Why I Adopted Rabbits – Facing Gain in Loss

Why adopting rabbits is the best choice I could’ve made.

I think I was 4 years old when I first started begging my parents for a dog. I was relentless, in the way children are when they suddenly decide they need a MASSIVE and expensive lifestyle change and nothing else will satisfy them. To be honest, I don’t even think I fully understand what having a dog would entail.

Eventually, they gave in, and we made a long journey to a farm in Pennsylvania. My mother, having looked into hypoallergenic breeds for quite some time, decided to select a Bedlington Terrier.

We brought our puppy home after she fell asleep in her arms. We had her for longer than most, but it wasn’t enough time.

Allergies were a huge issue. I’m deathly allergic to cats, despite loving them. I’ve been hospitalized a few times thanks to sleeping over in rooms that had them. My dog allergies are slightly less severe– as long as I stay away from dander, and wash my skin obsessively, I’m usually okay for a few hours at a time.

Paisley was “hypoallergenic”. There’s no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic pet, but you can get pretty close. Bedlington Terriers have a specific curly fur pattern that locks in dander and prevents it from becoming airborne easily. As long as she didn’t go on the furniture (we only allowed her on one chair), and I washed my hands after touching her, everything was kosher.

Weirdly enough, I’m also incredibly allergic to chickens. Like, I can’t be in the same house as a chicken. I found this out by attending a get together at an acquaintances house and realized my breathing went to shit abnormally quickly. I sat on the doorstep in -30 weather, wheezing and checking the prices for an Uber to the nearest hospital. I was totally baffled– he only had two dogs and a cat, and they were being kept in a completely different part of the house. That’s when he revealed that he also had chickens in his garage (because why the fuck not? Chickens are surprisingly loving pets). Mystery solved, and another mystery found.

Maybe I’ll write one day about losing Paisley and more about her life. I think she deserves an entire section for herself.

Not having a dog in my life was a huge adjustment for me. Even today, as I have two wonderful bunnies that I wouldn’t change anything for, I miss having a dog in my life so much. I force Sean to take creeper shots of dogs he sees around Montreal. I still freak out every time I see a dog IRL to the point of sometimes borderline crying in joy. I tear up from puppy gifs and smelling Greenies at the grocery store. I know this reads in fairly insane fashion– but they’re just perfect beings, okay? We don’t deserve them.


I have quite a few friends in the homeless community in Montreal. That might sound strange to some people, especially if you live in an area where people can’t afford treatment and your first concern with strangers is your own safety. But, (assuming you remain safe), you truly meet the most incredible people if you keep an open mind. There was this one guy who my mom spoke to quite a bit while running errands, living on a fairly popular street nearby. He had three dogs. This isn’t uncommon– most backpackers and visible homeless have dogs. They’re wonderful companions, don’t mind the cold, sleep with you and protect your stuff. They don’t care about who you are or how much money you have. Dogs just want to love you, regardless of circumstance.
One day, I passed by him on my way home, and decided to grab some of Paisley’s stuff to bring back to him. I hung around for a few minutes before striking up conversation and offering my things. He had a dog with him that we hadn’t seen before.
Case in point– this guy spent all of his money rescuing dogs. He cared far more about those dogs than I’ve seen anyone care for themselves. He has an ongoing agreement with the local SPCA for vet care & food in exchange for fostering dogs in need. Some punk kids (we have a great underground music scene and LOTS of punk folks in MTL), were hanging around previously and speaking with him. Turns out, they were adopting a bully breed he was fostering, who was with him now. Super nice people. They had been supporting him and his work for a very long time.

Oh my god. That pitbull was the sweetest little girl ever. We started talking about loss, and what happened with Paisley. He invited me to pet the pup– didn’t need to invite me twice, thanks– and she immediately jumped in my lap, covering my face in kisses. (Yes, my face swelled up. TOTALLY WORTH IT.) She was such a sweetheart. Turns out she was being kept in another city nearby in a cold, abandoned building, trapped in there, surrounded by rotting garbage, left behind by some methheads who apparently forgot about her. He had to break in through the apartment door to get her out. She was emaciated from being starved for god knows how long. Even as I looked at her weeks later, she was still incredibly skinny. What little strength she had shone as her tail whacked the curb repeatedly every time she spotted people.

Turns out, he had lost quite a few dogs over the past decades. It was nice to be able to vent to someone who felt the same amount of pain from losing their best friends. He gave me some really good advice, actually. I’d like to impart upon you what he told me.

First part– dogs can tell if you don’t want them, and it’s not fair to them if you subconsciously punish or resent them for not being like your previous. If you’re going to adopt another dog, make sure you’re genuinely okay with it and not just adopting one to distract yourself from grief. Don’t fill the void until you’ve processed everything that you’re going through. You can’t replace your best friend. You can learn to love more, though. That’s the beautiful thing about being human. The amount of love you have to give is infinite.

When you bring more into your life, the love you have to give isn’t halved. It’s doubled.

Sometimes after loss, it doesn’t feel that way. Or gain, for that matter! Some parents wonder if they’ll love their second child as much as the first. When you lose your significant other, you wonder if you can love someone else. You might not even want to. But eventually you’ll prove to yourself that every being that has touched your life can have a place in your heart.

