What Taking Care of a Hamster Taught Me About Taking Care of Myself

I often feel silly when I say my hamster saved my life — how can something so small be so important, someone actually thinks twice about taking their own life?

But Neville did exactly that.

I’ve never owned a hamster before, and getting one halfway through university on a bit of a whim turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. She helped me get grounded, she listened to all my rants without batting an eyelid (do hamsters have eyelids?) and was a non-judgmental presence when others around me were.

By looking after her I learned how to look after myself. Taking on the responsibility of nurturing and caring for a helpless animal really does bring home a lot of truths. Through this I learned the basic day-to-day things were enough, and I shouldn’t beat myself up for not being able to do more.

Neville passed away in November 2015, and I recently drew a piece of artwork in his memory. I wanted to show what he meant to me and how he saved me because it’s hard to actually put into words. But I now have another hamster called Mollie who’s doing a fine job!

drawing of a person taking care of a hamster
Drawing by Stookie

I don’t think size matters when it comes to therapy pets. Yes, I’d love a dog — but my arthritis means I wouldn’t be able to walk it. A hamster is a manageable size. They are super easy to look after, and I’d highly recommend a furry hamster companion to someone going through a low point in their life.

I’ve said it before, but size really doesn’t matter — something very small can make a huge difference.

The Mighty is asking the following: What was one moment you received help in an unexpected or unorthodox way related to disability, disease or mental illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

Head of School Responds to Criticism After Claiming Fantasy Books Cause Mental Illness

After his blog post claiming fantasy books contribute to poor mental health in children went viral, Graeme Whiting, headmaster of The Acorn School in England, responded to critics who said — in fact — his opinion was the fantasy. Whiting wrote: I am not making a judgement (sic) of literature that has dark or difficult elements; [...]

The Dos and Don’ts of Visiting Someone in a Psychiatric Hospital

I’m writing while I’m recovering from a manic episode. This means I’m no longer psychotic or severely manic. I’m still in hospital because we’re in the process of changing back to my old medication regime, my sleep cycle needs work and there’s the risk of “manic misadventure.” We’re “fine-tuning” everything so I have a successful [...]
author holding child

To the Child Whose Mother Has a Mental Illness

Dear sweet child, You bring the brightest light to my darkest days. I wish there were words you would understand to tell you Mommy is always going to be sick. I go to the doctors every week (my therapist), and your eyes widen because to you that is so scary. Don’t be scared, my child. [...]

When It's Time to Break Up With a Therapist

The other week was my last session with my therapist after almost two years. I hadn’t really thought much about the fact it was ending beforehand. In the brief moments I had given it passing consideration, part of me thought I’d quite like having the time back. Time is in short supply and high demand these [...]