Life With an Emotional Support Animal

Hello everyone! I’m back again! Due to popular request I’ll be doing a little blog on my life with my emotional support animal, my bunny, Timothy!

I’ll start with some general background first. I first heard of emotional support animals when I was in my first year of university. I met a girl who had an emotional support bunny named Floyd (who you can find on instagram @floydthebunbun!!), who was prescribed to her by her mental health provider. The idea intrigued me, as someone who also struggled with mental health issues. At the time, it was something I thought about, but did not know if I could handle the responsibility, so swarmed by the transition from high school to university.

Flash forward to second year. As you might have read in my previous blog post, I was struggling more and more with my anxiety and depression, to the point where I cried all alone because I felt so isolated and lonely. It was then that the idea of emotional support animals came back into my mind. I met Floyd’s mother again, when I joined Active Minds Western, and it brought back my interest in having a support animal because it meant I would never have to truly be alone. I’ve never really been a cat or dog person, so I talked to Floyd’s mom about what it was like taking care of a bunny. And I loved bunnies. I always have. They’re cute and sweet, and such caring creatures. When I decided that was what I wanted, I did lots of research on rabbits.

Let me tell you, there are a lot of misconceptions about rabbits. First off, they’re prey animals, which means they don’t act like cats and dogs at all really (since they are predator animals). They don’t really understand the concept of fetch or really like to chase anything, because it’s not in their instincts (they are the chased, rather than the chaser). They also do not like being picked up (they are never picked up by their mother, and instinctually to them, being picked up feels like a predator has captured them and they are about to die). But what rabbits do like is social interaction. They hate being alone, and once they’ve grown to love and trust you, they will be your friend and loving companion until the end of time.

Flash forward to November 25th, when I picked up my bunny Timothy. Timothy comes from a litter of surprise bunnies from a lady in Mississauga. He was the runt of 6 bunnies, and when I came to pick him up, he was the very last one. Though he was the runt, he was still quite a bit bigger than you might be expecting him to be. He probably weighed about 4 pounds, but was about the size of a small cat (in fact, he was bigger than my roommates newborn kitten who was about the same age as him!). He was born August 17th, and at the time I met him, was about 3 months old.

I fell in love with him at first sight. He was sitting all alone in a cage on the floor, because he did not like other bunnies. He actually had a scab on his forehead, because he provoked another fight with a bunny and lost. So his owner had to separate him from the rest of the bunnies, and he spent most days alone in his cage, with a couple hours a day to stretch his legs. When I first met him, I tried to hold him (which he definitely did not like) but it didn’t turn out very well, because he had no idea who I was.

So I packed him up into the car and drove him home with me, all the while cooing at him that I was his new mommy and I was bringing him to his new home. When we got home, I knew he was scared. He was in an entirely different environment, with new smells and totally new people. He stayed quietly in his cage mostly, and would not for the life of him, let me near him to touch him. I grew very nervous that I had made the wrong choice, and that this bunny would never grow close to me.

Not only that, but he was only 3 months old, so his litter habits were not exactly the best they could be. For the first little while, I had to watch him like a hawk when I let him out of his cage, because he would literally pee anywhere. But I slowly litter trained him and after about a month, he was pretty consistent.

Timothy and I had an interesting first couple of weeks. This was my very first pet (save for some fish that I had growing up) and I was unsure how to proceed. But slowly but surely, we settled into a routine together. For the first couple weeks, I would just sit on the floor with him, and let him explore on his own. For the first little while, he wouldn’t even approach me. As time wore on, he eventually decided to explore the interesting human that always sat with him. He prodded me with his little snout, and eventually let me pet his head. After a couple of weeks, he began to lick me, which is a bunny’s way of giving kisses! Needless to say, I was absolutely in love with him.

Now, bunnies don’t say very much (they actually don’t make any vocal sounds), but they say a lot with their body language. There are very many different ways that they sit (or even how their face looks) that can tell you if they are happy or not. Slowly I began to understand what Timothy’s different body languages meant, and we grew very close to each other.

I started to bring him to school once I felt he was comfortable enough to go out with me. As an emotional support animal, he was allowed to come with me to class. I had to run it through all of my professors, and get their permission as well as go to the Services for Students with Disabilities in the Student Development Centre to get the all clear to bring Timothy to class with me. Having him in class is great. He’s very patient and calm when he’s in his carrier, and doesn’t make much of a fuss. I am very grateful for that. I often bring him to the Faculty of Music Students’ Council office hour table where people would stop by and pet him and say hello. And Timothy just eats it up. He loves attention and adores being pet. He’s a very social bunny (though he loves people, and is super indifferent about other rabbits lol).

