Posted in Mental Health, Recovery

A Dash of Tobasco

t-rex with tissue
“He says his name is Tobasco. Don’t forget Kleenex.”

Last week at the beginning of a session, my counselor handed me a plastic dinosaur. I tucked it under my arm as we talked, and waited for him to tell me what was up with the toy. Of course he didn’t start by telling me anything; instead, he asked me what I “noticed” about the T-Rex… And the obvious observation is that he’s full of holes.

Bullet holes, as it turns out.

He’d been used for target practice the previous weekend, 9 millimeter rounds. The next obvious observation is that a 9mm bullet hole looks WAY different in a plastic toy than it does in a human forehead. That’s precisely where he was steering me, and the ensuing hour was an intense “unpacking” of my late husband’s gunshot-to-the-head suicide in my presence.

I don’t think I’d dug through that event in such detail ever, certainly not out loud to another human being.

Or to a dinosaur, for that matter.

dinosaur coloring
“coloring therapy when I feel roar-y”

I turned that toy over and over in my hands as I talked and cried, laying him in my lap long enough to blow my nose (on paper towels—I gave them a hard time about not having a box of Kleenex, given the work they do) and then picking him up again. I got up to leave, still hanging on to him, and asked on a whim if I could borrow him for the week. Sure. Does he have a name? Nope.

On the way out of the building I stopped in the ladies’ room to blow my nose and clean up my face, and texted a photo from the bathroom, of the T-Rex holding toilet tissue: “He says his name is Tobasco, and don’t forget Kleenex.”

Over the next few days I made sort of a game of taking pictures of Tobasco (and no, I don’t have any idea where that name came from; it just popped into my head, and I’m trying to roll with “gut feelings” these days)… I brought him to work and took a shot of him at my computer. (“Not much of a typist–the arms are too short!”) I took his portrait in front of a Christmas tree, and with my teddy bear, and holding a colored pencil up to the coloring-book page I was working on.

dinosaur Christmas tree
“Working on Christmas etiquette… (Fail?)”

At the surface, I’m just enjoying the silliness of it. But some Significance has been creeping into my mind alongside the Silly. Here’s my thought: if I can accomplish with my Emotions what I’ve been doing with the toy that triggered them, I may be on my way to a more positive state of mental health.

Of course I don’t mean I’m going to teach my feelings to chomp on Christmas ornaments. I mean I might consider hanging out with them instead of trying to shove them away. Letting them become more comfortable companions, even though they’re rough to look at. I feel fondly toward this dinosaur now—and though I don’t expect to arrive at an “affectionate” attitude toward my more traumatic memories, maybe I can at least get more comfortable with their existence.


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

11 thoughts on “A Dash of Tobasco

  1. Kana, I just hopped on the computer for one last time before going to bed tonight because I was just thinking I finally needed to leave you a comment, or at least try. I have tried clicking the “Like” button on at least a couple of your recent posts, but they don’t seem to be taking for some reason, at least on my end. Anyway, I got on the computer to log into WordPress, and saw an email notifying me of this newest post. I think you must have hit me with some cosmic emotional waves or something tonight that made me think of you.

    So I’ve just been meaning to let you know it’s sure been nice having you show up in my Inbox on occasion again. I feel so sorry for your struggles (maybe that word should be “battles” in all caps or something; maybe there isn’t a word strong enough) and for the horrific moments. Yet I feel thankful you are able to write about them with so much grace, perhaps a little too selfishly on my part. Just know that this old subscriber is reading, feeling, and enjoying, with gratitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joseph, thank you so much for the note! And isn’t that something, that you thought of me just as I hit “Publish”… Sometimes I think the Connections in our blogging world go deeper than mere internet-connections… It’s great to hear from you. :)


  2. That is an interesting therapy idea and it seems to have worked well. I’ve been reading along as you recently started posting again and life certainly has given you a lot to navigate. You’re in my thoughts and prayers


  3. Wow wow wow. Incredible share. You are so right about sitting with the emotions. You spoke to me on so many ways. Thank you for your stark honesty


    1. Well, a big part of my “honesty project” is to try being sure I’m honest with mySELF. It’s just spilling over here—but I’m grateful the honesty speaks to you too. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It comes to mind, hon, that you have far more uncomfortable images to come to terms with than the average Joe in the street. Go easy on yourself. Somewhere out there must be your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No promises though :)


  5. yeah … what he said, up there at the top of the comments … I’m not in a place to use many words at the moment, but it IS good to see you writing again, and it does hurt to have to confront some of what you’ve obviously experienced during the passage of time. Keep doing what you’re doing, and know that even when we’re not exchanging words with you, we hear you.

    We hear you.

    I hear you.

    Liked by 1 person

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