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Why My Depression Reminds Me of a Butterfly

We learned about it in grade school, when we were astonished to see a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. How could something so guarded and caged transform into something so colorful and strong? How can something that didn’t even make a movement stretch out wings and fly? Watching these stages taught me about myself in more ways than I ever realized.

I was a lot like the caterpillar. I spent a great amount of time shut down and closed off. I spent months on end in darkness. The months turned into years…years of captivity. The only difference is that the cocoon wasn’t what was holding me captive, it was my mental illness. I began struggling with depression and self-harm when I was 12-years-old. At the time, I didn’t even know what I was experiencing had a name. I thought it was just sadness that would never end. As the years carried on, I just remember my life becoming darker and darker and I couldn’t turn on the lights. Fast forward to my senior year of high school, I didn’t even know where the light switch was. I hit a breaking point. I spent a few weeks in a psychiatric hospital learning about my illness and finding ways to cope with it. I left feeling like I was “fixed.” No more depression, no more isolation, I was happy. This is when I thought I had become the butterfly. Oh, how wrong I was.

Fast forward two years. What I thought was a butterfly turned back into a caterpillar in its cocoon. This cocoon was like one I had never experienced. The lows were so low, the highs came and went in an instant. Self-harming daily, there was no way out of this one. Every day was a fight to get out of bed, most days I couldn’t accomplish getting dressed. My head was full of darkness and the light at the end of the tunnel burnt out. I had no purpose; my life lost its meaning and I didn’t have the strength to carry on. I couldn’t stand the thought that I would be like this forever. I decided that this life wasn’t meant for me anymore. I spent two months in a psychiatric hospital, where I dug deeper than I ever have before into my emotions and my experiences. I shared about the pain I felt and the thoughts that weighed me down for years. I reflected on myself and learned about my weaknesses, but most importantly I stumbled upon my strengths. My strengths began to outweigh my weaknesses. My strengths began to silence the demons inside of me. The more I shared with others around me, the more I felt wings growing in my cocoon. Every time I would tell my negative thoughts that they were lying to me, I began running out of room in my cocoon. When I told myself that I am more than my mental illness, my cocoon opened up. I finally grew my wings.

Fast forward to this present moment. I am out of my cage that kept me trapped for years. I have strong wings that are full of colors and vulnerability. I get my nectar from my support system. I’m able to fly without the fear of being knocked down. I’m no longer ashamed of my mental illness. I’m honest with myself and how I’m feeling. I know how to ask for help when I need it. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I have grown through the stages so beautifully and robustly.

We learned about it in grade school when we were astonished to see a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. Little did I know that some day I would turn into that butterfly.

Photo credit: undefined/Getty Images