Surviving A Christmas Break-In

•January 14, 2018 • 2 Comments

“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”
–Cynthia Occelli

A quick glance at my internet searches over the last few weeks and it tells a story all its own, from oldest to most recent:

  • Phantom smells?
  • Smelling gasoline when there is none
  • Brain fog after Radio Frequency Ablation?
  • Would nerve ablation cause phantom smells?
  • Can a cold turn into the flu?
  • Can the flu cause depersonalization?
  • Depersonalization vs Dissociation
  • Shaking left hand and blurred vision
  • Debilitating brain fog and tremors
  • Accepting trauma related depersonalization

And Last: Coming back from a flu with PTSD

Trauma is sneaky sometimes. When you have a multi-layered past and a tendency towards self-blame to begin with…a simple “illness” can be disastrous on the psyche of a person who is still climbing out of the quicksand that is complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even for a yoga, breathing and mindfulness teacher who lives to help others through this very same conundrum…it can be frighteningly easy to slip over the edge and suddenly forget your most basic survival, self-care and resiliency skills.

Having grown up in a personal world of fear, guilt, shame and blame…simmered on the stove with people pleasing, anxiety and shattered self esteem…it is easy for me to make these types of ridiculous assumptions, if I am not careful:

If the weather is bad, it is my fault.
If the weather is good, it is a fluke.

If someone is unhappy, it is my fault.
If someone is happy, it must be an accident.
If my body gets hurt, it is my fault.
If my body feels good, it won’t last.

See the set up? This is a sure-fire works-every-single-time recipe for a breakdown in the command center of my person.

I’ll explain:

This December I had lots and lots of plans to pour myself into my work with first responders, including a 3-day peer support training and 5 consecutive days at a police academy training. My husband was sick, my co-workers were sick, my students were sick, the chatty checkout guy at Trader Joes was sick…and yet, I still felt like I could control the inevitable.

After managing to stave it off with rest, diet and hiding in the house…it hit me…HARD…I got the crud.

Within a few days, a seemingly innocent cold turned into a torrential flu, leaving me couch-bound for over two weeks. Not only did I miss the last day of peer support, but I missed the whole training at the academy. I canceled classes and private sessions and all therapy and doctors appointments. To me, in this vulnerable state…this translated as failure.

Logically, I knew I was only sick…and there wasn’t anything I could “do” but get better. But it swallowed me whole…and it took captive of my body, my common sense and my ability to think or feel.

No exaggeration – I had a breakdown.

A few days in I started to feel remote and disconnected from my body. I often use the term “fluffy” to describe this state to my therapist. It is as if my brain is encased in cotton, and though I can see my limbs and hear sounds…I am separated from my senses all at once. The world becomes a bunch of marbles tumbling around in a dryer. This disconnection from myself sets off a cacophony of panic and fear. Depersonalization. Dissociation. I am not in this world.

I have finally lost my mind. I knew life was too good to be true. I am broken.

I feel very lucky. I have studied trauma and I teach about trauma. I have been through decades of therapy. A part of me knew that this sudden tug-of-war between personalities was not real. But my body…my body felt invaded.

My body was no longer mine. The battle was on.

I started a mental inventory. What is wrong with me? Have I gone off the deep end? Have I finally lost it? I can’t think clearly. I can’t even read my email. Nothing tastes right. Nothing is making any sense. I smell gasoline where there is none! I can’t see myself. I am terrified. What if this never ends…

What if – I am having a breakdown?

I begin a quick Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) trick to test my thoughts.

Thought: Am I having a breakdown? Action: What is happening right now to make me think this?

I am sick as hell. I missed my trainings. I had to cancel my classes. I feel out of sorts. I can’t think and I feel underwater. I am numb. I feel lost.  I feel no hope. I am terrified this will never end…

Thought: Am I having a breakdown? Action: Is this thought true? What is the evidence?

Yes. It sure as hell feels true! I am having trouble thinking. My hands are shaking. I can’t make sense out of anything. My eyes are blurry. I’m having a panic attack. I don’t feel like I can even carry on a conversation. My texts messages seem to be popping out of a 3-dimmensional view finder. This is scary. I am going crazy. I belong in a padded cell. I have not felt this bad in a long, long time. I am afraid.

Thought: Am I having a breakdown? Action: What if the opposite were true? What is the evidence?

