Anorexia recovery – Studying, healing and learning!

Mental Health

Hello everyone!

Today I wanted to talk about battling Anorexia whilst at University. This isn’t to say that other Students don’t battle with other Eating Disorders or that Anorexia is more “severe” – it isn’t. I’m just speaking from my own personal, and current, experiences.

Battling an Eating Disorder prior to beginning my journey as a University Student proved to be difficult and challenging in a series of ways. I became bed ridden, anxious and a shadow of my former self. Though I learned coping mechanisms (such as the ability to reach out for support) to guide me through the days with the assistance of Therapy, support from my Teachers and loved ones. Though every day is a battle, I certainly have gained strength and resilience throughout the years.

The isolation you feel whilst being surrounded with friends and family, abundance’s of support, care and compassion can not distinguish the constant torment of your own mind which leaves you feeling alone, trapped and frightened. It’s unimaginable. It’s terrifying and a daily battle: But one I can accomplish.

Imagine being faced with your biggest fear 6 times a day. Meal times and snack times filled with fears, doubts and tears. The fear of an element known to keep you alive and well. The worry of eating whilst attempting to retain new information, whilst trying to be a better student, whilst trying to thrive.

Studying whilst working my hardest to engage in my recovery journey for real, and not so much quasi recovery is a tough challenge. Though, I constantly remind myself of my abilities and the concept of recovery not being linear, or a simple overnight process.

Admittedly, I encounter my bad days and my better days and times where I have to seek encouragement (and reminders) to eat for the benefit of my studies, energy and ability to concentrate: which are factors always at the forefront of my mind. I constantly seek support from my Tutors and I have every trust in their willingness to listen. And am totally mesmerised and inspired by their kindness and support. I became distressed over my body image before my exam which I totally didn’t need when my head was full to bursting with Biology facts. Preoccupation is easy. But unfortunately, mental illnesses don’t consider that and it was up to me to persevere regardless of how down I was feeling in that moment – to power through and to believe in myself.

People struggling with Eating Disorders are ultimately some of the most intelligent, resilient, brave and compassionate people that I know.

I quickly become preoccupied with high intensified thoughts and worries over food and my body image which makes it progressively harder to concentrate at times. I constantly feel not good enough, or incapable. I can easily become distracted with the enjoyment of completing assignment work and engaging heavily in my studies. The preoccupation is an Autistic trait of mine and I find it hard to maintain a balance between work and other things – Eating included. I can become caught up with spending hours in the library where the task of eating hasn’t crossed my mind as it seems far less important, following my lack of hunger cues and the resilience of the Anorexic voice.

Still, this is something I have acknowledged and am working to overcome.

Funnily enough, being a University Student surrounded with others my age has taught me more about my relationship with food and how much I’m yet to overcome both physically and mentally. How I aim to enjoy pizza dates with friends or picnics on the beach. The acknowledgement that I have a long road ahead of me. I do lack freedom extending beyond the rules and the harsh grips of Anorexia and I find it strange witnessing just how freely other people can eat as I panic if it’s gone over my “safe time” to eat: with students stumbling into takeaways at 3am or eating ice cream to ease exam stress. At times, I realise how large a role eating plays in our lives and in society and it makes me feel completely alienated.

As a Scientist, I should appreciate the purpose food serves our bodies. The energy it allows us to thrive on, calories being energy sources and not indicators of greed and the benefits it holds for our traits and characteristics. I am well aware, after studying animals and dietary requirements. But thinking rationally isn’t always my strongest point. And providing advice is a heck of a lot easier than taking it and applying it to myself and my own circumstances.

I get that surrendering to your recovery seems terrifying, but where has surrendering to your Eating Disorder gotten you so far?