That being said, it’s okay to process the difficult times with another creature to love. Look at rescuing, for example. You aren’t just saving a dog, and your dog isn’t just helping you through a really hard time. You’re saving each other. And I feel like that’s what happened with my bunnies.


A little while after we lost Paisley, I decided to go to the SPCA to interact with some pups. When I got there, something weird happened. I didn’t immediately go through the door to the dog section. Something drew me to the small animal section. It’s one of those moments where you can’t really tell what’s causing it, but your subconscious pushes you to do something unexpected.

Well, there was a chicken in there. Someone decided to throw a live chicken out of a car window onto the highway, and the SPCA rescued him. (Seriously, WTF?) So I didn’t stay in there for too long.

But I did start talking to one of the volunteers running the small animal section about bunnies. She offered to bring one to me in a “visiting room”, a separate room where you can interact with an animal you’re interested in.

I went to the visitor’s room and waited for a few minutes. She came in the room, holding this beautiful little Dutch bunny. “Her name is Carrie,” she told me. “She’s one of the most outgoing bunnies we have.”

Much to my surprise (this is incredibly unusual for a bunny), the second she put her down, Carrie came running up to me and nudged me a few times. Then she climbed in my lap and periscoped (standing on her hind legs), looking into my face, her whiskers tickling my cheeks. I laughed. She was so friendly and cuddly, honking as I petted her.

About 10 minutes later, it dawned on me that I wasn’t having an allergic reaction. I wasn’t allergic to bunnies! This is the first mammal I’ve encountered that I wasn’t severely allergic to! I started to cry. I’m not religious by any means, but it felt like a sign.

The girl brought in another bun– a giant, 10 pound black bunny named Harrie. She had been abused, and thus was very offstandish. Harrie came into the room and was very cautious for a good 10 minutes or so. I waited patiently. Still overwhelmed, I actually started crying in happiness again at this point. When that happened, Harrie came over and hopped into my lap. She didn’t like getting petted, but just sat there. That actually made the crying worse, haha.

I was determined to adopt her. Since I share a home with my parents, and it wouldn’t exactly be polite to suddenly bring home rabbits without warning, I brought them to the SPCA to meet her.

Unfortunately, about a week later, Harrie was gone. And so were all of the rabbits at the SPCA. They were “relocated”, apparently, either to different shelters or transported across the border to the USA. The volunteers weren’t sure where. I tried looking for her for months. Checking Petfinder constantly, Craigslist FB pages of rescues, asking rescues, looking everywhere I possibly could. I expanded my search past Quebec, Ontario, Vermont and NY, all the way to Philadelphia. I never found her. I don’t even know if she ever made it to a shelter. Bunnies are incredibly fragile, and car rides stress them out a lot. It’s possible she passed away during the trip. I can only hope she was somehow immediately adopted.


A few months after committing to adopting bunnies, I was essentially browsing r/rabbits full time. One day, I decided to just search for “Montreal”. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting. Most of the results were from over a year before. But I’m glad I did, because one result had been posted a few days before. It was a small post from someone in Montreal, stating that they really didn’t want to, but had to rehome their bunnies. They were looking for resources and advice on rehoming.

I immediately replied and sent them a PM.
One of the owners had developed a severe bunny allergy and it was no longer feasible for them to have rabbits in their home. Although they loved their bunnies very much, they didn’t really have a choice at that point. They had tried Allerpet, switching hay, keeping them on another floor, medications, treatments… anything you can think of, they tried. I knew that feeling. When I was a kid, we had a number of doctors advise us to get rid of Paisley. You do everything in your power to keep your beloved pets.

One of the videos they posted of the buns.

After PM’ing back and forth for a while, we decided to visit them to meet the bunnies. They were wonderful (both the buns and the family). Boonie came up to us a few times. Jackson was much more shy, but eventually he accepted some treats from me. I was in love.

A few weeks later, we brought them home.


Boonie

This is Boonie trying to do parkour. We told her to get down because bunny parkour usually ends like this:

Boonie is much more social and confident in personality. She’s a rock. She’ll go right up to you, even if she doesn’t know you. When people visit, she’ll come by and hang out, while Jackson sleeps (or hides) under furniture. If I had to guess, her lack of anxiety is probably due to her being handraised since she was a baby.

Boonie was rescued from a pet store. Someone decided to put her and her siblings in a basket and dropped them off in the doorway of a pet store. She was practically a newborn– maybe a week old? She didn’t even have her eyes open at that point. So all she’s ever known were humans. It’s a miracle she lived. Prey animals are so fragile as babies– keeping them alive without their mother is very difficult.

Boonie, uh... that's not a litterbox!
The whole world is her litterbox, apparently.

She’s sassy, she’s smart as hell, and she’s not shy to demand attention and food. If you ignore her, she’ll start dropping random items into her water dish to demand a water change & attention.

step 1 to getting attention: grab nearby items and dump them in your water. In this case, a hay carrot toy.

That, or she’s making tea.

Sitting on Jackson’s head, because why not? He’s accepted his fate.