It’s December 2017. I am here. I am alive.  The worst is over. This is just a set back. I’m just sick. It’s not my fault. I am successful and have a loving marriage. I love my family and friends. I love my students and I’ll celebrate 8 years without a drink this Christmas…

I thought about what the past few months have entailed. I had plenty of evidence to support why I *might* be feeling a bit out of sorts. It all made sense. So why was I so mad at myself for not feeling well?

Why? Why is it that when the weather is bad, I feel it is my fault?
Why? Why is it that when the weather is good, I assume it’s a fluke?
What if a red fish is just a red fish…and I am just sick?

Self – Listen! The story your mind is telling you right now is no longer true. 

Oh. My body and mind are telling me stories that are no longer true. 

Ding. Trauma and Resilience. This was it. The moment in time where I had to DECIDE to be resilient.

I quickly assumed the seat of the teacher: What is my challenge? How can I help myself? What would I tell a student or friend going through this? What are the lessons here? What can I learn? I literally had to ask myself – What would Ti tell me to do if she were here?

From A Break Down to a Break In

I turned towards my desk, spying some of my notes around me – “Keep Going!” “Break…Then OPEN.” “Let the good secrets out, too.” “Follow Directions, Look for Signs.” “Left foot, right foot. Breathe.”

I did the very first thing I normally do any time I feel disconnected, overwhelmed or unable to breathe…I got on the floor and started talking to myself.

Out loud, a message to my brain and body: “Brain, body. Thank you. You guys are so on it! Thank you so much for being so alert and for trying to protect me. I have good news. You’re just sick. It isn’t anything bad that you’ve done. Everyone gets sick, Ti. Listen to your body and rest. If you can’t think clearly…no biggie…I promise it will pass.”

Then—I got into Action and wrote down the following instructions to myself:

Step 1: Breathe – Breathe In, Breathe Out, then repeat.
Step 2: Find a touchstone in the present – Where are my feet right now? What day is it?
Step 3: Come to Your Senses – Can I find 5 colors? 5 sounds?
Step 4: Basic self-care – Eat, Rest and Hydrate.
Step 5: Use your words – Tell someone…even if it sounds crazy. Reach out. WRITE.
Step 6: Accept that you feel this way, then Forgive yourself…you’ve done nothing wrong or bad.
Step 7: Laugh. Pull out that trusty dark ass sense of humor that has saved you countless times before.
Step 8: Embrace Transience – Know that everything in life is temporary
Step 9: LOOK for evidence…could this be old stuff?
Step 10: Trust. You are not going crazy after all, and this will pass.
Step 11: Talk to your body and brain:
Tell your body, it is safe now.
Tell your brain, is it safe now.
Tell the inside you, the little you, you are safe now.
Tell the inside you, the adult you, you are safe now.
Tell the inside you, the future you, you are safe now.

Trauma. Wow. It is real. Say hello to the imprinted reptilian patterns coming out of the fibers of your being…not to haunt you…not to kill you…but to protect you. Say “Thank you.” Then give those pieces and parts of you a new job description…give them permission to breathe and step back.

This your Yoga. This is it. This is what you teach. Move through it with your breath. Trust the process. Remember, you are breathing. All is going to be okay. You are safe…

Is it easy? No. Not at all! But it is easy, too. The simple things are the hardest to remember when we are lost, overwhelmed and not feeling like ourselves. Be kind and gentle this year if you, too, find yourself underwater, under the weather or outside yourself for any reason. Remind yourself to breathe and start again.

And with that, you have now seen how a very scary, earth shattering “breakdown” could transform, just like that, into a “Break In.”

Reader…if you remember nothing else from this missive, remember that you are not as alone as it feels…and that it won’t last forever.

For the action minded, remember this mantra, and say it out loud:

I am breathing in, 
I’m breathing out,
All is well in this moment…

So what do I do next time the entire world crashes and I succumb to the crud?

Read this post, of course. Breathe, and start again. It really is that simple.

Keep kissing,

The Cockroach

Copyright © 2012 Kissing The Cockroach All Rights Reserved.


Can’t Kill Me

•January 13, 2018 • 6 Comments

I’m back. Crawling out from under the crumpled cardboard boxes.


The Cockroach

Copyright © 2012 Kissing The Cockroach All Rights Reserved.imadeit

Please don’t touch me

•January 11, 2018 • 6 Comments

Now I know why mimes put their hands in front of them, suggesting a glass box surrounding their bodies. They may be concerned with breaking the glass and getting out of that box. But I am concerned with building mine piece by piece.

