I've suffered from depression since I was young, and am now 66. I've tried almost all the non-MAOI antidepressants and am now on a reducing dose of venlafaxine.
I find writing really helpful - also reading. At New Year I had a real breakthrough when reading Helen Ralston's book 'Beyond the Edge.' When do you remember feeling scared to be ALONE and ALIVE?" It just brought back memories of my very early hospitalisations for operations on my cleft lip and palate, when my parents were only allowed to visit me once a week. I was able to write about thisw as if I was there, and about later experiences of being left out by peers and work colleagues. I think I felt that I couldn't control being alone, but I could control being alive - hence the fact that my depression usually inveolves sever suicidal thoughts.
I also had great feelings of ugliness, and the true story of a caterpillar I reared as a child came to me, with a practical implication. (I suggest an internet image search to see the caterpillar and moth.)
I’d never seen such an ugly caterpillar! Bigger than my little finger; dirty beige background, with irregular brown splodges. I don’t wonder even the birds won’t eat them! I put my finger out. He draws back his head into a fearsome bulge, and it looks as if two huge eyes are looking at me. Scary! Ugly!!
Soon it cast its skin. My – that chrysalis was over an inch long, ugly and brown. I don’t know what it is. Part of me wanted to know – part of me was scared of what it might become.
Then, in the middle of the night I was woken by a rattling, rustling noise. I was scared. I called Mum and Dad in. The chrysalis had ‘hatched’. Although its wings weren’t quite fully expanded, they were ‘shocking pink’ at the top, shading through navy/purple to gold – so much like the rose bay willow herb on which the caterpillar had fed. We look in the book – it’s an Elephant Hawk moth. Soon its wings spread fully, and we released it, and it flew away to freedom - free to fly, to reproduce, and to bring joy to others.
I feel like that caterpillar, Lord. I can remember the first time I saw a photograph of myself as a baby. Later, I would deliver a baby with a cleft lip and palate. I thank the Lord that it was my delivery, as I was able to guide the mum through the shock and let her see the results of my surgery. I still felt ugly, though – I was that ugly, pre-operative baby inside, not the pretty, perfect baby that other parents had.
When I became a Christian, and my love of nature developed, people told me I’d change into something beautiful one day. I think they were talking about heaven. When I was with Jesus, I’d be beautiful and free – but now I was ugly, just like that caterpillar. I wanted the Lord to hurry up.
Then, a few months ago, it was as if my old skin split. I thought I was going to be free, but no, I couldn’t move. Inside, I felt as if I was breaking up completely. Who was I? Not the old me – but not free in heaven. Could I hurry that up? I was changing, the ‘caterpillar’ in me was liquefying – and I was terrified. Then my imprisoning case seemed to crack just a little. I wriggled and wriggled, and pulled myself on to a stalk. What were these saggy things on my back? I was still ugly – but a different kind of ugly. The sun shone. The air was moist and these things on my back expanded and felt strong. Did I have WINGS? But if wings, I could FLY. On earth – in my BODY. Someone opened the top of my container. I stretched my wings a few times, made for the light – and FLEW! It came naturally to me. I was not a dyspraxic caterpillar! I was in the air, for which I had been made – and, reflected in the water, I was BEAUTIFUL!
What has this to do with joy? I’m FREE – because the Lord has set me free. The Holy Spirit is teaching me to use my wings. And, being free, I can meet with others and reproduce, even though humanly childless. I’m reminded of the last verse of an incredible Salvation Army song by Ruth Tracy – which I will paraphrase by changing the word ‘power’ – true as it is – to ‘joy.’ Attractive, beautiful joy of the Lord.
Only as I truly know Thee
Can I make Thee truly known;
Only bring the joy to others
Which in my own life is shown.
Show Thy joy in me.
Show Thy joy in me.
That I may be used for others,
Show Thy joy in me.