The College Spill Helping students get through college with their mental health intact. 2012-06-09T05:36:26Z Meredith Bazirgan <![CDATA[Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?]]> 2012-06-09T05:36:26Z 2012-06-08T15:23:37Z Skype, email, text, IM, cell phone call, face time, gchat, Tweet, Facebook message…we have so many means of communication now that we didn’t have even a few years ago. And yet, communicating with our partners, especially when we’re at a long distance, has never been so challenging.

Deciding whether or not to pursue or stay in a long distance relationship has only become more and more complex. Many of you have been pondering whether or not to stay in your relationship over the summer. You’ve also wondered whether or not to go abroad or stay at school and be with your significant other.

These are not easy decisions. After all, true love, and/or a great relationship, can be hard to come by and build.

Yet, some of us still have so many adventures ahead of us!

This past year I left my boyfriend of a couple of years so that I could spend four months in Peru doing an internship to finish my final graduate school requirements. We had just moved in together only a few months before I left. And we’d gotten used to spending (and enjoying, might I add!) copious amounts of time together.

Don’t get me wrong. We both had jobs, co-workers, friends and family we enjoyed spending time with, as well as our own interests. But coming home to one another and going to sleep at night next to one another, making and eating dinner together and catching up on our days became daily rituals we came to know and to love and to anticipate eagerly…

So when I told my boyfriend that I’d be bopping down to South America for a few months, he was supportive but not exactly enthusiastic. I consider myself incredibly lucky to be with a partner who is this supportive and who wants me to seek and take on experiences that will leave me fulfilled and joyful. But still, it is understanding that he was a bit dreadful at the prospect of four months away from each other. So was I.

I tried to convince him of how magical it would be if we could weave the intimate nuances of our longings for and memories of one another into the lost art of writing and sending love letters, to no avail. Needless to say, he was less than thrilled (still) with this prospect. I’m pretty sure he shot down the snail mail idea right away. This means of communication would be too slow for us.

We’d barely get a few letters written, mailed, received, read, and aptly digested and responded to before I’d be back home again…besides, who can wait long enough to get through that process and then wait for a response? We’re used to immediacy in so many things, but especially in our forms of modern day communication.

Pretty sure his response was simply, “Hunny, can’t we just Skype each other?”

And we did. But I still sent him a homemade snail mail Valentine’s Day card. It took days, weeks, to collect paper scraps that I would then use to intricately cut out various hearts and form them into a collage, and then write a hand written note on the inside of the card, sparing no details of my longings and adorations for him…I’m pretty sure it made it to him by March. Not bad.

Mainly we relied on Skype. And that was fine. And he was selfless, so I felt as though we stayed connected while I didn’t miss out on the experience I so desired during my time in Peru. We also had something to look forward to because he met me there for two weeks at the end of my trip so that we could return home together. That helped a lot because it was something we could share, in terms of the planning and anticipation, while we waited to be reunited.

But it’s hard to be away from your love. And when you’re young, and unsure of what you want just yet, or don’t know when you will be together again, things are even more complicated. It worked out for me – I trusted myself, went and had this experience, and my boyfriend became my fiancée. But it doesn’t always work out this way. I consider myself lucky but also the timing was right, and I happened to have met the right person for me…

Either way, I wouldn’t have traded the experience. So take your time, think it through, and try to do what’s best for you, whether it’s staying or going.

Door handle photo available from Shutterstock.

Meredith Bazirgan <![CDATA[Ramble on, Relationships]]> 2012-06-07T05:53:52Z 2012-06-06T15:19:45Z Since 2009, Spill has provided a safe space online for students to share their struggles and receive peer support. This means that students can write about absolutely anything they want to vent about. And not only are spills about romantic relationships in the top 5 most frequently written about categories, but they also encompass more than 50% of the spill content generated by college students.

It’s not that people are writing about things like what to wear on a first date, or how and when to make the first move or how to figure out whether your crush likes you or not. Not to diminish those things, but some of the things people write about go much deeper than that – they relate to things like:

-sexual orientation

-financial hardships

-deciding whether or not to pursue or remain in a long distance relationship

– whether to stay in a relationship for the summer

-how to manage an intercultural relationship

-how to move on from a break up

-and more…the list goes on.

