Chester Zoo 31/05/2019

Animals

I’ve been a regular, proud visitor of Chester Zoo from an early age. I became introduced to the Zoo during fulfilling and memorable family visits as I grew and developed and learned more about a variety of different animal species. I distinctively recall standing in awe, gazing at the towering Giraffes and becoming mesmerised by the Flamingos unmistakable pinkness.

My friend and I headed to the Zoo yesterday. The weather was in our favour, as it remained dry and temperate throughout. Though, I wouldn’t have minded either way. I’ve visited the Zoo in snowy conditions and warmer ones, and all experiences have been a joy!

https://www.chesterzoo.org

I wanted to give an insight into my favourite species. I particularly have a soft spot for Ungulates, which I guess heightens my admiration of Goats…

I particularly favour Chester Zoo. The animals’ enclosures resemble natural environments as closely as possible, and aim to encourage both mental and physical stimulation through enrichment and the exhibiting of natural behaviours. This is important, especially in captivity as it helps to reduce stereotypical and abnormal behaviours, such as: Pacing, head banging, pica (the consumption of non-food items) and bar biting.

Giraffes (Giraffa Camelopardalis)

Place of origin: Africa.

I had the pleasure of seeing the Zoo’s newest, and most beautiful, Giraffe calf’s who stood elegantly at approximately 6 feet tall. Twins: Mburo and Karamoja, and newest arrival Mojo. They were lightly coloured and curious animals, covered in patches that are totally unique like fingerprints. They successfully widened the smile on my face, with being my favourite African mammal. Giraffes are currently near extinction, and the Zoo aims to conserve and protect species for future generations.

Okapis (Okapia Johnstoni)

Place of origin: Southern and Central America, Asia.

The Okapis continue to fascinate me greatly, with a horse like appearance and zebra-like stripes situated on the legs and the behind. Fascinatingly, they’re known as the closest living relative of the Giraffe and they share similar features. Ie: they’re both ungulates and herbivores. This Okapi in particular was enjoying a watermelon slab, before sharing it with the small Deer inhabiting the same enclosure.

Elephants (Loxodonta)

Place of origin: Africa.

The Elephants at Chester Zoo are a related herd, named the hi-way family. Heartbreakingly, two members of the herd have tragically passed away (October, 2018) due to the spread of the lethal EEHV virus, which is known to attack membranes, resulting in bleeding and a fever. Almost all Elephants carry the virus, yet, it only turns into an illness for some. I believe another member, one of the youngest, has also recently been treated for the disease and it currently making a speedy, successful recovery. The herd were being bathed during our visit, as they contentedly soaked up the water and widely opened their mouths, almost like a smile.

Find out more about EEHV here:

Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

Place of origin: Africa.

Tapir (Tapirus terrestris)

Place of origin: Southern and Central America, Asia and Africa.

During my previous visit to the Zoo, the Tapirs were running around energetically outside. This being when the weather was dramatically colder. This time around, the group were relaxing indoors before one slowly proceeded to wake up. There are 5 species of Tapir, which inhabit forested regions in America and Asia. The youngest individual was easily identifiable amongst the others, due to white markings on the body. The markings are typically present from birth, but fade significantly during development.

 

More of my favourite images:

University – Student life on the spectrum

Autism

I very recently finished my second university year, yay!

As an Autistic Student, I feel that my experiences and abilities to handle given situations naturally vary from those of “neurotypicals”, and whilst that’s okay, it’s a matter I’ve been aiming to shed a little light on. I am diagnosed with high-functioning Autism (previously described as Aspergers), the spectrum is vast, filled with people of all ages, races and abilities. And whilst we remain similar in various ways, we also possess our own personal differences and struggles. It certainly isn’t a “one word fits all” criteria. 

Shortly after receiving my Autism diagnosis, I maintained the idea that I would prevented be from going to University. I envisioned myself being unable to work with animals due to my Autism. My Therapist ensured me otherwise and reminded me that my kindness and compassion would guide me far. I failed to acknowledge that I was the same person and I hadn’t changed, I was just gaining a widened understanding into why I found aspects of life so difficult at times. But I believe I’m doing considerably well and may have advantageous traits. Such as an inability to lose focus of my special interest (animals!) time management and organisation.

I often receive messages, words of encouragement and praise congratulating me on my efforts and achievements. And my capacity to overcome the obstacles often lumbered in my direction, which I appreciate wholeheartedly. It’s overwhelming to reminisce on my previous years in education, where I remained unaware of my Autism, unaware of why I regularly faced challenging situations. And I guess, unaware of who I really was. Looking back, I understand why I struggled to fit in, why maintaining friendships proved difficult and why I followed perfectionist standards. The two years I’ve spent engaging in university student life have been the best. I’ve truly begun flourishing and finding myself, whilst slowly learning the art of self acceptance.

