How Different Are We From Animals?

This is a stunning, deeply moving story of an abused primate; the story of his journey from a dysfunctional outcast to a healthy member of his community. It raises many questions about the effects of abuse on humans and throws me for a loop regarding the Nature/Nurture debate.

I am so convinced at times that my symptoms are purely neurological, but I cannot forget that chronic verbal abuse, neglect, and constant overstimulation had a tremendous effect on my mental health. Nature and Nurture are inextricably linked.

What is very difficult for me in reading this story is that love can be so powerful, so healing.
I truly was not loved by my parents and had no real support system to make up for that. Brian the bonobo seems to have been rescued from a life of misery with a holistic approach that depended heavily on love and support.

I am stunned that I am somewhat envious, but this helps me keep the faith. It keeps me humble in the face of animals that are very much like us and we are very much like them.

Brian The Mentally Ill Bonobo And How He Healed
By Alexis C. Madrigal
It took a troop of apes, and a psychiatrist, and a little Paxil.

“Things were not looking good for Brian. He'd been kept from the affection of his mother—and all other women—and raised alone by his father, who sexually traumatized him. Normal social interactions were impossible for him. He couldn't eat in front of others and required a series of repeated, OCD-like rituals before he'd take food. He was scared of any new thing, and when he got stressed, he'd just curl up into the fetal position and scream.

He also hurt himself over and over, tearing off his own fingernails and intentionally cutting his genitals. He was socially outcast, left to clap his hands, spin in circles, and stare blankly at walls by himself.
Still, some other bonobos were kind to him. Kitty, a 49-year-old blind female, and Lody, a 27-year-old male, spent time with Brian. When he panicked, Lody sometimes led him by the hand to their playpen at the Milwaukee County Zoo.

After six weeks, the zookeepers knew they had to do something. They called Harry Prosen, who was the chair of the psychiatry department at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who took Brian on as his first non-human patient.”

Brian’s story comes from a new book: Animal Madness: How anxious dogs, compulsive parrots, and elephants in recovery help us understand ourselves by Laurel Braitman.

If these stories do not move you, you have no heart.

Click the title to read Brian’s story. Clicking on “Animal Madness” will direct you to the book on Amazon. Savor!