Olivia’s story: Animals + mental health

Mental Health

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

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

Olivia’s story:

Rats have a very unfair reputation in society.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want to be free just like the birds.

Autism and me: Suffering or growing?

Autism

It’s vastly approaching the 3-year bracket in which I received my Autism diagnosis back in 2016.

Time has truly flown by!

I often hear the term “suffering from Autism” which I felt encouraged to shed some light on, as somebody on the complex Autistic spectrum.

I understand that the spectrum is large and people enlisted upon it face their share of physical and mental difficulties. Everybody, of course, is entitled to their own opinion.

This is a reflection upon my story so far.

Autism for me has been a challenge, a continuous one beginning with acceptance and understanding, to growing the strength to challenge myself daily and to overcome any hurdles lingering in my direction.

Autism is a way of being. It is pervasive; it colours every experience, every sensation, perception, thought, emotion, and encounter every aspect of existence.

Some days I can wholeheartedly conquer The World and my intrusive thoughts. I can surprise myself with my strength and determination to tackle scary situations. Other days I simply cannot hinder the complexity of my thoughts, I cannot leave the house or tackle a conversation.

Balance is the key to life and that is okay.

I no longer devote time to questioning my struggles and areas of weakness. Instead, I accept them and the stage I am at. I use them as stepping stones for overcoming future hurdles and as indicators of the times I’ve refused to be beaten.

I’ve not once considered myself to suffer with Autism. Although, initially, I struggled to associate myself with my condition and would easily become distressed when the subject was mentioned. I remained ridden with questions until I attended support groups and met other like-minded people like myself.

Adults on the spectrum with inspiring stories to tell, achieving amazing milestones and overcoming the biggest obstacles in life.

I once believed receiving an Autism diagnosis would be the end of The World. It seemed catastrophic and daunting and it certainly does frustrate me at times. But I began to realise that my Autism wasn’t the issue, the way I viewed myself was.

I have so much to thank my diagnosis for.

My Autism diagnosis wasn’t the end of The World, but the beginning of a new one.

I face my fair share of mental problems stemming from anxiety and fears of the unknown. But I’ve slowly (but surely!) transitioned as somebody embarrassed of my diagnosis to somebody sharing my story willingly with The World.

And that is such a beautiful concept. Acceptance is wonderful and massively freeing.

I started to acknowledge that Autism is a profound strength of mine. With the likes of a well-known animal loving Scientist Temple Grandin and Broadcaster Chris Packham, I feel overjoyed to share a diagnosis with such intelligent people.

During one stage, where I began struggling with my lowest bouts of Depression, I narrowly avoided talking about my Autism. Over the years, I received multiple diagnosis’ and it felt like another label to add to the pile, I felt ashamed and every inch of me wanted to be normal.

I’m not suffering. Even throughout the days I struggle to leave the comfort of my home, the days I simply cannot maintain a meaningful conversation or on the days I cry following an Autistic meltdown or from a sensory overload.

I’m not suffering. I’m learning and I’m growing. And although the journey may be painful at times, often leaving me ridden with masses of questions with regards to myself, my worth and my abilities, I can acknowledge the progress I’ve made so far, which only encourages me to keep going.

To find strength, to seek happiness and to be brave.

I look back at my past self with pride and admiration for enabling myself to thrive in places I never imagined myself to. I’m learning the art of speaking to new people without assistance, the task of creating long lasting friendships and visiting new places.

My Autism isn’t making me suffer, it’s making me resilient.

I’m not suffering, I’m growing. Every day I am finding myself and transitioning into the person I’ve always longed to be.

A journey: How to be open about Mental Health

Mental Health

Today, I wanted to talk about how I’ve grown more comfortable with speaking up about Mental Health.

I’d like to view myself as a Mental Health advocate, the topic has become a passion of mine and something I enjoy speaking about and assisting others with. The conversation is important, always, not just when it’s Mental Health Awareness Week. When I am further along my recovery journey, I’d love to be more actively involved with charities and fundraising to keep the conversation going and to help improve the support services and helplines available.

Aswell as speaking up about my own issues and expressing myself with writing, I love raising awareness and speaking out about issues I see raised online. Such as diet fads, body shaming and common stereotypes. Ie: Needing to look a specific way in order to be unwell.

I’ve recently been receiving wonderful messages applauding me for my ability to speak up. Expressing how I’m an inspiration which was surreal – thank you! And in continuing my journey I can only hope to encourage others to do the same, to be open and less afraid, whilst growing in confidence myself.

Truthfully, I haven’t always been open. It’s taken me many years to speak up, to become comfortable, to find my voice and to raise awareness for myself and others. Funnily enough, when I first began treatment for my mental illnesses I struggled immensely to have an open conversation about mental health, my feelings and my thoughts. I’ve encountered many appointments filled with awkward and uncomfortable silences, staring at the floor and anxiously skin picking as professionals have been at a standstill with myself and my needs as I habituated to saying I was okay when I felt the complete opposite – willingly hiding my feelings in a bid to save others from upset, but costing myself more torment.

