When Illness Makes You Feel Like a Caterpillar in a World of Butterflies


Today I read, “If nothing changed, there’d be no butterflies.”

And I want to know… What’s wrong with caterpillars?

Monarch caterpillars have always been my favorite. They are plump and colorful and they have little legs that tickle when they crawl on you. They can easily curl up into a ball. They eat milkweed, which makes them poisonous to birds – their stripes protect them from being eaten. They spend their days just crawling around the milkweed, and eating.

purple butterfly and caterpillar

Eventually, they spin themselves into a cocoon.

Living with a chronic illness means I feel like I have been a caterpillar for so long I might never come out of my cocoon. I can’t see the future and I don’t know what kind of butterfly I’m going to be. Sometimes I think I want to stay safe, wrapped up and protected in my cocoon forever.

I could hide away from the world, from pain, from hurt, from sadness. However, even in a chrysalis, caterpillars are not completely safe and snug, cocooned and protected. They are also vulnerable, unsafe and easily squish-able.

The thing about change is, it’s going to happen whether we want it to or not, and whether we like it or not. We are all both safe and vulnerable at the same time. Being vulnerable takes courage, and oddly, it is the thing that protects you because of how you feel after you open yourself up to change. As a wise friend once said to me, “I guess the best thing about butterflies is they don’t have to choose it. It comes naturally, amazingly enough.”

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