Animals and Me – Pawprints to health and happiness

Mental Health

Mental health illnesses have a tendency of making you feel unwanted, unloved and a whole range of negative feelings and emotions. You become buried in self hatred and pity, feeling as though you are a huge burden on those around you who love you unconditionally. You become a shadow of your former self. Some days are better than others. You may struggle to get out of bed on some days and you may be able to brave the day on your better days. Either way, you are not weak because of your struggles and you are not defined by your illnesses. We must try our hardest to grow through what we go through.

You hear the word ‘Depression’ and associate it with crying and all things dark. Well, I do anyway. I associate depression with sadness and vulnerability. Loneliness and numbness. A dark hole that seems endless. It’s like you’re walking through a dark forest wandering aimlessly for a way out, but with no luck. Screaming for help in an isolated room with nobody around to hear your desperation as you scream and scream for a way out.

Everybody has their own coping strategies and methods of getting through difficult times, including battling loud, manipulative thoughts and unhealthy behaviours. Some people go down the route of therapy, CBT, psychology and so on. But I feel that, for me, there is no better therapy than being surrounded with something you have an admiration and passion for. Something that puts joy in your heart and a sparkle in your eyes which enables you to feel something other than pain and distress. During your worst times, it’s important to surround yourself with love and things that mean something to you. For example, some people get their source of happiness from art, others from sport or from baking.

There is something about animals that enables me, personally, to feel calm and at ease. When in the company of animals, I instantly feel relaxed and comforted which works wonders for my mood and my low self-esteem. In my opinion, it’s reassuring being amongst beings who don’t judge you for being you. Meaning you may have clouded views of yourself, but animals will help you to see yourself and The World around you in a different light and from a brighter perspective.

With people, there is always that fear of being judged – especially if you’re mentally ill. Because lots of people fail to understand the difficulties we are faced with due to our illnesses; animals detect the smallest of things and it is in their best interest to provide a sense of comfort and therapy. For instance, at home there has been multiple times I have been very low in terms of my depression and my Cat (Tigga) has immediately picked up on it and has come to nurse me by sitting with me and letting me know that I am not alone.

Animals educate you on the importance of caring for yourself and showing yourself the same amount of love and compassion that you show to them. You wouldn’t starve an animal or deprive them of food, so why would you do it to yourself? Would you turn to an animal and throw insults their way, left right and centre? No.

Similarly, I have been in College and have turned to two gorgeous Pygmy Goats (Poppy and Penny) for assistance and for an ear to listen. We are all aware of Goats and their cheeky, unique and loving personalities and I can happily confirm that a conversation with them, and an unlimited supply of hugs, works wonders for reducing the symptoms of Depression. I find expressing my thoughts, feelings and emotions near-impossible at times; I have no problem whatsoever when it comes to interacting with animals which is why they have been proven to work wonders as Therapy, or assistance, companions.

There has been times I’ve struggled to get out of the house, not because I’m ‘lazy’ like people could possibly assume, but because of the high levels of anxiety that cripple me every single day. In addition to this, I have managed to take the bus on my own and have travelled distances to be with animals, during my voluntary work.

In my experience, Anxiety is wanting to do things but being unable to do so because of the endless thoughts swimming around in your head, the doubt and the tight knot in your tummy. But knowing I have a reason to go out of the house and knowing that there are animals awaiting me on the other side, provides me with a sense of worth, need and importance.

Animals have worked as therapy for me, and still continue to do so. I believe that this will always be the case as I work hard to achieve a career within the animal care industry where I aim to save and rescue animals. I also wish to have a positive impact on their lives like they have for me.

Talking isn’t always the way around things – though it does help massively. I feel that simply surrounding yourself with something that allows you to feel alive is enough. Talking can get too much sometimes and too difficult, it can be very draining and tough letting people in but when you are doing something you enjoy you can work at it for hours on end which helps to boost your mood and reduces the thoughts you are experiencing. As a conclusion, doubling up as a distraction method too.

I always feel motivated and enthusiastic when thinking of animals and being with them, I owe my life to them for assisting me in looking at the future and all I have to fight for. My motto is ‘save yourself, save the animals.’

Because when animals are involved, you are never alone. 