But now I believe that we should express the things on our minds. Whether it be verbally or in writing. The worry about burdening others may always stand, but allowing our deepest thoughts to linger won’t get us anywhere. Liberating our bad thoughts can only allow us to make room for brighter ones.

I turned to social media.

As somebody who struggles to express themselves verbally, I began writing on social media as an outlet for both positive and negative thoughts, it seemed easier and far less intimidating and I’ve always been better at expressing myself with words. I grew to understand that my words were helpful to others battling the same, giving them somebody to relate to, which only encouraged me to speak more and in a greater depth.

There’s lots of stigma surrounding sharing mental health online. Its often viewed as attention seeking. But it isn’t. And if it’s a way that works for you, don’t allow the opinions of others to prevent you from doing something you’re happy with. If expressing yourself online helps, do it! Let your health and happiness be your biggest priority in life.

I set up a recovery account. A place to express my thoughts (positive and negative) and to meet other brave, likeminded people enduring the same. I began feeling less alone, less alienated and more understood. Similar to a diary. The more I used it, the less daunting it seemed. And as time passed me by, I felt better able to share more about myself and my personal journey (so far).

I wanted to express my bad days, to highlight the realities of mental illness recovery, to demonstrate that relapses arent signs of weakness and the concept of “sunshine and rainbows” unfortunately not being applied here. Recovery isn’t linear. Climbing hurdles and facing obstacles in our journeys is okay, normal and expected. It no longer felt like I was attention seeking, it began feeling like I was making a difference, which I love.

I wanted to help people, whilst helping myself. And I believe the encouraging words I issue others with has enlightened me into the benefits of positivity and self care.

I’ve also found that helping others improves my feelings of low self worth. It’s as though I’ve found a purpose in helping others which makes me insanely happy!

Finding people with similar experiences and stories inspired me massively, and it’s still something that continues to do just that. As I see people recover from their illnesses, taking positive steps and being brave. The online community has not only issued me with knowledge and confidence, but with friends who I feel absolutely filled with gratitude to have on my side.

Advice for speaking up

🌸Cliche, but true… Don’t be afraid. Easier said than done, I know. But I can guarantee you that you have absolutely nothing to be afraid of. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. And, respectively, I imagine whoever you tell will appreciate you being open to enable them to support you.

🌸Remember WHY you’re speaking up. Keep in mind the reasons why you want to get better (because you deserve to!) and a list of positives and recovery motivations to keep you going.

🌸If you find communication difficult, write it down. Unfortunately, nobody can support you if they remain unaware of your struggles. I promise it isn’t silly, professionals will have seen so many situations before and they’re trained to know people and their personal battles, strengths and weaknesses.

🌸DONT WAIT ANOTHER MINUTE! You don’t have to wait to “get worse” because your worst is now. And you deserve help regardless of the thoughts in your mind.

Be brave and don’t be afraid to share your story!

Lots of love & hugs

Laur xx

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.

University second year – An update into my student life!

University

Hi everybody!

Apologies for the absence; life as a second-year university student has been quite chaotic to say the least. With assignments, dance and revision fixed in my agenda, it’s been almost impossible to sit down and write.

Today, I anxiously decided to take a break from my studies to focus solely on self care. An act I have been shamefully neglecting recently and I began feeling extremely run down. Listening carefully to my Teachers’ advice and applying it to myself has worked wonders and will only benefit me as I continue to work hard in the upcoming days, weeks and months to obtain my degree.

Disclaimer: Self care is more than applying a face mask or painting your nails. It’s taking the time to engage with something that makes your soul happy and that makes you feel relaxed. Taking time out from the stress of the world around you.

My second university year has been an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least. I often disregard my issues and my feelings in a bid to make myself, and those around me, feel better (which is something I am working on…) I’ve attended counselling sessions and have had countless meetings with my tutors who give me the kindness and understanding I forget to give to myself, constantly reminding me of how well I’m doing academically which always brightens my mood.

Admittedly, I have faced an anguish of tough days with regards to my mental health and well-being. Battling Anorexia whilst maintaining a good student persona is tricky. But still, every day I am trying. Times I felt I couldn’t go on, but nonetheless, persisted, and have pushed myself to reach out during my darkest days. Times I’ve cried over food, resisted self harm urges or over the concept of sitting in a practical session due to high intensities of anxiety or worrying over the torment issued by my own mind.

Still, I am approaching the Christmas break and the end of my first semester. I’ve made it. It’s fair to say I have met some major challenges along the way, whilst learning more about myself as an individual.

I’ve challenged myself in a collection of ways, stepping outside of my comfort zone and finding the confidence to speak to new people. Going against my anxiety attempting to convince me that “I can’t” with my greatly needed “can do” attitude.

Strength, determination and persistence.

My tutors often remind me of the way I treat animals, upon reflection, I must treat myself in the same way. With compassion. Learning to no longer deprive myself of the things I need, in the same way I would for my animal friends.

And I am extremely privileged to have my supportive network of friends, family members and tutors who support me, whilst furnishing me with love, understanding and the best advice, always.