But most importantly, it’s taught me that there can be a normality surrounding food. Yes, I have fear foods. But fears are made to be broken and I believe I can do that. A positive step being, I wrote a list of my fear foods with the intention to challenge them all! Whether that’s eating breakfast at 10am, eating cake as a snack without the worry of calories or sitting in cafés for lunch. No two people have the same eating habits. And I guess it’s the diversification that makes life interesting! There shouldn’t be rules surrounding food with labelling them as good or bad and there ought to be more awareness of the benefits of food, and not so much the damaging reasons to avoid it.

The love and support I receive from my fantastic Friends and Tutors has been (and continues to be) amazing and I cannot express the gratitude I have that I am able to speak to people if I need to, or if I just need a shoulder to cry on. People who understand and issue me with advice and reassurance when I fail to embrace them myself. I believe that it’s due to the support I receive that I remain *mostly* positive, which is why I highly encourage others to seek support if and when it’s needed.

Though every day is a battle, I am determined to carry on, to find positivity on my fight to health and happiness and to ensure I no longer suffer alone or in silence.

Helplines:

BEAT:

https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

Suicidal thoughts: Stigma, encouragement and helplines!!

Mental Health

Hi everyone!

Today, I wanted to talk about an (unfortunately) common topic – Suicidal thoughts.

It’s a personal subject I tend not to delve too much into unless I’m having a conversation with my Nurse or Therapist as it’s quite a sensitive subject that admittedly frightens me the majority of the time. But I believe the more we talk about things (regardless of how difficult) the easier they will become. And the more likely it’ll be that others will do the same.

We shouldn’t stand with the obligation to hide away our struggles and our feelings of low mood. It’s okay not to feel 100% all the time, and it’s Human! We should be encouraging each other to speak up and to reach out for support during our darkest days.

The thing about social media in particular is that we quickly document the achievements and happiest moments in our lives whilst avoiding the conversation of the times things haven’t been so great. But that isn’t real life, and it isn’t healthy to believe everybody is happy and radiating positivity 100% of the time.

I began struggling with suicidal thoughts at the age of 18. I never documented plans to take my life, as in some cases but not all. For me, it’s mostly stemmed from my anorexia, low mood and body dysmorphia. Alongside other underlying factors. I’ve struggled to like myself and to accept myself for who I am, past my insecurities and doubtful feelings. There wasn’t a sole cause and maybe there never is. It’s been a challenge of acknowledging the thoughts, becoming fearful of them but reaching out for help when I’ve been in a crisis. It’s been sleepless nights and days with multiple panic attacks as I’ve fought back every single terrifying urge in an attempt to keep myself safe.

I’ve worked with many teams and medical professionals from across the board, who’ve helped me to develop coping strategies during my bad days. I’m aware it can vary from person to person, though, and certain techniques may not be effective for some. Although I do still struggle with suicidal thoughts, I have noticed that they’re becoming less frequent. Thankfully!

People may be confused as to why this was. Why I began struggling, why I was suicidal. I was young, I had a roof over my head, I was surrounded with my family and friends and I was privileged enough to be in education. Which, I hope, highlights that anybody can be suicidal. There isn’t one cause – mental health never discriminates. And although somebody’s life can look picture perfect from an outsider’s perspective, it may be the complete opposite behind closed doors (in an individuals’ mind)

It’s important not to stigmatise those suffering because they have certain elements or people in their lives. Or because they appear to be a certain way. Mental illnesses aren’t based on what you have, or what others can see, but on what you feel about yourself on the inside. Enforcing unnecessary stigma may prevent people from reaching out for crucial support as they begin to think they shouldn’t struggle, when in fact, anybody can struggle and lots of people do! Please treat them with respect, love, understanding and kindness.

I believe people encounter suicidal thoughts for a series of reasons – it isn’t always a tendency to end your life, but quite commonly in a bid to end the pain and torment rushing through your mind leaving you feeling desperate and exhausted, feeling as though people would be better off without you or as though you don’t deserve to be around. And they can occur from any age, stemming from masses of life events including mental illness, trauma and bullying (to name a few)

Feeling suicidal can be an extremely daunting, isolating and confusing time. It may feel like the only way out. But I do want to clarify that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about! Oh, and to offer big hugs for anybody in need of them. You’re capable, brave and you’ve got this!