In a mime’s silence, screams are heard. Makeup accentuates the facial expressions that need no words. Articulate, exaggerated movements suggest the story behind their absent speech.

Something about clowns makes them super scary. They don’t speak either. But they mock loudly. Mimic. Threaten. Bully.

I can put on a great act. Dressed like a flamenco dancer, red lips, glittered eyes and a big purple flower in my hair…my chest lifts. Chin follows. The mascara is doing it’s job…making my eyes bold, piercing, focused. There is no evidence of fear.

Thick black heeled shoes stomp sharply into the wood below. Making music on their own, pounding out the statements of a woman’s smiling fury. A symphony in line with the beat of my heart. Proud. Tall. Strong. I will kick your face in.

How will I find my voice when I need it most? When the room is silent, and the walls have closed in?

I put my hands in front of me. Guarding the space. I close my eyes. Leaving the body. I’m vacillating in and out of consciousness.

Where have I gone?

My EMDR therapist has me mimic these gestures in slow motion. Expressive hands say more than worried lips and therefore must be used to make new stories until the sound of a voice can be heard.

She made me keep my eyes open in our last session. It was almost impossible. But I could feel the point. When my eyes close, I tumble backwards, into a different land of darkness and hushed voices. It feels as though someone has tied 20 pound dumbbells to my eyelashes. Go away. Come here. Down here. Stay present. Be here. No, no, back here. Don’t look. Be quiet.

What am I trying not to remember?

I’m stomping out the notes on the hardwood of my mind. Telling a strong choreographed story. But it’s the little girl who suddenly finds her feet have shrunken and the clothes of the dancer are too big. She shuffles across the floor, looking for her vanilla lip gloss.

What am I doing here?

She looks down at her hands and studies ten fingers. Veins. Knuckles. Skin. Are these the same hands I have had all along? I sometimes can’t grasp that these feet, these hands, are the same ones I’ve had forever. No more running but she’ll dance to her grave.

“Push into me” says the floor, says the wall, says the girl, says the teacher.

Let go.

It’s okay to say no.

How is that so?


Copyright © 2012 Kissing The Cockroach All Rights Reserved.

Under Construction

•January 11, 2018 • 12 Comments

My soul was knocking
at the door of my mouth
asking me to seek

Mouth stayed shut
so the lump grew
a thick tangled mess

Words bubbled up
but were locked
in their chains

She fastens her cape
and picks the lock
jumps into the stream

Unchartered waters
Unacknowledged rage
Uncried eyes

Who knew
that the little one
was smarter than me

Holding hands
in the darkness
she leads me

Mysterious angels
whisper, giggle
a second chance

Who knew
that the little one
could finally be

She’s me.


The Cockroach

Copyright © 2012 Kissing The Cockroach All Rights Reserved.

“Paint a Turd”

•May 10, 2012 • 14 Comments

A while ago my EMDR therapist gave me an assignment to “paint something hideous.” I was more terrified at that notion than if she had said “go memorize every muscle and bone in the human body and recite them backwards while hanging upside down from your pinky toe.”

What the hell?

I can’t explain it. Okay yes I can. I lied. I am a perfectionist. My inner critic hates everything I do, even if it admits later, that something came out alright. I am a nun, shaking her ruler, glaring and WHAP goes the ruler across the hand. YOU SUCK. So then how is it that paint comes out of my hands and out of the brush and onto the canvas and doesn’t look like the worst thing I have ever seen? Usually, because I am copying some other person’s work! Copying a photo. Beep beep. Robot artist.

But “paint something hideous.” Now that is impossible. That assignment has appeared, at least 7 or 8 times on my daily “to do” list. It keeps getting circled as undone. Scooted off the page of today. And the person rewriting it on the next day’s page is hiding a devilish grin, knowing, that this assignment won’t survive. No hope at being scratched out today. Better add it on to tomorrow. And the next day. And in June.

When I saw my EMDR therapist on Monday, and announced I had not yet painted something hideous, she handed me a pen and paper and said, “Here, draw something ugly. As ugly as you’d like.”

I just sat there. Mouth on floor. “I can’t” the snotty little bitch voice in me said.

