Anorexia and University – Studying and recovering

University

I want to talk about battling Anorexia whilst at University.

Initially, it was something I wanted to keep hidden from those around me. But then I figured it was pointless (and ridiculous) attempting to shy away from a huge aspect of my life. I’m no longer ashamed or embarrassed of the things I am going through.

It’s common for Students to develop mental illnesses whilst at University due to many different reasons. Not because they’re weak willed, lazy or unable to cope. However, I had been diagnosed several years beforehand so I had the advantage of developing my own coping mechanisms in order to help me manage my personal situation.

The pressure of studying, meeting deadlines and achieving “the best” grades. Being away from home, finding feelings of loneliness and increased anxiety levels when faced with a new situation. There are lots of factors which can trigger somebody becoming unwell.

I’m not a typical student, you could say. I don’t order pizzas and I tend to avoid eating out, or doing anything other than sticking to my *very* strict eating regime. I can spend lengths of time breaking down in my room due to my horrific body image or intense feelings of guilt. I have difficulties concentrating in lectures due to exhaustion and a tendency to reflect upon my darkest thoughts. Having an Eating Disorder does restrict you in many ways past eating and it tends to alienate you from those in your presence.

I turn to my Anorexia as a means of coping, a form of punishment, particularly when things go wrong. Such as receiving a slightly lower grade than I anticipated, fall-outs with friends, exam pressure and so on. Reminder: regardless of whatever happens I still need to eat.

I made it a goal of mine to allow those around me to know about my struggles, to avoid any awkwardness if I were to be asked to go out to eat or to avoid questions about my “abnormal” eating patterns. Opening up isn’t easy, I often worry about judgement or the fear of abandonment, worrying people will no longer wish to be associated with me. But, thankfully, the love and understanding I have received has been incredible and I am exceptionally thankful and filled with gratitude for that.

Battling Anorexia is a continuous, daily enervating task which takes significant amounts of strength, courage and determination. Even whilst studying something you’re truly passionate about, it doesn’t (unfortunately) ridden your illnesses. I’ve found it almost impossible to stick to a regular eating pattern due to my forever changing timetable and my other commitments, only motivating me to try harder (and to challenge my disordered thoughts) in second year.

Recovery and education are just as important as each other.

Waking up every morning to fight the demons which left you exhausted and agitated the day before….

That is bravery.

Eating Disorder recovery is often perceived as eating and being given a meal plan, when in reality, it’s often including battling excruciatingly painful and loud thoughts, relearning what a healthier relationship with food is, past diet culture, restriction and calorie counting. Alongside finding body acceptance, tackling the voice that continuously nags at you for not being “good enough or thin enough”.

Managing this on top of studying, a social life, volunteering and hobbies is still something I am learning to apply to myself. It takes a remarkable amount of power in order to do so. Ensuring I am busy enough to spend less time dwelling on my thoughts, but also finding the time to eat, even when I don’t particularly want to.

On my down days, I have the confidence to confide in those I trust as a reminder that I am not alone.

My marvellous dance teacher, and friend, Lucy has always been somebody I’ve felt able to speak to when I’ve needed somebody to listen. A very kind-hearted, beautiful person who inspires me daily with her strength, hard work and determination. Providing me with love, understanding and acceptance. Alongside two of my lovely tutors who have assisted, and advised me in countless ways.

Battling any Eating Disorder isn’t a quick fix. Or something that happens magically overnight. It takes years and years to recover, with every individual sufferer having their own unique recovery journeys, some people may never reach a full recovery due to the nature of the illness. But it’s key that baby steps are taken daily to challenge thoughts, behaviours and rituals.

I highly encourage everybody struggling to open up to those you trust. A tutor, a friend, or a family member. It helps to lift a huge weight from your shoulders and it acts as a constant reminder that you are not in this battle alone.

Summer volunteering at the farm!

Little Owl Farm

28/07/2018

Arriving into Oldham at roughly 10:30am, I was eager to get stuck in to what was bound to be another wonderful, smile broadening day. I habitually inform Cindy of my “best day EVER!” whenever I have spent the day volunteering at the farm due to the enjoyment I gain from being there, surrounded with my animal friends and the loveliest of people.

This week was “Story Book Week” at the farm, a week dedicated to stories ranging from The Gruffalo and Alice in Wonderland, with a series of fun activities planned for children of all ages!

I highly praise Cindy and John for the hard work and dedication continuously going into making the farm as great as it is today. Knowing them feels like the greatest honour and I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for my friends.

I was met with John, then Cindy who’re always the biggest pleasure to see and I was then ecstatic to catch up with Lizzie, the BEST face-painter and a wonderful friend of mine. We hugged, chatted and then I went on to get my hands dirty. Not that I minded. I love farm life!