Helplines (talking, text or email) are available for those struggling to cope with suicidal thoughts/urges, and those worried about another person who may be in danger.

THE SAMARITANS

116 123: A 24 hour helpline!

https://www.samaritans.org

A&E

999: Available 24 hours if you’re struggling to keep yourself safe, or know of anybody who is. Or you can go to your local hospital.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/

MIND

0800 123 3393:

Or TEXT: 86463

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/suicidal-feelings/#.XEuYYqSnyEc

Please take care of yourselves and seek support if you’re worried about yourself or a loved one. There is never a wrong time. You deserve to heal. I cannot express how difficult reaching out is, but how relieving it is once it’s out in the open.

Lots of love and hugs,

Laur xx

Mental Health Monday – Working on myself, healing and finding happiness!

Mental Health

Hi everybody!

Today, I wanted to welcome a new component to my blog:

MENTAL HEALTH MONDAY

I’ve noticed recently that I overwork myself and take very little time to focus on myself, my happiness and the art of recuperating after the stresses of every day life. I allow my anxieties to build up, with the tendencies to dwell on my Depressive thoughts. In short, it’s been leaving me very tearful and increasingly more anxious.

Being busy is a fabulous way of keeping myself distracted from my (often hard to manage) mentality. But, life is about balance and this is my journey to finding that, taking time to heal and to rest my mind and my body – after years of neglect. It isn’t okay to work myself to a constant state of exhaustion, which is my current stage.

This means taking time to rest and recharge. No longer piling masses of amounts of pressure on myself, relaxing and practicing the art of self care. My Nurse and I are working on acknowledging the reasons behind my negative coping mechanisms and, instead, incorporating them for new, healthier ones.

I’ll also be using Mental Health Monday to write weekly blogs in honour of mental health awareness, delving into my experiences (past and present) with battling my mental illnesses, whilst continuing to issue support and advice to those in need of love, encouraging words and kindness. I’ll also be sharing my journey to finding happiness and balance upon my recovery pathway!

Every week, I’m going to challenge myself in a collection of ways. Whether that’s challenging a fear food, wearing clothing out of my comfort zone (like leggings or jeans!) or tackling anxiety by making a phone call. I’ll be taking a little time out for myself to clear my foggy mindset. Whether that’s going to a coffee shop, journaling, reading a new book or taking myself for a scenic walk. It’s important not to get too caught up in our own minds (easier said than done, I know) and I personally believe that this can only be done if we work on positive and distractive techniques to free ourselves and our thoughts.

After all, we all deserve happiness, contentment and good health.

I want 2019 to be a year of healing. I want to practice mindfulness, yoga and to work on using my compassionate side towards myself and my recovery.

We live on a blue planet that circles around a ball of fire next to a moon that moves the sea. And you don’t believe in miracles?

I know this transformation is painful, but you’re not falling apart. You’re just falling into something different, with a new capacity to be beautiful.

I know it’s been hard and draining and almost unbearable, believe me, I know. But I also know you are stronger than you will ever admit. You are only met with obstacles you have the capability of conquering. That is one thing I know for sure.

I hope you can join me in my journey and find the courage to find something that truly makes your souls shine! Let 2019 be the year of evolving and positivity ‪♡‬

Lots of love and hugs,

Laur xx

Self harm: Help, hope and common misconceptions!

Mental Health

Hi everybody!

Today, I wanted to talk about self harming. A personal struggle, and an issue for lots of brave people I care about.

Thankfully, I am currently standing at almost 3 weeks self harm free! Following a 5 year battle with many relapses, feelings of doubt and the resistance of extremely high urges – I am on a better path.

I would self harm every day multiple times to release mental torment and to cope with a hateful relationship with my body. Screaming constantly that things would never improve for me, feeling desperate and crying my days away. But now I’m making progress and relearning healthier coping mechanisms – I hope I can encourage anybody suffering that things do get better (as generic as that sounds!)

