Anorexia and Animals – My life lessons paved with pawprints

Today I wanted to write about animals and how they continue to benefit me in my recovery journey from Anorexia Nervosa. Animals are well known for their companionship benefits, but many people remain unaware of the therapeutic benefits animals possess too.

I believe the lessons I learn from animals are priceless. Animals teach me the art of love, care and compassion – all of which cannot be taught within a four-wall setting from a professional with years of experience and knowledge. And they have been scientifically proven to release Endorphins and Oxytocin in the Brain. The feel good and cuddle hormones. I think professionals are wonderful people with good hearts, but sometimes there are things that they just cannot teach us, lessons which we must go out of our way to learn on our own with an open mind. I have animals to thank greatly for supporting me and encouraging me on my journey so far. For giving me a reason to keep on fighting, even when I don’t particularly want to. When I feel like giving up, I am quick to bare the animals in mind and motivated to make positive changes within my life because of them.

`Save myself, save the animals’.

Whilst I struggle with my mental health, I find animals to be of an incredible help. I believe that when there is an animal, there is always a friend. I adore them, not just due to their valuable companionship (though, this is something I highly treasure) but because they remind me of the importance of `small’ things which I tend to turn a blind eye to. Their calming nature and unique personalities helps to ease my anxieties and acts as a temporarily blocker between myself and my issues. Animals assist in making my thoughts and feelings appear and feel vacant, which reminds me (on my darkest days) that I must get out of bed and cuddle animals, an instant mood booster. My compassionate side towards animals is slowly teaching me to care for myself, too.

My ongoing battle with Anorexia Nervosa has been a challenge over the years and to this day it continues to be as challenging as when I first received my diagnosis. I have experienced talking therapy from various teams and specialists. However, I believe that animals are teaching me the importance of food and why it is a necessity in the maintenance of a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle. After all, the best therapists have fur and four legs. My obsession with Goats enables me to see just how much they adore food; their hearty appetites always brings a smile to my face since they enjoy food and receive no guilt from it at all. Nor do they count calories or fuss over how much they weigh. Goats are my inspiration. They live their lives happily and care-free, factors I am working towards on a personal level. Goats will eat and eat because they know it’ll provide them with the energy they need in order to carry out their mischievous lifestyles. Evidently, I can learn much more about food from animals than I have ever been able to learn elsewhere. Surrounding myself with animals has been more beneficial for my mental well-being than any other form of therapy.

Animals don’t have to earn food, or deprive themselves of it in any way. Food is a huge part of animals’ lives and they see it as a positive attribute in their lives.

I believe animals can understand emotions (both positive and negative) just like us Humans. During times I cry over food, my Cat is always quick to comfort me and nudge me for attention and she will always sleep by my side during difficult nights. When I am feeling down I always surround myself with animals and instantly feel better, it’s as though my problems are lifted and my heart feels full of joy.

I am in no way saying I am recovered; I am certainly learning more about food and the importance of it which I feel is a necessity in Anorexia recovery. Not just beginning to eat `normally’ again, but to also relearn why food is important and the benefits it has on us as individuals.

Working with animals has been a real eye opener for me, in the sense that I try my hardest to relate my struggles to the animals I surround myself with. I recommend this technique to everybody struggling with an Eating Disorder. If an animal were underweight, I know it would raise concerns in me and I would be looking at altering the animals’ lifestyle, which encourages me in my ways and in my mindset. If I know animals need to be healthy, why should it be any different for myself? If an animal wasn’t eating, I would be concerned and I would be taking a trip to the vets to resolve the issue. I focus my time and energies into animals and their happiness, which is something I should be striving for in myself, too. I also try to rationalise my thoughts when I think about animals, turning my thinking into `would I deprive an animal of food? No. Then why should I deprive myself of it’.

During times I cannot focus my energies or compassion onto myself, I focus on the animals and it makes my daily battles significantly easier. Animals are not only friends, they are healers too.

Lots of love,

Laur xx

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