In today’s digitally focused world, it’s not all that surprising then that some people are confused about what’s okay and what’s not okay in the online space regarding romantic relationships. What if someone’s partner views pornography or goes into chat rooms, or look at photos of other people, spillers ask? These types of issues aren’t necessarily new.

Things like the wandering eye, being overly flirtatious with others, and jealousy have been around forever, but it seems as though now it’s easier for our partners to be secretive about some of their habits. And perhaps this is what makes it difficult for so many people: to feel like they’re being kept in the dark and wonder if that makes certain situations wrong or unacceptable in the relationship.

These things can be confusing. After all, people wonder, is emotional cheating acceptable? And what does emotional cheating account for? If your partner isn’t physically hooking up with someone else, what’s acceptable, and what’s not?

Before you go ahead and break up with that person, you might want to ask yourself some questions to get to the bottom of it. Every couple is unique, and it’s a matter of figuring out what you are comfortable with, and sharing that with your partner. Try asking yourself some of the following questions to help you figure out what’s right and not right for you:

Do your partner’s actions make you uncomfortable?

Have you been able to communicate enough that you feel understood by your partner?

Do you feel safe to express your thoughts and feelings with your partner?

Will you be able to trust your partner again?

Would it make you happy to stay with your partner? To leave your partner? To take a break from your partner?

How has your partner responded to you sharing your thoughts and feelings?

What has your partner learned from this experience, and what have you learned from this?

Above all, be true to yourself.

Best of luck if you are ever faced with a situation like this! And if you do have thoughts or opinions to share, please feel free to share your experiences and insights in the comments section below.

College girl and computer photo available from Shutterstock.

Meredith Bazirgan <![CDATA[Sexuality on a Spectrum]]> 2012-05-08T15:12:30Z 2012-05-08T12:38:55Z A lot of college students spill about questions pertaining to their sexuality. Oftentimes, a student who has always considered him or herself to be ‘straight’ suddenly has feelings for someone of the same sex.

Many of you write in because you’re feeling very confused as to whether the feelings you have for someone of the same sex are true feelings and are sexual in nature, or whether they are just some passing urge that will dissipate with time. The added stress comes when you’re in a monogamous relationship with someone. Not only are you questioning your identity as you’ve known it, but you’re also having thoughts about experimenting with someone else when you’re in a monogamous or committed relationship…

While I can’t speak to whether or not your partner would be okay with you connecting with someone else intimately on some level, I can say that it’s completely normal for some people who are ‘straight’ to also at some point become ‘bisexual’ or some other form of sexual orientation that they did not previously identify with.

What I learned in graduate school, and what I’ve also heard from various friends and acquaintances throughout my life, is that sexuality is on a spectrum, and people can lean one way or another or anywhere in the middle at any point in their lives.

So maybe you’ve always been attracted to women, but you find yourself attracted to a man, or vice versa. It doesn’t make you strange. In fact, it makes you quite normal. How do I know? Because so many people have gone through the same thing that you have.

Now, trying out different parts of the spectrum of sexuality is one thing. Cheating on your partner is another. Only you (and perhaps, your partner, for those relationships that speak freely and openly about these things), will know what you’re comfortable with doing in terms of the level of commitment in your current relationship. But remember that college is a time to figure out (or make huge progress on figuring out!) who you are.

It’s a time to try on different parts of yourself, and to discover parts of yourself you didn’t even know you had. And maybe part of that is your sexual identity.

So go ahead-listen to your gut. Trust yourself. And don’t worry about putting yourself into a specific sexual orientation category. The only way that might serve you is trying to check off a box on a survey. It won’t necessarily serve you as much in the real world of trying to figure out who you are, and what your needs are.

When it comes to human elements of identity, categorization is not always the ‘right’ approach, especially when we’re only given a few options.

Meredith Bazirgan <![CDATA[Mental Health Awareness: May]]> 2012-05-07T19:42:16Z 2012-05-07T15:13:17Z Since this May is mental health awareness month, I want to talk about mental health and the impact it has in our lives. For those of us who have ever struggled with mental health issues, it’s important to understand that we are actually a part of the majority of people living in the United States.

In fact, one in four adults in the US will suffer from some form of a mental health issue in his or her lifetime. We are not alone.