Sometimes you’ll call her name, and she turns and stares at you for a few seconds. If you don’t have treats, she’ll just turn back around and leave. She’s a bit messy. Loves shredding paper and digging, so we fill cardboard boxes with shredded paper to give to her. She’s so confident that she generally doesn’t need nearly as much attention as Jackson does, but she does appreciate face massages when she’s relaxing. Unless he isn’t around– in which case, she becomes anxious and clingy. She needs lots of extra love when he’s sick at the vet.

Boonie has a soft spot, the type that makes you amazed that animals have such a strong sense of compassion. She has a knack for telling when I’m nauseated or in pain. While she’s not really the type to cuddle, she’ll come hang out and sit by me. It means the world to me.

She grinds her teeth together when you pet her. That’s the rabbit equivalent of purring.


Jackson

Admitting it now– I totally fuss over Jackson. He’s very shy, very anxious, and just the sweetest little boy. Unfortunately, he gets sick pretty frequently. He actually needed surgery about a year ago to remove part of his liver. My therapist suspects I see myself in him. I don’t really disagree.

If Boonie is my emotional support bunny, then I’m Jackson’s emotional support human. It goes full circle.

Hiding under my shirt at the vet’s office. Strongbad will protect him.

Jackson has a pretty sad story. He was an abuse case before the previous owners rescued him. He was very small and his fur hadn’t completely grown in yet. (After the previous owners rescued him, he gained weight to about 2 lb. Now he weighs 5 lb). Basically, whoever had him initially treated him like crap, and once they were bored with him they dumped out into the snow on one of the coldest nights of the year and left him to die. Fortunately, a passerby found him in the middle of the night before he froze to death. They named him Jackson.

Bunny in a hamper! ♥

We wonder a lot about what he went through. Not only is he super anxious and nervous around new people, sometimes he gets nightmares and shrieks in his sleep. (Yeah, I’m starting to see why my therapist thinks we’re similar.) I’ve never observed this happening with Boonie. He’s also a carrier for Pasturella– there’s a chance he picked it up while on the streets.

Jackson, during his recovery after his surgery.

He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. If he trusts you, he’ll give you endless kisses. Sometimes he’ll come over and start licking your feet to ask for attention. I was honored to earn his trust– we’ve had him for two years now, and his trust still increases day by day. While he’s incredibly sweet, he doesn’t hesitate to let you know if he’s upset or pissed off. I’ve seen him get angry at inanimate objects blocking his way. He either flips them in rage or foot flicks at them. (Foot flicking is the bunny equivalent of giving you the finger.) It’s too funny. I don’t know how something so cute and fluffy can have so much rage towards objects.

I think we have a good system going for when Jackson gets sick. Being prey animals, bunnies usually hide when they’re not feeling well, which makes it incredibly difficult to detect symptoms. When he isn’t feeling right, he tends to get clingy. When he had liver lobe torsion, he ran up to me in panic and sneezed on my hand. That’s when I knew something was wrong (and gross).


We have free range buns. Unless they’re fighting (which has only happened twice, after a vet visit) they have full access to just roam the house full time. They don’t have a cage or hutch. They’ll sleep just about anywhere: under my parents’ bed, on my bed, under the furniture in the hallway and by our chairs are their favorite spots.
For a little while after we first adopted them, they were initially living in my room. They’d stay in there during the night and then demand to be let out to the rest of the house every morning… usually around 5 AM.

Unfortunately for them, I’m not exactly a 5 AM kind of person.

Unfortunately for me, they eventually found out that I will definitely wake up if they decide to insert their feet into my mouth. It tastes like hay. 3/10, would not recommend.

Excuse me, I know it’s 6 AM but it has come to my attention that I’m a rabbit.
Please give me strawberries.

Eventually we just decided to let them spend the night in the rest of the house. Currently, we have such a terrible cable management system going on in my room that we keep the door closed until we’ve bunnyproofed everything. They have access to the rest of the house entirely.

It does seem a bit strange sometimes to have bunnies just casually walking around your house! It makes me really thankful that they’re litter trained. But they’re surprisingly sociable, will follow you around sometimes and ask for petting, very intelligent and have such strong personalities. They’re wonderful pets. Rabbits are kind of like a mix between cats and dogs.

I can say for sure that living around bunnies has improved my mental health terribly. From not being alone in the middle of the night when I’m sick, to having little beings to dote on and pet when I’m not feeling well– it’s all a benefit.

I recently started growing herbs in the garden for them. We’ve got lettuce, zucchini (mostly for me, they’re not a huge fan of them), dill, kale, parsley, cilantro, two types of flowers, lemongrass and spinach.
I’d love to grow mint and a dozen other herbs for them. In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait to move first.

Bunnies are difficult to care for. You have to be constantly alert to their needs. They need constant access to hay– they’re grazers and like to eat while they poop. (I don’t judge.) We give them lettuce & herb salads twice a day, fruit slices as snacks, seagrass mats, sticks to chew on (their teeth never stop growing– if they don’t gnaw on sticks to file them down, they’ll have to chew furniture before they grow inwards) and any number of toys & cardboard boxes to keep them occupied.

