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Everybody’s nervous system is janked up at least a little. Especially in 2020. You can choose to heal your nervous system. You can choose.
When you follow me on Facebook you can receive and find great info, tips, tidbits, insights, art, news, and more about stress/PTSD/Complex PTSD and recovery, neurobiology, and mental health in general.
Comprehensive Trauma-Informed Care Training from Zero Abuse Project is available online! I endorse this program because it is offered by a non-profit that works in the trauma field, so they know their stuff, and tuition costs don’t make some guy on the Internet rich, but support ZAP’s vital work.
“Numerous research studies have shown how childhood stress and trauma can impact adult health. The Ace Study is the largest study investigating the health and social effects of negative childhood experiences. Now that we have the research, what can we do about it? The cycle of violence, generational poverty and abuse, homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration, perpetration and victimization of violence are all related to ACE’s. Strategies such as identification and assessment, reducing risk and exposure and nurturing resiliency and skill building are effective interventions. Changing the negative course that many children are on is our best way to prevent abuse in future generations. This presentation will increase your knowledge of trauma and provide ways to work with children, families and communities to reduce the impact of trauma.”
Part One: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Training 3.0 hours
Objectives: Gain in-depth knowledge of ACE research
Learn about the impact of trauma on development
Increase your understanding of working with challenging behaviors
Part Two: Trauma-Informed Care Training 3.5 hours
Parts One and Two may be scheduled together or separately.
Objectives: Understand the concept of trauma-informed and what steps you can take to incorporate this concept into your workplace
Learn strategies to promote resilience
Identify practical self-care and regulation tips for yourself and those who you serve
Class starts August 26, 2020 at 8:00 AM, so register before it’s booked solid!
WARNING: If you have Developmental Trauma, PTSD, or Complex PTSD, or even chronic stress, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may be contraindicated because it does not work when access to the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is limited, as it is with those conditions.
Two years ago a psychologist big on CBT insisted on teaching me “the filmstrip metaphor” instead of acknowledging my trauma, my janked-up nervous system, or even that going blank is a sign of overwhelm. He failed to direct me to the trauma-informed specialists I needed, and instead put me on the Trauma Train Express!
In 5 weeks I went from traumatized and depressed to being inappropriately medicated, retrauatized, and abused at the local Cukoo’s Nest, owned by America’s largest mental hospital chain, #UniversalHealthServices or #UHS. This corp just settled a $122M fraud suit with the feds and state govts for the practices that abuse patients. But nothing for the victims, it being “justice” in America.
Yes, CBT is studied the most, bla bla, but it is wrong to push this onto trauma survivors before their PFCs can come online. Until then, it is useless and shaming at best.
Della the Janked-Up Ladybug™ is a fairly recent arrival to my art. I’m interested in the cartoon as a medium that offers a measure of safety to viewers, so they can take in something that might otherwise be overwhelming. My favorite example of this aspect of cartooning is the Art Spiegelman graphic novels, “Maus” and “Maus II” in which he uses cartoon characters to tell his father’s story of surviving the Holocaust concentration camps as a Jew.
Ladybugs have a personal meaning for me. I used to take time out of my workday to set free those trapped in the building when I worked in a highly abusive office. Being kind to a little ladybug in that cruel environment was a protest of the heart.
The concept for Della developed slowly. I previously used a ladybug as a central character in a painting because the creatures seem easy for humans to identify with, and yet far enough removed from human to be safe if, say, she gets smashed by The Flyswatters of Shame.
Della first appeared as an embellishment in a larger painting, sort of like the little comic strip “dingbat” or sidekick political cartoonist Pat Oliphant used, though his was a penguin. I decided to name her Della, short for Delaware, because this is my adopted home state, the ladybug the state insect, and this is the place where I was subjected to psychology abuse. The little creature so charms me I made her my mascot and will likely put her in comic strips to illustrate that Delaware is a commonwealth that doesn’t care about mental health or rights of those with mental health.
April 28, 2020: Della first appears as a “dingbat” at the bottom of “My Day in Court,” watercolor and mental hospital pencil.
Della’s in the detail!
Nov 5, 2019: “The Fly Swatters of Shame.” Partially inspired by what I learned about shame from David Bedrick.
Consciously or not, denial, minimization, and blame are always intended to protect the speaker over the survivor.
Mar 29, 2020: “I think I found my inner cartoon character. She’s all exclamation points because that’s what life gave her. She’s going to go to the doctor for help with Complex PTSD from developmental trauma. Poor thing!”
Although I painted well earlier in life, I could not even hold a brush after that stint in the Cuckoo’s Nest. Initially I couldn’t make shapes, only splatter, drip, and smear. The psychology abuse I endured at Rockford Center for Behavioral Health degradation caused such a severe disruption to my nervous system it flattened me back to preschool.
I painted this with my hand. On the back I wrote, “Anger at being abused, at not being able to stop it, even as an adult.” I was still reeling from the outrageous maltreatment I received when I asked for help for Developmental Trauma.
When I asked for help, instead I received an initiation into the world of psychology abuse, in which vulnerable people are subjected to some of the various kinds of torture mainstream medicine and psychology calls “treatment.”
