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Students reflect on experiences with mental illness

| Thursday, October 6, 2016

Morgan Seidler, a Notre Dame sophomore who has struggled with depression, said her life probably seemed perfect to any outsider.

“I was the valedictorian, the varsity soccer player, the girl who was going to the great University of Notre Dame,” Seidler said. “I was the girl who supposedly had everything going for her, and the girl who now wanted to say she had a mental illness.”

As part of Irish State of MiND Week, students shared their personal experiences with mental illness during “In Our Own Words” on Wednesday evening in the LaFortune Ballroom.

Saint Mary's junior Colleen Zewe Rosie LoVoi

Saint Mary’s junior Colleen Zewe discusses her struggle with an eating disorder at “In Our Own Words,” and event sponsored by NAMI-ND as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week.

For too long, Seidler said she was afraid to seek any help due to the stigma involved. However, she said she eventually “learned it’s OK to not be OK.”

“Everybody has these struggles, and so many other people, especially on this campus, are trying to present this happy-go-lucky, carefree, ‘my life is just perfect’ image,” she said. “You never know what other people may be going through.”

Though Seidler said the road to recovery was extremely hard, she said she’s hopeful for the future.

“Now that I’m facing the problem and I’m back in control, I know I can only go up from here,” she said.

Colleen Zewe, a Saint Mary’s junior, said over the last few years she developed an eating disorder.

Editor’s note: Colleen Zewe is a news writer for the Observer.

“Anorexia didn’t just eat away at my weight,” Zewe said. “It ate away at my entire life, including my relationships.”

Zewe said the eating disorder caused her to become distant from her loved ones.

“I was too tired, too anxious and too obsessed with what and how much I was eating,” she said. “I was a ghost of my former self.”

Two weeks into last semester, Zewe took a leave of absence and spent several months in a hospital recuperating. She said though she thankfully survived her latest battle with an eating disorder, two of her friends from the hospital have since died.

Cynthia Tran, a Notre Dame sophomore, said she has always struggled with an almost crippling social anxiety.

“I’m not good with what a lot of people call emotional attachment, affection or social skills,” she said.

Tran said in the past she has tried cutting and attempted suicide, but finally started to feel happier during this past summer. However, she said this progress reversed several weeks into this semester.

“Just when I thought I had finally figured everything out and was ready to steer in the right direction, I suddenly fell back into another intense depression,” Tran said.

Tran said lately she has been trying to surround herself with people and positivity to prevent her depression from taking control.

“I’ve been pushing myself as much as I can to show up to as many practices and social outings as I possible to surround myself with friends and not just stay in my room and indulge in my own sadness,” she said.

Mental Illness Awareness Week will continue tomorrow at 7 p.m. in 102 DeBartolo Hall with a talk from Kevin Briggs, a California Highway Patrol officer who has talked over 200 people out of committing suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge.

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