I think, in a way, keeping myself occupied is probably a good thing too.

I’d like to post later about some of the challenges that new bunny owners can expect, explain in depth what vet visits are like, a bit more about them personally, and some of the experiences we’ve had with them. I’d also like to post a bit more about my health journey.

I apologize for the lack of updates for quite some time. I have any number of posts partially written, waiting to be finished & published. Some, I’ve lost motivation for. Others are too painful to finish. Gotta get that backlog done though, eh?

With love and bunnies,

Excess

It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day.

Today I got prescribed Prozac.

Despite being fairly open regarding the issues I face, I haven’t spoken terribly often about my own mental health– while it’s less likely to kill me than everything else that’s happening, it’s still an incredibly important aspect of my health. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve stayed relatively silent. I guess I just wasn’t in a place to be able to properly articulate everything that’s going on without discussing aspects that I’m not prepared to talk about.

It’s not that I didn’t have opportunities. I considered writing posts for Bell’s Let’s Talk. I wrote and discarded numerous drafts when Twitch ran their mental health awareness campaign. I kept telling myself, hey, these words don’t feel right now, but maybe I’ll get something out by the end of the month. I even had support from other broadcasters and content creators, including a few I had reached out to on mental health Discords. But despite all of these chances I never really went through with it.

I think some part of me used to think that, hey, in the 21st century we have a new openness towards discussing our mental health. I told myself that there were more than enough “role models” out there (not sure if this the best way to describe this phenomena)– more than enough people who are open about the struggles they face, more than enough people to look to when you feel completely alone. Having people speak out about their own experiences is incredibly important when you want culture to shift. It breaks down stigma. It helps. It makes people feel less alone.
I thought about when my doctors were considering a bipolar diagnosis. Reading some of Carrie Fisher’s works made me feel that despite this would be completely new territory, I was going to be okay. Even if my life turned upside down, I would still surround myself with people who would support me. I felt that I would’ve been worthy of support and love. I felt that with treatment and lots of effort, I could lead a normal life.

But this last year, a couple things happened– I discovered there were young (<13) people in my extended family who also suffer from very similar issues to me. I mean, that makes sense, crippling anxiety runs in the family. We just don’t talk about it. They didn’t realize they weren’t alone. They didn’t know that I had also gone through this. This absolutely broke my heart. I realized my silence wasn’t enough. Growing up, I wasn’t really “supposed” to talk about my issues, thanks to fears regarding judgement from some people in my extended family. Actually, scratch that. I felt expected to lie through my teeth and pretend everything was normal. This is one of the many reasons why I want to be open about this. I’m not just doing this for myself– I’m doing this for them. Even if I’m going to face consequences for writing this.

Despite living in one of the most liberal places in the world, I still feel the stigma of having faced mental illness. I might face vitriol and be vilified by some people. Maybe my community will be okay with it, but it’s unlikely that some in my extended family would be. For this reason I won’t be pushing this post terribly much on social media. If they find this post, so be it. I’ll deal with the consequences.

I know by writing this post I’ll be breaking an illusion. But that’s okay. I want them to know that breaking that illusion is okay, too.

So I guess this is as good a time as any to start talking. Maybe I’ll be ready for next May.

And perhaps one day I’ll join the community that pushes to “blackbox” better warnings on prescriptions regarding adverse side effects. I was failed by my pediatrician– maybe we can push for more training in recognizing neurological side effects in young children, so this doesn’t happen again.

If you’ve… well, ever watched any of my streams, you can probably tell that I’m not neurotypical. I’m not going to talk too much about that here because writing everything else would qualify me for the NaNoWriMo.

My health situation can be summarized by two phrases; “and then, somehow, everything got worse” and “really drew the short end of the straw, and it turns out that instead of a straw it’s actually just a really big piece of fish dung and your fingers turned out to be globs of gelatin that fell and made a mess on the hardwood floors”.

(That last saying might be a regional one. Specific to my own room.)

My breathing difficulties started when I was a very young child. My dad believed he had asthma, so he took me to a doctor in the US (where we lived at the time) and pointed out my symptoms. The doctor confirmed, yeah, your kid is wheezing, that sure sounds like asthma! Have a script (and get the hell out of here).

He didn’t do anything else. I don’t blame him, I mean, childhood asthma is incredibly common. There was no other reason to think that it could be anything else.

(Spoiler alert: it’s not asthma! Hahahahahhaahfuckmylife. I’m seeing a lung specialist in about a week to try to narrow down a diagnosis. The good news is that my alpha1 antitrypsin test came back negative a couple of weeks ago. The bad news is that we’re still not sure about a diagnosis, and I’m not looking forward to a lung biopsy.)

But anyway, back on subject. My childhood was a flurry of trying different drugs to control my symptoms. Early on, we did actually find a drug that worked.

I’m going to say this outright– I was a Montelukast child. I was one of the few thousand children that experienced incredibly rare adverse neuropsychiatric side effects from this drug, that flat out destroyed our childhoods and still affects our lives today.

