Simpson College ID Magazine

I am not defined by…

By Ashley Smith

I am not my weight.

Sophomore Kylee Hereid knows she’s overweight. She also knows there’s nothing she can do about it.

In high school, Hereid kept gaining weight and she didn’t know why. She was eating healthy and working out, but for some reason, kept gaining instead of losing weight. Finally, she decided to go to the doctor.

“And so I ended up finding out I have PCOS, which is polycystic ovarian syndrome, and it’s a common thing among women. It’s genetic and I found out shortly after I got diagnosed that my grandmother went and got diagnosed with the same thing,” Hereid said.

PCOS is a problem causing women’s hormones to be out of balance. One of the most common symptoms is weight gain.

After the diagnosis, Hereid struggled with fat shaming from her peers.

“I remember being in high school and there was a guy one year that I liked and I had the biggest crush on him and he ended up making a public comment about me being fat in front of the rest of my class,” Hereid said.

Hereid admits it’s hard every time someone gives her a look or makes a comment regarding her weight.

“It’s something that you don’t understand the other person’s perspective until you’re in their shoes. I don’t know what it’s like to be underweight and to have people constantly tell you you’re underweight. But I do know what it’s like going into a restaurant after having done a two-hour work out, and being asked ‘do you really need those carbs?’ by one of my friends,” Hereid said.

When Hereid came to Simpson College, she met Lauren Myers, with whom she co-founded a group called SELF (strong, excellent, loving and fearless) which deals with overcoming self-esteem issues.

“She’d had a lot of experiences with self-esteem and eating disorders and body image in the past and I could easily relate to that, from a different standpoint than she could, but kind of with the same end goal in mind,” Hereid said.

Hereid said co-founding SELF has helped immensely with overcoming insecurities with her weight, but there’s always room for improvement.

“I know sometimes I can be the biggest hypocrite. I tell people, ‘You know, you need to love yourself,’ and I have trouble loving myself. It’s a hard thing,” Hereid said.

I am not my learning disorder. 

Senior Brooke Preston has always earned good grades, so it worried her when she started getting D’s on tests after transferring to Simpson College last year.

“I was really, really confused and I felt really helpless because in class I could answer all the questions and in class I knew what I was talking about and I was getting good grades in lab because that’s more hands-on. And then I would take my tests and I would get D’s or low C’s and it was just really confusing to me because typically I’m a B or an A student,” Preston said.

After talking to her professor and the Hawley Academic and Resource Center, Preston discovered she has a reading-learning disorder.

“When I take tests, or anything really, I read through the information really fast and not everything sinks in and then the words get jumbled around in my head,” Preston said.

At first, Preston was reluctant to take tests in Hawley.

“It made me feel kind of stupid and I didn’t want to. So finally when I did, I did 20 percent better on the next test, so it really makes a difference,” Preston said.

Hawley gives Preston more time to take her tests and to process the questions. There’s also a whiteboard that Preston can use to draw diagrams to help understand the questions better.

When studying, Preston underlines or boxes important words and phrases in her textbook, and after failing an immunology test last semester she started watching YouTube videos on the content.

“I found [videos] on the things that I needed, typically B-cells and T-cells and hypersensitivity and things like that. Like the exact same things I needed I could find in videos and there were pictures with it and that really helped me understand,” Preston said.

This semester, Preston is exactly where she wants to be in her classes and is happy she asked for help.

“I’m taking 20 credit hours so it’s kind of an overload. At midterms I had two A’s and 3 B+’s and they’re all upper-level biology and upper and lower level exercise science classes,” Preston said.

Next year, Preston is excited to attend Northwestern Health Sciences University in the Twin Cities for
chiropractic school.

I am not my addiction. 

Since freshman year of high school, smoking marijuana had been an integral part of sophomore Ethan Zierke’s daily life.

“I think mainly the reason I started was just because it was a scene I wanted to be involved in. And that was the reason I was involved in it initially, and the reason I continued my use was because I developed friendships within that realm,” Zierke said.

Zierke grew up in Iowa City and said there was never a negative stigma attached to marijuana in the city, so he never saw his usage as an addiction.

“It’s a university town, pretty liberal, and it was everywhere; you could get it anywhere you wanted,” Zierke said.

It wasn’t until Zierke got into trouble with the law that he saw his usage as an issue.

“[Using] was like going on a run or reading a book, it was just a daily activity. So to be sitting there in jail reflecting back on what led up to me getting here, it was definitely a moment of realization and I knew that I had to make a change,” Zierke said.

Earlier this semester, Zierke stopped using marijuana.

“All I could think about is the time of day when I usually would. When I wake up in the morning, when I have some free time in the afternoon or at night before bed. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘oh this is when I normally get high,’” Zierke said.

To overcome these thoughts of addiction, Zierke has been finding other ways to keep busy.

“For me, it’s just finding other activities that can hold my interest, whether that’s getting involved in a sport, going to the gym and working out and blowing off steam in that way. Listening to music, making music, stuff like that. Those are all ways that I try to express myself in other ways,” Zierke said.

Zierke recently started treatment at House of Mercy but doesn’t think he’ll ever stop facing temptation.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m cured because treatment isn’t really something that, you’re sick, you go to the doctor and you get medicine and you’re cured or whatever. Treatment is something you have to deal with your whole life because when you develop an addiction to something, it controls every other aspect of your life whether you think it does or not,” Zierke said.

Since he stopped using, Zierke has a more positive outlook on life.

“I can kind of look back and see how I’m doing things differently and how I’m prioritizing things differently and I think, in that aspect, it’s helped me out a lot because I’ve never really had that perspective of myself since I was a freshman in high school,” Zierke said. “I’d never been sober for that long in order to really get an outsider’s look, and now I can.”

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