Anorexia recovery – Eating, comparison and being brave

Mental Health

For the past few years, I’ve fallen very much, unwillingly, into comparative habits. This can be detrimental in Anorexia Recovery.

If my friends aren’t eating, why should I?

I MUST be greedy.

Why am I eating if the people around me aren’t? So…much…guilt.

It’s a constant turmoil.

I very recently stumbled across a highly informative blog post by Tabitha Farrar, which highlights mutual recovery worries and concerns. Even an incredible podcast, which can be reached here

I’ve found that Eating Disorders have a tendency to possess a competitive nature in an assortment of ways. The constant fixation on what others are doing and saying can be exhausting.

My friends are dieting, does this mean I should?

My Mum hasn’t eaten Lunch, I guess I shouldn’t either.

I understand that I can become preoccupied with what others around me are eating, and I remain positive that I’m not alone in this, but I’m learning to reverse that focus onto myself to assist me in my journey.

My Therapist issued me with advice, in which I’d like to share. Individuals in recovery from Eating Disorders have significantly different needs in comparison to those around us. We need more food to assist the repairing of the bodies we’ve destroyed for prolonged periods. We have distinctively different needs in comparison to others. We’re in a calorie deficit, our bodies struggle to function with minimal nutrition. Our periods end, our organs begin shutting down and we encounter abnormal blood test results. (Note, symptoms vary within individuals!)

Rewind back 4 years ago, my Therapist challenged me to eating in College. To this day, I still struggle immensely with eating away from home, it typically feels disorganised and unnecessary. But I’m working on it. I was tasked with eating a cereal bar. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. My friend informed me that she hadn’t eaten and I simply couldn’t comprehend eating if she hadn’t, because it obviously “wasn’t” important. I had to constantly remind myself that she’d go home and eat, she wouldn’t restrict calories like I would or engage in unhealthy coping techniques.

The food stands as the building blocks essential for regaining our concentration, protecting our organs and obtaining energy. We must focus our energies on recovery and allowing our bodies (And minds) to habituate to increased food quantities.

It’s important to remember that food is our medicine, the key to our mental and physical healing. No two people eat the same. Skipping meals and snacks simply to match up to our peers only encourages the disordered voices whilst ensuring that we remain compacted within our unhealthy coping mechanisms and ways of thinking. Eating doesn’t equate to greed, increasing calories doesn’t highlight excessiveness.

Other people’s eating habits are NOT an invitation for us to alter our own, it’s vital that we work hard and cooperate with our negative and competitive feelings in order to more forward. We all have different eating habits, we eat at different times and enjoy different foods. This isn’t a matter to be ashamed about, diversity is one of life’s many wonderful factors, it keeps us different and unique.

There’s bravery in reaching for a snack or preparing a meal when those around you state how far from hungry they feel or how little they’ve eaten throughout the day. That takes strength and a considerate amount of determination.

I personally struggle to eat if those around me aren’t. I feel extremely reluctant to eat and then become more anxious if it’s gone past a “safe time”. But our bodies aren’t clocks, they appreciate food all-round. It heightens the guilt I feel surrounding eating and the anorexic voice in my head persuades me to give in. I easily feel greedy and insignificant, especially given my lack of hunger cues. But an essential component of my healing journey consists of prioritising my needs and my thoughts, aswell as acknowledging why I may struggle while working to alter that.

People without Eating Disorders don’t typically have set eating/meal times, and even if a meal or snack is skipped, no disordered thoughts will lure their nastiness. And if they skip a meal (usually due to time constraints/preoccupation or other commitments, not on purpose), this generally DOESNT have implications on the other meals of the day, compensative behaviours will not be used and a recommended amount of calories (ENERGY!!) will still be reached.

Ideally, others will make up for the food they’ve missed throughout the day and may prefer larger meals as opposed to “little and often”. But I imagine no two days of eating are the same for anybody, people may eat more on some days than on others. And vice versa. It all balances out. I would find this unmanageable and daunting, and eating irregularly quickly leads to lightheadedness and fainting episodes. One day I’ll be free from a structured meal plan, but today is not that day.

We must remember to focus on ourselves and our needs, whilst acknowledging that this isn’t selfish, but a necessary component in becoming a step closer to health and happiness. Food is fuel, and although eating may feel like a constant job, it is our medicine.

