University – good bye to my first year

Mental Health, University

25/05/2018

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


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

friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be The Goat – Finding happiness amongst my animal friends

Mental Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

One day, I will be able to walk again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Animal Therapy – The therapy extending beyond four walls

Animals, Mental Health

Today I want to talk about a kind of therapy that is more than sitting in a room with a trained therapist. Animal therapy. As with each day that comes I am learning more about the benefits and uses of animals in people’s daily lives and individual roads to recovery from various issues, meaning I am very keen to give others an insight into why animals are becoming increasingly popular in healing.

What is animal assisted therapy?

Definition: Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. The goal of AAT is to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning

Therapy animals are often seen as Dogs, which is wonderful since they assist so many people in need of a loving, helpful, forever companion. However, we are blessed to have with us so many wonderful and unique animal species who also deserve recognition for the roles they play in our lives as companions, helpers and life-long friends.

With animals in therapy, there isn’t that added pressure of worrying over causing upset to the other person with certain things have been expressed. In therapy I always find myself struggling to string a sentence together, let alone trying to get it out of my mouth. I have never liked the idea of communication in case speaking about my bad times makes the person listening feel equally as bad. But with animals it flows naturally and it feels way more comfortable due to the lack of awkwardness and the increase in calmness.

Animals bring out the best in us without special training. Just simply by being themselves.

A key factor highlighting the positive attributes as having animals as therapy is that you are under no obligation to communicate with them if you choose not to, but you are still aware that the animals are there to listen and to be the friend you need to pick you up when you’ve fallen. Even without speaking, which can be tough for many people, animals can easily pick up on high levels of stress and anxiety, which Humans struggle to detect without the physical signs and symptoms – such as crying. Animals are excellent at detecting mental signs of distress, not just physical ones. They will quickly do all in their power to alleviate that by nudging you for attention or sitting with you to prevent you from dwelling on your thoughts and feelings alone.

Talking therapies have always proven tough for me since I struggle to verbally talk about my thoughts and feelings due to judgement and fear. But with animals, there is none of that, there is no worry or fear of judgement or abandonment. Whenever I am surrounded with the Goats, my problems are no longer swimming around my mind or bothering me as much for me to feel the need to express them anyway. I don’t have the time for my thoughts to linger when I have a responsibility to care for, and play with, the Goats. 

‘Animals make all the bad things go away’.

I am one of many people worldwide who personally experiences animal therapy. I’m not talking about an assistance Dog. Many people experience animal therapy from friends with fur to friends with scales, or even spines. There is no limit in which animals can be used for animal therapy. But today, I’m talking about Goats. Goats for me have acted as a form of therapy, alongside being the best friends imaginable. Excellent listeners who give the best hugs and provide the best happy distraction, aswell as endless love and affection.

With animals I don’t have to sit and figure out how I will express myself, it just naturally happen whenever I am in their presence.

It’s time we moved on from using Goats for meat and dairy and instead focused on their values, providing them with the happiness, love and freedom they deserve. Goats are the honorable, trustworthy and kind hearted companions we all need in our lives.

My wonderful friend Lainey Morse the founder of Goat Yoga and my fellow crazy goat lady is one of many people using animal therapy as a means of adding happiness into other’s lives. Lainey has experienced the healing properties her Goats possess, meaning it has proven to be very beneficial in her recovery from mental illnesses. Goats entered Lainey’s life and have aided her, not only mentally, but also in her heart and soul too as she continues to inspire many (myself included) with her continued bravery and strength each day. Additionally, Lainey’s yoga classes have grown to be a worldwide phenomenon which were created with the idea of Goat Therapy and compassion. Though it doesn’t cure people’s issues, it aims to give people a happy/calming distraction from their every day issues, worries and stress. And, unsurprisingly, people LOVE IT! Because it’s impossible not to be filled with joy and contentment when surrounded with such cheerful and jolly Goats!

To gain an insight into Goat Yoga in a greater depth, please visit: http://www.goatyoga.net.

There are lots of amazing properties about Goats that many people have yet to recognise. Goats have gentle souls, they are highly intelligent animals, cheeky and inquisitive, sharing many known characteristics and personality traits with Dogs, a “man’s best friend”. Meaning they are very easy to bond with and are always down for cuddles and affection, an instant mood booster and anxiety reliever.

