The mental health crisis is steadily becoming more and more of a problem. Everyone I see around me has some sort of mental illness…anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, BPD, OCD, and ADHD are just a few prevalent in my peers.
Personally, I have struggled with my mental health all my life, I have seen therapists and been put on medications for my anxiety and depression, but nothing seemed to work. This is something about myself that has been kept private for the majority of my life, but with its increasing normalcy, I’m not afraid to make this information public. I think being able to talk about it can be extremely beneficial to anyone experiencing mental health issues, but we can’t talk about it until people are open about it. I hope that sharing a part of my story and bringing awareness to what helped me can help others to be open about their experiences as well.
ESA Gracie’s Story
A few months ago, I went to visit my boyfriend at his house. I was greeted by him telling me that he had a surprise. I was led to a room, and as soon as I opened the door, four tiny kittens awaited me. Three black ones, and one gray one. They had rescued these kittens after finding them on a family member’s porch with no parents in sight. I spent hours bonding with them all. They were eventually named Grizzwald, Rocco, Goop, and Gracie.
Then the bomb dropped that they unfortunately couldn’t keep all of them, and would need to find them new homes. I was gutted but understood why. I had developed a very close bond with the little gray kitten, Gracie. She would follow me around the house, lay with me, let me hold her, and so much more. I knew she was my soulmate in kitten form. However, my family was not on board. After thinking over every possible way to keep this kitten, I decided I wanted to make her my emotional support animal (or ESA) and bring her to college with me. Not only could I keep her, but it would benefit my mental health as well. Despite the apprehension of family, I started my ESA journey.
Becoming an ESA
The first step to getting an emotional support animal is to check your school’s ESA guidelines. For Oswego, I had to provide a doctor’s note to Accessibility Resources stating my need for the ESA, fill out an information sheet about the animal (including vaccine records and a veterinary note stating your animal is in good health), and once this paperwork was approved by Accessibility Resources, then that information must be sent to Residence Life and Housing for additional approval. Once everything is approved, your animal is allowed to live on campus. This process took much longer for me, as Gracie needed her vaccinations up-to-date before she received approval.
Preparing to Come Home
Once she was approved, I got to announce to my boyfriend’s family that I could officially take Gracie off their hands, and got to surprise my parents with the news. I went on a shopping spree on Amazon and Chewy worth way more than I wish to share…let’s just say if you want an ESA, be prepared for lots of expenses. Once I had all of the items, I packed my car, brought Gracie up to Oswego, and moved her into my dorm room.
How It’s Going
All of this happened roughly two months ago now…Gracie has settled in and loves her setup. She uses her cat tower, toys, tunnels, and her own tail every day. She is one of the sweetest, yet most playful kittens I know. She’s even laying on my lap purring as I write this article.
This year, I have dealt with a myriad of issues that have contributed to my declining mental health, however, following Gracie’s arrival, she has truly saved me a countless number of times. I can’t and don’t even want to imagine where I might have been right now without her. Playing and cuddling with her and being forced into a feeding/cleaning routine for her has exponentially helped both my anxiety and depression. I am unbelievably grateful that she stumbled into my life and to everyone who helped to make this happen. I HIGHLY recommend an emotional support animal to anyone who feels their mental health is not in a good place.
Mental Health Resources
If you are reading this and fear you are not doing well mentally, I highly recommend using these additional resources:
In an Emergency:
- Suicide and Crisis Hotline: 988
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
- National Crisis Text Line: Text Hello to 741741
Just need a pick-me-up:
- Download the app Calm for meditation practices, calming sounds, ambient music, and sleep stories.
- Download the app Finch for self-care with cute virtual pets
At SUNY Oswego:
- Counseling Services Center: 315-312-4416
- Push 2 and a crisis counselor will speak with you immediately
- Or check out oswego.edu/csc for more information
- CrisisTextLine: text GOT5U to 741741.
- Oz Concern Navigator: oswego.concerncenter.com