University – good bye to my first year

Mental Health, University

25/05/2018

Today marks the end of my first year of University! It’s surreal how quickly it’s gone, it seems like just yesterday I was anxiously packing up my belongings and heading down to Bangor ready to begin my dream course, Zoology and Animal Behaviour. I had no idea what to expect, whether I’d adore Uni or hate it with a passion. I could only try. However, it’s been an incredible adventure filled with highs and lows, I’ve learned lots in terms of education and life lessons and at times I’ve really come to acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses and at times I’ve struggled but, nonetheless, I am proud of myself for getting through the year despite my mental struggles and personal difficulties.


‘You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

friends

I’d been wanting to attend Bangor Uni since 2014 when I first applied. My personal circumstances and a decline in my mental and physical health meant my plans were temporarily on hold and I became extremely upset that the majority of my friends were heading off and I was being left behind. I’m not better or in any way recovered, but I’m trying to include things in my life that extend beyond my illnesses. I’ve always been a lover of education and learning, so being away from it for such a long time broke my heart. Being back is the best feeling that fills me with so much joy. But everything happens for a reason, I wasn’t the failure I labelled myself as because I didn’t give up. “Nonetheless she persisted.” I got to Bangor in my own time. I am learning that there’s no age limit to success. Starting in 2017 doesn’t make my achievements any less than those who started years beforehand. We can either let our experiences worsen us or better us as individuals. 

It’s how we pick ourselves back up after we’ve fallen that counts, not the number of times we’ve been down.

Prior to starting Uni, I worried I wouldn’t fit in because I’m not the “typical Student” and my issues (including my Autism and social anxiety) make socialising difficult – I hate drinking and the thought of spending my evening in a club fills me with distress. I’d much rather sit in and write an essay. But that’s just me. I found that I did fit in, I found things I enjoyed doing with people I loved spending my time with. First year, for me, has been a learning curve.Not just in terms of academic study and finding new interests (microbiology , more in depth animal behaviour and evolution) but also life lessons too. I’ve found a strength in me I didn’t know I had. Determination. I stepped out of my comfort zone massively and continued to challenge myself in so many ways: moving to an entirely new place with new people and learning to adjust to my surroundings and University life, finding the courage to confide in my tutors and friends during my times of struggle and surviving each day despite the battles in my head that are seemingly torturous at times. I have exceeded my own expectations.

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University has given me a motivation and a much brighter outlook on life which I lacked for such a long period of time when everything was dull. I want to make others happy, animals happy and myself happy and my role as a student is helping me to do so, I’m massively grateful for that. It hasn’t cured my mental illnesses and I never expected it to. Though, its given me happiness, its acted as a constant reminder and a solid foundation of why I must keep going: to succeed in achieving my Degree to then go onto saving animals. Returning to education after two years off to work on myself really is a magical feeling, I’m beginning to feel as though I have a purpose again. I’ve been privileged enough to make valuable friendships with wonderful people who I’ll always treasure in my heart, people I’m thrilled to be spending the next few years with. My friends accept me for me, understand my mental health struggles and provide me with endless love and hugs. And for that, I am grateful, and very lucky too! My first year certainly wouldn’t have been the same without my amazing friends.

The year has been fantastic, a combination of tears and smiles, positives and negatives. Of course there are definite areas in which I can improve, but with each day I am learning and growing as a person accepting my flaws rather than striving for a perfection that doesn’t exist or even satisfy my own standards. First year has acted as a stepping stone to achieving even more milestones in my second year and I say bring on the challenge! And I remain confident that each year will result in being progressively better than the first. 