I feel that with Goats, I am never alone. Being welcomed with their presence is always a huge heart warmer and when being around them it’s as if my problems have magically vanished, appearing vacant and less heavy in my head. As soon as I see a Goat, that is it! I am quickly drawn to them and fail to take my eyes off their playful behaviours. Goats bring out the best in me and enable me to temporarily forget about the other issues in my life, a key property in the art of therapy. Providing me with senses of worth and importance, common factors that are easily forgotten during times of mental distress. My darkest thoughts quickly begin to focus on the wonderful animals I am surrounded with, seeing them getting on with their daily lives without a care or fuss in The World proves to me that a life without worry is possible.

Our animal friends teach us many life lessons that I highly value and treasure close to my heart. I am confident that with the continued help of my animal friends, anything is possible, and I will continue on my journey towards happiness and self-love to aid me in my career pathway of saving animals in the future, just like my inspiration Lainey Morse.

In the photos below, you will view animal therapy occurring with the presence of Goats. Judging from my expression in each individual image, I am feeling very happy and content with the help of my four-legged friends. 

Would you look at these images and see somebody suffering with complex mental health illnesses? Goats don’t only mask my feelings on the outside, but also on the inside too.

 

 

My life lessons from animals – Pawprints to recovery

Mental Health

If we as Humans treated animals the way we treated ourselves, we would be in serious trouble for animal cruelty and neglect. An eye opener in the fact that we can all learn to practice self care and kindness towards ourselves. Self care isn’t selfish. Lets take a leaf from an animals’ book.

Treat yourself how you would treat an animal – with love, care and respect.

My current struggles with Anorexia Nervosa are a daily struggle but I am thankful since it has helped to widen my eyes into the life lessons we can learn from animals, ranging from the importance of happiness and self care amongst other things that we can all learn to apply to ourselves and our difficulties. Being a passionate animal lover and enthusiast from a very young age has been a blessing and I am privileged to say that animals own a huge quantity (if not all) of my heart. I have learned more from animals than I have ever learned in Therapy, because after-all, “the best therapist has fur and four legs.” My passion for animals has encouraged me to keep fighting and has allowed me to have a constant reminder of my purpose in life. Most importantly, it has also given me reasons as to how and why I must achieve this.

Animals come in all shapes and sizes, yet we love them all the same. We wouldn’t love a Dog any less for being bigger than a different breed. We wouldn’t sit and criticise a Cow over their size or their weight, nor would we compare them to a Mouse. Instead we appreciate them for their individual characteristics and their loving personalities. Heck, we love animals carrying that extra bit of weight because they are cuddly and certainly nothing negative in our eyes.

My new rule in life – If I can’t fight for myself, I MUST fight for the animals in need of my love, friendship and compassion. Being faced with Anorexia includes me struggling to find the motivation to do things for myself, but keeping the animals in mind has helped me massively (and continues to do so!)

I have recently given myself the opportunity to view my thoughts and feelings in a different perspective, a brighter light. I have experienced years of the same, foggy mindset and I have begun to see a little bit of light peeping through the darkness. Though I cannot say my mindset has magically shifted, I can confidently say that I am feeling an ounce of positivity that has remained vacant for such a long period of time. Comparing my struggles to animals is something I recommend everybody with mental illnesses has a shot at. I find it comforting to eat alongside my Cat and my Rabbit whilst at home and it aids as a massive anxiety reliever, especially since I struggle massively eating with my family and friends. It really gives a wonderful, realistic insight into the importance and benefits of different things. I discovered that I am feeding my pets breakfast whilst finding the motivation through lots of tears to finish mine. Feeding animals is my norm, so perhaps someday feeding myself will be the norm too.

Evidently, I would never starve an animal or deprive them or the essentials they need, so why should I engage in these behaviours?

Examples:

1) When I fail to understand and priorotise eating and it’s importance, I am quick to remember how much animals love and enjoy food. Emphasising the fact that they aren’t ones to give a thought to calories or guilt. They eat to provide them with the energy they need to fulfill their energetic lives and to add to their charming personalities. My admiration for Goats has assisted me in many ways, including finding the importance of food.

2) When I am feeling ‘too big and too fat’ and uncomfortable in my body, I divert my thoughts to Elephants. Elephants are the heaviest Mammal in The World, yet I have never seen one dieting or reducing their calories. Why? Because it is unimportant and it certainly won’t bring them as much happiness as browsing and wandering around with their herd will.

