When Black Bears, Brown Bears and Grizzlys are approaching winter, they try to eat alot and store as much fat as possible to prepare them for the long hibernation of winter. They do this and then sleep a long long time, and boy, are they sore and grouchy when they wake up.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a caterpillar that one days builds this cramped quarters around themselves and then wakes up a completely different creature, but if that happened to humans, we would surely be very afraid.
What we have in common with both species is that we are also exposed to periods of our lives where we are either in alot of mental or physical discomfort, and this can be both terrifying as well as uncomfortable. We aren’t aware how much self awareness insects have and we’re just learning about emotions of other animal species, but what is true about humans is that we have more choices about what to do when we’re going through painful times. When we are in emotional or physical pain, time becomes distorted. If it’s a pain we’ve been through before, such as a broken bone, we know this is temporary and that it will get better. Even heartbreak, when it has occurred enough times, is something we can learn to recover from easier as we practice. For myself, it has helped for many years that I studied psychology and crisis intervention theory. Crisis intervention theory has showed that we generally adapt to the most difficult losses to a point of a new normalcy in about a 6 week period. So when a young man broke my heart, I knew that generally I would be feeling much better in 6 weeks, and usually this was true.
But Crisis response is very different from depression, or even from pathological grief. With pathological grief the response to a loss can last much much longer and even into years as a response to a loss. The person becomes stuck in the acute grief response. Perhaps it’s possible they don’t even want to recover from that grief, because letting go of the grief would be letting go of the relationship or person they’ve lost, and they just don’t want to. We all grieve on our own timelines and in our own ways. We’re all entitled to do so. It’s only a problem when it’s extended because that person isn’t living life in the present anymore at all, so they need professional help to get out of that space.
Depression can include components of biology, loss, self esteem issues, social isolation, failures, and many other factors can be involved. Us humans are very complicated and we mostly live in our minds, and to some extent we can alter our own moods and our own recoveries. Hope is very important. The hope has to be there that there can be a recovery, that this terrible awful feeling won’t last forever.
That’s hard to visualize when you’re young and experiencing a first heartbreak or a first close death. It’s hard to imagine that eventually you will adapt to the new normal of you without that person in your life. Perhaps a way to visualize this possibility is to think of yourself as a caterpillar. This awful pain is happening because you’re going through a change. This loss can destroy you, but not if you don’t let it. If you let it be, and keep on trying, this pain will lead to a new you. Don’t fight the tears, let them flow. That’s part of the metamorphosis. It’s part of what we do to become stronger and change. Change is painful, but try to remember this pain is your path to your becoming that butterfly as long as you stay alive, keep breathing, and keep flapping those wings.