Anorexia Recovery – Ditching the scales, freedom away from numbers

Mental Health

The morning approached, it was 6:30am.

Already, I encountered deliberating thoughts about eating. I pondered whether I should, or whether I shouldn’t. And I’m beginning to believe that this may be a constant, lifelong battle for me.

With every day, I cannot determine how my thoughts will challenge me throughout the day. Some days will be easier than others, and some will be spent fighting with the grit of my teeth and my upmost strength and determination.

I cried, I rationalised and sat anxiously with my thoughts. I felt defeated, and frankly, nourishment felt more like a punishment. I often wonder why I am 22-years-old becoming tearful over food and fixated on numbers. I curiously think about life of the latter, freedom with food and perhaps, body acceptance?

Rewind a few hours later, I felt empowered and encouraged. I desperately wanted to alter my mindset and to challenge my toughest thoughts. Admittedly, my breakfast simply consisted of giving in to my disordered thoughts. I decided enough was enough, I had the rest of the day to build myself up and to tackle more habits. I simply couldn’t carry on waiting to be saved whilst putting in minimal effort to save myself.

Anorexia Recovery compromises of more than just regaining a “normal” relationship with food, but also about challenging other behaviours and rituals that extend beyond food. I stood up, heart racing and thoughts pondering, and reached up for my scales. The scales have dominated my life and my way of thinking for 6+ years and I first weighed myself at the mere age of 4. And until today, I kept this hidden. I’d been weighing myself multiple times a day, every day for years, and it began feeling exhausting and it held the equivalence of a heavy load on my shoulders. Anorexia is conniving and encourages sneaky behaviours and rituals. I no longer wanted to be sneaky, I wanted to be brave. Yesterday I owned up, and the support I received was not only remarkable, but incredibly reassuring.

I nervously threw my scales away, with much hesitation and questioning on my part, although ready to say good bye to a dark chapter in my life, determined to bring in a happier one. Anorexia screamed at me no, and insulted me greatly, but I wholeheartedly knew it was the best decision in the long term. A step forward in recovery and regaining my health, happiness and sparkle.

I’ve anxiously sat through feelings and urges during the day and have become ridden with guilt and uncertainty. I cannot move forward with the constant fixation and obsession on numbers, and I believe only my medical professionals need to know. I’ve been underweight for years, and I believe focusing on numbers only heightened the anxieties I have surrounding weight gain and reaching a healthy weight/BMI.

The number on the scale dictates my relationship with gravity, it can never determine my worth, intelligence or sparkle.

I’m learning to define myself by the number of animals I help, the milestones I’ve achieved and the strength I’ve gained. It’s going to be a long journey, but one I’m dedicated to.

I’m more than just a number. I’m a person with goals and aspirations, strength and determination. And I’m ready to move forward.

A weighted life perspective

Mental Health

We live in a World where weight gain has been, and continues to be, demonised. An increase in the scale number quickly equates to feelings of low self worth, inadequacy and failure. We attempt to remain small, whilst measuring our worth in kilograms and not so much smiles, achievements and memories. I understand the satisfaction gained from the decreasing scale number, believe me. But I can assure you that it brings minimal comfort, I was never fully “happy” until I faced death. A reduction in weight was never enough to counteract the thoughts and feelings I battled internally.

I despise weight related comments. Before opening up about my Anorexia battle, I regularly received praiseful words on my malnourished body, told that I had a “perfect figure”, I was asked for diet advice and the methods I used to lose a large proportion of weight in not so little time. And in doing so, this made it significantly harder for me to acknowledge that the actions and behaviours I constantly engaged in were wrong. Please be mindful of chosen words.

It’s impossible to pass a day without talk of dieting and weight loss. Celebrities promoting silly appetite suppressants and highlighting unrealistic diets to vulnerable followers for a sum of money. Of course, healthy weight loss is crucial for those who are medically overweight. And I believe this should be supported to avoid the usage of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Ie: Starvation, bingeing and purging. However, we’re indefinitely becoming a brainwashed society and I’m yet to meet an individual who is confident in their body. I’d like to see a drastic change in this, for new and current generations. More emphasis on body acceptance, less on methods to change your body and more ways to gain a healthier mindset.