3) If an animal was underweight or refusing to eat, it would raise concerns in us and would result in an immediate trip to the Vets to resolve the underlying issue. Why shouldn’t this be the same with us Humans? Animals are living proof and a constant reminder of how we must strive for health and happiness as opposed to giving into our illnesses.

4) Do Cheetahs sit and dwell on the fact that they may well have consumed more calories than another animal? No. Because they are the World’s fastest land mammal which wouldn’t be possible without eating and that remains the most important factor, not the food they have consumed.

Above I have mentioned just a few examples of how animals continue to help me through each day and I am confident that with each day I will grow in strength and knowledge as I continue in my recovery journey towards happiness and self-love and to thrive as an individual. I believe that if we all take into account animals and the way they treat themselves, we will receive nothing but benefits from it in return. Animals help me in so many positive ways which I am forever thankful for and someday I am going to repay them by giving them the lives filled with freedom they deserve.

‘Be like a Giraffe and stand tall’

Anorexia and Animals – My life lessons paved with pawprints

Mental Health

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

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

`Save myself, save the animals’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of love,

Laur xx

2018. New year, new me.

Mental Health

New year, new me.

A phrase that gets thrown around every year without fail, as people make promises to themselves to make changes in their lives and steps towards becoming a `better’ person. I dread the beginning of each year. Why? Because I suffer with Anorexia Nervosa, emphasising the fact that I struggle massively with my weight and I am preoccupied with food and my body image – including other aspects in my life too. Most people make it their New Year’s resolution to lose weight and to begin eating healthier or to take up more exercise. People start becoming fixated on gaining their ‘ideal summer body’. It’s very tough to hear about other people engaging in these things when I’m trying to learn to do the opposite. Sigh.

Following on from this, it becomes very difficult when dieting advertisements are being put in my face or when leaflets are being shoved through the letterbox encouraging people to sign up to clubs to lose weight, where they’re promising weight loss and happiness. They aren’t so easy to ignore, either because they are EVERYWHERE. Christmas has literally only just ended, yet I’ve already seen multiple weight-watchers ads where companies hold the assumption that everybody wants, or needs, to lose weight. Other people dieting forces my Anorexic voice to become louder and more controlling because `other people are dieting, so it must be okay’. It makes me feel as though I should be doing the same. Dieting becomes normalised and it makes it harder for me to get a glimpse into what a `normal’ eating pattern is like. I fully understand that people may choose to diet; I feel that it should be more of a private choice instead of one that is advertised greatly throughout the month because it can be potentially harmful to, not only myself, but other people too.

As a society, we are pressured into losing weight and it saddens me that vulnerable people will turn to these fad diets just because they maybe ate `more’ over the Christmas period. Not only does this send out a bad message to people, it tells people that it’s bad to eat more and that we should kind of `make up for it afterwards’ by dieting and eating healthier when that isn’t the case. We should be encouraging self-love and body positivity, but instead we are doing the opposite and It is wrong. With the beginning of a New Year, why don’t we phase out dieting culture and promote happiness and health instead? People struggle enough with Eating Disorders, body dysmorphia and low self-esteem, so we should be fighting our hardest to combat these issues. Why can’t we let people enjoy the festivities without making them feel obligated to `change their ways’ later?

Losing weight doesn’t equal eternal happiness and it doesn’t solve all of life’s problems or difficulties, either. Society should stop making it seem this way.

I want to remind Eating Disorder sufferers, like myself, that we must put ourselves and our needs first. It’s a necessity and it certainly isn’t selfish to put ourselves first. As difficult and impossible as it may be at times. Most of the people claiming to be dieting will probably last a few days before returning to old habits. Dieting often doesn’t lead to the same consequences as Eating Disorders do. An Eating Disorder is not a diet, it’s an illness. Another important reminder is that we are poorly, whereas other people may not be, which is why we need to continue eating and continue our fights towards getting better.

Lots of love and a Happy New Year,

Laur xx

The Festive Season – and the struggles coincide with it

Mental Health

Christmas is more than just food. So let’s turn the focus on love and the quality time spent with Family and Friends instead. Christmas is approaching us, rapidly, with only a few weeks to go until the Festive season. And, although this is incredibly exciting, it can also be extremely difficult for people with Eating Disorders.

