Between late night study sessions, double-digit papers and drunk walks home, it’s safe to say we’ve all shed a tear or two on our beloved DePaul campus. College is a time of transitions, full of academic work, career planning, social stressors and personal exploration. It’s emotional, and it’s exhausting. Why not cry it all out?
The act of crying is an involuntary, nonverbal reaction by the body to communicate emotions such as frustration, sadness, extreme joy or relieve stress. Crying can also help self-soothe or signal a need for comfort and support from others.
“It can feel sometimes that you’re really isolated and you’re the only one who is struggling with really intense emotions or struggling to hide those emotions, but you’re not,” said Lily Stark, a 2018 DePaul graduate. “Life’s too short to not cry on campus.”
However, it can still be difficult to speak openly about — let alone acknowledge — these moments of vulnerability. To gather sources, I shared my topic on Depaul-specific Facebook pages, which garnered mixed responses from students of varying gender, age and area of study. When I reached out to contact sources, though, women were more likely to respond to my interview request than their male counterparts.
Crying carries the connotation of being an effeminate reaction to emotions. There is a bit of science behind it — according to the American Psychological Association, women are more likely to experience physical and emotional symptoms of stress, including the feeling of having to cry. In turn, men — socialized to hide emotions like sadness or stress — are more likely to express these emotions as reactive anger or deny their feelings. Yet, crying is a valid response to emotion for any gender, one often out of our control.
“A lot of the times emotion is painted as this irrational or not useful thing in professional or academic setting,” said Stark. “I think it can be really valuable actually and shows what you’re paying attention to and care about.”
So grab a box of Kleenex, throw on some Sufjan Stevens and show off those water works. Here are some of DePaul students’ favorite places to cry on campus:
The John T. Richardson Library is a given. Aren’t libraries designated safe spaces to shed some tears while finishing schoolwork? Between annoying group projects, tedious everyday assignments and the finals week all-nighters, the library has seen it’s fair share of cry sessions.
If you want privacy, head up to the third or fourth floor individual study desks. Or, simply stand amidst the rows of books and let your thoughts wander. Go ahead, let it out. Johnny T. doesn’t judge.
Arts & Letters
With it’s large windows, single-stall bathrooms and hideaway corners, the Arts & Letters building is another great space for a more contemplative, soft cry. According to graduate student Kaitlyn Madden, the fourth floor of Arts & Letters also offers a bird’s eye view of campus and some secluded bathroom stalls.
“It’s really quiet up there and it’s just kind of where I end up if I ever were to cry on campus,” said Madden. “It’s a pretty building so it makes me feel less bad about crying.”
Most humanities courses also have classes in this building, hence maybe more willingness to be open and feel all the feelings.
The Schmidtt Academic Center
Sometimes we can’t control where we cry. Why not wear your tears with pride?
“My favorite public place to cry is the SAC pit area,” said junior Tuyet Anh Le, referring to the sitting area in front of The Bean Caffe. “You feel vulnerable and you feel seen, but it’s still this weird feeling of being alone.”
Le recalled having a hard time with missing family last year. One day, she was sitting in the pit, listening to music and doing some reflective writing when she started to cry amongst other students and professors on campus. There is a poignancy to being around people but being alone with your own thoughts.
“Sometimes it’s a little awkward because people will see me and they’ll be like, “Are you ok?,” said Le. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m just going through it today.’”
The Student Center is the epicenter of undergrad life and therefore a hot spot for some crying sessions. Within the Student Center is the campus cafeteria, Brownstones Cafe, computer labs and the university counseling services on the building’s third floor — all of which culminate enough daily stress to cry over, preferably into a toasted Brownstone’s bagel.
“The place I’ve cried the most on campus is definitely in the Student Center for some reason,” said junior Rebecca Woods, who also works in the building. “I think it’s always just panic, like I need to get to the nearest bathroom.”
As a film and sound major, senior Gabby Henderson said she frequents the CDM computer labs on the third floor of the Student Center where projects have to get done before the building closes at 1 a.m., leading to some long and frustrating nights.
“I’ve also been doing work in there where something just doesn’t work,” said Henderson. “I get super frustrated the night before even though I had like a month to do this project.”
At DePaul, though, the city is our campus. Here are some runner ups for safe spaces to cry no matter the location:
- The backseat of the Brown Line (preferably with a cityscape view)
- The Whole Foods on Fullerton (probably around 5 after 5 time)
- The Jackson Red Line stop (Comm, CDM and Business students know)
Remember to Practice Some Self-Compassion
Crying can be cathartic, but after an emotional breakdown it can be hard to turn around and head back to class. Make sure to take care of yourself first. Have you eaten today? Drank enough water or given yourself a study break? Crying can also be a signal to slow down and listen to your body.
If you are near a bathroom, splash cold water on your wrists and neck. Make sure to stay hydrated or scroll through memes on your phone for a quick mood boost. If you feel up to it, share how your feeling with your support system.
“I do feel energized a little bit after the fact by talking to other people or talking about why I was upset,” said Madden.
If you have more time to decompress, or need to practice some self-care after a stressful day, try journaling, watching your favorite movie or making a snack. If you can, allow yourself to take a break, recuperate and return to your work in the morning with a clearer mindset.
“If I’m crying that means I’m tired,” said Henderson. “I’ll let myself cry and then I’ll just go to sleep and I’ll wake up in the morning and do it.”
You can even poke fun at your emotions because, yeah, breakdowns can be dramatic and trivial and funny as hell — but only if you are comfortable with the joke.
“I have an Instagram that’s dedicated to my crying selfies. It’s to document personal growth and what not,” said Le. “It just kind of makes me laugh a little bit because I’m like, ‘I look so ridiculous, this is so funny.’”
While crying can be a beneficial way to immediately release emotion, it is also important to recognize when your emotions might need extra attention. If you need to talk or are concerned about your mental health, contact the University Counseling Services, located on the third floor of the Student Center, and schedule an intake appointment.
“Nobody is going to judge you or put a stigma on you for just going and talking to a nice therapist in the counseling center,” said Woods, a junior who works in the Student Center. “It’s the best thing you can do for yourself.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “ITSOK” to 741741.
To learn more about counseling services at DePaul University visit the student affairs website. To make an appointment you can call the Lincoln Park office at 773-325-7779 or the Loop Campus office at 312-362-6923.
You can also call the Illinois Warm Line at 866-359-7953 for peer and family mental health support from Monday through Friday during the work day. For more information about Chicago mental health resources, you can visit the NAMI Chicago’s website.
Header image by Jenni Holtz