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I have had anxiety my whole life, and animals have always helped me feel better. College is not easy for anyone, and anxiety just makes it that much worse. During my first week here, I learned that having an ESA (Emotional Support Animal) was a possibility, and from there I knew that that would be something I would need to acquire. I have now had my ESA for four days and life is already so much better. 

This is Willow (named after Willow Rosenborg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). She is 7 months old and the cuddliest cat I have ever had the honor of knowing. The should of her purr and her fluffy warmth help so much at night when my anxiety is at its worse. She makes me feel loved and she makes me laugh. She also gives me someone to look after, meaning that I don’t feel so helpless. 

I think that an ESA is something any animal lover with a mental illness should look into. As I am typing this, I am waiting to go to the airport to fly by myself for the first time, and even flying with my parents is terrifying for me. But having this little one sitting in my lap and purring makes me feel just calm enough that I am not shaking and on the verge, she came up to me and started stroking my face with her paw and then lay down on my chest to purr and lick up my tears. 

General ways that an ESA can help (in my experience):

  1. Having someone to snuggle. Having that physical affection helps to calm one down, lowering your blood pressure and slowing your breathing.

2.  Having someone to take care of. Willow helps me get out of bed in the morning because I have to take care of her, and if I am having anxiety, giving her her dinner, or cleaning her litter box takes my mind off of what is scaring me and helps me to not feel helpless.

4. Having someone to love and someone to love you. Especially being a freshman, I feel displaced, and it’s hard not having people who I know love me.  But with Willow, I have someone who cuddles me and is so happy whenever I get home. And I get to love her and have an emotional connection with someone.

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