Living with Anorexia is debilitating and it’s an endless battle with your mind, clouded with negative thoughts and difficult days. I talk about Anorexia because of my, ongoing, person experience with it. All eating disorders are severe, every eating disorder sufferer struggles and their struggles are valid and need to be listened to.

Every day the thoughts become about numbers. The number of calories and the number on the scales, never mind the guilt surrounding food. A huge portion of my daily life is spent worrying over food. I would like to highlight the fact that even during the festive season our illnesses don’t automatically turn off. Though, that’d be incredible – Anorexia sufferers suffer all year round.

I find the Christmas period to be very difficult, due to the focus on food. It always seems that every left, right and centre people are opening selection boxes or choosing which box of chocolates to open first. Even the build up to Christmas is a stressful time, with Supermarkets filling the shelves with festive treats and Christmas cooking programmes taking up lots of the channels on tv.  Everything goes out of my usual routine and my comfort zone, so I like to normalise things as much as possible. The focus on food is very overwhelming and can cause me a great deal of anxiety, that added onto the daily anxieties I face with my ongoing Anorexia battle. I have survived many Christmas’s with my Anorexia; the yearly build up doesn’t become any easier and I worry every year about the unknown and what is next to come.

I must add, I have a very supportive family who do their best to ease my anxieties surrounding the Festive period which helps, but unfortunately, doesn’t magically make everything go away completely for me. I recommend that the people involved in your Christmas celebrations are aware of your Eating Disorder, that way, it’ll lessen the initial ‘awkwardness’ and will help to ease the anxieties a little. It’ll also help people to gain an insight into why you may not feel able to eat things that are handed to you.

I guess Christmas for me feels like someone with Arachnophobia being placed in a room full of Spiders. The focus would, quite clearly, be on the Spiders and the immediate reaction would be to try and escape the room. This situation would bring lots of unwanted agitation and worry. I feel the same when surrounded with food. The talk conversation of food and the smells of food becomes difficult to cope with.

My fears of food may seem silly to some, but this is something I have to live with each day so being respectful and understanding of this is very important. Saying ‘it’s Christmas!’ doesn’t make it any easier for me to grab a piece of chocolate and eat it. It still brings the same levels of guilt and high anxiety levels as every normal day in the year.

Please be considerate to those suffering with an Eating Disorder at Christmas. Understand that it’s not as easy as ‘just eating’ and it isn’t easy to just take a chocolate from the box and eating it. Be aware that people with an ED will struggle during Christmas, but it isn’t intentional, it’s an illness of the mind that (unfortunately) doesn’t rest. Don’t make food the main focus of the day, instead, bring up other topics of conversation, provide distractions and lots of love and hugs to those struggling. 

Despite the fact that everybody may not be able to enjoy Christmas (due to the food) Christmas can definitely be enjoyed for many other reasons. Including: cuddling up on the sofa watching Christmas movies, filling the house with Christmas decorations and the fun of giving and receiving presents. I find that distractions are a necessity to have (always) especially during the Christmas period. Planning meals can also be useful as it reduces the anxiety around food. Ie: knowing I’ll have a ‘safe food’ as opposed to an overwhelming Christmas Dinner which would do nothing other than leave me in floods of tears.

Christmas is one day, despite things seeming crazy and out of routine, it’ll soon be another day survived and a day where you can prove to yourself just how strong and capable you are. ❤

Lots of love,

Laur xx

 

Body Dysmorphia – A silent battle, a real war

Mental Health

Good Evening lovely people, I hope your weekends are going well so far.

As an Anorexia sufferer, I also suffer with BDD (which is body dysmorphic disorder.) A description being: “An anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and to spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance.” However, I must add that you do NOT have to be suffering from an eating disorder in order to have this condition. Also, you can suffer at any age, you can be any gender or any race prior to beliefs of this being a ‘girl’s condition.’

Body dysmorphia is a silent, real battle that not many people are aware of meaning it often gets mistaken for ‘attention seeking.’ However, a person with BDD (male or female) will see their body differently to how others see it. For example, a person with Anorexia may view themselves as ‘fat and obese’ when they are actually the opposite. When a person with this condition sees something, it becomes very difficult and almost impossible to change that thought process. Telling somebody with BDD that they are not fat, or that their nose isn’t too big will NOT change their thoughts and feelings surrounding this.

