We all know the story of the caterpillar that evolves into the beautiful butterfly. It’s the story used the world over for proof that transformation is possible with patience, hard work, and a little bit of time to grow and evolve.
But I never understood the caterpillar and his cocoon as much as I do now.
Most of my life, I was in a hurry to become the butterfly. And really, who isn’t? We want to feel like we’ve arrived in life. Like we’ve made it. Spreading our beautiful wings and showing off our own uniquely dazzling colors as we take flight. And because of this attitude, I’d often look at my time as the caterpillar with impatience and frustration…until now.
Ever since I ended my relationship with Randall, I’ve had a better understanding of the power and strength of a cocoon. An incubator. A nest.
In the quiet and the stillness that followed the chaos of such a tempestuous, loud, dramatically abusive relationship, I found that all I really wanted to do was curl up on a soft mountain of pillows and just BE for a little while. Focus on breathing in and breathing out. Return to the basics, and recalibrate my compass back to my personal True North.
I’ve always been someone who loved to travel and explore. To visit new places, meet new people, and try new things. And I’m still that person, in the sense that I still imagine the trips I’m going to take some day…make lists of the places I want to go and things I want to experience. But right now, for the first time ever, I am happiest safely tucked away behind the four walls of my home.
The idea of going out can literally give me anxiety at times; something I’ve learned through therapy is partly due to the fact that I’m subconsciously trying desperately to avoid encountering any PTSD triggers. Our minds are incredible, and they will do whatever necessary to protect us. At home I know I’m safe; but out in the rest of the world, at any moment I could see, hear, smell, or sense something that could trigger a slew of negative, traumatic memories and all the emotions that go along with it.
I’m told that all of this is considered a normal response in the immediate aftermath of traumatic events. And while of course it can’t go on forever, it’s okay to just sit in my cocoon for a little while.
And one of the unexpected benefits of doing this is I’m actually taking care of myself for the first time in years. Listening to what my inner voice is telling me, heeding my emotions, processing everything happening around me so that it doesn’t stay piled up in my mind or in my heart as something that will weigh me down later…and to me that is the power and beauty of the caterpillar in its’ cocoon.
For the first time in years, I’m watching what I’m eating and making time to exercise. My body is healthier than it’s been in a long time as a result. One month ago, I even made the first purely luxury purchase for myself in at least two years when I bought a body scrub and a body butter from Clinique so I could start taking care of my skin again.
It’s crazy to me now as I think about it, that I literally had not bought myself anything for self-care and self-love in that long. I’d bought things for other people, of course; for Randall, and his sister, and others he convinced me were important to take care of. Always looking out for everyone else, and giving away my hard earned money and my care, consideration, and love to all around me…while never saving anything to then give to myself.
But now, in my cocoon, I’ve been remembering to love myself first. And there is so much power in that. Strength. And healing.
This time is necessary for me to then be able to move on to the next phase of my life. And it’s also why I encourage anyone around me – friends, family, clients – to embrace their own cocoon moments. Too often we forget to care for ourselves; I know that’s a huge problem for me. Had I done a better job of caring for and looking out for myself and my own needs, I might have seen sooner just what the abuse with Randall was doing to me. But instead I was numb to it, and putting everyone else’s needs, wants, and desires ahead of my own.
That isn’t healthy. It isn’t a good way for anyone to live. We have to put ourselves first. We have to operate under the same motto as the flight attendants preparing for takeoff: “Secure your own mask before assisting others.” After all, you’re no good to others if you’ve passed out from lack of oxygen because you didn’t get your mask on properly first.
So instead of being embarrassed about this time in my life, I’m actually learning to embrace it and even be proud of it. Because I can see the changes. I feel like I’m literally blossoming under the love, care, and attention I’m giving myself, and that is what will enable me to eventually emerge as the beautiful butterfly I ultimately want to be.