It’s important to engage in supporting others with mental health issues, like our responders do at Spill. Peer responders provide confidential support for their peers by empathizing with their struggles and writing responses to them with feedback.

We can engage in conversations with people and educate them in order to eliminate the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues.

While it can be very empowering to acknowledge that depression or anxiety or whatever it is that ails us is a part of who we are, it can also be very powerful to recognize that any one part of who we are does not make up all of who we are. In other words, you are not your _____________________. Fill in the blank (with depression, anxiety, stress, anger, distress, sadness, etc.)

Some days it may feel like those less positive, painful, dark and difficult parts of us are who we are. But they’re not. We all have feelings. Moods. States of mind. And none of them are permanent. One moment I might feel completely hopeless about the state I’m in – crying for no apparent reason – feeling down in the dumps. And then next, I’m filled with extreme joy, exuberance and gratitude. Either way, I’m grateful that I’m able to feel things so deeply, and if that means feeling sorrow as often or as deeply as I feel pure joy, so be it.

There are some things we can do to cultivate the feelings we associate with happiness. The field of positive psychology operates under the understanding that while we have a happiness set point at 60% based on biological and environmental influences, we do have control over a good 40% of our happiness.

Those that study positive psychology will find that a few of the tenets to approach happiness include (to name a few):

-Cultivate gratitude.

-Experience flow.

-Find purpose and meaning.

-Develop and strengthen interpersonal relationships.

There are always things we can do to work towards cultivating the happier or more positive parts of ourselves. Sometimes, even the parts of ourselves we don’t like end up being where our strengths come from. Some of the most amazing artists, creative people, therapists and teachers have experienced depression or other debilitating illnesses at one time or another, and still do!

Much of the time, our closest friends, family and loved ones aren’t even aware of the fact that we’ve suffered from mental health issues. They don’t know it’s a part of us at all. If that’s not proof that our least favorite parts of ourselves don’t make up all parts of ourselves, then I don’t know what is.

(Note: Mental Health Disorders are very real, and oftentimes medical intervention is necessary. Please speak with a counselor if your mental health is suffering and interfering with day-to-day living.)

Young man photo available at Shutterstock.

Meredith Bazirgan <![CDATA[Why Staying In Can Be Best Decision You Made All Week]]> 2012-04-28T19:50:47Z 2012-04-25T21:20:25Z Last night I had plans to visit with three of my nearest and dearest friends. I’ve been looking forward to it since last week when we made plans. You see, once a month, we get together for some wine, cheese, appetizers and a whole lot of laughter, stories, and catching up. I’ve come to truly cherish this time together; being ourselves and enjoying the moments.

I was looking forward to it this week especially since we haven’t been able to get together as often as we used to. One of the gals had a baby a few weeks ago, and aside from us popping in unexpectedly to meet the new member of the family, we haven’t seen her as much.

People’s lives are often super scheduled on the weekends, and during the weekdays, we are often tired. It’s all we can do to fit in a yoga class and eat a healthy meal before crashing into bed after working late the night before. Sometimes it can feel daunting to then go out and visit with friends (even your closest ones!).

A lot of college students spill about feeling anxiety about going out sometimes. One person described it as almost like two personalities – one that is humorous and fun loving and finds ease with being out and about, and another that wants to curl up at home and be alone.

Sure, anxiety is a real disorder, and sometimes it’s vital to seek help and attention for that. And I also want to remind us that it’s also okay to need to stay home and veg out once in a while – to spend time alone, doing nothing, in order to recharge.

Last night I didn’t end up going out to see my friends. I was tired and wanted to relax. Then my fiancée had to work late, so I didn’t have access to a car. The thought of getting on a bus or my bike or walking to and from my friend’s house was more draining than anything. So I decided to stay in. And it was the best decision I’ve made all week.

I sat on the couch with my dog, ate a hearty dinner with freshly baked whole wheat bread, read the latest book I started (that I love!) “The Buddha Walks Into a Bar,” talked with an old friend for an hour, meditated on my deck, and just chilled out. It was a most rejuvenating evening, and I was proud of myself for recognizing just what I needed.

Besides, another girlfriend was feeling the same way I was and decided not to go out either. So we’re definitely planning on a rain check (or should we call it recharge your batteries check?) very soon.