“A psychological disorder in which a person becomes obsessed with imaginary detects in their appearance.”

Symptoms of BDD: poor body image, low self-esteem, worrying excessively about appearance, developing compulsive behaviours to deal with worries, excessive body checking, frequent weighing, self harming and comparing ones self to others. (These are just a select few symptoms.)

Causes of BDD: Eating disorders, depression, anxiety, bullying, trauma, genes and the environment.

Describing body dysmorphia would be like telling somebody to look at the red curtains, when the curtains are quite clearly green. Both people see different things and neither can see what the other person does, no matter how much convincing is done. Similarly, no matter how much you tell a person with BDD that their thoughts aren’t true, it’ll just go over their head and they will continue to believe what they’ve already believed for such a long time. It’s like a mouse staring into a mirror and seeing an Elephant staring back. Although the facts highlight the fact that your visions aren’t correct, it becomes very difficult to see past it and to see and believe what the people around you do.

Most people will pick faults with their bodies and their appearances and I can safely say that I’m yet to meet one person who’s comfortable in their own skin. Self acceptance isn’t easy; it is possible and can be done with a combination of therapy and mindfulness, or so I believe. Having said this, change doesn’t happen overnight and body positivity isn’t an easy thing to achieve. I cannot speak on a person level about finding body acceptance, but hopefully I will one day. Unfortunately we live in a World where people believe their values and self worth will increase if they become a certain weight or size, if you own certain attributes or if you’ve travelled The World or not. It’s vital to remember that these things are not as important as love, health and happiness. Never put anybody down when they are on a journey to self love and acceptance.

Body dysmorphia is a real issue that people suffer from – please show love, support and understanding to those struggling. Do not become stressed if people are having a bad day or if they are seeing things that you cant. Try to change the topic from talking about bodies and appearances in order to lift the stress and focus off the individual. In addition to this, if you are struggling please speak up.

Lots of love,

Laur xxx

Mental Health and education – Accepting the stage you’re at

Mental Health

In life lots of us feel that we must be at a certain stage in order to be accepted, valid and important and I am one of these people. Perfectionism at its finest eh? We live in a society where if you haven’t passed your driving test by the age of 18, you’re a loser. Where if you haven’t started University at the age of 18, you’re destined to be a failure and so on. But these beliefs couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, I know lots of people who haven’t gone to University and they’ve chosen other life pathways such as jobs and volunteering. Some people even choose gap years, in which they spend their time travelling, making memories or gaining important life skills.

In life, we must do what is best for us, not what’s best for everybody else.

I would like everybody to know that stopping education to work on yourself and your welbeing is perfectly respected and acceptable. A few years down the line, your dream career will still be awaiting you and your dream University will still be standing waiting for you to begin your studies there.

Okay so, due to my Anorexia, Depression and Anxiety, I have had to take two years out of education which may or may not be frowned upon. After finishing my two years in College, I had to stop. I loved education too much and devoted all my time to it. All of my time, energies and focuses were going into my studies which can be both a positive and negative. I became isolated and glued to my laptop and assignments which isn’t healthy or balanced. My college work became like an addiction for me, I would work and work for hours on end in order to make my work perfect, in order to be the best and most hard-working student because those things held large values for me. And whilst doing this, I would use it to block out the negativity in my life including worries about food, weight and calories. It got to a point where I was repeatedly being asked by my teachers to STOP working and to take a break. I was always ahead on my work, I always recieved top marks and completed assignments to the best of my ability but it was never enough for me.

During this time, I have been working on myself and volunteering at the same time, meeting new people and animals and finding the strength to get through each day. But during these stages it was more important for me to focus on myself and my personal health needs. If I’ve learned anything during these two years, it’s that education can wait but your health can’t and that needs to be prioritised. It wouldn’t have been beneficial for me at all to begin University two years ago and I’m glad I made the decision not to.

At the end of the day, what’s the point in working for a degree when your health is slowly in decline? No, I’m not recovered and I am nowhere near that stage; my mental state (depression wise) is much more stable than it used to be. Sitting in a lecture hall feeling suicidal and destructive wouldn’t have done anybody any favours.

I begin University in September, still poorly, still Anorexic, still suffering with depression and anxiety. But I will be recieving help whilst I’m there, to go alongside my studies. Because I am now at a stage where I want to get back into education, a step closer to achieving my dream job of saving animals. I no longer want to put my education on hold because that is the right decision for me. It doesn’t matter if you choose to take five years out of education – your health and happiness is the most important thing.

