The sicker the patient, the better they respond

Ashley Peterson
Sep 1 · 2 min read
Image by Pezibear from Pixabay

As a crazy guinea pig lady, I’m well aware of the power of a little furball to snuggle deep down into your happy place.

It’s not just me they work their magic with, though.

I’m a mental health nurse, and I sometimes bring some of my guinea pigs to work. It’s amazing how the sickest, hardest to reach patients respond the most strongly to the piglets.

Ivan was really unwell, and when he was feeling particularly bad he wouldn’t speak or make eye contact. Yet he would sit and gaze at the guinea pigs like they were the most fascinating thing in the world, and he relaxed his usually tense posture.

Sara was highly psychotic, and could go from settled to agitated at the drop of a hat. Hand her one of the guinea pigs, though, and she’d settle right down and go into mothering mode. She had endless questions about them, and she was so careful taking care of them, and frequently checking that she was holding them properly so she wouldn’t hurt them.

The most amazing example of connection was with Michael. He was another patient who was profoundly psychotic. He adored the guinea pigs, though. He had a particular fondness for Cookie. He interpreted the glistening of her eyes as tears, and thought this meant that she could feel what he was feeling and sympathized with his pain. He was so kind to them. He loved to sit with the piggies, feed them, and chatter away to them, with a wide-eyed smile on his face the whole time.

Sometimes it’s hard to connect with other people, especially when mental illness gets in the way. Yet pets have an almost magical ability to reach hearts, no matter how barricaded those hearts may be.

That’s a lot of power packed into one little furball.

Warm Hearts

Bask in kindness

Ashley Peterson

Written by

Mental health blogger, nurse, living with depression. Author of Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis and Psych Meds Made Simple.

Warm Hearts

Bask in kindness

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