At the time, this wasn’t very well known. There were no warnings issues to physicians. There was no black box readings, nothing in the information pamphlet that warned this was possible. Most doctors had never even heard of these side effects. Montelukast was, and still is, a fairly safe drug. Millions of people take it every year. Statistically speaking, you’re very unlikely to experience any issues. Just a very small group of us were fucked over by this drug– a small enough number to fly under the radar until a correlation was noticed.

It affected every patient differently. Some children became aggressively suicidal. Some kids as young as 4 years old attempted to take their own lives. Some of the older kids succeeded. I’m lucky I’m still here today.

Most experienced crippling depression. Some simply stopped functioning. Some children became aggressive, hostile and fearful for their lives, not understanding what was wrong with them. Some were completely disorientated, some stopped sleeping completely. I was part of the “extra lucky special 2 for 1 combo!” bunch that experienced all of these alongside a complete disconnect from reality, including extra fun symptoms like hallucinations.

From what I’ve heard, the one thing we all had in common were the nightmares. Jesus Christ, the fucking nightmares. It’s been almost a decade since and I still can’t bring myself to talk or speak to my therapists about the content of the nightmares. It’s a special kind of hell. We experienced night terrors, sleep paralysis (being partially conscious, but paralyzed and hallucinating) and the most vivid, intense nightmares. The worst part is that you usually don’t even realize that you were sleeping– and when you wake up, you’re incredibly disorientated for a few minutes trying to figure out what happened, where you are and how you got out of there.

Hell is when your own mind knows exactly what scares the shit out of you the most and chooses to take these images to torment you. You’re paralyzed, watching the worst kind of monsters imaginable your mind can possibly conjure up torturing you over and over again. You see in vivid detail, everyone you know and ever loved being tortured in front of you. You can’t look away. You don’t look away. You listen to them scream. You wake up in the middle of the night to see something 9 feet tall standing over you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve slept for 12 hours, you’ll wake up completely exhausted and numb inside, trying not to think about what you just saw.

I don’t even know if nightmare is the appropriate word. I think night terror is better suited to it. It effects me today in the strangest ways. I still can’t watch most horror movies, or read SCP entries. Photos of aliens and cryptids freak me out. I can play some horror games, depending on the content, because I feel that I have more control over the situation, but that’s about where my ability ends.

Eventually you get to the point where you dread sleeping and you do everything you possibly can not to fall asleep. Your sleep isn’t safe.

I certainly got pretty loopy from this drug. I remember when I was 9 years old, I woke up on Christmas morning, and it dawned on me that I couldn’t feel any positive emotion. I was just completely numb. I remember thinking something to the effect of “wow, I should be really concerned about this right now. Even though I’m not. Huh. I’m broken.”

Over time my paranoia increased. I was already an anxious child– when I say anxiety, I mean in first grade and kindergarten, without fail I would wind up at the school nurse every single day trying to hold back vomit. Social interactions made me incredibly nauseous. This, uh, didn’t help.

I began having very strange fears and paranoia. I didn’t feel safe walking under open spaces, across fields, or outside, because I feared being watched by aliens. I didn’t just think something was coming after me, I knew it was. I started hiding weapons around the house– glass shards by my bed, knives in different locations. Around 10 years old, I started barricading myself in my room at night and blocking my window. The thought of looking out of windows at night would make me start to panic, because I was always afraid of what would be staring at me through them. Sometimes the logic and illogical parts of your brain come to together and you start doing things that make sense to you, but seem batshit fucking crazy to everyone else. My limited understanding of the PH scale meant that I thought I could keep items from along the line, in case one of those chemicals would be “more damaging” to whatever “flesh” belonged to what was hunting me. My parents, on the other hand, were really confused as to why I kept bleach and salt in various containers around my room, and why they found buried steak knives in the plants and under my pillows. I was convinced that my dog could read my thoughts (to be fair, she had a REALLY convincing judgement face), and that if I thought or wrote about aliens that they would come for me.
I tried to learn how to throw knives (which is incredibly impractical and not a good self defense solution, by the way). I freaked out my friends at sleepovers because I would try to teach them how to hide and slow your breathing so you wouldn’t “get noticed”. I was pretty much a living horror film character. While my friends were too young to understand, they were a little disturbed by these behaviours — me waking up screaming in the middle of the night probably didn’t help with that.

You know, this is actually pretty funny to me now– in 7th grade I went through a stint where I was convinced I was somehow the reincarnation of Marie Curie. I was a total dick about it, too. I remember being a snooty little shit about my science test results.

Right around 7th grade was when I started cracking from the constant stress– you see, my waking hours were spent feeling like I needed to hide and keep an eye out for some vague, unknown entity conspiring to kill me, and my sleep was spent watching disturbing scenes. Not exactly conducive to a calming environment, eh? I was so stressed out constantly that on the first day of school, a kid asked to borrow a pencil and I broke down crying.

(If you’re reading this, sorry dude, you were fine, you did nothing wrong. I was just a special kind of fucked up at the time. I hope you have extra pencils now!)

Eventually this culminated to the point of a complete mental breakdown. I couldn’t do it anymore, it was just too stressful. I was late to class because I was freaking out in the bathroom. I walked to class, and my teacher opened the door to let me in. I guess I looked nearly as bad as I felt, because the second he looked at me he immediately told the class he’d be away and closed the door behind him. He brought me to speak to another person in the school administration.