There is very little talk in mainstream media regarding positive, and essential weight gain, which can be extremely discouraging. I often receive compliments on my current body, and this isn’t okay, being small isn’t a compliment or a goal, but being healthy IS. This frame has been gained through years of starvation and neglect, not nourishment, love and acceptance. The media is filled with praise, complementing people for weight loss and body transformations and I’m yet to see encouraging comments congratulating individuals on weight gain.

Benefits of weight gain:

  1. Energy
  2. The ability to rationalise thoughts and decision making
  3. Increased concentration maintenance
  4. Reduction in tiredness/lethargy
  5. A step closer to health and happiness!

Weight gain isn’t always a negative. For some, it’s essential. For those recovering from Eating Disorders, for those who battle Cancer and often become reliant on supplement drinks following unintentional weight loss and for those with speedy metabolisms (To list a few). People require it to return back to a healthy state, both physically and mentally, and may require more food and it’s a factor that simply isn’t highlighted enough. It can encourage thought rationalisation and provide energy whilst helping to maintain lengthy concentration periods.

An increase in weight can be the beginning of a new chapter for some, one that is exciting and memorable. The lease of life, the regaining of energy, life and freedom. Our world is forever evolving, with new and exhilarating developments in different areas. It’s time to step aside from the misleading idea that weight gain equates to fat. And even so, that “fat” is a bad thing. Quite frankly, fat is essential, it stores energy, supports brain function and protects our organs. It doesn’t make us ugly or uncharismatic, it makes us Human.

As somebody recovering from Anorexia Nervosa, weight gain is an essential component. With this being said, Eating Disorders are NOT primarily weight focused, you can suffer at ANY weight. Without this, there would be a significant restriction on my life, and I wouldn’t be fully committing to recovery. I would face a lifetime of remaining critically underweight and unwell, in a child-like body that simply cannot function properly, or issue me with an appropriate amount of energy. Without the weight gain, I would still be collapsing unexpectedly, growing fine hairs on my body to stay warm and losing large clumps of my hair. This shouldn’t be glamorised or used as an achievable goal, but support should be issued to help people to manage their situation.

Thus, in a world where the majority are losing weight and promoting fad diets, it’s important to be kind. To prioritise our own needs, our own health and our own happiness.

June – A new month, a happier mindset and new recovery challenges

Mental Health

It’s officially the beginning of June! And I wish you all a wonderful month filled with health and happiness. I’m determined to head back to Uni in September eager to inform my friends and Tutors of the fun-filled Summer I’ve endured. Not a Summer known for obeying Anorexia’s demands.

It’s terrifying. I’ve realised that I’m not okay and that I simply cannot continue along this pathway. Counteractively, recognising it is one thing, but actively changing it is another. And while I can’t possibly gain back lost time, I can make up for the time I’ve lost. I’ve been fearful of change for lengthy periods of time. But perhaps, change is exactly what I need. And maybe, change is good. I need to be kinder to myself. 

I simply cannot comprehend just how quickly the year is flying by. I’d like to signify the beginning of the month as the beginning of a new chapter. A step closer to health and happiness. A month filled with learning, growth and recovery-focused challenges. I’m aiming to find body acceptance, to follow a meal plan and to be brave. I’m simultaneously excited and extremely anxious for my next steps.

Last night, I had a realisation. I battled suicidal thoughts and overcame gruelling urges once again. I’m young, I haven’t lived properly yet, and it hurts that I often seek a way out when I should be finding my feet, exploring the world and developing new interests. My Tutor helped me to understand that the things that matter now may not matter in the years to come. I need to survive the bad to find the better, regardless of how painful it often seems. I’m about to delve into yet another challenging and unpredictable chapter, so it’s crucial that I care for myself increasingly, whilst allowing myself time to heal. I’m determined to prioritise my health and happiness, to appreciate the light in every day and to relearn healthier coping mechanisms.

I’m soon scheduled to be beginning treatment with a new Dietician. This initially filled me with dread, I contemplated whether I wanted recovery or whether I would ever be okay. I’m fearful of letting go, and of losing control. But the only person who can save me, is me. I’m now incredibly motivated to work with her, and not against her, to fight my demons, to challenge my fear foods and to overcome one of my largest fears – weight gain. I’m educating myself about the art of weight restoration, it’s simply weight that should never have been lost, the building blocks to energy, life and freedom. Pre-anorexia I was slightly underweight and disordered thoughts have always remained present, but it’s time to change. One day, I’ll accept a healthy body. And one day, I’ll rekindle a healthier relationship with food.

