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Heads Up Ep1

Heads Up Ep1


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Yash is the host of the Heads Up Podcast and is joined by his friend Aoife, who is part of the Nightline committee. They discuss their week, Aoife's pet rabbits, and their involvement with Nightline, a listening service for students. They also talk about a recent karaoke night and Aoife's experience as an autistic person. Aoife mentions the positive impact her rabbits have on her mental health. They plan to hang out with the rabbits next week. Hello, lovely people. Welcome to the Heads Up Podcast. I am Yash, your host and the mental health officer this year at LSU. For the first episode, I've invited a very dear friend called Aoife. I met her last year through Nightline, and I'm so grateful that I did because she's such an amazing friend and she's always looking out for me. Hi, Aoife. Hi, Yash. How are you doing today? I'm doing good, thank you. How are you? I'm very, very excited to have you here. Could you tell me a bit more about how your week's going? So I've had a pretty chaotic week, actually. It's been good, but I've got pet rabbits and one of them's poorly at the minute, so I've been having to do a lot of mothering duties to make sure she gets a bit better. I hope she gets better soon. Can you tell people a bit more about your bunnies? Of course I can. So even though I am indeed a uni student, I do actually have two pet rabbits at uni. I got them about a year and a half ago, and they're called Pebble and Ivy. They're basically my main personality trait at this point. But yeah, they're mini rexes. They're about a year and a half old, and they're very, very sweet. I've met them. They're the most adorable beings if I've ever met. They are. They're very cute. I mentioned Nightline earlier. For people who don't know what Nightline is, would you want to introduce people to Nightline? Yeah, no problem. So Nightline is a confidential, non-advisory listening service run by students for students. So on Wednesdays and Fridays, any Leicester student can ring up and speak to an anonymous volunteer about what is going on in their brain at that moment. So the volunteers that you speak to are all anonymous. The only public-facing people are the committee, and we do not answer the phones because we're not anonymous. Yeah. Speaking of committee, can you tell people what a wonderful committee member I am? Oh, yeah. She's amazing. Amazing. 11 out of 10. I feel my entire committee's amazing this year. Yeah, she's almost as good as the rest of them. That's lovely to hear. Thank you, Aoife. That's made my day. No, it's been incredible being a part of the Nightline community. I was a volunteer last year, which meant that I was taking calls. This year, I'm on committee, so I help the service run a bit better, and I have a bit more responsibility than last year, and it's been an incredible experience. I just wish I would have started sooner, so in my first or second year, instead of my final year. Yeah, I'm very lucky I started in my first year. I'm now a fifth-year student, so I've been doing Nightline for a long time now. Still not bored of it. Yeah, Nightline is such a big part of your life, isn't it? It is, yeah. It's a great part of my life as well. Yeah, I think a lot of your friends and social life comes from Nightline as well. Oh, most of my uni friends are from Nightline. I've got a few from my course as well, but most of my friends are either Nightliners or ex-Nightliners. I've got friends all over the country and even in a few different countries due to Nightline, which is amazing. Yeah, I've met some amazing people through Nightline. Speaking of socialising and hanging out with friends, how was LGBT plus karaoke night last night? Because that was a Nightline committee social, wasn't it? Yes, it was an unofficial committee social, and it was amazing. We had a great time. We didn't do very well at our song, but I mean, is the point of karaoke really to do well at your song, or is it just to have a good time? So yeah, it was amazing. As a queer person myself, I always love going to LGBT plus events, and yeah, we had a great time. Had a few drinks, not too many, and had a sing. One of my training officers did a song by herself, and she did amazing. She shocked all of us because she was actually good, unlike the rest of us. So that was really fun to watch. Oh, I'm really interested to know what song she did and what song you guys ended up going for, like the whole group. We did Wannabe by the Spice Girls. But we couldn't, it turns out we thought we knew it. We only knew like the chorus. So we were, I was very, very confused. But yeah, I can't remember what song Anna did, but she did it really pretty. Yeah, I dipped out like after the first half an hour, didn't I? Because I had to catch up with a friend. Yeah, we missed you. Yeah, I mean, to be fair, I'm quite pleased I wasn't there, because I'd make such a fool out of myself. I feel like karaoke is one of those things that you need to be drunk for, and I don't drink. Yeah, I was a bit drunk. I wasn't too bad, to be fair. But I was tipsy slash drunk enough that I could do karaoke, but still able to hold my own, which is how I like it. Yeah, no, I saw some pictures where you definitely looked tipsy. I would definitely use the word tipsy for how you seemed last night. Valen was taking pictures, and I didn't see them until I woke up. And then in the morning, it was just on their story, and I was like, oh. We love Valen. We do. Yeah, all the events are such a hit. I wish I could go to more, because there's so many. There's like tons going on every single week. Yeah, it's amazing