Love and hugs,

Laur x

The Donkey Sanctuary – Visiting our adopted boy Henry

Animals

Today I went on a visit to The Donkey Sanctuary, in Manchester with my Mum and her Boyfriend Chris.

For Mother’s Day, I adopted my Mum a Donkey (named Henry) because she adores them and we had the privilege of meeting him today for the first time. We will definitely be paying some more visits and I would encourage everybody else to do the same.

There isn’t enough awareness, or appreciation, of The Donkey Sanctuary and the life changing work they do 365 days a year.

I would like to begin by saying how pleased I was to see how well the gorgeous Donkeys were taken care of. They had plenty of space to move around, a large sleeping area, plenty of food (including treats like ginger biscuits and carrots) and fresh water available and it was very clear that the Donkeys are loved and cared for unconditionally. They had obviously grown comfortable with the staff caring for them. And all of this warms my heart and fills it with joy.

The Donkey Sanctuary is an international charity, which has been running for 45 years, which aims to transform the lives of Donkeys throughout The World, whether they’ve been abandoned, abused or if they simply cannot be taken care of anymore. This sanctuary is incredible as they are compassionate and will never turn a Donkey down, regardless of their age or their state of health.

The Donkey Sanctuary are also an assisted therapy centre, working with Children with additional needs and/or sensory issues. Children are always said to be more relaxed when with animals, as they are not judgemental and due to their caring, therapeutic side. I speak from personal experience as I find all animals to be of more use than any therapy.  This aspect of the sanctuary also allows the children, and visitors, to form bonds and trust with the donkeys, which is always such a lovely feeling.

It was incredible being able to visit Henry, knowing that our donations go towards his basic care, husbandry and health needs. Without forgetting to mention the fact that he is absolutely gorgeous and approvingly very well fed… as you can tell by looking at his huge tummy!

In total, The Donkey Sanctuary (in Manchester) has a grand total of 18 beautiful Donkeys. Each with their own stories and their own unique, cheeky personalities. There was only 1 female, you can imagine that she’s treated like a Queen.

Today, during my visit, a Donkey had become injured (due to rough play with another Donkey) and within seconds a member of staff was on board to treat the Donkey and mend him back to good health. The Donkey had hurt his eye; he was soon running around again cheekily alongside his 17 friends. It was refreshing to see how observational the staff were during this time.

When the Donkeys are old enough to retire, they go off to the partner sanctuary in Devon with lots of other Donkeys to spend their older years in a brand new location. Basically a holiday for the Donkeys.

Please go and visit if you get the opportunity to, you will be amazed by how content the Donkeys are thanks to this charity.

Lots of love and hugs,

Laur xx

 

Summer – You do not have to hide away

Mental Health

Summer is rapidly approaching us, with this brings warmer weather, long walks in nature, holidays and unforgettable memories. Summer is a favourable month for the majority of people as the sun is said to boost their mood; this isn’t the case for everybody.

This may seem exciting and will be an enjoyable time for most. Though, unfortunately, Summer also brings huge masses of anxiety for some of us. It brings judgement and tears, isolation and sadness. This is down to the fact that people can be extremely judgemental when it comes to certain issues that they lack a knowledge and understanding of.

Self harm

Visit my additional post on self harm here

Self harm occurs when a person feels that by deliberately injuring themselves they can achieve a release from their situation“.

Even when I’m at home I struggle with showing my arms and will often cover them with my cardigans. Though, having scars is OK, because they signify healing. But this isn’t down to embarrassment, it’s because I am aware of the impact my scars have on my loved ones. Not because they’re judgemental, but because they hate seeing me hurt and they hate being unable to take it away from me. Though, I must praise my friends and family for being continuously supportive of the struggles and difficulties I have.

Your scars are a part of your story, but they do not define you.

People will stare, people will make comments and people will throw horrifying looks your way and that’s just a part of life sadly. Although we don’t have the ability to control everybody and their actions, we have the ability to learn how to pass off their negativity. And we have the ability to learn that we are strong and powerful, despite what others may think.

When the weather becomes warmer, people begin questioning you or giving you strange glares if you’re not dressed a certain way. Ie- dressed in shorts, dresses and short-sleeved t-shirts. Believe me, I know. However, most people choose to wear less ‘revealing’ clothing to hide their self harm cuts or scars because of the stigma surrounding the issue. People may also just prefer to dress differently, which is perfectly okay and acceptable too and nobody should be pressured into wearing things that they dislike.