Admittedly, I believe that my Autism can never affect my abilities or be a hindrance on my pathway to success, as long as I persevere and reach out for support as required. I believe my Autism is another personal characteristic in which I choose to embrace, it isn’t a disease, I don’t need curing, but I do appreciate acceptance. To begin with, my Autism diagnosis proved to be difficult to accept and it constantly played on my mind like a fault. But over time, I’ve started to feel proud to be on the spectrum and the concept of being Autistic no longer equated to my whole world crashing down. My diagnosis encouraged me to take on new and exhilarating challenges – using public transport alone, moving to a brand new town alone and meeting new people (students and teachers). And 3 months ago, I flew over 4,000 miles away from home to spend 10 days in Florida for University. This once seemed impossible, but perhaps, things aren’t impossible once they’re done.

I refuse to jump into new situations and tasks with the “I can’t do this because I’m Autistic” mindset. I prefer to access support to address my worries surrounding the situation, while preferring to use “Why shouldn’t I be able to do this? My Autism cannot stop me”.

I understand and acknowledge the fact that I’m more sensitive in comparison to other Students. I often dwell on feedback on my work, focusing primarily on the areas of weakness, I constantly worry over slight changes in tone or behaviours and discredit myself for being in the wrong, or for unintentionally causing upset, because it has been noted that I have a tendency to be quite “matter of fact”. I easily become caught up in the feelings and actions of others, holding the beliefs that I should be the problem solver, the peace bringer.

I often struggle with fitting in, although I’ve been pushing myself very much out of my comfort zone this year, with facing communication barriers and meeting new people. I love chatting sometimes, especially with my Tutors, where an insightful conversation can always be guaranteed. Whilst I love having a wide selection of friends, I am 100% more comfortable within a small group. However, my Tutor recently reminded me that barely anybody fits in, but I believe we can all find ourselves surrounded with people who share our common interests. Ie: passions for animals. It’s also okay to embrace our individualities and our uniqueness.

My Autism often leads to uncontrollable and unpredictable meltdowns, usually when I’m alone, or faced with a challenging and anxiety provoking situation, such as tackling practical sessions/workshops as part of my Degree, encountering sudden changes or landing myself in a crowded, loud environment. I often run away, begin pacing or shaking and find myself in a panic. The room can feel as though it’s spinning and I’ve found that stressful situations can contribute to lightheadedness. I can become tearful and stressed and engage in hurtful coping mechanisms because I allow my anxiety to build up as I struggle to express myself verbally. However, I’ve thankfully been blessed with the most supportive Tutors who I feel comfortable confiding in about, well, everything! There’s no judgement, just understanding and the issuing of advice.

I find timings difficult and often stressful. I arrive to lectures considerably earlier than necessary because I have a fear of being late, but also stick routinely to the same seat in the lecture theatre. For instance, if I have plans to meet another person at 11am and they arrive later than planned, it’ll really throw me off guard. This’ll also lead to me blaming myself, sitting back and wondering if I did anything wrong, as I cannot think rationally in the situation and fail to recognise that a problem may have occurred. My Therapist and I recognised that I often need to find fault in a situation in order to cope, I typically find fault in myself as opposed to others and frequently say “it must be my fault if it’s nobody else’s”. And, as you can imagine, I find the late arrival of public transport and cancelled trains demanding.

My mindset can be unpredictable, leading to a wide variability in my moods. I understand that anxiety and depression often go coincide with Autism, but it’s not a one word fits all genera. Finding happiness is still a factor I am currently dedicated to and I often face more bad days than good. I find that I require more alone time in comparison to my peers. I love collecting my thoughts and devoting my time to healing. But usually, I can become exhausted from communication and need lots of time to rest and recover, following the physical and mental exhaustion I endure frequently.

I wonderfully share my diagnosis with Temple Grandin, a well-known (and extremely intelligent) Animal Behaviourist, who inspired me to take pride in my diagnosis. I remain fixated in my interest of animals. Goats in particular. I talk about them alot, to anybody who’ll listen. Meaning I often become engrossed within the topic and find it difficult to focus my concentration elsewhere. This is improving as I take other modules and widen my interests, but I’m perfectly happy being the well-known goat lover and I wouldn’t change my interest for the world. 

Being Autistic does issue me with my fair share of challenges and obstacles, but ones I am determined to conquer. Because I can, I will, and I am not defined by my diagnosis.

For further information on Autism, please visit the following source: 

https://www.autism.org.uk

Second year – Growing, learning and finding acceptance

University

I’ve done it.

This morning I sat my final Exam (Conservation Practice) meaning that I’ve successfully completed my second university year, and what an incredible year it’s been!

I believe that whilst first year was both an enjoyment and a success, my admiration for university life has increased significantly this year as I’ve become more confident as both an individual and an Animal Behaviourist as I’ve been able to expand on my current knowledge of given subject areas, whilst developing new interests, meeting new people and overcoming many, many difficult hurdles. I’ve also learned more about myself as a person, my abilities to overcome my struggles and to pull myself back up after falling.

This academic year became the year I began changing my style, for the better. I’ve never been a typical jeans and branded trainers kind of girl. I became renowned for my snazzy space buns and vibrant rainbow cardigan. Amongst bundles of glitter! Subconsciously, a new and personalised fashion sense signified a new beginning and a brighter outlook on life. I’ve enjoyed being quirky and finding the confidence to wear things that make me smile.