Unfortunately, a high stigma is attached to self harm where it’s often viewed as silly or attention seeking and not so much the role of a coping mechanism it plays in so many of our lives. People self harm for a range of different, personal reasons in a bid to manage complex thoughts, feelings and emotions that we cannot see from an outsiders perspective. Not because we wish to be stared at in the streets when we find the confidence to finally stop hiding away or because we wish to be plagued with long lasting scars.

We understand that our scars may look “unappealing”, but that’s the reality of mental illnesses, I’m afraid. Plus, it really sits far from the underlying issue and quite frequently those thoughts are only made worse if somebody else vocalises it. Please don’t comment on self harm scars unless it’s to express concern or to issue love and understanding. It isn’t fair to plague somebody struggling with even more guilt or feelings of failure/inadequacy.

Once self harming becomes a coping mechanism in an individual’s life, it becomes extremely difficult to stop. Healing is never linear or a simple, overnight process. It can take years. Not because we don’t want to change, but because we feel as though we don’t deserve to do anything other than inflict pain upon ourselves. The urges can become stronger and more manipulative which makes transitioning to healthier coping mechanisms seem impossible at the time. Letting go of a coping mechanism (regardless of how destructive it may be) is never the easiest of tasks, believe me. And different things work for different people, in terms of keeping distracted and safe.

Agreeably, from an outsiders perspective I can resonate with the confusion regarding why anybody would deliberately cause themselves pain. It can be tough to understand without a personal experience. It can act as a mechanism of releasing upset and anger, frustration or low mood stemming from powerful voices in an individuals mind telling them to hurt themselves, or that they deserve to.

It isn’t a shameful or an embarrassing act. And, as I’ve learned, it takes a considerable amount of strength to stand up and admit your struggles, or to wear short sleeves with the understanding that scars are a reminder of the battles we have won, not signs of defeat.

If you know of anybody who struggles with self harming, please support them, be a friend and offer understanding instead of judgement.

Nobody deserves to suffer alone or in silence!

Be kind to yourselves, and others, and be patient with the stage you’re at.

For more information on self harm, please visit MIND:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/self-harm/#.XEOSYKSnyEc

Be aware that whilst the site gives info on self harm, it also mentions types of self harm. So please consider yourself and your triggers before clicking the link!

Or The Samaritans:

https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/what-speak-us-about/signs-you-may-be-struggling-cope/helping-you-through-self

Lots of love,

Laur xx

2019: Diet culture, breaking rules and finding body positivity

Mental Health

I desperately want 2019 to be a revolution, the riddance of diet culture and fad diets in place of body confidence and the focus on the many benefits food has for our bodies. As a society, we’re fixated with our appearances and the number on the scale – easily forgetting that neither of those factors determine our worth.

Constantly striving for a perfection met by an Instagram filter that simply does not exist.

Eating Disorders manifest their way into millions of people’s lives and the turmoil we experience can only be described as a constant war against ourselves and what we know is right, whilst obeying the wrong and viewing our bodies (and food) as our biggest enemies. An epitome of darkness and never ending feelings of failure categorised by the voices in our head. Not just a diet, or a phase. Fighting against our bodies that have issued us with energy, advanced our first steps to waking or dancing, allowing us to hug and to learn.

Don’t miss out on 95% of your life just to weigh 5% less.

January can be a difficult time for those suffering from an Eating Disorder, following bouts of diet talk after Christmas indulgence. People around us committing to gym memberships or signing up to slimming world, engaging in fad diets or silly detoxes. It’s toxic and it’s harmful, but we most focus on ourselves and our own wellbeing. “New year, new me” shouldn’t be about depriving ourselves, it should be about reinventing ourselves, finding happiness and making memories.

The acceptance that we are enough, we are beautiful, capable and strong – irrespective of how we may feel or what we may be thinking at times.