Starting off with cleaning the Duck enclosures. A simple, yet fulfilling, task of emptying the old substrate and replacing it for new – following an array of wheelbarrow trips. Also cleaning out the water bowls and providing fresh water, which was soon to be muddy again in precisely two seconds with the Ducks and their dirty beaks.

I then went on to preparing some treats for the animals. A very important factor in enriching an animals’ life, saving them from boredom, providing fulfilment and ensuring all daily essential dietary needs are met. All treats must be given in moderation, though. Bananas are clearly a favourite…

Upon my wonderful (much needed) catch-up with Lizzie, I got tattooed and covered in glitter, like the big kid I am. Chatting about University, animals and goats. I was filled with laughter and happiness. Feeling content and like a sparkly princess. I went on to fill up the hay nets, carried out a quick spot-clean of the pigs’ enclosures and then cleaned out the rabbit’s hutches as they frantically hopped around my feet.

You can check out Lizzie’s excellent work at:

https://www.facebook.com/lizziefacepaints/

Time to walk Jay! After refilling the animals’ water buckets. Firstly introducing him to the other residents at the farm, starting off with Mary-Jane and Poppy (Of course!) And then going into the picnic area, carefully ensuring he didn’t cheekily nibble on any of John’s plants! Heading over to Mr McGregors’ Garden and around the entrance area as Jay strolled around curiously.

Who’s walking who there?

I could only giggle away as I was being pulled around the stunning countryside by a small looking Goat. Apparently, the wheelbarrow trips aren’t working wonders for my non-existent muscles after all…

Attaching the collar and clipping on the lead, it was then time to walk Bobby. Another Goat friend of mine, a beautiful resident at Little Owl Farm. Large horns to match his big, bright personality.

After a series of cuddles with my special, kind-hearted Goat friends, I went onto saying my good-byes after more hugs before catching the bus ready for my venture home after what had been another awesome day.

With each time I volunteer at the farm, my confidence grows and my happiness radiates too.

I love being a volunteer at Little Owl Farm!

Saturday farm day

Little Owl Farm

14-07-2018

Waking up at 6am, I was stoked for what was set to be another fun filled day at the farm. Though, I wasn’t due to set off for a couple of hours afterwards! I never have been one for lying in…

It wasn’t long until I was up, washed and dressed for the day. Appropriately choosing my very well suited “crazy goat lady” t-shirt in preparation of being surrounded with my very best Goat friends. A second home.

Firstly reaching Manchester, after a short wait at the bus stop, and then Oldham, I was soon to be setting foot on my last bus ready to approach the farm. A very pleasant journey filled with picturesque countryside views and clear blue skies as the sun beamed down, strongly. I also petted a very friendly, brown eyed, Jack Russell upon choosing a seat.

Greeting John and Izaak, I then went on to cleaning out the Rabbit’s hutches. Simply removing the old substrate and replacing it for new – it’s always a pleasure seeing it fresh whilst my furry friends are hopping around my feet. Replacing their waters and ensuring to keep a regular check on them, especially in staggering 24°c heat.

  • It’s vital that animals always have access to fresh drinking water. A simple, basic requirement.
  • Rabbits (and other animals) are extremely sensitive to warmer weather conditions. Taking steps to keep them cool and comfortable is vital.
  • Providing Rabbits with frozen water bottles, vegetables and fruits helps to keep them cool, alongside cool mats and shaded areas.

We fed the Pigs whilst adding new bedding. The full clean was undertaken, looking immaculate, by the time I arrived at the farm so it was just a case of changing the bedding and filling the troughs with water with the help of the extended hosepipe. I was very particular in ensuring the straw was fluffed up to their hearts content, wanting them to be in for a very comfortable sleep!

The ducks were next. Entering the enclosure armed with my trusty wheelbarrow and brushes as they happily quacked away simultaneously whilst I worked. Many filled wheelbarrows and walks up the hill later, I was well on my way to a fresh enclosure for the curious ducks. Ready to change their waters after adding fresh substrate.

I then went onto cleaning out the Goat enclosure. My favourite part of the day! (Alongside all the hugs I receive) Armed with brushes and shovels, it was a job that may have been quicker without the (many) additional Goat cuddles. Something I deem impossible! We even sunbathed together at some point. Admittedly, hay makes a very comfortable bed. Accompanied with three curious Goats and covered in…all sorts but with much joy in my heart. I refilled the enclosure with fresh straw, after it was clear, which made for very happy Goats and a very happy Laur!

During this time, I was also pleasantly surprised to see Cindy at the farm. With it also being the quickest I’ve ever jumped out of the Goat enclosure out of excitement. My day was made!