To those of you that are hard on yourself for wanting to be alone, I say, embrace the time to recharge. Be proud of yourself for deciding to give yourself what you need. And know that you’ll most likely be much happier in the long run with your new found energy, much of which you’ll again be able to share with others.

Woman on couch photo available from Shutterstock.

Meredith Bazirgan <![CDATA[April = Sexual Assault Awareness Month]]> 2012-04-21T04:23:00Z 2012-04-19T20:43:41Z Have you or someone you know experienced some form of sexual violence? In the movies, we see strangers lurking in dark corners, or attacking people on the way to their cars that are parked in dark garages. But in fact, the majority of rapes that occur are known as ‘non stranger’ rape. (This can include friends, acquaintances, family, etc.)

I don’t say this to scare you, but rather to point out the realities that exist today. According to the Department of Justice (2000), “90 percent of rape survivors on college campuses know their assailants.”

Higher-Ed Newsletter wrote a piece about sexual assault last year in which they pointed out a startling statistic: 1 in 10 students on Bridgewater State University’s campus have experienced sexual assault since arriving on campus. Even more startling is the fact that this number is low when compared to other college campuses across the US.   It’s hard to believe, but the truth is that the average is 1 in 5.

It’s important to be aware that this is happening on campus so folks can provide support for their loved ones and friends. And on a more preventative level, my fellow volunteers at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center talk about changing the culture of rape and sexual assault. What does that mean? It means changing the way that we as males and females talk with our friends about these things. It’s about creating a culture where asking for consent, not assuming it, is the norm.

We can encourage each other to treat each other with respect and help people realize that it’s NOT OKAY to engage in nonconsensual sex. As they would say, though, if it’s consensual, healthy, protected sex that is consensual from both parties, then heck, go for it! Have a blast! Just be aware that it’s important that we as human beings look out for one another in our communities be it on campus or off.

For more resources and information on rape and sexual assault, check out the following web sites: Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) at: or the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) at For specific information for college students that are survivors of sexual assault, visit

Woman in basement photo available from Shutterstock.

Meredith Bazirgan <![CDATA[Active Minds 7th Annual Stress Out Day: LAUGH!]]> 2012-04-17T17:33:11Z 2012-04-16T14:48:38Z In honor of the 7th Annual National Stress Out Day, I wanted to share the stress busters they’ve posted on their site at We all handle stress in different ways, but it can be really helpful to share some new ideas with each other for alleviating stress.

We’d LOVE to hear from you in the comments section with your favorite stress-busting strategies.


  • Exercise. Physical activity helps your body and mind. Go to the gym. Take a jog. Go for a walk. Do yoga. Play Frisbee. Just get moving!
  • Eat a balanced diet. Don’t skip meals. Try to eat from all of the food groups and try to stay away from caffeine (minimize soda or coffee). Caffeine can trigger anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Limit alcohol and stay away from illegal drugs. Alcohol and drugs aggravate anxiety and can also cause panic attacks.
  • Get involved. Being active in the community creates a support network and gives you a break from your everyday stress. (Spill can help with that!) 

  • Do your BEST instead of trying to be PERFECT. We all know perfection isn’t possible, so be proud of however close you get.
  • Take a time out. Take a deep breath and count to 10. Stepping back from the problem lets you clear your head. Do yoga. Meditate. Get a massage. Learn relaxation techniques. Listen to music.
  • Put things in perspective. Think about your situation. Ask yourself whether it’s really as bad as you think it is or if you could be blowing it out of proportion.
  • Talk to someone. Don’t let things bottle up to the verge of explosion. Reach out to your roommate, boyfriend, girlfriend or counselor of you’re feeling low.
  • Find out what triggers your anxiety. Take notes or write in a journal when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, an then look for patterns.

This year’s theme is “Laugh More.” The campaign highlights the social and emotional benefits of laughter and how to incorporate more laughter into your daily life. Share your favorite funny sites that cheer you up in the comments. The campaign also promotes the message that sometimes laughter isn’t enough and something more serious is going on.

“Anxiety disorders are no laughing matter – they are real and treatable, and students should not be afraid to seek help.” It’s a great point. It can be hard to tell the difference between everyday stress and an anxiety disorder. Don’t ever be afraid to seek help from a counselor or another campus resource. No problem is too small! Keep on laughing…

Laughing young man photo available from Shutterstock.

