Can a Caterpillar Fly?
Release from Clinical Depression
Lori Dickerson

You bet it can! But it will not happen without transformation, a change that requires both time and introspection.  That small caterpillar represents  great potential.  When nature is allowed to take its course, she becomes one of the most beautiful creatures on earth.

I have felt very much like that lowly green caterpillar.  Clinical Depression has plagued my life for the past three years.  It seems that when you are in the caterpillar stage of this illness, it is very difficult to visualize the butterfly that is inside just waiting to emerge.  At times, the hopelessness and despair have become so great that it was much easier to imagine a world without me at all.

Have you ever watched a caterpillar crawl across the sidewalk?  It is truly slow going, but she trudges ahead and keeps pushing forward until she reaches the safety of the grass on the other side.  Along the way she encounters rocks, the threat of big feet, and other insects hungry for a meal.

This accurately describes how it felt to be admitted to Behavioral Health at the local hospital. The rocks became the locked doors that surrounded me.  The big feet became my own negativity that threatened to crush my very being.  The hungry insects became some of the hospital staff whose only purpose it seemed was to humiliate their patients.  But I trudged on.  The medication prescribed for me seemed to ease the depth of my emotion.

It became easier to focus on the classes that were offered to the patients.  The routine activities of life that had presented such a struggle before finally became natural once again.

Before the caterpillar can become a butterfly she must cocoon.  The hospitalization proved to be very traumatic for me in spite of the lessons gained.  I came home feeling shameful, and guilt-ridden.  Shameful for the weakness that I believed caused me to have to go to the hospital in the first place, guilt-ridden for having the unacceptable thoughts of giving up on life.  I was terrified at the thought of having to face anyone outside my home.  The shame caused me to turn inward.  Just as the caterpillar spins her cocoon around her, a protective shell that envelopes her, I pulled inward.  I created a sort of cocoon within my own bedroom. It was there that I began to journal my thoughts and feelings.  Sitting in my overstuffed chair I could re-live the therapy sessions that had become as necessary as breathing, meditating on the words that were said during the short time spent with my counselor, giving them a chance to take root within my thoughts.

I rediscovered my faith in God and the power of prayer.  It took great courage to allow myself to be admitted to a mental hospital.  I needed help and in spite of the stigma attached to such a place, I went where I knew that help was available.  I am actually a very strong person - a weak one could not have endured the trials I have faced as a result of this illness.

God understands my pain and the despair that eventually caused me to attempt to take my own life.  His Son felt that pain.  He died so that I could be forgiven for that very sin.  I had to learn to forgive myself.

Do you wonder what it feels like to emerge from that dark, lonely, cocoon?  I know.  It is a bit scary, actually.  But the world seems incredibly bright and full of promise.  The butterfly has a choice.  She can simply stay on her branch all safe and secure, or she can spread those magnificent wings and fly away, meeting her greatest potential.

During my time spent in introspection I changed.  Just as the caterpillar stage will always be a part of the butterfly's life, the time I spent battling my depression will be a part of mine.  But the butterfly does not allow that necessary stage of her past to hold her back, and neither will I.  The going is shaky at times, but I will continue to soar.

There is a very special job awaiting the newly emerged butterfly, that of pollinating the flowers around her.  I truly understand what it feels like to go through a depression.  I know the pain of hopelessness and despair so great that it is overwhelming.  I feel the joy of becoming myself again.  Now I can share that with those who follow me.  I can offer hope because I have been there and have come out on the other side.  That doesn't mean it is smooth flying.  But now I rejoice when trials come my way.  I see them as an opportunity to make myself even stronger and to make the colors of my wings even more vivid.

Now would someone please open the window?  I have some flying to do!

© Lori Dickerson.   Lori also has a book available on clinical depression entitled Beauty from Ashes, by Lori Gallagher Dickerson.  It's available at,, and  Here's what the book's about:

This novel was born out of the authorís own experience with clinical depression. While in the throes of this illness she found that writing helped her cope with the intense pain and confusion that are a part of this disease. In reading over those journal entries she realized there was a definite movement from despair to recovery, ashes to beauty. The author began to see herself as a butterfly in the making, and prayed that God would use this tragic event in her life to prepare her to reach others in pain. The greatest strides were made when she turned to her faith for guidance. This became her source of strength. The book is a gift of love. It is an attempt to offer comfort and encouragement to those experiencing depression. It is the authorís hope that the footprints left here will offer guidance to those who follow, making their trek a bit easier.


I remembered one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark
of a tree, just as the butterfly was making a hole in its case and
preparing to come out.  I waited a while, but it was too long appearing
and I was impatient.  I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it.
I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen
before my eyes, faster than life.  The case opened, the butterfly
started slowly crawling out and I shall never forget my horror when
I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched
butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending
over it, I tried to help it with my breath.  In vain.  It needed to be
hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a
gradual process in the sun.  Now it was too late.  My breath had
forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time.  It
struggled desperately and, a few seconds later,
died in the palm of my hand.

That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have
on my conscience.  For I realize today that it is a mortal sin
to violate the great laws of nature.  We should not hurry,
we should not be impatient, but we should
confidently obey the eternal rhythm.

Nikos Kazantzakis
from Zorba the Greek


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