
Sasha Hupka is a senior majoring in English and Pipe Dream’s Editor-in-Chief. She was news editor from spring 2018 to spring 2019 and an assistant news editor in fall 2017.