Monty, Madison and Sherman are just a few of my recovery supports. These supports listen at anytime and no matter what I say they love me. In my darkest moments just knowing they rely on me for life has kept me alive. Yes, I consider them my children even though they are not of the human kind. They are my furry and feathery pets.
Through the years of my illness I have had pets. Their enthusiastic unconditional love is always apparent If it is my ferrets licking my chin or my bird climbing up onto my shoulder I knew they needed me.
I have been inpatient in psychiatric hospital 80 plus times during my dark days and the one thing I always made sure I packed in my bag was a scrapbook containing pictures of their precious faces. During these stays I would covet that book, flipping through the worn pages I saw hope. My longing to see them again turned into determination to get better, to move forward and integrate back into society.
Being released from the hospital was always overwhelming. Although I felt ready to go back out into the world it never failed to seem overstimulating. After being in the mundane setting of a hospital, where all I seemed to do is eat, sleep and take medication the outside world moved at an unsettling speed. It was coming home to my sanctuary and holding their soft little bodies is when I knew life was worth living.
Dissociation has been a counterproductive coping mechanism I developed from childhood. I often have times when I feel outside my own body and have difficulty returning. One of the tools I use is cradling my pets in my arms, using all of my senses to help bring me back to myself. It never fails that the pattering of their tiny hearts brings focus on my own beating heart returning me to feeling alive.
If I was a psychiatrist I would prescribe pets as part of the medication regime. I would write a script directing myself to hold at least one pet, several times a day. I would recommend laughing at their antics, care for their needs and have a heart to heart conversation everyday.