I got a lift to the local CLSC where I was willing to talk a bit more to a doctor there. He had a very straight face, asked me about my symptoms, my parent’s medical history, and a bunch of seemingly unrelated questions. I noticed he was drawing a square and a circle on a piece of paper. After finishing his questioning, he dipped out of the room for a few minutes. When he came back, he recommended that I go be evaluated at a nearby hospital. Naturally, this was pretty shocking to me. I began to protest, stating that I wasn’t comfortable doing this immediately. That’s when I realized that he wasn’t suggesting it. There was a security guard standing in the door. This wasn’t an actual option he was giving me.
When we walked out, I noticed the receptionist was wary of me. That really hurt.

I was already known for my lung (and newly beginning gastrointestinal) problems, so it was a pretty simple matter to me to start additional treatment where I already had a file, at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

At first, we weren’t sure exactly what was wrong with me. These aren’t normal symptoms for children– from my limited understanding, generally speaking (but not always), these symptoms sometimes arise later in life if they’re caused by illness.

I began treatment with antipsychotics. They explained that in this program, if you receive early intervention and stay on the drugs for long enough, you have a 75% chance of not needing them for the rest of your life. Keep in mind that at this time we had no idea that it was Montelukast doing this to me, so these seemed like pretty good odds and a good plan to go forth with. Between this treatment, my lung problems and GI issues causing constant nausea and requiring monitoring, I was going to therapy and doctors appointments nearly every single day of the week. I could no longer attend school full time. This is period of social isolation is when I started streaming.

A couple months into treatment, my dad found a study that just came out in Sweden. The study was covering these exact symptoms in children between the ages of 2 and 18 taking Montelukast.

I stopped taking Montelukast immediately and my symptoms ceased– well, with exception to the depression and anxiety. Those are still present today. I don’t think anxiety will ever go away– it’s certainly genetic. The most I can do is manage it. Considering I was on Abilify and Risperidone at the time, we couldn’t exactly 100% guarantee that it was the Montelukast, so I chose to stay in the treatment for the recommend time period, on the off chance we were wrong and I really did have an underlying disorder.

*Spoiler alert: I am currently being treated by a doctor who is well aware of the Montelukast studies, and is certain that I do not have any concerning symptoms that would indicate I have a longterm illness related to psychosis. It is very unlikely that I will experience this again.

But this wasn’t the end of my problems. I was put on Seroquel after experiencing side effects from the Abilify and Risperidone. At the highest, my dose was 875mg (800 XR +3x25s) . For reference, the only other kid I met who was on Seroquel was on 200mg, and that was considered a lot. This is far beyond the standard pediatric dose, at least in some regions. (My current physician is absolutely horrified by this and feels this treatment was way too harsh for my particular situation.)

I’ll soon write a post regarding the details of how Seroquel affects my day to day life. It’s not good.

Seroquel is a very strong sedative, or chemical restraint. There’s reports of prisons giving small doses (25 mg) to prisoners to subdue them. Giving the drug to elderly people in nursing homes was a fairly common practice up until warnings were published proving that Seroquel tends to kill patients with dementia. Some nursing homes are still being caught using it anyway, because it’s far more convenient to just sedate patients rather than deal with them. (Seriously guys, check up on any relatives or friends living in assisted care facilities. If you’re not visiting, they might be at higher risk for abuse.)

(For the record, this is not to say that Seroquel will always ruin your life. Seroquel helps some patients finally live their lives peacefully and manage their illness incredibly well. Some people credit Seroquel for giving them the means to live the way they want to. It depends entirely on the person. One person’s miracle drug is another’s hell.)

When they first prescribe the drug, they tell you to start it on a weekend, or otherwise when you don’t have any prior obligations to fulfill (ie, going to work). Seriously, they aren’t kidding. The first day I took the drug, I slept for 20 hours straight. I woke up, went to the bathroom, and fell asleep on the floor for another 16 hours.

It does become more tolerable over time, but I still need to sleep at the very minimum 12 hours to wear off the sedative. If I force myself awake before sleeping it off, I become incredibly disorientated and nauseous. I have migraines. I’m constantly trying not to throw up. I have the strong urge to sleep regardless of where I am– class, at a restaurant, on the floor, doesn’t matter. Sleep is all your brain works towards. 14 hours is more ideal, but doesn’t leave me fully rested. If I’m not feeling well, I’ll be more inclined towards sleeping for 16 hours.

This is a simple math issue. 24 hours/day, need to be awake for at least 14h to sleep… and then you sleep for minimum 12h? That puts you on a 26 hour schedule. If you ever wondered why my sleep schedule is always sliding forward, this is why.

I try to hide this as much as possible, but my short term memory is absolutely shot, especially on higher doses. Currently, I’m on half of my highest dose (400mg). According my mom, when I was on 450mg I used to ask her what was for dinner on average 8 times a day, sometimes returning to the kitchen 15 minutes later to ask again, having absolutely 0 recollection that I was even there earlier in the first place. I’m not even aware of it, but this is really upsetting to the people who live with me.