Recovery: “A return to a normal state of mind, health or strength. The action of process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost”.

Recently, I’ve started to picture my life in future years. And I quickly become tearful and distressed whenever I imagine my future self still battling with the torment of my mind. I refuse to be 30 years old requiring reminders to eat, crying over food and still remaining reliant on feelings of accomplishment from the decreasing scale number. And that’s enough to acknowledge that I do want to get better, I’m just scared and slightly lost, but these feelings can and will pass. I’m fighting for memorable years and for future adventures. A life outside of Anorexia.

I’m putting my future prospects to the forefront of my mind. In a years time, I want to be preparing for graduation after working hard in my third year. I’m ready to radiate light and happy vibes. I want to be physically and mentally stronger, to be helping more animals and to be preparing to travel the world. I don’t want to be terrified of myself or life anymore, or to reminisce and think “what if”. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and I’m beginning to understand just how precious life is. I want to work hard in the present moment to build a brighter future.

I aim to be healthy enough to give blood, as my current weight prevents me from doing so. To volunteer abroad, minus the fear of unmeasured food and different meal timings. I’m striving for more, more that I simply cannot accomplish with the torment of an Eating Disorder. I long for the days where I eat ice-cream on sunny days, where I no longer use harmful techniques to compensate and to find new vegan cafes with my friends. And I can do this.

Truthfully, I’ve begun acknowledging that my body will not cope for much longer and it’s a daunting realisation. I haven’t been a friend to my body, more of an enemy. It won’t continue to function on minimal calories and through the obeying of Anorexia’s hurtful rules. For a long time, I believed that my body would defeat the odds. I believed I could survive on calories less than the recommendation for that of a toddler. And currently, my body isn’t coping and this isn’t okay. My Anorexia convinced me that I’ll be fine, that this is sustainable, but I physically feel drained and cannot last through the days without lightheadedness, shaking and chest pain. I’ve tried for so long to ignore the physical symptoms, but they currently grow stronger by the day. I’ve displayed abnormal blood results and ECG’s, my clothes currently hang off me and I understand that I’m not truly happy, and this isn’t really recovery. Recovery signifies fighting, not merely surviving.

I’m ready to fight for a future Laur wants, not a future Anorexia craves. I want to save animals and to help others, and to live. And, most importantly, to make those around me proud. I’m ready for June, I’m ready to accept growth and I’m keen to see where I stand in a months time.

.

Second year – Growing, learning and finding acceptance

University

I’ve done it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental Health

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

I HAVE NOW BEEN DISCHARGED!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MY NEXT STEPS

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

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

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

Health & wellness – A discovery journey

Mental Health

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

Crazy? No. Happiness inducing? Yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Florida – Day seven: Part one 🇺🇸

The Florida Files

We arrived at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a non profitable organisation located in South-West Florida, at 8:15am. After an hours drive was required to reach our destination.

The Wildlife Refuge is located on Sanibel Island, in the Gulf of Mexico, Southwestern Florida and is compromised of 6400 acres.

We are a nonprofit that financially supports nature conservation, wildlife protection and education efforts for J.N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel and Captiva Islands in Southwest Florida.

The refuge gained its name after a local cartoonist (Jay Norwood Ding Darling) who prevented the land from being sold which was due to be used for other purposes. The conservationists remained well known for the creation of his duck stamps, essential stamps that have to be purchased in order to enter the refuge.

Jerry (a current volunteer at Ding Darling) presented a factual powerpoint presentation giving an indication into the past and present history of The Wildlife Refuge. The talk was both authentic and inspiring and allowed us to consider the activities we could engage in to better our planet, and to occupy conservation efforts. Jerry also, mercifully, introduced us to his wife – Belinda, who was also a current volunteer at the refuge.

Jay Norwood Darling blocked the sale of the environmentally valuable land on Sanibel Island. Darling also convinced the President at the time (President Truman) to sign an executive order to create the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge rewinding back to 1945. Moreover, the refuge changed the name to ‘JN Ding Darling’ in 1967.

Profits made at the refuge following visitor entrance fees and gift shop purchases, amongst generous public donations, is put towards conservation efforts that are carried out throughout the entirety of Ding Darling. Alas, the refuge alarmingly receives no Government funding, but works entirely to protect species and to encourage the next generations with their creditable efforts and high work ethics.