having a Welfare and Diversity Committee who runs so many wonderful events. And I have the same complaint as you, which is just that they all look amazing, and I can't go to all of them. But it's wonderful to see people doing so many things, having so many people attend, meeting so many people, making friends, etc. Yeah, 100%. Can I ask you how you're doing? How's your mental health been the past week or so? I know that this weekend was a bit rough for you because the bunnies were not feeling great. Yeah, no, it's a big stress. So when I got the rabbits, actually, part of the reason is that I'm very much an animal lover. I'm actually autistic, and animals are one of my special interests. So they have done so much to help my mental health just by having two little evil children running around my house all the time. And literally, all of my friends have said there's a night and day difference between my mental health before I got them and after I got them. They make me really happy. So anytime they're poorly, especially because rabbits tend to do poorly properly, they don't tend to like get mild poorly, it tends to be absolutely fine or very unwell. So anytime they're a bit poorly, I get quite stressed because obviously, I love them so much. And I want them to be happy. But putting lots of effort in to make sure they're all right, and it's paying off so far at the minute. It does mean syringe feeding a very angry rabbit because I mean, she doesn't want to be syringe fed, who does? Especially like blended up high calorie nutritious supplement, but that's okay. Because as I as I feed her, I get to give her cuddles. Yeah, no pros and cons. It definitely sounds like a very stressful, yet also like very rewarding and fulfilling experience. Yeah, watching her perk up and get better has been first of all, a huge relief. And second of all, made me really happy because it's so nice to see her hopping around again and causing trouble, eating hay, cuddling with her sister, etc. Mostly causing trouble because that's what they do. But they're so cute. You can't be mad at them. Yeah, no, I met them and you definitely can't be mad at them. You mentioned autism and special interests a second ago. That's not true for everybody who is autistic, is it? Everybody who has autism doesn't have special interests. I think most people do, but not all. It's one of those things, I think, because there are so many autistic people. It's so different from person to person. Like I have quite a lot of autistic friends, and we're all completely different. So I think it's a pretty common trait to have special interests, but not necessarily. Every single autistic person in the world has special interests and the special interests can vary from person to person, which is awesome. So I've got friends with special interests in sports, in aircraft, all kinds of things, really, which is so cool because I get to hear about their special interests, which is awesome. Yeah. Is there anything that you wish people knew about autism? Is there a myth that you'd like to bust for our listeners about autism? I think probably that everyone with autism is kind of like how you imagine. So especially like with the whole Sheldon Cooper stereotype, sometimes if I tell people I'm autistic, because I'm very open about being autistic, people get very confused because first of all, I'm a cis woman. So it's often seen as being a male condition, which is not true. And secondly, because I'm nightline coordinator, and people tend to believe that autistic people don't have empathy or aren't very good at talking and being supportive and good friends. And that's not true at all. We're very empathetic people. We're incredibly diverse and there are as many ways to be correctly autistic as there are autistic people in the world. There is no incorrect way to be autistic. No, absolutely. You are such an empathetic friend. I am so glad to have you as a friend. So I can't agree more. Thank you. Yeah. Speaking of being friends, can I come around next week to hang out with the bunnies? Of course you can. Of course you can. They love having people around. Only one or two at once, though. They get very offended if there's more than one or two people around. No, I don't think I'd like to share that experience with anyone. I just come by myself. It'll just be me and bunnies. We don't even need Aoife. It's fine. Just me and the bunnies. Some of my friends, especially last year, would literally call me and still do call me and just say, I'm stressed. Can I come around in like 10 minutes and see the bunnies? And I'm like, yeah, what about me? Of course we do. We do talk and it's wonderful. But it's great to know that other people love my bunnies and love hanging out with them as well. And they can help my friends when they're stressed because they get to watch them hop around and give them pets and give them treats and things like that. I have to be cautious if I have a lot of friends coming around because all my friends love giving them treats and I don't want them to eat too many treats. But they think it's great. They don't think too many treats is a concept that exists. Yeah, I don't think I personally think there's a thing called too many. I can't blame them, but they are super adorable. They are indeed. Yeah. Could you tell people a bit more about what you're studying, what you're doing here at Loughborough? So I'm a final year natural sciences student. So I'm majoring in chemistry and I minored in physics, although I don't do physics anymore. I just focus on my major. So I'm in my second master's year because I did my master's year over two years because I had to go part time due to health reasons. But I'm really, really