My attention span was reduced to the point where I couldn’t read anymore. I would finish a page in a book and immediately forget everything I just read. As someone who loves to read, this is probably the worst side effect. On 400 mg, I’m starting to be able to read in short bursts, but I need to take notes and do it all in one shot, because even a few days later I won’t remember what I had read.

(On the bright side, I can just reread a reddit post every 2 weeks and it’s brand new content every time. No reposts, ever!)

As you can imagine, I couldn’t program anymore. Oh, and math is an ordeal, because by the time I start multiplying in my head I don’t even recall the original integers. A simple math problem takes an entire paper to complete, because I have to write and re reference exactly what the problem is and the variables involved. I learned two things early. One– don’t tell people what you’re going through, because that puts you at risk for manipulation (more on this later). Two, don’t do mental math in front of other people, because they’ll be incredibly confused/concerned/condescending when you fuck it up REALLY badly.

Dota games are fucking disorientating. So picture this. You’re playing Dota, right, you’re laning, and then suddenly you blink and it’s 20 minutes later and the T2s are gone and you have absolutely no recollection of why, who did this, and what’s going on. It’s kind of disturbing. If it weren’t for the hero icons on the top bar, I would completely lose which heroes are in the game. Actually, it doesn’t matter if there are hero icons or not, because on stream (some people thought I was joking) I would be genuinely startled, like, 30 minutes in to the game, “Holy shit, there’s a Huskar?!” despite having laned against him. As you can imagine, this fucks up my ability to make long term strategic decisions ingame. I rely far too much on mechanical ability because that’s all I have left.

At least some of my closer friends have a good sense of humor about it. A guide to surviving early onset dementia has made a good birthday gift.

Manipulation is something else entirely. This is actually why I wouldn’t have written this post on a higher dose– at 400mg, I’m able to retain enough memory to be more aware when other people are gaslighting me. Predators have an uncanny ability to be able to sniff out perceived weakness in other people. I had a lot of toxic people in my life who took advantage of my cognitive decline– borrowing money from me and denying it, saying/doing terrible shit and then pretending I imagined it, or making promises and then pretending we never even had that conversation. Over time I had my suspicions, but the only way I confirmed this later was by recording dates, conversations and keeping screenshots. I found out some of my own family members did this, too. It’s a pretty shitty feeling to realize that the people you trust the most don’t deserve it. I’m now very careful about the people I choose to reveal weakness to.

But wait! There’s more!™
Seroquel gives me uncontrollable muscle tremors and twitches, alongside dulling my reflexes. As you may know, I used to play Tribes: Ascend ladders when I was younger. I’m not conceited enough to pretend I’m the greatest FPS player on the planet (far from it lmfao), but certainly better than I was at Dota. It was a strong passion of mine. Well, I couldn’t do play competitive FPS titles anymore on Seroquel, because my reaction time was dulled by entire seconds. This doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge deal. Imagine this– you tell your brain to do something. I mean, it doesn’t feel like you’re doing it, just move your thumb. That’s the signal you’re sending, right? Now imagine you try to move your thumb and it doesn’t work. You’re aware you’re supposed to move your thumb. You see the person you’re supposed to spray. But it doesn’t respond properly. Aaaaand, you’re dead.
Generally speaking, this makes a lot of games way too frustrating to continue. On 400mg, I’ve been slowly returning to FPS titles. I’m still lacking in ability compared to how I used to be, but my reflexes are better. It’s nearly bearable now. I’m actually thinking of recording games at each dose, as I keep reducing them. It would neat to be able to watch my improvement over time. I feel like this would help my general morale.

Now here comes the muscle tremors! My brain randomly sends signals to various muscles to contract, shake or twitch.
First off, this really affects how I talk. When I first started on Abilify, I produced SO MUCH DROOL. I’d wake up with a soaked pillow, wondering if I knocked over a glass of water in the middle of the night. Nope. Just an ungodly amount of drool. Think the most disgusting Niagra Falls replica ever. Now combine this when your tongue randomly twitching when you talk, completely screwing up your words at random. I had to learn how to talk properly, enunciate everything better, and have the patience to wait for my tongue twitches to stop mid conversation. This makes my speech really difficult to understand (to some people, anyway). I’d say the only people who understand most/nearly all of what I say are Sean and my dad.

The most frustrating side effect from these signals is that you’re a magnet for injuries, and you’ll randomly drop and/or fling items across the room multiple times per day. I had to switch out my phone for a less fragile model that was waterproof/has a super clunky case since I used to drop it every day. I’ve destroyed more ceramic plates/glasses/mugs than I can possibly count– maybe one a week? I’m thankful for a soldering kit, because I’ve spilled so many liquids into my mechanical keyboard collection. (By the way, there’s nothing more embarrassing than smashing someone else’s plate. I’m really thankful I haven’t damaged anything irreplaceable yet belonging to someone else.)
I once dropped Paisley’s urn and smashed part of it. That really hurt me emotionally.
The clumsiness is terrible. My body is covered with so many scrapes, cuts and bruises that I don’t even bother anymore with trying to figure out where they came from. I drop things on my feet all the time. I constantly walk into furniture and walls. Sometimes I simply fall over while standing for no apparent reason. I spill boiling water on myself. I feel like an oversized, blackout drunk toddler. Oh, and I once set my ex’s oven on fire. (I SCRAPED IT OUT. THEY STILL DON’T KNOW. …Maybe I shouldn’t broadcast this fact on the internet.)