I’m flourishing and I’m growing. I’m on a journey of self discovery and I’m now more motivated than ever to tackle my Anorexia to venture on a journey towards health and happiness. I plan to spend the summer making memories, volunteering and working on and prioritising my physical and mental health and well-being, ready to start third year energised and motivated.

The year began rocky, I became victim to my mind and evolving thoughts of self destruction and relied heavily on harmful coping mechanisms. My first week back consisted of appointments in the councillors office, not your typical Freshers week, and routine appointments with my psychiatric nurse. Thankfully, I managed to remain grounded and focused with the help of my incredible, supportive friends and tutors, as we sailed through the year together and made lots of unforgettable memories along the way.

Second year became the year I found a new passion for the style of Dance, Jazz. I began the year encouraged to try a new class within BU (Bangor University) Dance, and it became a place I felt comfortable straight away, as I grew in confidence and used the class to release the energy I had collected throughout the week. This also enabled me to make new friends, an area which has always proven to be a struggle for me, but I soon began feeling accepted with the people I gladly met along the way.

I also experienced the wonderful and unforgettable opportunity of venturing to Florida for the completion of my field course module. Again, spending time with the most considerate, kind and joyous people whilst making new memories and experiencing new things. I once struggled to leave my bedroom, I exceeded my own expectations and stepped out of my comfort zone massively by flying over 4,000 miles away from home. I now aim to plan future adventures both abroad and within The UK because I want to live, I want to learn and I’m motivated to find happiness.

Second year issued me with valuable life lessons. It helped me to understand that asking for help is okay and that is doesn’t signify failure. I’ve learned that simply being myself is enough, and I’m focusing more on exceeding my own goals and aspirations as opposed to being the missing jigsaw piece in society. I value acceptance from others, but it’s time I begin prioritising acceptance within myself, for myself.

To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.

I’ve spent lots of valuable time with my friends, who I love wholeheartedly. I simply wouldn’t wish to succeed through university without the incredible people I’ve met. Very recently, we visited Foel Farm, I felt incredibly happy and care free, motivated to carry on fighting and to fight even harder to allow me to fully embrace more indelible moments.

I even had my first ice lolly in 6 whole years! I felt super comfortable with my friends and the time felt right. They tucked into ice creams and I opted for a fruit pastel lolly as we were simultaneously driven around on a quad bike tour. I have a vast collection of fear foods to challenge, rules to tackle and rituals to overcome, but I believe in myself and I know each small step I take takes me closer to better things.

Second year has concluded. I’m thankful for the knowledge I’ve gained and for the inspiration I’ve received from my wonderful Lecturers as they’ve taught me valuable life lessons and assisted the expansion of my knowledge. They’ve issued me with hope when all seemed dark and during the times I woefully began losing faith in myself. I truly am blessed to be a student here at Bangor University.

And it’s now time for Summer, where I aim to delve into many adventures whilst focusing on my recovery, health and happiness!

Being discharged from The CMHT, my experience and my next steps!

Mental Health

For three years I’ve engaged with The CMHT (Community Mental Health Team). I’ve worked routinely with four different professionals within the service, ranging from care coordinators to psychiatric nurses. All of who have played a crucial role in the pathway to my recovery journey, and I am incredibly thankful for that.

I HAVE NOW BEEN DISCHARGED!

Healing is an art. It takes time, it takes practice, it takes love.

Fortunately, its been agreed that I can reengage with the team at any given point should I feel the need to access further support, or should my mindset (or harmful behaviours) decline. It’s always reassuring to have a safety net, but I aim to work tirelessly to guide myself to health and happiness.

I was transferred to the local service in 2016, after prolonged periods of battling suicidal thoughts and depressive episodes. In October 2015, my Teacher suspected I may be suffering from Depression, she detected symptoms in me that she once battled herself. And although I remained in denial, I began antidepressant medication shortly afterwards following a discussion with her and mum. This lead to me consulting in my ED psychiatrist and later on being prescribed and regularly checked for deterioration. I knew my mindset was decreasing when I voluntarily took myself to the GP for an emergency appointment after becoming increasingly terrified about my safety and well-being (I’ve always been fearful of Doctors) only to be handed a leaflet and the phone number of the Crisis team. This was after a day spent in College hysterically breaking down as I worried my Teachers and scared myself in the process. I was also engaging in self harming behaviours and I felt truly unhappy and unlike my typical bubbly self. Everything began feeling dark and gloomy and any form of happiness flooded me with guilt. I was seen on a weekly basis to maintain my safety, aswell as having an “outlet” for my struggles.

I began feeling paralysed and every day was a constant dread, where my highlight of the day was going to bed to escape my thoughts. (Until I met the Goats!) I felt guilty for being sad and guilty and undeserving of any form of happiness. I truly felt trapped and I saw no light, nor did I have any motivation to head towards it.

