You’re having a panic attack. The cause doesn’t matter. What matters is your skin is crawling, your hands are shaking, your thoughts are racing. If you don’t move, you might explode.
What you really want to do is scream. Loudly. But you can’t. There’s no place to scream. You live in Chicago with two roommates. You can’t go home; one of your roommates will be there, or your neighbors will hear you through the walls. You can’t go to the park; the park is a public space, and someone will think you’re “crazy”. Everywhere you go, there is someone. There is nowhere to be truly, loudly alone.
Addie Stiles is a self-proclaimed loud person. She’s a newcomer to Chicago as a freshman undergraduate. Stiles likes making noises as she exists, whether they be by vocal stim or by the hazard of doing tasks. Yet, now that she’s in Chicago, she feels like she can’t do that anymore.
If she drops her keys on the counter, she wakes her roommate. If she plays music, she has to be careful of who’s listening through the walls.
“I am like a mouse in my dorm room,” Stiles said.
Solomon Duncan, also a freshman undergraduate, said he has similar feelings. “I don’t think I could find a place [where] I could scream and not care about reactions.”
Duncan comes from a small suburb outside Nashville, Illinois. For him, the transition to Chicago — a big city — was exciting and full of possibilities, and it still is. But he’s also learned that the city can induce anxiety.
To cope, Duncan often seeks a quieter place where he can be alone, but this has become difficult with a roommate. As opposed to playing records to unwind, he said he spends time on his bed trying not to irritate anyone.
Neither Stiles nor Duncan feels hopeless. As their old ways of coping have become inaccessible, they’ve found new ones. Duncan makes time to ride the Blue Line and hang out in the suburbs of Chicago on the weekends. Stiles re-joined Roller Derby, one of her favorite activities back home. Despite their newness to Chicago, both of them are starting to adjust.
On the other hand, senior TJ Jiapan said she’s spent the last four years feeling frequently overwhelmed. When she started school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2016, she wasn’t super focused on anything.
“It’s like a buffet. I’m so starving, but after I enter the buffet, I’m like, ‘I should try a bite of this, a bite of that.’ But after all, I don’t know which one is my favorite. Or, which one is the one I should pursue for the rest of my life.”
Jiapan left SAIC during her junior year. She felt overwhelmed, so she took a break beginning in 2019. She delayed coming back during the COVID-19 pandemic and spent some time in Denmark studying geology and climate science to get a different perspective on the world. Jiapan tried out five jobs in four years while in China, trying everything professionally related to art.
Now she’s back at SAIC with new perspectives and a better understanding of the world. Most importantly, she said she knows how she fits into it.
“Now I feel like I know what I’m doing and what I will do in the future. It’s a long journey of being a student at SAIC,” she said.
Jiapan was sure to stress that there are valuable resources at SAIC. The Title IX office, the Wellness Center, and her professors have all been beneficial. According to her, everyone she talks with wants to help, and they all want her to succeed. Jaipan said: “I already paid the money for them. They have to give me something back. So I will never think that too much, or like I am bothering them.”
Graduate Student Mira Simonton-Chao is a first-year grad in the art education program (MAAE). She also struggles with finding places to be alone. She said “I hate going to MacLean because it’s really hard to find a space to be alone there. There’s always people going to class or something.”
Simonton-Chao recommends going to the Film Video New Media & Animation Screening Room (only available to students enrolled in specific FVNMA classes), or the 280 Sculpture Garden.
Mike Pietrus, Director of Counseling Services at SAIC, said he is not aware of any spaces on campus that are dedicated for students to be alone and scream or be loud. He did, however, give alternative recommendations.
Pietrus mentioned such places like the Movement room on the 13th floor of MacLean, or looking into reserving rooms through the Instructional Resources & Facilities Management department. He also said that often students are able to find empty classrooms to solitarily chill in.
Pietrus also encourages students to be creative when coming up with places to be alone.
“But it’s also like if you’re looking for something a little more you know, specific, it might be helpful to find places, there might be a community in the Chicago that sort of does this kind of stuff and, and engages in that kind of support,” He said.
SAIC counseling services also provides access to several online services such as ThrivingCampus, an online directory to help find mental health care off-campus; Togetherall, an anonymous social media site to talk about your struggles and help others; and Telus Health Student Support (THSS), a free and confidential mental health and wellbeing support service that is open 24/7.
Here’s some resources if you are feeling alone or overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to shoot an email or show up in someone’s office.
116 S. Michigan Ave., 13th floor
Hours: Monday–Friday, 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
Health Services – 312.499.4288, [email protected]
Counseling Services – 312.499.4271, [email protected]
Disability and Learning Resource Center – 312.499.4278, [email protected]
Every SAIC Student may receive up to 16 free short-term counseling and psychotherapy sessions with the Counseling Services Department. One could always scream at a counselor.
Title IX office
116 S. Michigan Ave., 12th floor
Robert Babcock, Ed.D. – 312.499.4165, [email protected]
Title IX Deputy Director Verron Fisher – 312.499.3904, [email protected]
The Far North Side of Loyola Beach has big empty patches. Few people would hear if one wanted to scream.
For $35 one can throw axes for an hour at Kanya Lounge. They also offer two-person rage rooms.
Make it Art
SAIC is, in fact, an art school. Turn your anxiety and feelings into a performance piece! Get your class together and just scream at them. Real loud. Then you can talk about your feelings in critique.