The Caterpillar and the Butterfly

I was walking to my car last night with my friend Doug and he pointed out this caterpillar. It was the most brilliant shade of green, but I would have completely missed it if Doug hadn’t noticed. My phone came out and I captured some pictures, totally fascinated in the mixture of complete beauty and yet also the little bit of ugly.

The amazing thing about caterpillars is that they are just that way for a time. If they survive, they eventually become beautiful butterflies or moths. They are fascinating creatures.

Such is the same for someone suffering from anxiety or depression. They become trapped in a mind that is turning against them, and don’t realize it is not always going to be that way. The chemicals in their brain are controlling their body…and they can get help for that. They don’t always realize that. They also don’t always that the weirdness of today may be them turning into the butterfly of tomorrow.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day….a focus day in National Suicide Prevention Month. It’s not just a national problem, but one that impacts our whole world. We’re in this together.

How can you help? Pay attention to your people. Watch for the signs that they may be suicidal. Here is a list of some symptoms found on Mentalhealth.gov….

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

We need open and constant dialogue, and some knowledge of the resources in our areas to which we can refer people. People may be resistant to help. We often are for all kinds of medical conditions. But maybe not.

The other day my mother noticed a place on my arm that she feared could be skin cancer. She suggested I get it checked out. I hadn’t noticed it before, but I admit my first reaction was to roll my eyes that she was over-reacting. But looking at it again? I contacted my health provider. Who knows when I would have noticed it on my own? It may be nothing, but if it is something why not take care of it now?

Mental health issues are just like any other sickness….sometimes we need someone else to notice there may be a problem. Sometimes it’s not that we’re resistant to receiving care, but we either don’t recognize what is going on or don’t know how to get the care we need. Sometimes it’s a relief that we don’t have to keep feeling the way we are feeling.

But it may also be scary and intimidating, so if someone in your life is dealing with mental health issues, don’t mention it once and back away. Stay engaged, as much as you can. You can’t “fix” them….but you can support them as they seek help from professionals who can help control some of the factors that are impacting their feelings. If they are put on medication, you can notice if it appears to be helping or hurting. If they are self medicating with drugs or alcohol, this can make things much worse instead of much better. They may need you to remind them of that….with concern, not anger or judgment.

I wasn’t going to write today, but that caterpillar made me. We’ve lost a lot of butterflies because they felt constrained as a caterpillar….they felt that the way they were today was all they ever were going to be. They didn’t realize that their days of being a butterfly were coming….and that they would fly, pollinate, and make the world more beautiful and functional. That was their true purpose. The reason they were created.

But you know something? To me that caterpillar was gorgeous, just the way it was. It still was enough to make me smile. Even though it wasn’t yet all that it was going to be.

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