Prior to beginning my engagement with the service, I couldn’t leave the house and I implemented self harming episodes towards my body. I struggled increasingly with suicidal thoughts and plans of hurting myself and wishing I wasn’t here constantly flooded my mind, I often encountered voices issuing me with loud, patronising demands to which I felt obliged to follow. I wasn’t allowed to be left alone because I often felt worryingly impulsive and I struggled to control my physical and mental actions. (I currently write this as I sit alone in my Uni room, which is super special because I’m trusted and I’m doing better now, yay!)

Without forgetting to mention that I am the longest self-harm free I have been in 5 whole years!!! *insert happy dance*

For further information on self harming, please visit my other blog post here

My care consisted of talking therapies, psychological methods and lots (and lots!) of tears, aswell as the odd argument when I felt misunderstood. Oops! Some methods worked wonders for me which seemed laughable at the time, others issued no joy. Admittedly, it’s been a super tough ride and the most challenging battle, but I can’t help but be proud of the place I’m at now, and of myself for persevering. And I truly hope my place in services is offered to somebody in need of it to get them on the road to recovery, and happiness.

Understandably, everybody has unique and personal experiences with services and therefore different perceptions on the help they are able to provide. As somebody who has been involved with different services for 5 years, I can certainly say that more help and interventions need to be delivered to prevent people from reaching a crisis point. More help and advice should be offered to keep people safe and more efforts should be put into mental aspects, and not just physical ones. I desperately want to see an improvement in services across the board, peoples lives are on the line and enough is currently not being done to help those in need.

MY NEXT STEPS

Now that I’ve come to terms with my Autism diagnosis, and have ploughed my way to a better place Depression-wise, I will now be working with a Senior Dietician to help me to amend my eating habits, both physically and mentally. I’ve always held a disordered relationship with food and my body, but as my Anorexia progressed, the relationship I held with it worsened. I will continue to be seen routinely by my GP and Nurse, who work to monitor my physical aspects (weight, height and bloods).

Admittedly, I am terrified of changing my eating habits around since Anorexia has become such a comfort blanket for me throughout the years. I’m fearful of weight gain and I have never been a healthy weight, although it is necessary and vital for countless reasons! And I have many scary foods and rules to conquer, aswell as reestablishing a better view of food and challenging my current thoughts. My Teacher and I recently discussed the importance of challenging scary things in life, as they often bring us happiness and fulfilment, and I believe there is never a “right time” to change. I’m keeping my motivations at the forefront of my mind, surrounding myself with happiness and reminding myself, with the constant help of family members and friends, of why I must keep going.

If you’re struggling with your Mental Health or know of anybody who is, PLEASE seek help and encourage others to do so, too. You’re loved and important, and you’re deserving of health and happiness!

Health & wellness – A discovery journey

Mental Health

For the past 5 years, I’ve been starting my day between 6 and 6:30am.

Crazy? No. Happiness inducing? Yes!

I’ve been a proud early riser from a young age, with my Mum claiming that I was “awake before the birds” as I rushed downstairs excitedly to view my favourite animated series – Arthur, whilst wrapped comfortably in my dressing gown. However, I began waking up earlier (involuntarily) following my battle with Anorexia Nervosa, because I struggled to maintain a substantial sleeping pattern and I found it near impossible to stay sleeping due to hunger pains and the physical symptoms I faced at the time.

Although this remains a struggle, I enjoy waking up earlier now and the process no longer feels forced or unnatural. I’m going to practice positive coping mechanisms until they take the place of the negative ones I currently abide by.

Additionally, I also wanted to make up for “lost” time. I wasted a significant amount of time in bed following my worst bouts of Depression since I had minimal motivation, or energy, to leave the comfort of my bed. I left my job as I battled panic attacks and self harming episodes and after I completed my Animal Management qualification and I had very little to focus on. I felt worthless and alone, I had no interactions with people my age and I spent most of my time socialising with my therapist(s).

Recently, I’ve gained collective benefits from starting my days early, I’ve added more productivity to my day-to-day schedule and the feeling of achievement and keeping busy boosts my mood significantly. It also reduces my feelings of low self esteem and issues me with a happy distraction. I find that it’s harder to dwell on my bad thoughts if I’m busy, so it’s beneficial all round!

I start my day off lightly, I scroll through social media briskly and then listen to my favourite podcasts to assist the maintenance of positivity throughout my day. It’s important to me that I regularly listen to positive, motivational speakers and read uplifting and relatable quotes, I believe it assists me in releasing negative energy and encourages me to let go of the past, to move forward and focus my energies towards healing. Social media can be an excellent resource if it’s used in the correct way, I recommend eliminating all forms of toxicity from your accounts and unfollowing anybody who makes you unhappy.

I also wish to add more self care to my day, as it’s something I’m prone to neglecting lots, especially when things are tough or when I’m busy. And this often leads to an overload. Prioritising self care is essential, I will rest up, take myself on walks in nature and to coffee shops. I will learn to heal.

Throughout my mental health journey, I’ve attempted to work with a range of different processionals and services and I struggled to reap any benefits from the implemented methods, which has made me feel like a lost cause, unfortunately. I’ve recently been focusing incredibly on mindfulness and I aim to create a spirituality journey in order to help the healing of my body and my mind. After years of self destruction and self doubt, I desperately wish to view myself in a positive light.