Life doesn’t come with instructions, we live it the way we choose to but sometimes things may get in the way to put things on hold for a little while. But that’s okay and understandable. Whatever life pathway you choose, you’re still as valid and important as the next person. A degree doesn’t define your self worth or compassion, nor does it hold you back in any way, shape or form.

Please remember that in life, you are your main focus and it is okay to put yourself first.

Lots of love, Laur xxx

Mental Health – The importance of speaking up

Mental Health

Today I will be writing about something which I feel is very important to speak about, which is the importance of speaking up about your mental health. The number of people being diagnosed with a mental illness is forever on the rise. It’s even been reported that primary school children are being prescribed antidepressants! Some people are still misinformed when it comes to knowing the basic ins and outs of these illnesses which is one of the main reasons we must speak up. To educate others.

Things won’t improve if we keep quiet. Remaining silent and keeping ourselves isolated with our issues definitely isn’t the answer. We need to face issues instead of hiding away from them.

Unfortunately, people take their own lives due to their mental health and the intense feelings of loneliness and worthlessness included in it. The truth is, mental illnesses kill and we must work hard to reduce the number of suicides caused by mental illnesses. I’d like everybody to know that there is always somebody out there who cares and who is rooting for you to get better. There is always hope and there is always something to fight for, which seems impossible to believe at the time!

Mental health is a taboo subject which is why we must keep speaking up in order to break the stigma and to, therefore, help more people. People tend to shy away from mental health and we must speak up about our issues in order to get help and support, but to also encourage other sufferers to do the same. Lots of people are fearful of speaking up due to the stigma of being labelled as ‘mental’ but I can reassure you that it isn’t like this at all! Plus, you’re not obligated to tell anybody about your struggles if you don’t wish to.

We must also inform people constantly that we are there for support and to be a shoulder to cry on. Nobody deserves to feel alone, everybody needs somebody and this can be achieved if we all stuck together and helped each other out.

Things to remember: 

  1. Speaking up about your mental health doesn’t make you a burden
  2. Speaking up about your mental health isn’t a form of attention seeking
  3. Speaking up about your mental health isn’t bad and it certainly won’t land you in any trouble
  4. People care and people have your best interests at heart, they want to help you to get to the light at the end of the tunnel
  5. Nobody is against you, despite what your head may be telling you

If we shy away from speaking up about our issues, we will be plagued with all of the nasty thoughts and emotions all by ourselves which will cause both frustration and aggravation. Telling somebody you trust is a huge, brave step and will allow you to relieve some of the tension and stress in your head. A problem shared is a problem halved and the chances are, you will feel tonnes better after telling another person how things are. You will be provided with support and understanding, aswell as coping mechanisms and emergency contact details you should use whilst in a crisis moment.

When I first sought help for my mental health (Anorexia, Depression and Anxiety) I firstly spoke to my Teacher about it because I trusted her and I was very anxious about going to the doctors as I had never really been for anything major before. Then after a phone call between my Mum and Teacher, I found myself sitting in the doctor’s waiting room and although it was terrifying at the time it was for the best and I encourage everybody to do the same. During this time, I realised that doctors aren’t scary and that they are actually very caring and understanding not the scary monsters I presumed.

Ten minutes in an appointment could potentially help to save your life. Speaking to somebody is the first, vital, step towards getting better. Please don’t be afraid, it’s just you taking little steps towards getting your life back.

I used to be very wary about speaking up about my mental health, but now I’ve come to realise that I have nothing to be ashamed of. Why should I be ashamed? My mental illnesses are NOT my fault, but people do choose to be ignorant and they’re the ones who should be ashamed, not me. I’m poorly and this is a journey in my life which I want to speak up about in order to raise awareness and to help other people to seek help too. If I could help even one person, that’d be incredible! I will not suffer alone just to please my illnesses. I will carry on taking each day as it comes and with a spring in my step, with the hopes of becoming stronger by the day and finally regaining my happiness, health and sparkle.

Speaking up is so important and I cannot stress just how helpful it is.

If you’re struggling, please seek help. If you know of anybody who is struggling, please offer them love, support and understanding aswell as encouraging them to seek professional help.

Lots of love and hugs,

Laur xx