Meredith Bazirgan <![CDATA[Risking a Relationship]]> 2012-04-16T15:46:32Z 2012-04-10T22:04:32Z You know the feeling:  you lay in bed, wide awake, tossing and turning, and wishing you could sleep.  Instead, your mind drifts to the one.

You know the one: that person you cannot shake from your mind, no matter how hard you try. Nothing steals a good night’s sleep from you like falling in love.

One of the top five issues that get the most Spill ink is romantic relationships. It’s also one of the conversations that come up quite frequently amongst my girlfriends when we’re gathered together.

And it has been since before college.

Oftentimes, people have a crush on someone, and they’re not sure how to handle it. Maybe it’s a really good friend, and they’ve realized they have deeper feelings for this person than they thought. Sometimes it’s that person you’ve seen in class but have never spoken to. Whatever the case, it’s hard to simply forget about someone that you have some feelings for, whether they’re surface level or run really deep.

Recently a guy friend and I were talking about this girlfriend of mine who isn’t sure what to do. She’s become friends with this guy, but they’re not so close that they hang out all the time. She’s wondering how to take it to the next level. So of course we engaged in a long conversation about whether or not she should ask him to hang out.

She didn’t want it to feel weird or awkward if she asked him to hang out again, so we were brainstorming all the ways it could be super casual. “Maybe you should just ask him out for ice cream,” we thought. “That’s casual enough, and everyone likes ice cream.” We continued to rationalize this in our heads. You know how it goes. We could’ve talked for hours about how she should approach the “ask.”

When I started to tell my guy friend about all of this rigmarole, he burst out into laughter. When I asked him why he could possibly be laughing at such a serious subject, his reply was: “guys just don’t think like that.”

What could he POSSIBLY mean by that?

We had carefully crafted this fool proof plan, and it was sure to work. Sure, maybe he wouldn’t be able to hang out that day, but at least we’d know if there was a possibility that he would say yes. My friend would be gently putting herself out there.

I realize that not every guy thinks the same way, nor does every lady think the same way, or any person for that matter. But I was still curious, so I asked my friend the question: “okay, so how DO they think, then?”

“Well, she should just ask him if he wants to go out sometime.”

Huh. That simple. Okay, maybe she’ll go give it a try.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I realize that it’s scary not knowing whether someone will like you back. The fear of rejection is very real. But the fear of rejection will always exist, in so many facets of life. So go at your own pace, be yourself, and trust your gut. But don’t be afraid to risk rejection for a relationship you think could be really mutually strong, meaningful and wonderful either.

And if he or she says no? It’ll hurt. But there will always be someone else to ask out too.

College girl photo available from Shutterstock.

Meredith Bazirgan <![CDATA[You Are Not Alone in Your Loneliness]]> 2012-04-07T19:35:14Z 2012-04-05T22:28:37Z

“Man Cannot Discover New Oceans Unless He Has the Courage To Lose Sight of the Shore.” – Andre Gide

Loneliness can be a crippling cycle: students feel alone and isolated so they withdraw from their social lives, making them feel more alone and isolated. As of last February, loneliness accounted for nearly 5% of all spills…Loneliness can feel very isolating.

Most anyone can and does experience loneliness, and we have found that it is often accompanied by difficulty making friends, homesickness, feeling alone around others, or having too few meaningful acquaintances.  It is no wonder then that many first years in particular feel a sense of loneliness.

During my first few weeks of college, I remember calling my parents to tell them that I would never possibly make the quality or extent of friendships that I’d had back at home. I was crying and very upset (they often remind me of this in a teasing manner to remind me of how quickly things that seem negative can turn around and become a positive experience. For the record, I did make many meaningful friendships in college, and I still keep in touch with many of those people today.)

It is actually surprising that some people may not experience loneliness at all in college. I mean, think about it: I had lived in the same place, with many of the same people, in the same community, for seventeen consecutive years. I had three brothers, and I went to the same high school as them, so I was already plugged in to some connections with people before I even started high school and junior high!

Don’t get me wrong; I was lucky to have had the upbringing that I did. I grew up in a safe, warm community, surrounded by many positive relationships and loving people. But those positive experiences also made the shock of going away to college even more difficult.