Up until recently, I haven’t been motivated to change my mindset, but now I’m working hard because I want to find happiness and a balance in life. I’ve been thinking increasingly about my future, and I tear up picturing myself being an adult crying over food and still struggling with self harm. It’s not a future I want, however scary the recovery process shall be. I’m constantly being told that I should care for myself in the same way I care for others, while listening to my own advice, and I’m beginning to realise why that is so important.

I used to believe that recovering from Anorexia solely required reestablishing a “healthy” relationship with food and my body, but that’s only part of it, since Eating Disorders are incredibly more complex than just food and weight restoration. Though, my battle has widened my eyes into the other life aspects I struggle with and I now realise I have a long road ahead of me.

I’m now more determined than ever to begin a positive journey towards healing not just my body, but also my mind. For processes to change, you have to want to change, nobody can force recovery on you. Believe me, I’ve waited. The mental and physical aspects of my health both stand as equal as each other, and it’s time I began to acknowledge that by putting my words into practice and listening to my body.

Florida: Day nine and ten 🇱🇷

The Florida Files

Our final day in Florida had rapidly approached, after what had been an incredible, memorable and fun packed venture with the most wonderful group of people who I expect to be friends for life.

The experience left me feeling both blessed and hopeful, whilst remaining optimistic for future experiences abroad. I can’t wait to be back in the field! I’ve carefully begun planning my next adventure, so stay tuned…

While the majority of students were spending the remainder of the time at Vester packing the rest of their belongings, a few of us (myself, Annabel, Georgina and Wynn) headed to Lovers Key with the aspirations of gaining a final manatee sighting. We set off quickly and sat comfortably in the spacious minibus as we soon approached our destination. 

Approximately ten minutes after stepping out of the bus and perching comfortably at the side of the lake, we had the privilege of spotting two stunning manatees within very close proximity of us. The manatee swam elegantly with her calf beside her making noticeable rippled movements in the surrounding waters. 

 To our delight, after a mere 10 minutes spent patiently waiting for manatees to swim within a noticeably proximity of us, we encountered the delightful, memorable experience of viewing both a manatee and her cub swimming elegantly within close viewing distance. Our previous manatee sightings were certainly exceptional, however, viewing the endangered species up close was a truly phenomenal experience.

Above photo for reference, not my image. After filling the boot of the minibus with our belongings, we drove to a nearby shopping mall before approaching Southwest Florida International Airport. We stayed at the mall for roughly 2 hours before beginning our 24 hour journey back home to Bangor. The mall was surrounded with stunning fauna species, alongside ducks and large species of koi fish contentedly inhabiting the surrounding water fountains.

We then drove to Southwest Florida International Airport, proceeding to unload the minibus to make our way into the airport to begin the check in process, ready for our first 3-hour flight to Philadelphia. The flight was speedy, as I wrapped myself comfortably in the blanket provided accompanied by proceeding to watch a collection of inflight movies, including Mamma Mia and Tangled.

After arriving in Philadelphia, we quickly made our way to the gate ready to board our next flight to Manchester. The second flight lasted approximately 9 hours. Then, after arriving in Manchester at roughly 8am, we collected our luggage and approached the coach in preparation for the 2 hour journey to Bangor.

A farm reunion and my new goat companion!

Little Owl Farm

My second University year is quickly approaching an end, and what an incredible year it’s been! I’ve expanded on my knowledge, developed new interests and, wholeheartedly, become more confident as an Animal Behaviourist. I’m currently away from Bangor for the Easter break, as I focus heavily on my studies in preparation for my upcoming May exams: Behavioural Ecology and Conservation Practice.

Let your mind and heart rest for a while. You will catch up, the world will not stop spinning for you, but you will catch up. Take a rest.

While I’ve been increasingly motivated to engage in my studies productively, I also began recognising that I was in dire need of a break after running out of fuel following the dedication I possess with regards to meeting deadlines and completing my assignments to the best of my ability. I regularly engaged in 14 hour library study periods and soon began feeling overwhelmed. I’m *slowly* learning that breaks are OK, and necessary in order for us to thrive and concentrate fully.

Thankfully, I’ve seized the opportunity to reunite with my wonderful friends at Little Owl Farm (animal and human) who continuously welcome me back lovingly with a warm embrace. Whilst also balancing revision, blogging and allowing myself to appreciate valuable family time. It’s been a pleasure spending time in my happy place, and I’m excited for the upcoming Summer months.

Being the goat lady of the farm, I was extremely excited to meet new arrival, Gabriel, son of Poppy and little brother to Mary-Jane. I was ecstatic after hearing of his arrival and I desperately wanted to leave Uni early to meet him, but I persisted nonetheless and counted down the days until I had one extra goat companion. This made the usually lengthy journey to the farm increase accordingly as I sat eagerly waiting to arrive in Oldham. Gabriel received his fitting name as per the “cross-like” marking on his head. Izaak wanted to name him Elvis, which I believe to be his middle name.