I must add a huge thank you to everybody who has supported me along the way. My friends and my Tutors (the kindest people I’ve ever met) who have both offered me endless understanding and love when I’ve needed it. I’ve never been judged at Uni for my struggles, instead I’ve been encouraged to focus on my strengths and achievements which seems impossible to do on my own accord. I wouldn’t have gotten through the year without the support of my tutors who never fail to pick me up when I’m down, inviting me for a chat (usually about Goats!) or emailing me back in the middle of the night when I’m stressed or just need somebody to speak to. I’m beyond grateful for everybody who has been an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on, a person to share a laugh with and to create a new memory with. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for standing by me through the good and bad times.

I’m very proud to be a Student at Bangor Uni SBS (School of Biological Sciences) I finally feel like I belong and I’m excited for all that’s next to come.

National Volunteering Week – Little Owl Farm

Little Owl Farm

E9C7FE19-BCD1-4DEE-9AB9-5FE6EFAE4851.jpegIt’s the beginning of National Volunteering Week, something I truthfully didn’t know about until yesterday (oops!) but all the same I’m very appreciative and thankful for all the wonderful opportunities I’ve had whilst volunteering – something I encourage others to take part in too. Volunteering continues to work wonders for my confidence with both animals and other people as I venture along my career pathway to working with animals. I want to thank Little Owl Farm (and everybody there) for bringing so much joy into my life and for always welcoming be back, despite my plans to steal Poppy and Mary-Jane. You didn’t hear that from me…

Volunteering isn’t just for enhancing the CV, it’s also wonderful at warming the soul and broadening the smile. Providing skills, knowledge and experience which will come in handy later on in life. It’s impossible not to smile when surrounded with my animal friends! Working with animals requires lots of practical work experience, which I can proudly say I enjoy doing more than anything else. 

Learning extends beyond textbooks and lecture theatres, it also comes in the form of staying outdoors all day and receiving strange looks whilst sitting on a bus smelling of Goats after mucking out with a Giraffe painted on your face.

I want to give a little insight into my favourite place to spend my time:

Little Owl Farm

LITTLE OWL FARM

Little Owl Farm is my favourite place with my favourite people (and animals) located in Oldham.

They say ‘home is where the heart is’, something that became apparent to me during my continuous volunteering at Little Owl Farm, a place I’ll treasure in my heart forever, as I enter the warm embrace of my animal friends, alongside my people friends: Cindy, John and Izaak who I like to think of as my little family. All of who bring me infinite happiness and show me nothing but kindness. I began volunteering there in 2017, with my only regret being that I didn’t find it sooner. Spending two hours on three buses travelling there is always worth it to be in a place I feel so welcome and at home. Some may think that’s crazy; I’ll travel any distance for Goat and Cindy hugs. Plus, it seems like nothing at all whilst I sit eagerly waiting to see what the day will have in store for me.

 Volunteering is magnificent because each day is different, especially with animals as they remain very unpredictable (but always cheeky!) which is always a definite pleasure to witness. They never fail to amaze me with their uniqueness and their quirks, their ability to express their needs. Ie: constant baa’ing for attention when it’s dinner time or when they want their hay net filling. And, of course, their ability to express emotions just like we do: happiness, sadness, contentment etc.

In conclusion, I’d like to praise Cindy, John and Izaak for all their hard work to make their farm as wonderful and enjoyable as it is today. They deserve nothing but success and happiness for never failing to make me proud and my heart happy.

For information and updates from Little Owl Farm:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LittleOwlFarm/

Instagram: littleowlfarm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autism – Discovering the real me two years on

Work experience

20/05/2018 marks two years exactly since I received my Autism diagnosis.

Autism is a vast spectrum filled with wonderful, bright and intelligent people with big hearts and kind souls. Each with our own unique personalities. A spectrum I am proud to be part of.

Autism

I remain both overwhelmed and proud of everything I have achieved and experienced throughout this time. Moving away to University in a brand new town with entirely new people was my biggest, scariest challenge and something way out of my little comfort zone. Something I never imagined myself to manage. But another challenge in which I succeeded. I threw myself in at the deep end. Receiving a diagnosis as a 19-year-old truly was baffling, especially in a stigmatised World where the common belief is that only Children have Autism. From knowing nothing about Autism to writing my own blog post on my condition certainly is a highlight, for me. 