Then I cheated. I drew something that had “appeared” mysteriously on my bathroom window. Something I am 99.99999999% sure I did not draw, but it was there, and no other ghost will cop to it. That is a subject, and a photo, for another post.

She crumpled up the paper and said “use your right hand.” At which point I drew big round eyeballs in the dark. The whites of them peeking upwards and slightly stage left. The eyes were under ground, blanketed in darkness. Yet open. Above ground was the sun. The eyes, shyly looking up at it.

ET says, “So, is that maybe someone who is in the dark, yet has the knowing, that the sun is out there?”

Man I hate therapists sometimes.

I left feeling agitated. The next night, I had dinner with a good friend of mine who invariably has me laughing even at the worst of times. And he gave me a new assignment.

“Paint a turd.”

A what?

“A turd. A big heaping pile of shit. Paint that.”

My face lit up. Oh my god! I WILL paint a turd! A hairy, moldy, steamy and disgusting plop of shit. I told him thank you. And now, that I felt I had “an assignment.” A direction. Something, yet nothing, to paint. A turd, I can do. Something “abstract” and from the heart, NOT. “Allowing my soul to speak through my brush?” NOT. Use the colors of my imagination? NOT. Let go, let God? NOT.

But a turd? That is something concretely hideous. Requiring no special blending skills. No deep knowledge of history of painting poo. No specific details. The sky is the limit! That I can do. Because that will make me laugh. And there is NO way to make a turd beautiful. Or is there? I don’t know. But the good news is, it doesn’t matter. I can’t “polish a turd.” Right?

That’s my next assignment. I promise to post. I want to share my hideous turd with you.

Thanks for being here,

The Cockroach

Copyright © 2012 Kissing The Cockroach All Rights Reserved.

Soul Popsicles

•May 3, 2012 • 7 Comments

Caught a star shining brightly in the fire. I could stare at fire for hours and never get bored. It tells a story, a burning dance of details. Ever changing. Whispering in the night. Constantly moving. Making music. Boldly facing darkness.

After 3 months of EMDR therapy, it became time to help my boyfriend understand why I am putting myself through this. He has been home for the last few weeks, and therefore has seen “the look” I have after returning home from EMDR Mondays. Kind of like a wet paper towel that has been dried in the microwave. Crusty around the edges. No more soaking power left.

My ET offered to meet with him, and help explain what EMDR is, and why it is so important for a person to “process” past trauma in order to successfully live life in the present moment. If it were up to him, he’d hand me a 5 page instruction booklet called “Get Over It” and all would be grand.

But he went. He took my appointment on EMDR Monday and was there for nearly 2 hours. I felt sick to my stomach the entire time he was there. Waiting for a text, or a call. Some sign that he was coming home. Or perhaps instead bolting for the next train to Mexico. That bitch is crazy. I’m outta here.

When I saw ET yesterday, we debriefed on how things went with him. She started by telling me that he cares for me very much. (But?) And that he does not understand what “this” all means, and why I am continuing, what to him, seems like slow torture. More self inflicted wounds.

Our EMDR session was all about finding my voice. I told her that I feel “choked” when it comes to speaking my mind, saying “no” or making choices and decisions. I had always been good at it in business. A  solid persona who presented a face of fearlessness and confidence. In social circles, I was funny, outgoing and conversational.

But inside, I am mute.

She asked me to trace that back as far as I could in my mind. I didn’t expect to crumble into a hot mess of tears and candy cane posture. But I did. I hate thinking about my childhood. I don’t want to hate it. I want to be over it already. Where is that 5 page manual? I want it not to be about my “inner child” and growing up in a chaotic household. I want to not care about the men who took from me without my permission. I want to not still be affected by the bitches who bullied me in school. I want to stop blaming the past for the present. But the truth is, when I allow myself to tumble backwards into the body and mind of an 8, 11, 15 year old, I am wounded. My mouth is stitched shut with self-imposed barbed wire. I do not deserve to speak.

My jaw is clenched hard. I am making big heavy swallows. Swallowing the burden. Throat is cut off. Breath is held. My head turns inward, folding in on itself. My body is a crushed cereal box. Smooshed. I open my mouth but nothing comes out. No wonder I threw up for twenty years.

ET asks me to open my eyes. I can’t. They are cemented closed by tears and fear. “Is there anything in this room that makes you feel unsafe?” She asks. I answer, in 5 year old voice, “No?” Even my “No’s” ask permission to be uttered.