Of course, he was jumping around excitedly as I arrived at the farm while I cooed over his cuteness and remained in awe over his long legs, in-between suckling and making himself comfortable with other inhabitants of the farm. He’s begun favouring the Donkeys as he jumps into their enclosure contentedly.

Lots of quality time allowed me to recognise his distinctive brown eyes and soft, fluffy fur. And similar to Poppy and Mary-Jane, he had stunning markings and a wonderful personality.

As an animal behaviourist, I love spending time observing the different behaviours exhibited by animals and concluding the reasons behind them. It became apparent to me that Poppy is an incredible mum, she groomed Gabriel within seconds of giving birth and he’s certainly developing into quite the character! She also observes him carefully, allows him to suckle without rejection and enables people to get close to him.

Gabriel is currently under a month old and he continues to thrive and grow at Little Owl Farm, surrounded with his family, staff and volunteers who adore him.

 

 

Revision tips – Second year Undergraduate Student

University

Exam season is quickly approaching, as we’ve reached the end of our Easter break. I hope everybody has had a productive break whilst remembering the importance of relaxing. I wanted to share some revision tips, as a second-year Undergraduate Student. Revision tips in which I am constantly modifying and evolving in a bid to become more productive and to succeed. 

Personally, I’m a visual learner. I thrive upon making flashcards, watching videos and reading articles. Furthermore, drawing diagrams and making my notes colourful is an essential for me. I prefer taking a more “active” approach to my studies, it certainly helps me to retain bundles of information. 

Disclaimer: Understandably, our minds are all programmed to work differently and in our own unique and efficient ways. Moreover, the revision tips I implement in my daily schedule may not be effective for you personally, but this is where I greatly encourage you to try new and exciting techniques!

It’s important not to overload yourselves with too much information just to gain the satisfaction of completing endless hours of revision. Overloads will result in stress and increased anxiety levels, please know your limits and take care of your health. 

I became confused while understanding the different revision methods students abide by. I personally begin working a month before my exams, but I know others who settle down a few nights before the examination is set to take place. This is all okay. 

Revision can be tough if you fall into comparison, primarily the comparison of not completing as many hours as a friend. More hours of revision doesn’t always equate to more productivity, sometimes, reducing your hours can be more productive in terms of memorising information and feeling more satisfied. I recently became fascinated by “Study with me” trends circulating around YouTube, with young adults proudly sharing their revision schedules alongside issuing helpful techniques. While this is helpful, it’s important to understand what is best for you and your well-being, you’re under no obligation to study for 14 hour periods just because a social media influencer did.

I’ve grown to admire revision breaks whilst appreciating the benefits they hold, as they allow us to recharge and to retain information in a more efficient way. My revision becomes successful when breaks are implemented to issue me with another focus, like the simplicity of going for a walk, watching a documentary or spending time with a friend. Taking breaks often stands as a struggle for me, but ensuring I plan them and use them efficiently helps with reducing my anxiety levels massively. 

I set myself revision goals and I believe it’s an important asset in order for me to reach my optimal productive potential. I revise for a maximum of 7 hours per day, expanding on this would not be beneficial for me as I’m learning to find a balance in life and I would simply become overwhelmed with the information. Furthermore, it’s also important and very necessary to priorotise sleep (always, not just throughout university). Sleeping helps with concentration and focus, and I’ve found that being rested helps me to be more productive. Try to avoid working until crazy hours in the morning (although tempting…) 

USEFUL APPS

Social media is forever developing, meaning the opportunities are limitless and there are many, wonderful things our smart phones are capable of assisting us with.

In my first university year, I familiarized myself with revision apps which continue to aid me in various and effective ways. Apps that allow us to expand on our knowledge whilst encouraging us to stay focused.

1) QUIZLET

Quizlet is an incredible study app, with resources for both Students and Teachers, with a tool available to search for your chosen subject area, issued with flashcards, tests and study sets. You can create personal study sets for individual exams and study subjects and share them with friends.

Fun fact: Over 90% of Students who reported using Quizlet received higher marks.

2) FLIPD

I very recently discovered Flipd whilst engaging in a search for helpful revision tools in a bid to keep my brain mentally stimulated. I became drawn to this app in particular due to the encouragement of important areas often neglected (especially during stressful situations!) such as mindfulness, sleep and relaxation. I use the app multiple times daily, I set myself goals and feel encouraged to stick to them. Ie: revising a specific topic for an hour, or spending time away from my phone and reading. 

Fun fact: 85% of users who began using Flipd felt more productive overall.

3) BLACKBOARD LEARN

I’m under the impression that Blackboard learn may just be an app for University Students; I could be wrong and I apologise if so! However, I love Blackboard and appreciate the organisation it holds. I find Blackboard to be an incredibly useful resource whenever I wish to go through lecture content, to listen to panopto recordings to jog my memory, or to find useful course and module updates. The app also enables you to view your grades and to view assignment feedback, with the addition of email notifications to ensure you never miss an announcement, which is always beneficial in order to improve on future assignments. The site is also available as an online tool. 

