It was 3 o’clock in the morning when I woke up with cold sweats, frantically grabbing for my phone. I expected to have ten missed calls and several voicemails comprised of screaming threats. I figured this was the end of the line for me as a pledge, because I had forgotten to pick up the actives from the bars. I was fucked. The word “blackball” raced through my mind over and over. I quickly threw on my blue jeans, white t-shirt, and New Balance sneakers. I busted out of my room and sprinted through the house toward the front door. Luckily, my pledge brother was still up. He yelled, “Woah dude where the fuck are you going?” before I made my way out. I explained, half awake and in a frantic state. That’s when he told me that everything was going to be okay, because pledgeship ended three years ago. I walked back to my room head down, changed into a fresh pair of underwear, and went back to sleep.
The phenomenon described above is scientifically referred to as “Hazing PTSD.” It can happen at any time, in any place, with anyone, if triggered. One moment you’re strolling through campus when someone drives by blasting Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell,” and before you know it, you’re doing planks and yelling out the founders’ names for the whole campus to hear. Certain sights, sounds, smells, and other things can stimulate these flashbacks. We will review some of these triggers below.
1. Your College Football Team Losing
My first bout with hazing PTSD came on a warm September Saturday during my sophomore year. I was no longer a pledge, and wasn’t even a JI since we had just initiated the worthless spring class, but there was something off that day. It was a road game, and we were all watching at the house. Terror began to fill my eyes as the clock inched closer to zero and we were losing. I began to head to the basement, screaming obscenities, and asking God “Why?” The flashbacks had begun. It is a time-honored tradition to take the frustration of a loss out on the pledges.
Since I went to a school with a team that lost just about as much as we won, hazing and losing went hand-in-hand. We went through everything, too. From raking the volleyball pit with plastic forks to pledge planks on old bottle caps. Saturdays in the fall have started to feel normal again, and I can now yell at the team when we lose (and pledges), instead of sweating bullets in fear of what’s to come.
2. Seeing A Dip Spit Cup
When I was pledging, seeing an active’s cup of dip spit meant that you were in for hell. No good was about to come of what the active had in store. The thought of it makes my stomach turn as I type this. Dip cups can still strike fear into your heart post-pledgeship. One of two things can occur when you see one of those fuckers:
A) Your taste buds start to prep for an incoming mixture of dip spit, tequila, ketchup, relish, and stale beer.
B) You find yourself grabbing the dip spit and using it as shampoo.
Neither situation results in you having a good time.
3. Hearing Certain Songs
When you ask a handful of sufferers what triggers their HPTSD symptoms the most, this will be your number one answer. It can happen in your car, in your room, or anywhere there is music. You’ve been conditioned like Pavlov’s dog to expect certain things every time you hear one of these certain dreaded songs, and your body automatically begins to prepare itself for domination.
4. Seeing Bottle Caps On The Floor
This is the second-leading cause of HPTSD. The flashbacks will most likely kick in when waking up the morning after a house party, walking through your kitchen and seeing bottle caps scattered all over the floor. Your first instinct will be to drop to the ground and get on your elbows and toes.
Bows and toes have forever been used as a training tool. It builds character. Just like the bell was for Pavlov’s dog, bottle caps are triggers for former pledges to assume the position. On the bright side, you’re getting in a little ab work and can justify downing a 24-pack and large pizza later that night.
5. Entering A Bathroom Stall
Stalls were some of the most mentally challenging things I have had to do. What exactly does doing “stalls” entail? You pile your entire pledge class into one handicapped stall, standing straight, and no one can talk. This could last for hours, which is why, occasionally, you will spot an active shuddering at the sight of a handicapped bathroom stall.