Real metamorphosis

Caterpillars are not ‘transformed’ into butterflies. There is no blast of magic that gives the little crawly pest its beautiful wings. The whole process is in fact gruesome. To become a butterfly, that caterpillar has to die, to dissolve in enzymes and become a shapeless slime before its cells begin rearranging themselves into new legs, antennae, wings.

We often use the metaphor of metamorphosis to explain a transformation in our lives. The term is synonymous with growth and renewal. But really, when a caterpillar enters its cocoon, it is destroyed. It dies, nothing of its previous form remains. Here’s a great article on all the gory details if you’re interested.

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m not all that interested in insect life. I was just drawn to this whole confused metaphor when I read about it a few weeks ago. I guess that’s because I feel like the analogy is actually accurate for me.

In the past few years I have undergone such a transformation. I feel as though the old me was dissolved. She was liquefied by my depression, evaporated in the flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety of PTSD. I was a distance runner. I was training for my first triathlon. I worked a full time week and more. I saw friends and family and was present and intimate in my marriage.

Everything eroded as I slid into the cocoon of my breakdown. I became reclusive. Stopped eating for days at a time or over-ate. Ceased working or doing any sport. Disconnected from my wife and anyone else who cared. I was so lost in my introverted, tortured world, I could barely look at the faces of the people I loved. Eye contact became frightening.

That wasn’t the bottom. Oh no. That came later. As I began opening up the memories and feeling the body held trauma of being abused as a child, I became suicidal. I cut myself almost every day. I took overdoses, some with more serious intent than others. I was so desperate.

I remember the moment when I felt real, deep despair for the first time. That feeling is indescribable in its horror. I was face down on the carpet in my room on the psychiatric ward, feeling nothing but a wretched, gnarly despair.I couldn’t comfort myself. I couldn’t cry or scream. I was frozen in silent agony. My solution was to make an embarrassing and misguided attempt at hanging myself with shoelaces I knotted together as a makeshift noose.

It was all dreadful. And those dreadful feelings rise up in me regularly still now. But at the same time I can recognise that I have been through a kind of metamorphosis. I was broken down to almost nothing. I lost everything I thought defined me, everything I took pride in. The old me is dead. And I do miss her, I miss her terribly.

It scares me that I am so different now, but it also sometimes feels good. On the better days, I feel liberated from everything I used to be. The bright days give me a feeling of freedom; I can start re-plotting my trajectory now.

I am no longer just wandering through my life. I’m not on autopilot. That’s super scary a lot of the time, because I have to think. I’ve got to really think about why I am here, what I’m doing and where I am heading. In the past I just sort of meandered through, but now everything looks different. I am full of choices, full of questions. Nothing is definite anymore.

I’m well aware that I am still a million miles from emerging from my metaphorical cocoon. I am not transformed. I am not renewed. But I also know for sure, there is no going back. The only way I can ever have a real life again is to leave my old self behind. And every now and again I get a fleeting sense that eventually, eventually I will get there.


Photo: coniferconifer, Creative Commons.



8 Comments Add yours

  1. This is a wonderful post. I am truly impressed by your experience, the insight its given you and your ability to articulate it. I too have been severely depressed many times and each time it took me down, I feel that I came out changed for the better. For me, I see my depression as a spiritual guide, taking me to the depths of myself. The spiritual path is not always easy. I’m happy for your wisdom and growth.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      Thank you. I try to remind myself that the change is not all bad too. It’s just tough when you realise how much you’ve left behind.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alexis Rose says:

    Im so happy you posted this. I always say that if you asked a caterpillar how it feels to transform it would say, its painful, excruciating, and lonely to experience, even though Im hanging next to lots of other caterpillars. Transformation is a word we hear alot and think of the beautiful butterfly, but ohhh, the hatd work of metamorphis takes a lot of courage. Awsome post, thank you for writing it! 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      Yeah you got it. You’re spot on about hanging next to all the other caterpillars alone. And it is all such very hard work. Thanks for the kind words. Laura

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel as if you’ve just described my current state of mind. I’m also in EMDR therapy and I am beginning to have very painful memories and this includes body memories.

    I’m glad I found your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      Thanks for coming by, glad you found something you could identify with. And I’m sorry you’re having to do the horrible hard work of EMDR too. I hope it is productive for you. All the best, Laura.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Beautiful Echo Chambers and commented:
    Laura is an honest writer, a warrior, a hero.

    Liked by 1 person

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