4) YOUTUBE

YouTube can be problematic if you have the tendency to watch one video before soon finding yourself 3 hours deep in funny animal vines. Believe me, we’ve all been there. However, YouTube can be a wonderful resource (or so I’ve found). I regularly turn to YouTube to gain a better understanding of difficult concepts which I struggle to understand from reading alone. I enjoy watching crash courses and other videos to expand on my knowledge, whilst writing down notes and searching for similar videos portraying the same message. Ie: This morning I watched multiple videos on animal imprinting because although I clearly understood the definition, I wanted to see it visually put into practice. 

MAINTAINING CONCENTRATION

Maintaining concentration can be difficult, I appreciate that everybody has busy lives and extremely loud minds. It can be troubling to focus on work when your thoughts lie elsewhere. I’ve had to train myself to be able to settle down and concentrate for long periods of time, I now find revision to be a good distraction for my mental health because it offers me a focus and keeps me motivated. I believe the key to maintaining concentration is keeping your mind both physically and mentally stimulated, which can be done by using new and different revision techniques. I also believe taking breaks is necessary, as mentioned above, they help to keep your mind focused and assist with breaking down reading and note taking material. 

BOOKS AND ARTICLES

I find books and articles incredibly helpful when it comes to revision, and just for enjoyment. I find them particularly creditable when it comes to searching for examples and associating them with topics I’ve covered previously. For example, I covered content on Economic Decisions in animals and I wanted to expand on my knowledge. A simple Google Scholar search lead me to an example in which parrots were experimented with to highlight how they make Economic Decisions based on tools, a thoroughly insightful read. Books are useful and help to increase the confidence you have in a range of subject areas. 

STUDYING WITH FRIENDS

Personally, I prefer working alone when it comes to revision. I love settling down in a quiet, reserved space and getting through my content at my own time. I need complete silence, similar to examination settings where the sound of a pin-drop would be distinguishable. I believe that working alongside friends would be too distracting for me, and I would get caught up in their work and possibly fall into comparison. Other students prefer having revision company to discuss topics and different views on things, I am the opposite and I embrace my individuality.

STAYING HYDRATED, PRIORITIZING EATING 

Perhaps this is in collaboration with my Eating Disorder, but my busy work schedule means I often forget to eat and I am prone to neglecting myself quickly and repeatedly in this way. This is an area I am still currently working hard to manage, but I recommend planning your revision around your eating schedule so the risk of missing meals is reduced and energy can be restored within the Brain. Taking snacks to the library (or wherever you’re working) may also be a beneficial idea too, as you can care for yourself in the comfort of your work-space. If eating is an issue for you, I recommend setting reminders on your phone to encourage you to eat, or speak to a friend/tutor you trust so they can help to assist you too. 

A QUIET, ORGANISED WORKSPACE

I once read that your work-space can affect both your mood and your productivity levels. Working in your bedroom can be challenging, as the Brain associates the room with sleeping/resting, so you may find it difficult to reach your full potential. Although, I do recommend having an organised ‘study board’ where you can place sticky notes with keywords and definitions, accompanied by exam timetables and helpful diagrams. (Among other things you find helpful!)

And most importantly, remember to relax and to take deep breaths. 

Good luck!

Olivia’s story: Animals + mental health

Mental Health

“There will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need them to change your life or you’re the one that will change theirs”.

I had the privilege of meeting my wonderful, courageous friend, Olivia, through the use of social media. She very kindly opted to share her story about how rats have aided her (ongoing) recovery from multiple mental illnesses. I’m incredibly inspired by her continuous strength and bravery!

Olivia’s story:

Rats have a very unfair reputation in society.

Most people judge rats before they get to know them, they’re known as bad, something to be afraid of, something to avoid. A bit like mental health. People are too quick to judge those suffering with mental health problems, many people are demonized for their mental health, depression is a subject that’s avoided, anorexia an illness that’s so harmful yet people refuse to take seriously. Psychosis, personality disorders, the kind of mental health illness that people fear purely through ignorance.

Olivia’s companion helped her to overcome one of her fear foods implemented by her Anorexia battle, as he kept her company and provided a happy distraction.

When I say ‘people’ it’s not relating to anyone in particular and I also want to make it clear that there are SO many wonderful, supportive, understanding, patient people in this world that help others each and everyday. It’s just a shame that even with all the good a few negative comments, a few people that refuse to be educated can be more visible than all the good.

Anyway back to animals (as you can probably tell I find it hard to stay on topic ah!). Rats especially have had such an important part in my recovery and in my everyday life.

Animals are your silent support system, and are true proof that actions speak louder than words.

I’ve had lots of rats over the years and all have helped me massively.

Olivia doesn’t just love rats, she’s an all-round animal lover. Using her compassionate side to befriend friendly geese, alongside other animals.

My first three rats helped me through some really traumatic events in my life, my anxiety was at an all time high, I couldn’t sleep and suffered with flashbacks. My three rats helped to bring me back to reality when a flashback would happen, kept me company when I couldn’t sleep and helped to keep me calm.