So many of us (myself included) maintain a negative relationship with ourselves and the bodies that have housed us for the entirety of our lives. Unsatisfied if we haven’t reached our target weights or if our tummies stick out slightly.

Instead of this, shouldn’t we be focusing on more desirable factors? The fulfilment of the first bite of a crisp apple, or the first scoop of ice cream on a warm Summer’s day, as opposed to calories and guilt? I cannot accentuate enough that one day, we will grow older wishing to have fully experienced our lives, saying yes to a pizza date or stepping out of the comfort of a meal plan, regardless of how scary and uncomfortable at times. We’re supposed to live, not just merely survive, and that includes fighting our fears and challenging our thoughts.

I hope 2019 is a year filled with mental and physical growth, happiness and most importantly – acceptance in both the body and the mind. Being kind to ourselves is important, showing ourselves compassion is important and staying safe is important, too.

Helpful Instagram accounts:

Unbeknownst to me, I had previously been following a series of toxic accounts on social media. And I cannot express how much of a positive impact is met when replacing those accounts for positive, self-help accounts. The things we expose ourselves to can often have a big influence on our moods: both good and bad.

1) bodyposipanda

2) bodyposipower

3) recipesforselflove

4) ourmindfulbloom

5) catielynclcsw

6) thebalancebee

Hello 2019: Diet culture and recovery

Mental Health

Hello and a Happy New Year.

I wish everybody a year filled with happiness, kindness and self love. And I’m sending masses of strength and courage to those in need of it.

We can do this!

I believe the start of a new year isn’t an indication of diets or weight loss as displayed in the media. As explained by my Therapist: it’s a money making scheme and companies fail to acknowledge those with Eating Disorders when filling The World with possibly triggering content. Though, happiness and success isn’t sought by the number on a scale and it’s time we learned to measure our self worth differently and in a less harmful manor. I believe 2019 should be the end of diet culture and the encouragement of self love and body positivity.

Numbers are just numbers: They cannot highlight our personalities or make us better, kinder or more intelligent. But they can cause us to become miserable and obsessive if we let them. And the only numbers we should be focusing on are the numbers of hugs we’ve given, the number of animals we’ve passed by in the street or the number or times we’ve made somebody’s day brighter.

In a World with so many disordered, confusing rules and rituals surrounding food, this is a reminder that food is fuel and a necessity. The fuel for our happiness, our adventures, our abilities to learn and to hold treasurable conversations with our loved ones. The energy we need to thrive and flourish. Although it seems as though everybody around us is dieting in a bid to “shift Christmas weight”, it’s vital we focus on ourselves to prevent our health from declining.

It’s also important to distinguish the differences between diets and eating disorders.

  • Most people will announce that they’re dieting in a bid to fit in, but have no intentions of doing so. Or the diet will last a few days maximum before the dieter gets bored and gives up. And people dieting will not punish themselves, or determine their self worth on what they’ve eaten.
  • And, importantly, Eating Disorders are MENTAL illnesses with devastating impacts that cannot just switch off.

It’s important to put our needs into consideration and to distance ourselves from negativity. We’ll struggle to make progress (and to find happiness) if we constantly compare ourselves with others and what they’re doing.

And (easier said than done) we must distract ourselves from the things going on around us that we find harmful. Acknowledge our struggles, reach out, find happy distractions and focus on the now. January can be exceptionally toxic for those with Eating Disorders and the increase in diet talk, but year after year we survive and become stronger for doing so!

2019 creates an opportunity to work on ourselves by welcoming positivity and surrounding ourselves with people who truly make our souls shine. A new year indicates a clean slate, 365 days to stay safe and well, not to push ourselves to extremes because of a diet fad.

The concept of a new year can add unnecessary pressure to our lives in the sense that we must be doing certain things or feeling certain emotions in order to fit in. But it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be overwhelmed and it’s okay to struggle.