In terms of what it’s like to have an emotional support animal, I have to admit it’s an experience unlike anything else. Often, it feels like Timothy is just a pet, especially when we are at home. I feed him every morning, clean his litter box, make him toys out of cardboard boxes and toilet paper tubes, groom him… But there are moments that remind me he’s much more than just a pet.

My generalized anxiety disorder manifests itself in the sense that I get completely lost in my mind. When the anxiety starts stirring, my mind kicks into fight or flight mode to the point where I completely shut down. I often get stuck in a very negative spiral of thoughts, and start to disappear from the present moment. It is moments like this that Timothy brings me back. Usually when I get like this, I’m either motionless or crying hysterically on the floor, call it animal intuition but Timothy knows when something is wrong with me. He usually comes to inspect me, first prodding me with his nose, and from then he usually knows I’m not okay. He’ll just sit with me, and let me pet him, while I either just say all the thoughts that are stuck swirling in my head or I just cry and cry. He’ll just stay with me, give me little kisses, and generally just wait for me to come back to a functioning state of mind. I haven’t trained him to do this, he’s just learned to understand how I am, and helps in just supporting me so I’m not alone. That in itself is everything to me, when I’m in those moments. When I’m not alone, I’m less likely to sink farther into my negative thoughts. I’ve noticed a decrease in suicidal ideation and self-deprecating thoughts because I have Timothy to remind me that I am not alone, and he loves me unconditionally. When he’s with me, I can never forget that I don’t matter.

The idea of an emotional support animal seems a little silly at first. I know when I first heard about it, I was a little bit sceptical. But now, I truly understand the benefit of having an ESA. To others he may seem like he’s just a pet who has special privileges to accompany me in class, or in my exams, or whatever. But to me, he is my partner in crime, who reminds me that I am important and I am loved (whether that’s because I feed him treats or because he actually loves me doesn’t matter ;P). He helps keep me centred and out of my cloudy head, and allows me to enjoy life and be more like myself.

That’s what emotional support animals are all about.

– Carole

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To All the Women Who Have Made an Impact on My Life.

I would not be here if it were not for all the women that have led me to where I am in my life. Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women and all the wonderful things they do for our society, for all the hardships they endure, and all the blessings they have given us.

This is my opportunity to say thank you.

Thank you to my mother, who has raised me since the day I was born. She is the strongest woman I have ever met. Thank you raising me to kind, respectful, loving, and intelligent. I got all of these wonderful traits from you. Thank you for inspiring my life with your own, with your passion for helping others, being selfless, and being someone I could always look up to. Thank you for teaching me everything that I know, and teaching me to love and care for others. I hope one day I can be a mother as wonderful as you, and that my daughters will see me as beautifully as I see you.

Thank you to my sister, who I have taken care of my whole life. You have also taken care of me. Thank you for teaching me to be gentle. Thank you for teaching me to be a leader. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be a role model, and how my life can inspire others. Thank you for loving me despite all the mistakes I’ve made toward you, for all the times that I asserted power over you in ways that weren’t fair. Thank you for being my best friend, for always listening and for always understanding me, no matter where I’m coming from. Thank you for being you.

Thank you to my teachers, who have guided me on the path I’m on today. Thank you to Kendra Chow, who changed my life. Thank you for reigniting my passion for music and my passion for teaching and reaching out for others. Thank you for always believing in me, even when I couldn’t believe in myself. Thank you for always supporting me, and caring about me far more than you were required to, but did because you genuinely care for all your students. Thank you for being a role model and for inspiring me to create change in my own special way. Thank you for everything you’ve done to inspire my life, and all the lives that come after mine.

Thank you to my Titas, whether related or not, for always looking out for me and keeping me out of harm’s way. Thank you for always keeping me safe and providing me with everything that I need. Thank you for always feeding me when I come to visit, or giving me hand-me-down clothing. Thank you for taking care of me throughout my entire life, and for being selfless and kind in every respect. Thank you for welcoming me into your homes, and for always showing such genuine hospitality. Thank you for blessing me with what it means to have a family, whether through blood or not.

Thank you to my friends, who have always lifted me up. Thank you for spending countless hours with me, and making me smile every single day. Thank you for being with me when I am at my lowest of lows, and staying even though you don’t have to. Thank you for showing me what true friendship is, and what it means for women to support women. Thank you for being true confidants, and making me feel like I belong somewhere. Thank you for constantly reminding me of my value and my beauty. Thank you for supporting me the way I always want to support you.