The domination system of modern medicine and psychology treated me with the same predator-prey dynamic in which I had been raised and subjected to severe maltreatment. The system replicated the pattern of abuse from my childhood. It reinforced the damage already done.
Every provider I encountered was ignorant of Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) training, which is enough to cause severe harm to a trauma survivor, even from a provider with the best intentions.
In my week at Rockford I received no individual therapy and was forced to regularly ingest a pharmaceutical cocktail, a component of which was toxic to me.
I was also deprived of my rights and strip searched, which retraumatized me as I had been strip searched and digitally raped by US Customs as a child.
Some of Rockford’s abuses are recorded in the parent company’s recent $122M fraud settlement with the DOJ. This includes hoodwinking people into thinking they need to be there, and keeping them there when they don’t.
That alone is egregiously harmful and an outrageous violation of human rights. But this is SOP for Universal Health Services (UHS), America’s largest mental health hospital chain, which recently settled a $122M False Claims Act suit. UHS monetizes 700,000 mental patients a year.
Meanwhile, Wall Street and the mental health profits industry applaud UHS for its continued ability to post a 30% profit, double the industry standard. Everybody wants to be like UHS. It doesn’t matter that they grind people into dust, suck the marrow from their bones, spit them out, and wait for them to come back for another round.
The federal government and some states got some of the money back that UHS defrauded. There is some kind of monitoring to be installed for a few years. and nothing for the victims. We don’t even get say in what kind of monitoring should occur or what kind of changes should be made to actually help people instead of hurt them.
This is “mental health care” and “justice” in America. This is why I speak up, tell the horrific truth, and punch back however I can. I need to Make. It. Stop.
I like to use a tall ship or starship/Star Trek analogy to describe the experience of life with Complex PTSD. Imagine you’re aboard the USS ENTERPRISE, and she’s under attack. The red alert alarm constantly sounds, reminding you that you are in great danger. All you can think about is how to survive.
But you’re not actually under attack. The attack ended a long time ago. Only the ship’s systems didn’t update to that change in status. The red alert alarm keeps sounding. Shields up! Weapons ready! Always! Day and night. Exhaustingly.
You might recognize the system is janked but you can’t tell for sure and you don’t dare turn off the alarm in case the danger is real. But when you are under danger you don’t know because the alarm keeps going all the time.
In the chaos of the red alert you try to make good decisions, think things through, connect with people for help and camaraderie. But that damn red alert keeps sounding and you can’t think, connect, or make good decisions.
On top of that, the other systems are wonky, too. You don’t just hear that annoying red alert alarm all the time, you also hear every other alarm. They sound constantly and you think they’ll drive you crazy. You don’t know how to take care of this and it is overwhelming.
Now imagine you’ve been aboard this janked-up ship, trying to survive, think, connect, your whole life. You don’t know any other way. You don’t know the absence of red alert. You don’t know what it’s like to be able to think without that damn siren going 24/7. You don’t know how it feels to hear another person talk without that screeching in your ear.
Now, imagine it’s your job to rewire that entire spaceship yourself with no manual. Any tools you need, you have to find and make yourself. In addition, a lot of those tools are illegal. They exist, they work really well, but you’re not allowed to have them because corporations haven’t figured out how to monetize them.
Then you ask for help from somebody who says they know how. You trust their word but instead of helping, they jank up everything worse and create such havoc that sorting out the mess sets you back by two years. They tell you it didn’t happen, and if it did, it’s not that bad, and if it is bad, it’s your fault because you’re not thinking clearly, you made bad choices, aren’t motivated, don’t really want it fixed, or you didn’t forgive the right person or pray to the right God on the right day with the right words in the right way. Whatever the problem it’s your fault, because you are inherently and unacceptably flawed.
You keep trying to find a good electrician, mechanic, systems analyst, or even a freaking schematic, but you feel like a pinball. You ping from one underqualified and maybe even ignorant or possibly malicious supposed helper to another, and your beautiful ship is degraded further each time.
Meanwhile, when you try to talk about it on the intergalactic radio almost nobody wants to know about this disaster. Most don’t want to believe it happened, don’t understand the ramifications, and cannot comprehend or respond to your vital need for help with repair.
That’s pretty much life with Complex PTSD.
Della the Janked-Up Ladybug helped me launch my tiny-but-pointed #TraumaAwareAmerica initiative. It focuses on trauma awareness/education and the rights of traumatized people. I initially aimed at frontline providers, because they were the ones who could have greatly helped instead of putting me on the Trauma Train Express, like they have and do with countless others.
However, since the pandemic hit, my scope has widened to help everyday people understand pandemic stress is the first station on the Trauma Train Line and there are simple things we can do to stay off it or get off it sooner. It’s a lot easier to avoid or resolve trauma early than years or decades later, after it has set deeply.
My initiative is driven by the desire to prevent the kind of deep harm I experienced from #PsychologyAbuse. The “treatment” only greatly worsened my condition. And nobody is accountable by law. This is the same story for countless others, marginalized and exploited by the so-called mental health “care” system in America. A profits-oriented machine that all but ignores the number one health crisis in the world: Developmental Trauma. It is time for me to “Unleash the Ladybug!”