My advice is: If you want to wear long sleeves, wear them. If you want to wear short sleeves, wear them. Wear shorts, tights, jeans, skirts or dresses. Wear whatever YOU feel comfortable in, not what society wants you to feel comfortable in.

The most important person is YOU and this involves caring for yourself and working on regaining your health and happiness.

I struggle with self-harm; I am working on learning healthier coping mechanisms with the help of my amazing support worker. I have scars, as do many people and I am not ashamed or embarrassed to have them on show if I choose to. Why? For one, it’s a huge step to show your scars because you’re unsure of how others around you will react. In addition to this I believe that my scars symbolise that I am going through a difficult time in which I have survived. To me, they signify strength and determination and they are definitely not a form of attention seeking like most people assume.

My scars do not define me, they do not define anybody in a negative way or make them a bad person either. 

If people have a problem with your scars or attempt to belittle, or judge you, in any way – you simply move on and remove these people from your life. Not everybody will understand but you need to surround yourself with supportive people who have your best interests at heart.

It’s important to remember that you do not need to hide away during the summer months (or during any point) in order to avoid harmful comments. You do not need to wear long sleeves if you don’t want to, you don’t need to hide away at home as a way of isolating yourself either. But you do need to accept yourself and distance yourself from negative people who bring your spirits down. You do need to show yourself love and compassion and you do need to hold on to the belief that things will get better.

Things to remember regarding selfharm

  1. You are NOT alone in this. Lots of people use self harm as a coping mechanism for the difficult times they are going through.
  2. You are NOT a bad person for self harming. You’re only Human and life comes with difficult times alongside the easier times.
  3. You may self harm now, but this doesn’t mean it’s forever. Eventually a time will come where you recognise that you don’t deserve to hurt or suffer and you will become stronger whilst learning better coping strategies.
  4. There is support available to you if you’re struggling, or know of anybody who is. If you feel uncomfortable speaking to a family member or friend, perhaps speak to somebody else you trust (such as your GP or a Teacher) or alternatively you can contact The Samaritans who have services you can access anonymously.
  5. Keep safe whilst self harming, keep it clean and make sure you are aware of the signs of infection. Urgently go to your GP or to A&E if your wound becomes infected or if you become concerned or in pain.

 

For self harm alternatives, please see my other blog post: here

 

Lots of love and hugs,

Laur x

Mental Health – You’re not alone in this

Mental Health

I decided to write a post on Mental Health and the feelings of loneliness, which is something I feel quite often. Though, ironically enough, I know I am not alone in my frequent feelings of loneliness as it’s a common feeling within us suffering from mental illnesses and amongst people in every day life I guess.

First things first, everybody feels lonely sometimes and it’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Heck, even animals get lonely too and we’re all aware of how tough they are!

Living with, and fighting, a mental illness/illnesses can seem like a very lonely and isolated time – we are never alone and there are plenty of people who care for us and wish to see us well again. People aren’t always aware of how to help or what they can say to ease the hurt a little but that doesn’t mean they don’t care.

People don’t always understand, because they haven’t experienced this before personally so they become unsure of what advice to give. In comparison, I figure it’d be like trying to understand what a broken leg felt like -despite never having broken your leg before- You can certainly care for people and love them unconditionally, but it’s not always easy to place yourself in another person’s shoes.

Our mental illnesses have a way of consuming us which, subsequently, blinds us from the truth the majority of the time. Our illnesses force us to believe things which are NOT true. Including irrational feelings of being lonely, being a burden to others and being worthless (the list goes on.)

A key thing to remember here is that ‘feelings are NOT facts.’ The feelings will pass and you will become stronger than them by the day. The torment you are currently experiencing will not last forever and you will soon regain your happiness, health and sparkle.

People care for you, which is hard to understand when you feel unworthy of any kind of care and love. You begin believing that you deserve all things bad, which is far from the truth but your illness likes to disguise that from you as it continues to burn you to the ground.

The truth is, you are never alone. There is always somebody who cares about you – whether that’s a family member, a friend, a teacher, a therapist or a Nurse (to name a few) There is always somebody willing to listen and to assist you in your journey, through the good times and the bad, the tears and the laughter.