The brain fog is just awful. Leaving the house is an ordeal because I have multiple medications I need to carry on me at all times. So I’ll go to the bathroom and put one of my meds on the counter. And then put my coat on, and completely forget I went to the bathroom, and wander around the house trying to find that medication. So I’ll be wandering my room for 10 min and get distracted and forget what I’m doing. Browse reddit for 5 min. Sean comes in and goes “hey, we’re going to the grocery store, right?” “OH SHIT, MY BAD.” Realize again medication is missing. Search more. Find it in the bathroom. Put coat back on. Realize phone is missing. Search kitchen. Find it in my coat pocket, I have no recollection of putting it in there. Rinse and repeat. If I’m lucky I’ll get out the door in 10 min.

Sometimes I’ll just wander around, and then suddenly 2 hours have passed and I have no fucking clue what I did during those 2 hours.

Spoilers ahead.
Flowers for Algernon hits me very hard. One of the staff members at the hospital had me read it. I think he realized the ending Charlie Gordon received was something I felt strongly. The despair he experiences as he watches his cognitive ability fade away before his eyes felt like a parallel to my life at the time. I know that feeling of watching your consciousness and what makes you a person recede. It’s terrifying. It destroys you in a whole new way.


What I once could do and comprehend is nothing but a memory that may or may not fade with age.

u/FailedTech

It numbs my emotions out to the point where I struggle to analyze and recognize what I’m feeling. Turns out, it’s mostly rage. People used to comment on how chill I was. I mean, I am generally speaking, an incredibly laid back person! But I’ve been effectively stoned out of my mind from Seroquel for so many years. I wonder what part of that is my lack of processing negative emotions properly, and what parts Seroquel is responsible for. I’m still a person. I’m still incredibly flawed. I still feel negative and “ugly” emotions.

Honestly, I have a really hard time recognizing myself as a person. It doesn’t help that I’m going through that stage of life where you’re trying to figure out who you really are, and who you want to become. All I have for frame of reference are people who knew me before all of this happened; but I was still really young back then. I’m not expecting to the be same person I was before the drugs. Sometimes I ask Sean what I used to be like, because if you asked me how to describe myself as a person, I wouldn’t even know what to say. Some days it freaks me out, because I don’t know who I really am. Other days I feel hope, because being a blank slate means I can become the person who I want to be.

I’m incredibly lucky to have a good support network. That being said, dealing with this is frustrating. It really is. I used to be an incredibly independent person, and now I’ve been reduced to this. Some days I have better cognitive function, and when someone says something that seems really obvious to me, I get super frustrated because that makes me think, wow, that’s a really stupid thing to say. Am I really so screwed up that saying these things is usually warranted most of the time? I get frustrated when reminded how bad it really is. Sometimes I lash out a little, which is screwed up (I’m working on this), because it’s not the person’s fault at all for reminding me how severely my function has been declined. I shouldn’t be taking out my frustration towards myself on other people, it’s not fair to them. For the record, I’ve gotten better with this. But some days I just rage because I’m aware of how terrible my ability to complete basic tasks has become.

(Sean is a saint. He’s like a seeing eye dog for my cognitive function. Not sure if that makes much sense, but it’s the best way I can describe it.)

Today, I’m on 400mg of Seroquel. I withdraw -50mg at a time. I’m incredibly sensitive to the withdrawl, and it’s absolutely horrible. I experience lots of nausea, migraines, pain, shaking, hot flashes, cold sweats, I can’t sleep, I need to sleep, and I feel a lot of distress. It takes me a while to recalibrate to feeling emotion again and I experience a lot of problems until I get used to the dose. Last time I went down (from 450 to 400), it’s taken me a year to recover. I’m not going to lie, as much as I want my life back and to be able to go back to school, reducing my dose is really scary to me. I try to put it off. The only reason why I haven’t thrown in the towel yet is the number of terrible side effects from taking Seroquel over a very long period of time. I’d rather not kill off my brain cells, thanks.

So today I was prescribed Prozac. Actually, at the time I finish this post, that was two days ago– I took my first dose of Prozac yesterday. I’ll be taking another one in a few minutes. My doctor didn’t want to add Prozac to my list because it can cause side effects with Seroquel, and it’ll be difficult to see which symptoms are affected by lowering my dose and which symptoms are affected by the Prozac. Unfortunately, my depression has gotten to the point where I cannot function without an antidepressant– it straight up puts my life at risk. So this is huge for me. I’m hoping this will help me make my life more bearable until I can reduce my Seroquel dose. It’ll take about 2-4 weeks to fully kick in. I’ll update then.

This has been a lot longer than expected. I don’t really know how to finish this post. It’s been strangely cathartic to write all of this out and be able to vent. Thanks for listening. And thank you for being there for me. It means the world.

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