I’ve been studying the neurobiology of trauma for almost 6 years and find neuroscience is 20 years ahead of the rest of mainstream medicine and psychology. This puts the entire human population of the world at huge risk. We need to know this stuff now.
The doctors and psychologists are not going to swoop in. There is no rescue but us.
Some mindfulness proponents tell us we don’t have trauma if we just live in the present and “let the past go.” When it comes to Developmental Trauma, this is shaming and incorrect!
Unresolved trauma prevents us from living in the present. It is a nerophysiological response to threat that becomes fixed in the body until it can be resolved. It’s not about “letting go” but of slowly reorienting the nervous system toward safety and connection. This is not merely the responsibility of the injured person, but of their whole community. It takes a community to create Developmental Trauma and a community to heal from it. Mindfulness is a huge help, yes, and it can also be used to harm!
This is a serious problem with mainstream mindfulness culture. Even Eckhart Tolle skirts the issue of Developmental Trauma with a handful of mumbles. Mindfulness dogma is shaming of trauma survivors. It is just as awful as the Christian dogma and the psychological dogma. It is HARMFUL to trauma survivors. HARMFUL. It needs to stop. Now.
The moment I became a teenage sex slave. Each drop of blood signifies one month of that abuse. It began several weeks after my 15th birthday. A 25-year-old acquaintance, on hearing about my mother’s worsening mental illness and abuse, offered me a safe place to stay and said he could help me find a job. Instead, he tricked me into domestic and sexual slavery. He isolated me and used physical and psychological abuse to keep me under his control.
After grooming me for a few days, Stephen R. DeNutte of Manchester, NH, was satisfied that I was scared, needy, and vulnerable enough to make a good target for his perverse predatory predilections. My parents had prepared me well. Like the previous rapist, he came in the room while I was asleep and did what he wanted. He did not have to immobilize me because I was already petrified. I felt nothing.
He isolated me from any kind of support and constantly shamed, threatened, and coerced me. The sex slaver made me read pornography. He spat on me, humiliated me, shamed my body, physically forced me, and subjected me to physical restraints. He repeatedly told me, “You are my sex slave!” He also gave me alcohol and pot. However, after a while, he told me I was not allowed to drink anymore because “You like it too much.” I did like it! It was a temporary escape from the nightmare of my reality. An escape he did not want me to have. Like my first abuser, he enjoyed making me the recipient of torture, but his mode was far more caclulated, protracted, and repetitive. It was as if he designed it for maximum terror, to keep me on the edge of death as long as possible.
When I found my fight and began to resist, he pinned me face down and twisted my arm behind my back until my elbow made a loud “POP!” It hurt for months afterward.
His family and friends acted like it was normal, like he was just my boyfriend, like boyfriends do these things to their girlfriends. My mother never called the cops, CPS, or came to see me. She abandoned me to that slaver. In fact, she had actually trafficked me twice in the year before.
I didn’t go to Child Protective Services because they had placed someone I knew in a home where the foster father raped the child. It was safer to be raped by the predator I knew than the one with which the CPS roulette wheel might land me.
My relationship with the sex slaver was similar to the one I had with my father. He was cruel, contemptuous, controlling, had power over me, and enjoyed causing me pain and harm. I was miserable, but it felt familiar. If you’re going to be with a predator, it’s better to be with the one who isn’t your father.
As my strength to resist increased, the sex slaver realized I was no longer a good little victim. He told me to call my father and “go home.”
My father came to pick me up. He saw where I had been and with whom. He made it clear that whatever happened was my fault and I should shut up and pretend nothing was wrong. Also, he subjected me to his continued verbal and emotional abuse. I had no reference point of normalcy. I thought everything that happened was my fault and I deserved it. Because that’s what my environment reinforced every minute of every day. I suffered in silence as I went back to school and tried to function. But I felt like I had been through a kind of war I could not describe, like I was from a planet nobody could know.
Some months after my return to my father’s domain I became intensely suicidal and planned my death in detail. Only a small miracle caused me to quit that plan and swear to myself I would never take my own life.
I often shamed myself for not fighting the sex slaver when he pinned me, and for not escaping sooner. But recently I discovered it was actually a smart defense and not a character flaw. From Dr. Pat Ogden I learned that the “feign death response” is powered by the dorsal vagal system. When the dorsal vagal nerve is stimulated everything slows down. The body starts to shut down and the muscles go limp in response. When sympathetic tone drives the body in an unsustainable way, physiology demands some respite and it often comes in the form of shut-down. Dr. Ogden noted, “These instinctive responses are innate, but if we suffer from unresolved trauma we’ve usually formed habits like default defensive responses.”
Now I realize a part of me knew if I hadn’t frozen it probably would have made my perpetrator more violent. Instinctively I knew not to use any of the other defenses because he was bigger and stronger. Also, I now know that the shut-down response is my default when I’m overpowered or overwhelmed. My father set the pattern when I was very young. Looking back I can see that both of my parents prepared me for the year of slavery. It is a difficult reality to face. But I do it one breath at a time.