Thank you to every woman who has touched my life, because I am so blessed to have met you. Whether our interaction was big or small, it helped shape who I am. The inspiring women who have led me and supported me all my life are the ones who have led me to my success.

Thank you because I can never thank you all enough.

Carole Lynn,

 

My Thoughts on the Logan Paul “Suicide Video”

Possible TW for mentions of suicide.

Hello there, back again! I write this in February, reflecting back on my January, and how I blinked and suddenly the whole month was gone. One thing that I do remember though, that did buzz through social media was the Logan Paul “Suicide” vlog at the beginning on January.

I first heard about it through Twitter, predominantly criticisms of a vlog that Logan Paul had posted on his Youtube. I’m not much of a Youtube person myself, but the word “suicide” really caught my attention. As a self-proclaimed mental health advocate I try to educate myself on what’s happening in the world in regards to mental health and wellness, and it deeply concerned me that there was a problematic video dealing with a sensitive topic such as suicide; especially coming from Logan Paul who has millions of subscribers, most of which are children and young teens.

I stayed mostly quiet through the whole fiasco, because I wanted to process what was happening. After all, I was watching this whole thing fall apart in real time. It started with the video being pulled from Youtube. Then Logan Paul posted a screenshot of a note who wrote in apology (which was critically received), and then posted an apology video (also critically received), and finally another Youtube video kind of trying to address the issue.

I debated back and forth if I should watch the original video after seeing so much backlash online. I wanted to address the issue, as I thought it was important to, but I didn’t want to dive in blind. Now, I’d heard from lots of people that it was potentially triggering content, and wondered if this could go poorly for me. Ultimately, I slowly watched the video, taking time to process what was happening. Personally, it was no more than uncomfortable for me, but I could certainly see it being potentially harmful towards others.

I will quickly summarize the video and provide some of my insights on it.

  • I don’t understand why someone would think it’s a “fun” idea to go to a forest in Japan known for many suicides. It doesn’t seem like Logan cares very much of the gravity of the situation. He claims he went in there for the “spooky fun” of it, and doesn’t consider suicide to be a joke, but in reality, making light of suicide by cracking jokes about the “vengeful ghosts” living in the forest, who are the souls of those have died by suicide is very much insensitive and not funny at all.
  • His humour is not appreciated by me. He still uses the outdated phrase of “committing suicide” rather than “dying by suicide”. The amount of “dead” jokes in this video made me rather uncomfortable, especially in the context it was in.
  • Just in general the click-bait of this whole thing makes me really angry. Suicide is not a big dramatic thing to point to for views. These are real people who had real lives who do not need their deaths manipulated for other people’s gain. This video just reeks of insensitivity.
  • Why on Earth, if you found a dead body in the forest (of a man who just died by suicide no less), would you film it and post it on Youtube? I’ve tried to wrap my head around this. What is the intentionality for this? Is there any time it would be appropriate to do this? I have yet to figure this out. To me, actually showing a dead body on Youtube (even when blurring the face of the man out) is simply used for shock value. Shock creates buzz. Buzz creates views. Logan has (whether intentionally or unintentionally) used this man’s suicide as a means for his own person gain. As someone who feels strongly about those who deal with suicidal ideation and those who die by suicide, I cannot in any way fathom why someone would do this, and it does not sit right with me at all.
  • In essence, Logan said it was all supposed to be a joke and for fun, but it became a serious matter. What I just can’t accept is that when it was clear that this was no longer all “fun and games” (though, I don’t think it was at all fun and games to begin with), it didn’t stop. He just kept filming the body for what felt like ages, that it almost made me feel sick. I understand that lots of people deal with shock in different ways, but his humour was inappropriate, and even if that’s his coping mechanism, he shouldn’t have posted it at all, because it takes away the gravity of the situation. There’s nothing funny about finding someone who has died by suicide. Asking them if they are still alive is not funny.

It’s safe for me to say that I’m disappointed by this display of mental health and suicide, regardless of if it was intentional or not. Considering this was one of the first videos posted this year, it deeply worries me that activism in the mental health field is falling desperately behind. Logan Paul’s main audience is impressionable youth; children and teenagers. They are our future. We cannot stand by and allow them to engage with this kind of content, that paints such a terrible picture of such a serious issue.

On Bell Let’s Talk day this year, my spirits were lifted, watching the country come together to talk about mental health. The conversation never stops, and it’s why I’m writing about a video that was published on Youtube (and since removed) 2 months ago.

What are your thoughts on this video?

– Carole