Following my animal packed day, I went on to spending some quality time with my animal friends (yay!) with my much needed hugs from Poppy and Mary-Jane, and chatting to some lovely visitors about my volunteering at the farm and giving a demonstration of how to hand feed the Donkeys – the friendly giants. And chatting about Goats (of course) Going onto giving Jay his favoured chin rub as he tilted his head, delicately placing his head on my hand.

I also helped the companionable Sarah with bathing her gorgeous Shetland pony, Dolly. Filling the bucket and carrying it together, it wasn’t long before Dolly was coated in shampoo and rinsed ready for a whole new, cleaner look.

I then headed off home. Backpack at the ready and a hug from John, until my next return. It was another excellent day!

Finding Little Owl Farm, and happiness!

Little Owl Farm

In January 2017 I apprehensively (yet also excitedly) got in touch with Little Owl Farm regarding volunteering after a Google search lead me to their wonderful Facebook page where I proceeded to spend lengths of time scrolling through animal photos and thrilling visitor reviews. I saw only happy, satisfied visitors reflecting upon their enjoyable and pleasant experiences at the farm, so I figured I should try to get involved too.

I recall receiving a speedy reply. I was ecstatic to learn that carrying out work experience at the farm was an opportunity available to me. Cindy got back in touch and informed me that she was “delighted that I wanted to gain experience at Little Owl Farm” – but I doubt anybody could be as delighted as I was!

Even from the email, Cindy seemed incredibly kind and welcoming as she offered to show me around, additionally adding that it would be great to meet me. And I couldn’t wait to meet her either! I felt a sense of hospitality. Meeting Cindy has been the most pleasurable experience that I’m beyond grateful for. I love my friend and her big heart! I was joyful about getting involved, delighted at the concept of making new animal friends too. Though understandably anxious about the new people and surroundings…

Fast forward a month later, during February half term, I leaped out of bed following the ring of my alarm. I ensured to wrap myself up in multiple layers following Mum’s request and according to the weather forecast, I was bound to be in for a chilly (yet thrilling!) adventure.

Putting on my thickest coat and fastening my shoes tightly, I headed on to the bus stop at approximately 7:30am ready for my first bus ride to Manchester. A blanket of snow sitting comfortably on the floor crunching beneath my walking shoes as I eagerly made my way to the stop. Since it was my first time at Little Owl Farm (and in Oldham) I used my phone as a navigator and felt near to Dora The Explorer with the wonderful assistance of Google Maps.

I then hopped onto two more buses and I was well on my way to approaching the farm. I lost my way partially but Cindy quickly came to my rescue when I plucked up the courage to phone as I stood speaking to Winston the Horse.

You came from where?! You travelled how far to find us…?

My first impressions of Little Owl Farm were only positive, as they still remain, as I was shown around and introduced to friendly John and intelligent Izaak and the lovely Naomi, alongside many gorgeous animals. After a cup of tea and a chat in Cindy’s Café! I thought Cindy’s accent was the sweetest thing and I was stoked to tell Mum all about my new Canadian friend. This is the day where I met Poppy and Mary-Jane! A major highlight of my experience at the farm has been becoming friends with my two girls. I was also given information about the activities held at the farm, such as themed days and crafts.

My only disappointment was that I hadn’t found this gem sooner!

My first time at Little Owl Farm involved the heartwarming opportunity of assisting in saving the most beautiful Duckling. She was incredibly tiny and fluffy with a sky high cute factor. Bright yellow and beautiful like a ray of sunshine. We had her wrapped up in a towel by a heater in the Cafe, encouraging her to have a bite to eat. She regained her strength and fought to health. The text from Cindy later on in the evening confirming that warmed my heart massively, especially as I was also asked to name her.

Meet Mabel. The name I chose with the Latin definition: “beautiful, loving and loveable.” Clearly a name that was well suited to my fluffy friend.

Since it was my first time at the farm, I stayed for a few hours before heading back home after the completion of some daily farm jobs, uncountable photos and animal cuddles later. Since I hadn’t taken the bus route home before, I wanted to ensure I travelled home safely and I knew that once I had taken the route once, I would be fine the next time and all the times following.

And this is how my time at Little Owl Farm began. An email and a bus journey lead me to making the most incredible friends. Almost 18-months-later and I can confidently say that my love for the farm increases every time I go, as does my happiness! I’m incredibly grateful to have my happy place, a place where I’m accepted for my goat obsession and smiley face, also filled with the best people and animals and volunteering there fills me with so much joy.

Pygmy facts with the Pygmies!

Little Owl Farm

Mary-Jane and Poppy are just two of the gorgeous residents happily living at Little Owl Farm in Oldham, Greater Manchester. I know for a fact they’d love to meet you!

Their cheeky, loving personalities and gentle souls are enough to broaden a smile onto anybody’s face. Especially mine, The Goat Girls’ – best nickname EVER!

