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Emotional Support Animals: My Experience

Last week I started the discussion of Emotional Support Animals. I discussed some basic facts and how to go about getting an emotional support animal on my blog. This week I want to share a more in depth of my experience.

The Decision:

April of 2017 I noticed that I had gained a lot of weight, likely from he anti-anxiety and anti-depressants my doctor had put me on. I knew going in that this was a very real and possible side effect, but I was sick of living afraid and wanted to go about my life uninterrupted by anxiety. In reality, my anxiety had decreased slightly, but it was still present in my life most days and the side effects weren't really worth the few days of peace I was getting. I went to my doctor and expressed my grievances.

I'd heard more and more about something called Emotional Support Animals, but didn't know too much about it. So I did some of my own research and quickly realized this was something I needed to try. I was in the middle of what I consider my 'desperate phase'. This was a period of time around 2017 that lasted a little over a year, wherein I was so over and done with being anxious all the time, I was willing to try ANYTHING!

So, I adopted Cooper (see photo of adorable orange-tan tabby). My doctor agreed that this could work and wrote me my ESA Housing Letter. Basically, it's a letter that says I need Cooper for management of mental health issues. Quickly after getting Cooper, I decided to adopt Libby as well, because Cooper needed a buddy, right? Turns out, I needed Libby way more than Cooper did...

Month One:

Cooper himself has some issues with anxiety and if I am being fully transparent I sometimes spend more time being worried about him than being comforted by him. That said, I have no doubt that the two of them together have genuinely helped me through some of the most difficult moments of my last two year.

The first month got rough. Libby and Cooper didn't always get along and I spent a lot of time and energy working on getting them to be civil with each other. But after about 2-3 weeks they magically started loving each other almost as much as I love them. Once I had them in a good place and once they were well settled into their new lives I was really able to start working on me and what I needed.

Getting Off Medication:

I never wanted to stay on medication for the rest of my life, so a few months into adopting my fur babies I started weaning myself off the anti-anxiety and anti-depressants. Mood swings were a very real thing during this time in my life, but I feel like I was able to get through it all fairly well, considering the circumstances.

This is a good time to note that getting off of medications like these is always going to be a process. I would never recommend going off anything in this family of medications cold-turkey. Take your time with it. I do know someone personally that tried to get themselves off in a day and ended up hospitalized. There is NOTHING wrong with taking your time, especially when your health is involved. I was on medication for about 6-7 months when I started weaning and it still took me about 3-4 full weeks to wean off the medication.

Where I am Now:

I was fully weaned off the medication by the end of August 2017, so almost two years ago. I still have bad days, but generally speaking, I am in the best place I have ever been in with my anxiety and depression. I attribute a lot of that to my ESA's. When I go away for a few days I start to notice the anxiety creeping back, and it quickly goes away once I return home. My cats bring me so much happiness and joy, I don't want to think about where I'd be without them.

ESA's won't work for everyone, but they've worked very well for me. I get frustrated and emotional when I see things online bashing people for getting ESA's. People say we don't need them. I am here to say, without a doubt, my ESA's have been far better for my anxiety than medication ever was. Not everyone gets ESA's for the right reasons, and not everyone will see the same benefits I have, I can only speak for myself and this is my experience with having emotional support animals.