Love & hugs

Laur x

April – Autism Awareness Month

Mental Health

We have fastly approached April, which means that it’s time to partake in Autism Awareness Month which lasts all month, yay! Though, every day of every month should be used to raise awareness of Autism. This month is designed to raise awareness of Autism, but to also attempt to end the stigma which currently surrounds the condition.

This time last year, I hadn’t been diagnosed with Autism. I was currently in the assessment process which would confirm whether I did, or did not, have Autism. I still remember the day I was diagnosed, though it seems like a blur. I recall feeling shocked and numb for a while as it took a while to sink in what had happened. It was a long wait which included frustration and tears (I’m not the most patient of people…)

My Eating Disorder Therapist was the first person to pick up on possible traits of Autism as we’d been working together for quite a while and it was apparent that I was having difficulties engaging in Therapy. The idea of Autism had never been mentioned to me before, nobody in School or College noticed any signs and just passed me off as being shy.

You’re probably thinking, `why have you been diagnosed later on in life?’ In which I can answer – Autism is easier to hide in Females, as we have a tendency to copy other people around us as a means of fitting in, meaning we hide the signs alot easier than Males. However, the number of Females being diagnosed as Autistic is currently on the increase as more people are becoming aware of Autism and the signs. Males are also commonly diagnosed later in life too which is perfectly fine. It doesn’t matter when you get diagnosed, but it’s such a relief when you do.

I used to be ashamed and embarrassed of my Autism because I was terrified of being judged; if people wish to judge it’s their problem not mine. I didn’t like my new ‘label’ and I thought it would change many things, though anything that has changed has been for the better. Everybody who knows about my Autism has been very understanding and kind and I’m so grateful to have those people in my life.

My Autism hasn’t changed me, it’s opened my eyes to the person I’ve always been and the struggles I’ve always had. 

Autism is a developmental condition -not a mental illness- which affects 1 in 100 people. It is present from birth, you don’t develop or ‘catch’ Autism later on in life. Due to my Autism I find certain aspects of life difficult and, as a result of this, I have high levels of Anxiety and I have learned how to adapt to things in a way which is more comfortable and better suited to me. For example, I struggle with communication so I get people to do the talking on my behalf as often as I possibly can. I also struggle in other areas such as social situations, busy and loud places, using public transport alone, understanding sarcasm, understanding other people’s feelings, thoughts and emotions. I struggle to fit in with people as I’m awful at making and maintaining conversations, therefore, I enjoy the company of animals much more and would happily spend my days sitting talking to them. Autistic people tend to have a main interest and can find it difficult to spend their time on anything else.

Autism carries lots of stigma and it’s time to stamp it out. Many people associate Autism with Children who’re misbehaved or Children who’re interested in trains. I can confirm that I am a young person with Autism and my interest doesn’t lie with trains, but with animals. Some people believe that Autism only exists in Males when this isn’t the case as Autism can be diagnosed in both sexes. People have negative views on Autism, but I’d like to point out that Autism doesn’t make anybody a bad person and the only bad people are the ones who choose to criticize it rather than understand it.

Thanks to my diagnosis, I now understand why I do and say things in a different way and I am slowly beginning to accept that it isn’t wrong, it’s just how I am and the way I’ve developed. My communication is improving slowly which is scary but necessary I guess. I understand why I don’t enjoy things that other people my age enjoy, including going to parties and to pubs drinking. I’d much prefer to stay home with my Cat and duvet watching Disney films.

I’ve met such lovely, inspiring people since being diagnosed and I’ve learned lots of life lessons from them too. One of these people include my support worker who is incredible and the one of the most helpful and supportive people I’ve ever had the privilidge of working with. I wouldn’t change my diagnosis if I had the option to, Autism is a part of me and it does not define me in any way, shape or form.

When you meet one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism – because the Autistic spectrum is large and no two people with Autism are the same, which is what makes us unique.

We want acceptance and understanding, not judgement and criticism. We see The World differently, but that doesn’t make us strange, it makes us intelligent and bright. 

Thank you for reading! Be sure to check out the National Autistic Society for more information.

Love & hugs,

Laur x