My diagnosis came about during Therapy for my Anorexia Nervosa. My Therapist and I worked together weekly for a very long time, until eventually we hit a brick wall and found it harder to work with each other due to my personal difficulties like understanding and expressing feelings and emotions. Attempting to express myself lead to tears and agitation, I couldn’t string together a sentence such as ‘I feel sad’ without panicking and refusing to look my Therapist in the eye. I could only refer to myself as being ‘fat and a bad person’. Additionally, maintaining eye contact is another one of my weaknesses. The inability to express myself has proven to have negative implications on my road to recovery, because I am only able to express myself confidently with words which is hard when trying to engage with services. 

Accept difference, not indifference.Each day, I work tirelessly to better myself and to beat any obstacle in my direction. Why? Because I can. Because my Autism doesn’t define me; I define Autism. Some days are better than others, just like every other being on the planet facing ups and downs, positives and negatives, smiles and cries. I may struggle to use public transport on some days and avoid it with all my power, on other days the challenge won’t seem as big and I’ll conquer it with my inner strength and determination. I may have a sensory overload one day or manage to stay outdoors for the entirety of it. But with time comes strength. 

Autism isn’t a disability, it’s a different ability.

 A big realization for me has been that everybody with Autism is affected differently. Ie: we all have our strengths and our weaknesses. My obsession is Goats, the obsession begins to take over my every day life and I find it hard to put my energies of focus elsewhere, but I don’t mind at all. I love it and I love Goats! Some may have a profound interest in trains or remembering specific dates. But my interest lies with animals, alongside other enjoyments of dancing and writing. I personally struggle with an inability to change, perfectionism, bright lights, crowded places, certain textures and social anxiety (to name a few…) But everybody is affected differently. 

Following on from my diagnosis, I became doubtful of myself and my abilities. The feeling of numbness became very apparent. I was confused and a little lost in my journey. What did my diagnosis mean for me? Why had nobody detected it sooner? So many questions that still remain unanswered, but now they are seemingly easier to ignore. I began assuming that my new ‘label’ meant I was suddenly different, a shadow of my former self. ‘What ifs’ clouded my mind: What if I couldn’t go to University? What if I couldn’t work with the animals?’ But my reality was, my diagnosis wasn’t stopping me but my thoughts were trying to though.

I hadn’t changed, I had just found out who I really was. This was the becoming.

Two years later, I can happily say that my diagnosis has been nothing but beneficial, though tricky to accept at times. It bothers me at times that I struggle with the ‘smallest’ of things unlike my peers, but I see them as stepping stones to achieving wonderful things. But all in all I wouldn’t change my Autism for The World. My diagnosis is something many people don’t know about me because I don’t ‘seem Autistic’, which again is down to a lack of understanding and knowledge. Nobody looks Autistic the same way nobody looks Depressed, these aren’t adjectives. I take each day in my stride as a means of learning to be proud of who I am. It’s shaped me into the person I wish to become, hardworking and enthusiastic, willing to take on new challenges. Whilst also allowing me to gain a glimpse of the person I always have been, unknowingly.

Be The Goat – Finding happiness amongst my animal friends

Mental Health

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The wind is blowing, the sun is shining and contentment is flowing through my veins. On a day like today, I am thankful to be alive. And, sometimes, taking a moment to appreciate the beauty around us really works wonders. I can breathe, I can learn, I can hug and love and those are all factors I tend to ignore commonly when I remain trapped within the deepest, darkest depths of my mind. The Brain is a complex organ with the ability to do and control many things such as retaining information like a sponge. Though, when you become stuck there it becomes very tricky to find a way out.

