Skills to Cope

Toofus the Therapy-whale

A small plushie toy whale with a handmade scarf
Posted by Maria

Speaking up, talking, telling people how I feel… It’s a struggle. Struggle so big that most of my life I never told anyone how I was really doing inside. Now I’m learning, and this is where my therapy-whale, Toofus, comes in!

My little companion

Across my time on this planet, I amassed quite the collection of plushies. From a child, I treasured them, loved them, and idealized them as the only true friends I had, the only ones that cared what I had to say and how I was. The one with the most impact on me was a husky, she is now old and deserves her spot on the highest point of the house, watching over us as she dries out the tears I’ve cried into her fur. 

As I grew and my life changed, all the way from having to be emotionally attached to the toys I thought could hear me and understand me, to me now being married and having given away 95% of the creatures. It was a huge hit to me, giving them away, but that’s a whole other story.

The ones that stayed home with me are my crafts prototypes and sellables, my husky, and of course, Toofus. The orca that listens, talks back (well, not really, obviously), and makes no judgments. The epitome of blue-eyed compassion and understanding.

Toofus listens and helps find the words

When there is nobody that I feel like I can talk to, nobody I think would listen, I turn to Toofus. He will take my tears and pain, and look back with his shining blue eyes. He is a safe outlet for everything I can rain down. He won’t criticize, judge, or put us down. He won’t get angry either. Isn’t that amazing?

Toofus has also turned out to be quite the remarkable way to put out our thoughts safely. If we adopt the role of your soft plushie-child, what would he have to say about the situation? Certainly, he wouldn’t shout or be demeaning, as we humans tend to be in the middle of a heated argument. Toofus only has his concerns and is worried for us, our health. He only wishes good things to come. 

Sometimes it’s hard for me to listen to my husband when I have panicked or have otherwise plummeted into a Borderline episode. A few of these times he has tried to convey his thoughts and worry to me via Toofus, and I’ve actually managed to listen. 

It’s hard to hate a plushie

As I’ve eradicated the collection I had, those that reminded me of my past life and was gifted and bought by people that were not so healthy to be around, I can now say that the ones I still have with me have no hate or bitterness attached to them. And considering I’ve always been into fluffy soft things, they have come in handy in situations such as the BPD episodes.

In my rage/meltdowns, I target whoever I perceive as the main threat. That, unfortunately, happens to be my husband in most cases, as the majority of my daily interactions are with him. Poor Mr. Vana becomes the devil, the spawn of everything evil, the one trying to get me down and hurt me… It is understandable that in those scenarios it would be an incredible feat for me to listen to him, and even more wondrous if he managed to get through to me.

Yet, we have managed to perform these miracles, through Toofus. This plushie has nothing to do with the start of the situation, has no opinion of it, it’s like the bomb-squad that gets called in when things get really volatile. I imagine it has its moments of watching from the sidelines as we forget that it even exists, but other than that it is always there to save the day. 

A small plushie toy whale with a handmade scarf

Dialectical Toofus

Another way I use this handy companion of mine is for some DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) practices. Be it counting the stitches on his fabulous scarf (which I made for him), feeling the seams and softness of the fur, or just describing the whale in detail out loud – all of them I can do to try and calm myself down.  I can even sniff him to get that comforting plushie smell into my lungs.

Toofus the Therapy-whale has become a big part of my self-soothing kit. It is always nearby, and I have managed to make it so that I only think of it in soothing ways. There have been times when all I have to do is look its way and it’ll make me smile because I recall all the moments and stories that have been lived through Toofus’ eyes.

Going back to the act of talking to it, have you ever noticed that when you start talking you stop thinking? Like your voice is silencing the inside screams that try to bash your mind and hurt it? Well, have you considered talking to a plushie? I’ve marked that whenever I start talking and adopt the role of a compassionate person outside of myself, it will effectively lessen the intrusive monologues in my head. I can literally talk myself out of the hole I’ve managed to dig. And Toofus is the perfect being to try and embody when I seem to be unable to be kind towards myself.

It could be anything

As far as coping skills go, Toofus does a great job at being one. Thing is, it doesn’t have to be a plushie or even material. You could have a talk with yourself (I used to talk to the puzzles I made/walls), or go out in nature and pour your pain into the wind. You could turn to your therapist or your spouse, should you be one of the amazingly brave people who have the ability to be vulnerable in front of others. 

My point is that as long as you do something to safely let the agony out, go for it! And I mean SAFELY. Not in the self-harming shred your arms kind of safely that at least I tend to justify by it not being an attempt at killing myself, but in actual safe ways. If you have to scream, scream at a plush. If you have to be aggressive, beat up that pesky pillow that never seems to cooperate with the filling being all grainy and uncomfortable. Just do it safely.

And if you ever need anyone to talk to, consider your house plants, your pet (I used to talk to my dog and cockroaches about everything under the sun), or, like I have done from a child, your plushies. You are never alone since you will always be there for yourself no matter how much you try and not be. Projecting that amazing, compassionate and loving side of you into something other than you can come in handy when it is so terribly hard to manage it otherwise.

Do you have a Toofus of your own? Let us know in the comments!  


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2 thoughts on “Toofus the Therapy-whale

  1. Amethyst

    I don’t, but I may just get one. A tiger to be exact. I need the comfort and understanding because I hate feeling as if no one gets me. Awesome blog!

    1. Maria

      Thank you! Tigers are amazing, they are the other animal that I just absolutely adore besides orcas.

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