enjoying it. I absolutely love my course. I know not everyone loves their course, but I'm fortunate enough to genuinely, genuinely adore it. So I'm mostly doing my research project this year in catalysis, which is really exciting, looking at improving catalysts for hydrogen fuel generation, which obviously with the price of fuel increasing and things is really important at the minute. So it's really good to know that I can hopefully have a tiny, tiny contribution to decreasing cost of living and increasing sustainability of our fuel. No, that sounds super cool. Some of that went over my head as well. I'd be lying if I said I understood every single word you said there. How's it been? How's your journey been? I know you've been here for five years now. So I love Loughborough. I absolutely adore being here. I didn't even mean to come here. It was my insurance choice, but I have no regrets whatsoever. I'm really, really happy here. And I never sit and think about what if I'd have gone to another uni because I love it. This is a great place to be. And I just I feel so lucky that I've got to come to an amazing uni, meet an amazing group of people and have an absolutely wonderful time. Yeah, I think I think with Loughborough people can either fall into, oh my God, I love this place. And the other one other category is like, oh my God, I don't fit in. I don't know what to do here. Yeah, I think I'm from the countryside, actually. But quite a few of my friends who are from London say that there's not as much to do in Loughborough as they used to. And it feels really small to them. Whereas I'm like, there is multiple McDonald's here. In one town, there is several McDonald's. There isn't even one in my town back home. This is crazy. So it seems quite big to me, but it seems quite small to people who are from larger cities. Yeah, I remember when I started, this was back in 2018. Oh, my God, I feel like such a culture shock for me, because I'm from India. And I come from a state in the west of India called Gujarat, which is, which is a non drinking state, like it's a non alcohol state. And imagine 18 year old me, flying for 15 hours, coming to Loughborough. And then there was freshers week for the first two weeks. I was like, what have I, what have I like brought myself to? Because it was a it was a complete leap of faith. I'd never been to the country before. I'd never been to Loughborough. All I knew about Loughborough was what they said on the website. And I trusted every single thing I read and saw on the website. And they, they wanted to have me, despite my average grades. And I was like, okay, I'll come. And then first year was tough for me, I think. And then it got slightly better second year. And then I went out for placement, which was very helpful. I think I just found a lot more confidence to be like, to be able to approach people and make friends. And then third year, like my final year was last year. And that was a wonderful year, I think. I just found my feet a lot, I found my people. And I had such a good time. I was like, I'm not done yet. And so I'm redoing a couple of modules because I wasn't like satisfied. So I'm here for another year. I'm still stretching my undergraduate degree. Yeah, me too. I'm going to be graduating at 24. So, but yeah, so you said, you said you really enjoyed your placement year. What was your placement doing? I did a placement at this theatre company in Hertfordshire called Trestle, Trestle Theatre. And we run a lot of well being theatre workshops for young adults with learning disabilities. Oh, awesome. And it was right in the middle of COVID as well. So there was such a demand for it. And it was a very eye opening experience. I yeah, it was a very, very challenging time. And I wouldn't change anything. You know, it was just like, I came across trauma therapy as a profession. And that's what I'm like looking to do after I graduate. But I wouldn't have done that. I wouldn't have come across that if I hadn't taken that risk. And I think it totally paid off. I met some amazing people. And it was just like a wonderful time. Yeah, it's so good that you that you were able to go on placement and find something that you really, really liked. I think that's kind of why a lot of people do placements. And sometimes I hear about people who found out what they didn't like. But sometimes I fear I hear about people who've found out what they they really love. And you're actually the first person who ever introduced me to the idea of drama as like a therapy or an outlet. And it makes a lot of sense because obviously, art therapy is quite a big thing. And I can see why drama therapy would be really useful. So in terms of that, is that how do you get into a career in that? So the career thing is really stressing me out at the moment, I'll be honest, like, I'm finding it quite overwhelming to not know what to do with my life after this. I think a lot of people approaching the end of their degree might feel similarly, because it's just like, I don't know, it just feels a bit purposeless. Like, I don't have a direction. I like I'm, I'm scared of not having anything to do with my life after I graduate. I'm looking at masters for drama therapy, and there's a few places. So like, there's University of Derby, and there's Roehampton in London. But they're all so expensive, especially for international students. It's just outrageous how much I have to pay. Yeah, no, it's so frustrating. I've got a few friends who are international students and the the difference in fees and things. I know several who were unable to do placements because they could only get unpaid placements, but obviously, they still have to pay to live here and pay some amount