Struggling with mental illnesses for numerous years has been a definite, continuous, struggle. But today, on one of my brighter days, I am reminded of the importance of pushing through the darkest days. Because those rare moments of happiness are worth every negative thought and behaviour I endure. I’m thankful for my struggles for enabling me to appreciate the simplest things in life which often get taken for granted: the joy of leaving the house and hearing the birds chirping, witnessing flowers blooming as Summer starts to approach us.

Little moments of positivity remind me that better days are to come, I must keep pushing, I am stronger than I believe.

With mental illness, I often forget who I really am past my diagnosis’. It’s easy to perceive myself as a label as opposed to a person. Defining myself by numbers such as the sizing of my clothes is something I do daily or by my own reflection in the mirror which isn’t the easiest to see. Destructive thoughts often cloud my mind and erupt my logical thoughts, I treat myself with hatred rather than compassion and turn a blind eye to all forms of self-care and love. I still cry over meals, worry over my weight and calories, spend time wishing I was anybody but Me.

But nobody said recovery would be easy and healing isn’t linear, emphasising the normality of slip ups along the pursuit of freedom.

Recovery is like learning to walk. You pick yourself up many times but continue to fall despite every effort to stay up. But we never let falling keep us on the ground or stop us in our tracks. There are always stumbles along the way before any goal is met but determination and perseverance is the key.

One day, I will be able to walk again.

I’m an animal lover, a friend, a hard-working student with dreams and aspirations which I would much prefer to be defined by. In fact, my animal friends have (and continue to) assist me in achieving great things such as overcoming small challenges and tackling tiny victories. They never judge me for my struggles or use them against me in any way, nor do they care about my appearance. Being surrounded with animals and comforting myself with their hugs provides me with a feeling I fail to gain elsewhere, they allow me to feel at home and safe and being around them lifts the heavy weight of mental illnesses off my shoulders. My anxieties become vacant when I am with them, it’s magical! Cliché but true.

Animals make all the bad things go away. And I believe that when you’re kind to an animal, they will certainly be kind in return.

Animals make my soul shine and my happiness radiate. It’s like somebody flicks a switch when I’m in their presence, I change from being anxious and low in mood to being confident and happy. I feel empowered when I am with them, no longer alone, like I can conquer the darkest thoughts in my mind and the struggles in front of me. For them. They help me to believe that I am capable of anything I set my mind to, as long as I continue to Be The Goat.

The healing powers of animals amazes me each day, increasingly. I’m known for my passion and admiration for Goats, because without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. Goats were there during a time I felt completely and utterly alone, remaining isolated in my own little miserable bubble. It’s their friendship that saved me, knowing they valued me as much as I valued them. They continue to give me a purpose. Their constant love and affection warms my heart and aids in lifting my Depressive symptoms and seeing their hearty appetites fills me with relief during times of guilt due to my Anorexia and an important reminder that food is fuel, nothing that should be avoided or restricted, but something that should be valued for the energy it provides.

I am forever hearing wonderful stories about people in their journeys and how animals have assisted them in regaining health and happiness, from both physical and mental illnesses. Because when there is an animal, there is always a friend. Infinite love and copious amounts of compassion. Animals have been the friends I’ve needed when I’ve failed to be a friend to myself. Animal therapy is on the rise and I am confident others will only grow to appreciate animals for more than their cute factor, but for their healing and therapeutic properties too. Never underestimate the powers of being surrounded with Goats and their loving, cheeky personalities that could brighten the darkest day. The joy from feeding a Lamb her bottle or saving a Duckling’s life – they are much more significant than countless appointments I’ve had and they hold greater significance than the diagnosis’ under my name or the needles prodded in my arms.

My mental illness is a part of my life, but it isn’t my whole life. Whilst battling my mind, I have still achieved things which I ought to be proud of myself for and if anything, my illnesses push me to do better and lead me to believe that I am capable of achieving the things I wish to. But I have my animal friends to thank endlessly for providing me with a motivation and a purpose, a strive, a spring in my step and gratitude in my heart.