The Ding Darling Wildlife Society pays for essentials that The US Government fails to prioritise. The money is raised through various fundraising activities, aswell as through the visitor centre.

Carolina Parakeet: This species is the only species of parakeet that lives in The US. However, the species went extinct back in 1939, and the last known species tragically passed away in captivity (Simpsonati Zoo).

Passenger Pigeon: This species passed away in the same cage as the late Carolina Parakeet, though during the sooner date of 1914. Passenger pigeons are reliant on forests to aid their survival, but the species struggled to adapt to changing environmental conditions due to market hunting which wiped out the forests.

Moran and aesthetic nature preservation: John Muir is the President of the Sierra Club, who composed that ‘Nature deserves to exist for its own sake regardless of the degree of usefulness to humans’. The preservation exists and helped to establish The National Park Service in 1916.

Modern environmentalism: The industrial explosion occurring as a result of WW2 added new environmental concerns, which therefore allowed the Environmental Agenda to be expanded in both 1960 and 1970 to begin to include: Atomic weapons testing, fossil fuel issues, air and water pollution and wilderness protection.

The first National Earth Day began in the 1970’s as a result of an establishment of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).

Global concerns have increased over time, due to an expansion of greater technology and communications alongside a better understanding surrounding different concepts and ideas, with previously little information available in relation to them. Environmental events and concerns are now reported Worldwide, therefore we gain an understanding into issues and improvements occurring around The World. The events also reported both locally and regionally.

Environmental issues include: Climate change, energy, biodiversity, human rights, agriculture/food, population, water and consumerism.

The refuge allows visitors to view a vast selection of animals in their natural environment, including 245 bird species which occupy a larger diversity throughout migratory seasons (January-April).

We walked around the refuge, witnessing charismatic red mangroves which gain their distinctive redness due to a lack of oxygen. The mangroves appeared to be home to bird species, including the white ibis perching upon a mangrove branch.

A normal, unharmed, manatee bone typically weighs roughly 2lbs, but with damage, the bone’s weight suffers an increase of a dangerous 6lbs.

We read the tragic story of a glorious manatee named J.Mullett, who became known during her first sighting on March 11th, 1996, whilst understanding the causes of her unfortunate mortality. Mullett first became sighted in Crystal River, FL and was easily identifiable because of the healing wound located behind her head, amongst significant propeller wounds from her mid-tail to tail base.

She also had a pit tag fitted beneath her skin to help locate and identify her.

The case of J.Mullett: Named J as she was found in the month of January, and Mullett, as the location she was found in had the name of ‘Mullett’s Gullett’.

The manatee was released back into the wild (Crystal River) on December 5th 2000, after 2 years of seeking rehabilitation (starting January 2nd 1999) at Lowry Park Zoo for her noted injuries.

Mullett suffered abnormal signs of breakage in her ribs, therefore developing an abnormal growth following an impact with a boat. (Air boats are popularly used throughout The Everglades, despite not being very environmentally or wildlife friendly, to encompass a range of species).

Manatees often appear in areas of human activity, which have big associations with the numbers of declining manatee in The World, often becoming injured from boat propellers, which can cause swelling in the muscles surrounding the tailbone, which negatively impacts the manatees abilities to swim efficiently, and without difficulties.

A necropsy case file revealed the avoidable causes of Mullett’s death. She received multiple strikes from passing by boats in the area she was inhabiting, which caused abnormal bone growth in both her ribs and her skeleton. The findings also informed us that a discarded fishing line was found located in her small intestine and colon, again, highlighting the human impacts upon marine life. The fishing line caused multiple injuries, including internal damage and the blockage of her intestines, which fabricated eating, digesting and defecating difficulties.

Devastatingly, Mullett had given birth to her calf and was said to be nursing her just 6 days before she gruesomely died.

How did J.Mullett die?

  • Watercraft: Collision with hull and/or propeller or any type of watercraft.
  • Crushed/drowned in a floodgate or a canal lock.
  • Perinatal: Death of a newborn manatee less than 5 feet long.
  • Death due to cold weather exposure.
  • Other natural causes: Infection, disease, birth complications, natural accidents or natural events (such as red tide poisoning).
  • Unfortunately, the causes of death have had no success in being determined.