When I got home yesterday I made a promise to myself that I would SPEAK to my boyfriend about his visit with the EMDR therapist, and about what this was all about. It took about 30 minutes for any words to come out of my mouth. We’ve been together 6 years. You’d think it would be easier to talk. But to someone who has not experienced this themselves, none of it makes much sense. Why dredge up the past? Why re-traumatize yourself? Why do you let things affect you so much? Why can’t you just GET OVER IT?

Indeed. Why.

Because I want to help others. And before I can help others, I have to help myself. Cliche aside. I have to get through to the other side of the deep crack in the mountain. I can’t stop now. The ball is rolling. I have jumped. The wound has been slashed. The memories are coming. The recognition of just how long I have been buried underneath this suffocating blanket of shame and terror is burning brightly. Listen to me. See me. Acknowledge me. Then let me go.

The popsicles are beginning to melt. Their various colors are swirling amongst each other, sharing tales of their long frozen captivity inside my soul.

“I’ve been stuck in her throat, what about you?” Says Silence.

“I’ve been trying to wake her up by stabbing her in the back.” Says Pain.

“My name is Love. I have been lighting matches near her heart. I think the flame has finally ignited.”

And then slowly, a figure from around the dark corner turns in slow deliberate motion towards the fire. Soft light flickers on her face. It’s covered in thick scars, that in the orange shadows appear to be glowing. The color of bright burning embers.

She smiles.

“I’m the Cockroach. I’ve just been waiting for her to give me a second chance.”


The Cockroach

Copyright © 2012 Kissing The Cockroach All Rights Reserved.

It Takes What it Takes

•May 3, 2012 • 8 Comments

I never thought I deserved a diagnosis of Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I thought that since so much time had passed, and since I had made so many mistakes and awful decisions in life, I “deserved” the punishment of being miserable. I managed to blame myself for things that I had absolutely no control over, while faithfully forgiving anyone who had wronged me. As if by purging those resentments, I might find healing and be able to let go of the sadness and self hatred. Of course, logically and intellectually, I could reason with myself that some things were not my fault. I could read about others who had had way worse lives than me and empathize with them as though I had gone through it myself. As though I had gone through it. Myself.

When I got into the accident with the bus, life as I knew it was turned upside down. All of a sudden, I could not use work as a hamster wheel technique of not thinking. Focus on work. Do a good job. Wake up and go to work. Work, work, work. I also lost my other crutch….the gym. Work work work, workout workout workout. Two of my major mind-numbing activities were knocked out from under me.

But then came the last mortal blow. Alcohol. Stuck at home and unable to walk, I still managed to drink myself silly. I had a huge case against the bus company. Little me against the government. And what did I do? In a black out, on pain killers, muscle relaxers and Two Buck Chuck, I got in my car and (apparently) drove to get more beer.

I woke up in jail. Staring up at the fluorescent lights and hearing the CLANG of the doors again and again. I was laying on a bench. Oh my god. What did I do? I sat up and looked around. What time is it? It took me a few minutes to realize I was not dreaming. Is this what it took, God?

I had crashed my car into not one, but two parked cars. Thank God I did not kill anyone. My car was totaled. When I saw it the next day, I could not believe my eyes. I thought I would be able to zip out of the parking lot. It was beyond totaled. And so was I.

So the stage was set. Physically disabled. Unable to work. Unable to drive. Unable to numb out through exercise or bulimia. I dropped the case against the bus company, much to the horror of all in my life, because as soon as they found out I had a second accident and it was a DUI, the defense attorney smiled a slow, Grinch-like grin, saying “See you in court, young lady.” I had no idea at the time that I had an eye witness of the bus hitting me. I was too involved in my own shame to understand that the bus accident had nothing to do with my past. I could not face being dragged through a hearing and having my life picked apart. If you have read any other parts of this blog….you probably know why. My secrets were too many. I had no idea that the law worked differently than my mind. I thought I would be burned at the stake.


Now… two and a half years later, and I am still sober. I have had 3 spine surgeries. I am seeing a therapist weekly, a trauma/EMDR specialist weekly, and a psychiatrist monthly. I don’t throw up anymore. And most shocking of all. I am writing about it.

Sigh. Life has a way.


The Cockroach

Copyright © 2012 Kissing The Cockroach All Rights Reserved.

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