I partook in my first winter dance show, an honour to dance with such incredible people and to show off our hard-work and commitment during the past couple of months.

Joining Jazz has issued me with abundance’s of happiness and a newly found confidence since joining in September. Winning Dancer of the Semester and feeling incredibly blessed to be part of a club where I feel so at home, a place I can be myself and still be so accepted.

Whilst continuing with Contemporary. The first club I joined in University, again, standing as a place where I feel extremely comfortable and joyous as I make new friends and learn new skills.

I always leave dance feeling refreshed (even after Izzy’s warm up!) and as though my problems have faded away. It seriously does work wonders for my mental health.

I’ve found it hard to maintain a balance between different aspects of my life, becoming agitated if I haven’t managed to complete something, or missing sleep to fulfil the demands of my, never absent, thoughts. Becoming guilt ridden over prioritising things other than work, assignments or revision. And part of my life as a student is coming to the realisation that finding a balance is the way to be productive, not sticking my head in text books 24/7 or exercising to the point of exhaustion.

Each day, Uni continues to provide me with lessons unlisted within my degree specification. Lessons of hope, gratitude, forgiveness and acceptance. And although times have been dark, there has also been lots of light and lots of smiles.

As I approach the end of my first semester, I remain optimistic that the remaining weeks will be wonderful, whilst looking forward to the upcoming semester, new modules and new life lessons made!

University – life lessons, goats and second year!

University

A year ago, I set off on a new and exhilarating adventure. University life.

My first year as a University Student… Exciting!

I’m now just a week away from beginning my second university year. Following my studies in Zoology with Animal Behaviour as I aim to become a voice for those in need of one. My animal companions in need of a friend.

First year issued me with valuable lessons which I aim to apply to myself, and my studies, throughout the upcoming academic year.

A study carried out recently at Buttercups Goat Sanctuary (UK, Kent) found that Goats LOVE a happy face. A happy Laur equals a happy goat. Goativation? Therefore, for my caprine companions, it’s my upmost mission to be as happy as humanely possible as I embark on life’s next academic challenge.

BE THE GOAT FOR THE GOATS

As a student, and a young person in general, it’s very easy to become caught up in what those around me are doing. But I’ve concluded that I must make myself, my health and my happiness my biggest priority if I wish to succeed in my journey.

With just five basic lessons, I am confident second year will be increasingly more enjoyable than the first.

STOP BEING SO HARD ON MYSELF

During my first year, I became awfully distressed whenever I received a lower grade than I anticipated. Though, I wish to focus more on my efforts and areas for improvement as opposed to my so-called “failures”. Focusing on the positives leaves less room to dwell on the negatives, I believe. And trying my hardest can never result in failing.

My grades do NOT define me, or my worth.

“Giving up is the only sure way to fail.”

CONFIDE IN OTHERS DURING TIMES OF STRUGGLE

I’ve learned the importance of reaching out for support during my times of need, coming to the realisation that seeking help is perfectly acceptable, there is always an ear to listen and I don’t deserve to suffer alone, or in silence. University is a wonderful place filled with the most supportive people (tutors and friends) and nobody will think of me any less for needing a helping hand.

Speaking up releases masses of tension and encourages others to seek help, too. A win win situation!

PRIORITISE HAPPINESS AND SELF CARE

Finding a comfortable, maintainable balance within my studies and “other things” is still a work in progress, but one I am keen to apply to myself. Ensuring I create time for the things I love outside of my studies – spending time with friends, volunteering and engaging in the clubs and societies I am involved with and have a passion for. The understanding that spending countless hours in the library, buried in text books or behind laptop screens isn’t healthy or necessary amongst the pathway to graduating. Nor does it make me a “better student.

FINDING MY STRENGTH

Moving away to Uni was a strength in itself, but my mission now is to maintain it. Finding the strength to carry on when things don’t necessarily go to plan, or when the day has been tough. A bad grade? Read the Tutor feedback and prioritise it next time. Speaking to my Tutor about it, a problem shared is a problem halved. A fall out with a friend? That’s okay. They happen, Uni is stressful and friendships are bound to begin showing some cracks; take a break, resolve it afterwards. A heightened struggle battling mental illness’ that day? Again, it happens. Prioritise self care, learning helpful distraction techniques and keeping myself safe.

SEARCHING FOR THE HAPPINESS IN EVERY DAY THINGS

I’m embarrassingly talented at dwelling on my nasty, more intrusive thoughts (Sigh!) So I’m ensuring I work tirelessly to focus more on the positives in my life, and less on the negatives. A balance of alone time, but ensuring I am not too withdrawn. Searching for the happiness in every day things, regardless of how small they may appear so that during my darker times, I can reflect upon the better times. Never underestimate the healing powers of a cuddle with an animal, a cup of tea or a simple stroll along a scenic route via a Beach or a Forest.

Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from the negative

Here’s to second year, another year in which I aim to succeed, exceed my own expectations and make some unforgettable memories with the incredible friends I am blessed with.