Sure, I love meeting new people, going to new places, and trying new things. So college was an exciting and awesome place for me! But it wasn’t without its rough patches. What I’m trying to say here is that it’s natural to feel alone homesick or feel like it’s hard to make friends. Most people would agree that it is! Here are some things you can do to feel less alone:

  • Set a goal of making a new friend per semester or year. Go at whatever pace feels comfortable.
  • Ask an acquaintance or friend to hang out. You could watch your favorite movie, go for a walk, or grab a coffee or an ice cream.
  • Call a good friend and ask about their day. Maybe they will have some stories to share about when they’ve felt lonely too and what they did to turn it around.
  • Take some time to sit and think or write about what makes you YOU. What do you love about yourself? Don’t hold back. It’s a useful skill to be able to acknowledge and talk about your strengths. Having a hard time thinking of something? Call or email someone you trust to ask them for feedback. Ask them what drew them to you and what makes them want to be your friend.
  • Go talk with one of the counselors or use another resource on campus. Sometimes talking about what you’re going through can make you feel a whole lot better. If you feel like hearing from peers, check out
  • Write a letter to someone you care about, and express what you miss about them or about home or wherever you met them originally, and share what you love about school and even some of the challenges too. You could even reminisce about fun times you’ve had together in the letter, and this will get you feeling some of the more positive emotions of spending time with that person.
  • Take pride in yourself for going away to college. Remember that it takes a lot of courage to go away and do something new, but that any positive growth will lead to some bumps along the way.

The easiest way to get over loneliness is also the hardest thing to do: take a step outside of your comfort zone and reach out to someone new.  If you keep doing so, eventually you will have a rich social network of support.

Lonely young woman photo available from Shutterstock.

Meredith Bazirgan <![CDATA[The Counseling Center: To Visit or Not to Visit]]> 2012-03-27T15:00:44Z 2012-03-27T15:00:44Z One of our readers recently posted a poignant comment after reading “Stress Tends to Spill” last week in which she stated that “students should strongly consider seeking out their counseling center on campus. They don’t need to be going through a crisis before they seek this help; they can just go to have someone to talk with.” Here at Spill, we couldn’t agree with her more. In fact, most therapists and counselors would agree that no problem is too small for a visit to see a counselor. And yet, we have found that a huge chunk of student spillers feel as though their problem wasn’t serious enough to visit the counseling center.  There is still a huge stigma around mental health issues, and college students are not immune to that stigma.

Stigma can come in many forms, not the least of which is most damaging is when it creates self doubt or shame. This can be shame around one’s feelings, or around admitting to what we’re struggling with, and it can also mean shame around asking for help. But it doesn’t have to!

We ask student spillers the following question: “Would you have gone to a counselor for this problem?” A large number of those students report that “the problem was not serious enough for them to go to the counseling center.”  More specifically, our data compares students who are writing about their loneliness struggles and students writing about struggles other than loneliness.  It demonstrates that many students across the country do not believe their problem is “serious enough” for the counseling center.

What we share with members of the greater Spill community is the belief that no problem is too serious for a counselor. It is natural to experience a whole host of emotions and struggles during your time in college. And sometimes, students may need to talk with other students who’ve been through the same things to know that everything will be okay. Other students may need to seek out a counselor as well.

At the end of the day, we will know we have done our best if we continue to offer and to then share the resources that are available to students. The counseling center is a great place to start. Why? Because counselors are oftentimes aware of the resources available within the context of the greater college campus community. If the student needs some other source of support, the counselor will likely be able to make an appropriate referral recommendation.

Seeing a counselor doesn’t make you crazy. It doesn’t mean you should be shipped off to the proverbial nuthouse either. It means you’re courageous. You’re brave enough to recognize that you’re struggling; to ask for help; to articulate what it could be that you’re going through; to accept some help in your life that’s available to you. It also makes you a great example of someone that those who might want to seek out some help but haven’t yet found the courage can look up to.

It can be incredibly liberating, cathartic even, to sit down for an hour and talk freely about what you’re going through, no judgments included. And no matter what you’re going through or how hard it can be to open up to someone, I can say from firsthand experience that it feels good to let someone in, and to maybe even learn something (or ten things!) about yourself along the way.