I am certain that people and events come into our lives for a reason, but it never ceases to amaze me when someone manages to say just the thing that I need to hear at the moment that I need to hear it. That happened yesterday. Feedback from some friends on Facebook and a silly Snoopy calendar gave me the insight and the inspiration that I have needed for a while now.
You see, I've been beating myself up a bit lately, because I've been in a depressive state for most of the last three months. I've been sick, sluggish, and stagnant. I've been avoidant, isolating, and reclusive. I haven't been eating right, sleeping well, or exercising regularly. I've just been down on myself in general. It's partially a seasonal thing--both the lack of sun during the winter months and the anniversary of difficult events--and partially my chronic depression rearing its ugly head. I don't know why I get so judgmental about it, but I do. I think that I'm so afraid of it progressing to a clinical point that I treat it with disdain, instead of allowing myself to explore whatever it might be telling me.
Of course, I didn't even consider that there was a message to hear or a lesson to learn until yesterday when I posted on my Facebook page that I was contemplating the difference between daydreaming and dissociation. Both are symptoms of my depression, though true, maladaptive dissociation is less frequent than mere daydreaming. As you can probably tell by my rambling words, I've been having problems focusing and staying present lately. I even dissociated while driving last week and was literally jolted back into reality when I saw a police car quickly make a U-turn as I drove past. (Luckily, he was just exiting the highway, but it certainly scared me!) My lack of focus and occasional incidents of dissociation had bothered me, but I hadn't considered their cause. I had somehow not seen the obvious--that they were connected to and indicative of my depression. They were like a warning signal, an alarm, a red flag.
Many of my friends responded to my question about dissociation with very thoughtful and empathetic responses. (I'm fortunate and grateful to have a lot of friends who understand me and can relate to me on many levels.) One friend in particular pointed out that daydreaming can be simply caused by boredom or fatigue and can be assuaged by either finding a more stimulating activity or by getting some good rest. Dissociation, she pointed out, required a deeper form of relaxation, a more intense period of recovery.
I swear that as I read her words, a light bulb literally went off in my head. I suddenly connected all the dots. I saw my depression, my dissociation, my inactivity, my daydreaming, my isolation as a means to an end. I realized that I had needed that period of time to rebuild, recharge, refocus, and redefine myself. All of the judgment and criticism that I had been bestowing upon myself were gone. I knew that there was something that I could learn from my depression. I felt so much lighter, so much more hopeful. And, at that very moment, I looked at my desk calendar and read the following words:
"If I have inside me the stuff to make a cocoon, maybe the stuff of butterflies is there, too." -Trina Paulus
I can't put into words how stunned I was. I felt as though I had been struck by lightning. Every cell in my body seemed to be teeming with energy. I was humming at a higher vibrational level. I was alive and awake for the first time in months. This was a moment of clarity after a journey through a dark tunnel. It was truly and absolutely amazing.
I had been cocooning myself up since January. I had been drawing back into myself, wrapping myself up in layers, lying dormant. I had done a great job of it. I had eaten junk, put on weight, and conserved plenty of energy. I had done it, and I could get myself through it to emerge as something, and someone, else on the other side. As the quotation pointed out, I had used the tools that I had at my disposal to build my cocoon. From within that cocoon, I could draw out of myself the traits that I would like to see emerge from the darkness. I could choose how I would redefine myself. I could control how I would rebuild myself. I could focus my intention wherever I wanted to. It was all in my hands. I had already made a conscious decision to pull myself out of my inactivity. I had already rededicated myself to eating well, to exercising, and to taking care of myself. These messages were the reinforcement that I needed to know that I was on the right track. They were the voices of encouragement that I would listen to when things got tough. They were the light pointing me toward the end of the tunnel.
So, it's only been two days, but I feel like I have no choice but to do well. I must take advantage of this new found clarity and insight. I have to see the gifts that depression presents to me--the time for recovery, the safety for regrowth, the space for renewal, and the chance for rebirth. Even though it's scary and lonely and dark and cold, my cocoon protects me when I am weak and vulnerable. It shields me from the harshness of the outside world. It holds me in a sacred place, where my soul can grow and change, where I can be stripped down and taken apart before emerging again, where I can take care of myself. Just as the caterpillar needs the cocoon in order to transform into the butterfly (or moth, which is equally as beautiful in my eyes!), I need my seasons of depression to transform myself. They're nothing to be ashamed of or to punish myself over. Depression doesn't mean that I'm weak or dysfunctional. It isn't a character flaw. Depression is a coping mechanism for me. It's a tool, an opportunity, a gift, a prize!
Thank you, real life and Facebook friends. Thank you, Snoopy. Thank you, caterpillars, moths, and butterflies. Thank you, daydreams and dissociative episodes. Thank you, depression. Hell, thank you, anxiety, because I'm sure you're helping me, too! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'll see you all when I bust out of this cocoon!