Life is up and down, a combination of good and bad. The World is filled with enough toxicity, the least we can give ourself is kindness and understanding.

Let’s be kind to ourselves and others, whilst learning to find peace and contentment with ourselves and our bodies.

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!

Battling Depression – an ongoing journey towards happiness

Mental Health

I wanted to write this for those in need of some helpful words to hear, some reasons to carry on and a reminder of the positives in life when everything seems so dull and hopeless.

What is Depression?

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act… Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.

 

My struggles with Depression coincide with the suicidal and depressive thoughts I feel regularly. I’m not depression recovered, no. But each day I’m trying my hardest to steadily manoeuvre from the shell of a person I once was, the unrecognisable girl sat uncomfortably in the deepest, darkest depths of depression and sadness. The girl lacking motivation who saw no way out, no hope, no future. Nothing. But. Darkness. Constant feelings of failure and inadequacy painfully ruling my mind as I tirelessly battle to get to the next day despite the voice in my head telling me otherwise.

Once you’re trapped inside that dark space, it becomes very difficult to find a way out. Especially when you’re renowned for being the bright and bubbly character full of laughter, admitting you’re not okay is all that more difficult. Seemingly impossible, in fact. You become a victim of your own mind, you can’t just cheer up, the battle is against yourself and everything you believe. It’s as though you’re trapped in a pit screaming for help, but nobody is around to hear your calls of desperation. Finding any form of light begins to feel impossible; feelings aren’t facts – the best way out is always through.

Just because somebody may seem okay on the outside, it doesn’t mean they’re very well on the inside. Remember: it’s the mentality that counts, not the person’s physicality.

Healing takes time. Healing isn’t linear. There have been times I’ve struggled to leave the comfort of my bed. Times I’ve breathtakingly expressed suicidal thoughts and harmful urges towards myself and acted on destructive behaviours. I’ve cried and I’ve fought, I’ve shouted in anger and hidden myself away from The World, yet here I am. And although I’ve truly despised every moment of the times I’ve no longer wanted to be around, I’m somewhat thankful to them for enabling me to find my inner strength and for encouraging me to better myself and beat my demons.

In the recent years, it’s safe to say I’ve battled many things. All of which include things I never imagined myself to encounter. If anything, I want this to give hope to others that things will be okay – a common phase often thrown around but not so often believed. Things will be okay, and if we fight our hardest and hold onto the belief that happiness is in the distance, things will only get progressively better.

Something that’s continuing to help me keep going (aswell as the support I receive) is prioritising my own happiness, meaning I take more time to add things into my life that fill me with joy and positivity as opposed to dwelling on my thoughts lying in my bed. Sometimes, happiness seems like nothing but a distant memory and I haven’t always believed that I’m deserving of anything but misery, but spending my time volunteering with animals, making more time for my friends and my family instead of being my own worst enemy is working wonders regarding my mental wellbeing. Just going outside for a small walk is a huge improvement for me considering where I was a few years ago. Happiness comes in different forms for different people. It’s about finding something that makes your heart happy and your soul shine, with the aims of blocking out anything preventing you from feeling brighter.

Depression can’t just be cured with the click of a finger or an hour spent in talking therapy. It’ll drag you back under if you let it. Different techniques work for different people. We’re all individuals with personal treatment needs. It isn’t a matter of laughing and being cured just like that. But each day is a step towards bigger and better things, each day when you begin to find yourself again you become stronger and realise than you can, regardless of the voice saying you can’t or you shouldn’t.

“Rome is built on ruins and it quite breathtaking, what makes you think you can’t be too?”

Lastly: you’re NOT alone, you’re valid and important deserving of love, peace and contentment. Please seek help if you’re struggling. Nobody should suffer alone of in silence.

“The mountains you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.”

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.

27D068A0-8AC8-4430-BFFF-E6784465FD9C.jpeg

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.

Be The Goat – Finding happiness amongst my animal friends

Mental Health

BonnieStan.jpg

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.