I love these girls to pieces because they are incredibly affectionate and adorable. They love attention! Plus, they just have a tendency to warm my heart with their cuddles and inquisitiveness and they make me smile the biggest.

It’s always wonderful to educate ourselves into more animal facts, especially whilst making friends at the farm. And as The Goat Girl, it’s understandably my aim to convert others into Goat admirers too!

Mary-Jane:

The gorgeous Daughter of Poppy. Just over 2 years old, Mary-Jane is a beautiful soul with a heart of gold. She loves attention…and food! Her big brown eyes constantly melt my heart.

Poppy:

The beautiful Mummy of Mary-Jane, an incredibly caring and protective Mummy at that. A laid back character, loving, reserved and gentle.

Pygmy Goats are well known for their playful, bouncy personalities and their love of climbing.

1) Pygmy Goats are a domesticated breed of Goat, one of the smallest breeds. (We’re blessed to have many beautiful breeds!) But that doesn’t negatively impact their joyous personalities and bundles of energy!

2) They weigh up to 85 pounds, with Males typically weighing significantly more than Females. Additionally, Males are slightly taller than Females. Standing at a height of around 23 inches.

3) This applies to ALL Goat breeds: A Female Goat is called a Doe, a Male Goat is called a Buck and a baby Goat is called a Kid.

4) They will eat a variety of different foods and have very hearty appetites. With hay taking up the largest quantity of their daily diet. Alongside pellets, fruits and vegetables. Oh, and fresh water of course!

5) In terms of Gestation (pregnancy) Pygmy Goats typically have a gestation period of up to 150 days. Shortly after birth, healthy kids can nurse from their mothers within minutes and are able to run and jump up to 4 hours later.

Be sure to head on over to Little Owl Farm to meet lots of wonderful animal friends!

Facebook: Little Owl Farm

Instagram: @littleowlfarm

Uni and mental health – managing education and wellbeing

Mental Health, University

Managing education and mental health simultaneously can prove to be excruciatingly difficult at times, though, not impossible. Like with anything, the most important thing is to take it day by day. One step at a time.Fortunately, teachers and universities are becoming more aware of student mental health, they’re more understanding and willing to make adaptations to things when necessary. One of my biggest worries was managing my health and studies alongside each other, but in all honesty I’ve felt nothing but supported and understood throughout my first year and it’s incredible to be surrounded with such empathy.You’ve entered a whole new world, new surroundings and are bound to be met with new people going through the same. Some people can mask it better than others. Struggling isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s normal and it’s more than okay to admit when you aren’t really okay.My first year included a variety of ups and downs. Cries, laughs and a series of personal achievements. Though I ensured I reached out during my times of need because suffering alone and in silence wouldn’t benefit my education, or my overall well-being. Prioritising my mental health and well-being is still a work in progress, though I am enabling myself to reach out for support when I need it.I’ve found the strength to find the time for things that make me happy. Volunteering at the animal sanctuary and joining the contemporary dance club. Both of which were terrifying at first due to meeting new people and the fear of being judged, though I’ve been loved and accepted. And I’m beyond thankful for that. They’ve allowed me to meet new people and to give me brighter focus and positive distraction. Aswell as allowing me to gain an insight into the things I’m good at, not just the things my head tells me I’m bad at.

1) You are NOT alone. Being away from home doesn’t mean you have to deal with any issues by yourself, there is always somebody to listen, somebody willing to help. Even if that’s a chat to your mum on the phone or a cry on your flatmates’ shoulder, somebody is always around.

2) Speaking to your Tutors is a massive help. They will never think any less of you for needing support and will probably be thankful that you felt able to confide in them. Not only does it help shift some of the heavy weight placed on your shoulders, it enables you to gain trust in those around you.

3) Seek support from University support services. Most unis will now have services available within the Uni to cater for students, helping them deal with the possible stresses and struggles of life. Services which can be accessed easily with the importance of student confidentiality.

4) Open up to your friends! This is something I’ve recently found the confidence to do myself, and I can only say it’s very beneficial. Friends love you and want to support you, they aren’t judgemental and they always know what to say in order to relieve some of the stress.

5) Know what’s right for you. Don’t feel pressured into doing things you aren’t comfortable, or happy, with because it’ll have negative implications on your mental health. Find the time to prioritise your happiness alongside your studies.

University is an adventure filled with highs and lows. It’s a climb – you may fall during your journey, but you’ll always pick yourself back up to reach the finish. Your mental health doesn’t define you. Don’t allow your struggles to set you back. It’s incredibly brave to take on university as a challenge, especially whilst battling mental illnesses. You’re capable, worthy and valid. Never think of yourself as anything less.

You’ve got this!