of uni fees and things. And it was really frustrating to see them kind of go through that and know that they would never be able to afford to do a placement since, since it would be unpaid and they're international. I think it's, it's definitely something that really kind of makes my heart go out to them, because they're so smart, and they could do so amazingly. But it's just, I think there's a lot of challenges that I've seen from an outsider's perspective to being an international student. And I think the amount of courage it takes for you guys to come to a whole another country and make a home for yourselves here and fight against often really high odds. I think that says a lot about you as kind of a person and how strong you are as a character and how determined you are. That's wonderful to hear. Speaking of speaking of international students and having a hard time moving. Obviously, we've been here for a while now. Is there any like tips or anything you could recommend for people? Not even just international students, anybody who's who is, let's say first year, and it's struggling to find the people find the fee, just just struggling to like make love for their home. I think my main advice would be to stop thinking about the shut. Because I think there's a lot of a lot of that going around of like, oh, I should have met my best friend for life by now, I, I should have found like a really good group of people, I should know what I'm doing with my career by now, maybe a little bit later on. And there's a lot of pressure to be living how, how you want to live or how other people expect you to live. And actually, there's no, there's no wrong way to be a uni student, there's no wrong rate of progression. It's like you said, you didn't make close friends until a bit later on in your degree. And that if you were, if you're beating yourself up about, like, I should have friends and things, that's only going to make the situation worse, we all move at our own pace. And that's okay. And university is about learning and about growing, not just in your degree, but as a person. And I think people need to remember that it is about the learning and the growing, not about the reaching milestones of what you should have done by now, what other people are doing by now, because we're all, we're all going at our own pace. And we're all doing the very best we can. Yeah, I can't agree more. I think comparison is just such a, I think everybody does it at some point. And it's so easy not to compare yourself. But you're absolutely right. I think it would help if people were just like kinder to themselves and were patient with themselves. It would just take the pressure off themselves that they're unintentionally putting on themselves. Yeah, exactly. Because I think one of the things I've learned is I've got a little bit older, especially as someone who is a little bit older than the average student nowadays, even though I started at 19. I think we're all doing things at our own pace. If you look at mature students, for example, obviously, they're here a lot older than the rest of us. And it's not because they should have done it earlier. It's not because they're delayed or not good enough. It's because they've done other things with their life. And they've taken time to work out what they really want. And they've come into an environment that isn't always welcoming to them. And it's not that they should have done their degree earlier. It's that they're doing things at their own pace, or they've come back to uni. And that's amazing. Yeah, I had a really hard time with that last year, because I was looking into pushing my a couple of my modules for this year. So extending my degree. So I was supposed to graduate last year, but I didn't. And I had such a hard time, like accepting that I needed more time. And that that's okay. Like, it's okay to want to do something for longer and not finish with everybody else's. So I had the same thing. Because obviously, I, as I said earlier, I went part time with my degree, because I have a condition called hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. And it was kicking my butt. So I couldn't, I couldn't manage a full time degree. But that felt really bad, because all of my friends were graduating, especially the ones who'd done bachelor's degrees and had already left. And I didn't want to kind of be left behind. And it definitely hurt me. Or even though I was proud of my friends, incredibly proud, it still hurt me to see them all graduating and knowing that it wasn't going to be me for another year. But all of my friends have been amazing and supportive. No one's ever made me feel less than for taking a bit longer to do my degree. And I think that's the sign of good friends is that they build you up rather than tear you down, even when the opportunities are there. Yeah, yeah. I wish everybody had friends like that. It would just be such a nicer place. It would be. I think we're all learning and growing, though, aren't we? We're all, I think we're all learning how to be better friends all the time. That's, I think, part of young adulthood, isn't it, is learning who you are as a person and how to interact with people, how to communicate and what kind of friendships and relationships you want in life. Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned a condition briefly for like a second ago. Do you mind telling people a bit about that, including myself, because I'm not, I don't know much about it. Yeah, of course. So I have hypermobile Alzheimer's syndrome, like I said. So it's actually a genetic condition. It's, I believe, a rare condition affecting about one in 5000 people, I want to say. Feel free to look that up rather than quoting me. But basically, it means that my body can't produce effective and healthy collagen connective tissue. So all of the connective tissue in my body is kind of a bit too stretchy. And obviously, connective tissue is absolutely everywhere. It's the glue that holds our body together. And so the hypermobile type specifically, I think there are 13 types of Alzheimer's syndrome. But hypermobile specifically affects your joints quite badly. So I'm very prone to hurting my joints to subluxing them and dislocating them into getting a lot of pain in them. But it is a multi system disease. So it affects basically every single system in my body. It is difficult to live with, especially because it's genetic. So obviously, it brings things into question for my future, such as whether I can have or should have kids and things like that. But I think whilst it's difficult, I've learned a lot and developed a lot of empathy from having Alzheimer's syndrome. And whilst I wouldn't call it a positive influence on my life by any stretch, because it is ultimately disabling. I think I always try and use the negative experiences to grow as a person to develop empathy to develop, like interpersonal skills to develop, kind of my ability to cope and my resilience. And so that's what I try and do with it. Yeah, that sounds that sounds really difficult. But thank you for educating me about it. Could you tell me how like it affects your daily life a little bit more? Of course. So it affects my daily life in kind of a variety of ways. And every person with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome will be affected a little bit differently. So my experiences won't be the same as someone else. Someone else you might meet with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. So for me, I get an awful lot of pain in my joints. And so I often have to wear supports and things on them. So especially if you see me wearing flowy trousers, that's often because I've got supports on underneath. I don't want people staring at which I think is mainly down to internalize ableism that I am working on because I should never be ashamed of my disability. So I am working on being more proud of who I am in my body. I'm also very prone to dizziness. And so my body really struggles to regulate my blood pressure and my heart rate. So when you stand up, your blood vessels usually constrict and make sure that the blood still getting to your head. Mine do not do that very well. So I spend a lot of time quite dizzy. And one of the main symptoms of hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is fatigue. And I think a lot of people consider it to be one of the most disabling symptoms. And I definitely do because I think being fatigued all the time is quite stressful, especially when it's a very kind of invisible symptom. So I will look fine on the outside, but I might be absolutely exhausted. I need a lot more sleep and a lot more rest than other people. So I have less time to do the things I really enjoy. So I've had to kind of figure out how to adapt activities to what I can do. So for example, I used to hike and rock climb. I'm looking at the minute at ways where I can get back to hiking, even if it's just kind of going to a place of beauty and sitting and having a picnic without actually doing the hiking. I think it's really important to retain parts of who you are as an individual and to retain your personality and your sense of self, even when you're disabled, especially if you're coming to terms with a new diagnosis, because you're still you, even if you're disabled. And even if you have to adapt certain activities or change certain activities, then you still need to remember who you are and what makes you amazing and to continue doing the things that make you happy. So I've been learning how to do that, which is really, really fulfilling. Wow. Thank you. That's really inspiring to hear. And can I just say that you are amazing and I'm so, so proud of you and so grateful to have you as a friend. Thank you. If you're ever looking for a company for that picnic you just mentioned, can you please reach out to me? Oh, 100%. I like going to Peak and Hill. Obviously it's not as kind of nice as the Peak District and things like that, but I love sitting on top and just watching the world go by and the towns below and things. I'm quite into aircraft as well, so I'll often sit there plane spotting. But yeah, I will definitely hit you up next time I'm going. Wow. I'm super excited. I've never been to Peak and Hill. It's really pretty. It's a little bit higher. I think it's one of the highest points in Leicestershire. So it's a little bit higher than Loughborough. And that small height difference in such a flat area means that you can see for miles. It's absolutely wonderful. It's so pretty. Oh, that sounds amazing. I'm excited. Before we bring this podcast episode to a close, is there anything you'd like to say to our listeners? I think I'd just like to say thank you so much for kind of listening to me talk, especially when I've been talking about disability and my experiences as a student, a slightly older student who's taken time. And I hope that you can all afford yourself some grace today and some forgiveness and work on just doing the best that you can, whatever that may be. That sounds wonderful. Thank you, Aoife. Thank you so much for coming and being a part of the show. Thank you so much for having me. It's been an honour to be on your podcast. I'm very grateful. Thank you for tuning in and spending your valuable time listening to us. Please look after yourself and I hope to catch you in the next episode.

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