One of the best things I've done for my mental health seems, on the surface, wildly counter-intuitive: taking care of something else. For much of my life there have been pets in my house, but that stopped when I was in high school (except for the fish tank), and I didn't keep any in college either. The summer after I graduated, though, I found myself pining for a pet, and a local guinea pig rescue was having an adoption event in my area. I hemmed and hawed about it– I was in a pretty bad place at the time, still, and I was afraid the responsibility of keeping a pet would be too much for me to handle. I decided to go to the adoption event and see if there were even any guinea pigs I liked before making any final decision.
My mind kind of got made up for me; once I was there, I fell absolutely in love with a little smooth brown piggy with a delicate little face and silky fur. She took to me as soon as I picked her up, snuggling right in against my chest and licking my fingers, and I knew I had to have her. I got her a friend a little later, too, since they're social animals. Well, that was the goal, at any rate– they have a love/hate sort of frenemy relationship, so we'll call them Blair and Serena. Serena is a large albino abyssinian/peruvian cross, so she has fluffy, crazy hair. She sheds everywhere, but she's also the most trusting, cuddly piggy I've ever had, and she falls asleep in my lap on a regular basis.
They were the best decision I've made in a while. On my bad days, knowing I have innocent and essentially helpless creatures depending on me helps drag me out of bed and get me going when I might otherwise be tempted not to move. No matter how low I might feel, they're always happy to see me. Watching them play when I let them run around the floor for their daily exercise always makes me smile. When I'm lonely or depressed, they'll cuddle on my lap and purr. They're always a bright spot in the day, even if nothing else is going right. As I type this, Blair is rooting around for hay, and Serena is watching me from the front of the cage. Caring for them is caring for myself.