My next rat honestly saved my life (even my crisis worker at the time agreed!) when I couldn’t go to school due to suffering with psychosis, self harm and suicidal thoughts he was there to help show me that it wasn’t such a bad thing I couldn’t go to school and that achievements don’t always just have to be academic. I knew I had to get up, feed him, take care of him, he gave me a purpose and would often come to crisis and CAMHS appointments with me so that I wouldn’t hallucinate as much or get so upset.

My next two boys helped me so much too, they were not with me very long but we got them as they were unwanted by their previous owners, they taught me and reminded me that it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel ‘loved’ or ‘wanted’ it’s only a feeling, not a fact. There’s always someone or something (two legged or four legged!) that needs you and loves you and that you’re important to.

My rat who lives with me now has and continues to help me each and everyday. I didn’t leave the house for about 2 months before he came, once he was there he gave me the confidence to leave the house again, he was my safety blanket and continues to be. He helped me when i couldn’t walk because I was so weak from anorexia, he laid next to me for days, sat with me at every meal I was forced to eat, he helped me to not be sectioned and most importantly he continues to help me recover each and everyday.

He was patient when I couldn’t go out because I was too ill, when I was crying, when I couldn’t sleep and when I refused to eat. When family members told me ‘just eat it’s easy’ ‘you look so much better now you’re slimmer’ ‘I wish I could loose that much weight’.

Rats are intelligent and loyal and I learned that even though people speak, sometimes it’s better to just not hear what they’re saying. Sometimes it’s better to be silent than to be unhelpful. During this time birds also really helped me. They were a symbol of freedom for me. I watched the baby geese and ducks grow up and get stronger and that’s when I realised that animals don’t care what weight you are. Animals don’t care how you look.

Animals look for inside qualities, it’s more important that they trust you than what the scales say, they showed me that eating is normal, something that you can enjoy and shouldn’t feel guilty about. Animals can be one of the best kinds of therapy (I’m absolutely all for medication and counselling and anything that’s safe that helps too!) and I’ll forever be grateful for all my animal friends.

My rats taught me that it’s important to be kind, patient and they gave me reason to live and continue to each day. They don’t measure my worth by my weight. The geese had to eat, had to grow so they could be free to fly, to not be stuck in the same place.

That’s what I want and why I’m determined to recover.

I want to be free just like the birds.

Autism and me – An insight into my characteristics

Autism

To my knowledge, everybody on the Autistic spectrum struggles with different aspects. Whether that’s beginning a conversation, using public transport alone or becoming comfortable with wearing only a specific brand/item of clothing.

For example, I’m obsessed with (vegan) Doc Martens and no longer feel comfortable wearing other footwear types. My friends Etta and Ava (also on the spectrum) love vintage clothing and have a preference for Lindy Bop in particular.

Our struggles can often result in sensory overloads and feelings of discomfort whilst we struggle to process bundles of information from the world around us.

I prefer not to relate to my struggles as “symptoms”. My Autism isn’t a disease, it doesn’t require a cure.

Feelings and emotions.

People on the spectrum are often misunderstood as being unable to feel. Though, in fact, the emotions we feel can be more complex than those without Autism. I personally find it hard to find a comfortable and maintainable balance with my moods, therefore either being extremely happy or worryingly low.

I believe that people with Autism are increasingly more sensitive than those without, or at least that’s the way it’s been established in my case.

I personally struggle with understanding and expressing my emotions. I quickly become distressed and go into meltdown following the anguish I hold to be able to release my thoughts, as opposed to managing them alone. I cannot always express the times I feel down, but it’s made easier in the form of emailing.

Busy places.

People with Autism often become distressed in situations filled with lots of people, due to the sensory overloads we face. The noise can become daunting, we can quickly feel trapped, the crowds can seem overwhelming and as though there is no escape, and the anxiety levels start to run high.

I prefer quite, solitary places. So the supermarkets offering Autistic friendly quiet hours definitely have my approval!

Loud noises.

It’s often commented upon that I have sensitive hearing, as I regularly comment on noises I have the ability to hear whereas those around me don’t. Ie: background noise on a tv programme or the sound of my cat from a far distance. This also means that I struggle with loud noises, I dislike the sounds of hoovers and the sirens of emergency services passing by, which I know cannot be avoided.

I view this as a positive attribute. I’ll hear animals in danger and I’ll very rarely miss out on important information.

Special interests.

I become particularly engrossed in my passion and admiration for animals, which has become my area of high education study. I talk about goats (alot) to anybody who’ll listen, really and I wish to become an animal behaviourist. I absolutely adore animals, we share a special bond and and I wish for them to be involved in my every day thoughts and routine.

I love that my Autism has expanded my interest of animals and that I’ve had the ability to maintain such a special interest throughout the duration of my life.

Understanding sarcasm.

In light of recent weeks, I’ve discovered that I can only understand sarcasm if I’m the one issuing the sarcastic comment. However, if another person makes a sarcastic statement, I cannot always interpret it, meaning I quite often take things literally and become confused about the situation.