Cuckoo’s Nest, Day 4

“I told Dr. Silman the suicidal ideations were completely gone. She tried to convince me that the relief from suicidal ideations was not from being off the drug, but from ‘being in a supportive environment.’ I bit my tongue because I wanted to ask, ‘Really? Where?”’ But by then I knew the rules: toe the line, take the meds, go to group, be a good girl…
[After: I learned that the elimination half-life of escitalopram is about 27-33 hours. So, 30 hrs after a 10mg dose only 5 mg would remain in the body, and after 60 hrs only 2.5mg. This means that bitch doctor knew that I was right about the reason the ideations vanished and she chose to defend the meds anyway.]
Dr. Silman said she felt I still needed an antidepressant and she Rx Zoloft, another SSRI with suicidal ideations as a side effect. I would be vigilantly watching for any and raise a stink at the first one.
I asked dr. Silman about a treatment plan. She said ‘Your treatment plan is to meet with me, go to group, and take your meds.'” – Me, July 1, 2018, DAY 4 at Rockford Center for Behavioral Health Destruction, the Cuckoo’s Nest, AKA, “it ain’t about health and it ain’t about care”
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Cuckoo’s Nest, Day 6

Stop Psychology Abuse

“Stop Psychology Abuse,” by Shay Seaborne, watercolor, mental hospital pencil

“Dr. Silman said they couldn’t release me tomorrow after all. That I had to stay a couple more days. WTF? She tried to tell me I’m not stable yet. I showed her the cover of my notebook and noted, ‘This is not the work of someone who is suicidal’

I asked about leaving and she said there were so many patients who want to leave and she has too much paperwork.

I told her the combination of sleep meds worked pretty well and asked if I’d have an Rx for those when I left. She said she wanted me to go off the Bis___ and take a higher dose of Trazadone, now 100 mg. That was her ploy for keeping me longer!

Ashley: ‘You could file a 72-hour form but that wouldn’t do you any good. Dr. Silman would feel more comfortable [the psychiatrist would ‘feel more comfortable? This isn’t about the psychiatrist’s feelings!] if you stay two more days.’ I was pissed!

‘That’s not a basis! I need a basis!’

About two hours later I saw Ashley and told her, ‘I decided to accept reality and make the best of the rest of my stay.’ She put on this Nurse Ratched voice, ‘That’s what we need to hear to let us know you are getting better and ready to leave.’

The group on ’emotional triggers’ was the worst ever. It’s like she was trying to trigger us! She didn’t keep the group on track, didn’t keep herself on track, talked as much or more as the participants, and talked about seeing gun violence and murders on social media. Noooo!” – Me, July 3, 2018, DAY 6 at the #UHS Cuckoo’s Nest called Rockford Center for Behavioral Health

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Cuckoo’s Nest, Day 1

“What am I doing here? I hate it so far. Noisy, institutional. No real comforts, shitty pillow, cold room, can’t see through the window. I don’t even have personal care items, like soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush, and toothpaste.
So here I am, in a residential mental health facility. It feels awful, but I also, but also I hold out hope that I will finally get the help I have long needed. I guess we will see.
I got them to let me write a check to Janna for rent. I’m going to make a list of things to ask her to bring me in a paper bag, because, plastic bags are not allowed. Lots of things are not allowed. Too many.
They strip-searched me and then locked up everything but my clothes. At least I can keep my shoes, but no phone, purse, pen, or necklace. This pillow really sucks. I’m wearing an electronic bracelet, a beacon. It tracks where I am. Doors are locked electronically. Anytime we go somewhere like to dinner or the cafeteria, we are counted roll called and led to and from there is a lot of lining up here.
I’m supposed to talk with a dietician and a social worker tomorrow, my psychiatrist, too, I think.
Quote Of The Day: “Which would you rather sleep on, a rock or these mattresses?
Trick question. They are both equally terrible.”
Luckily, I have no roomie right now, I hope it stays that way. I’m not here to be social. I need my own space. Unfortunately, they make rounds and check on us every 15 minutes. This makes it hard to nap slash sleep. So I’m asking for a sleep med tonight. Also toothbrush toothpaste, deodorant, and disposable underwear. I called Yana, and she’ll bring some things for me. Probably tomorrow.
This place is so noisy. I can hardly get away from the TVs. One in each day room. I hate them. Maybe I’ll wear my ER earplugs when I’m awake after dinner. I went to the creative arts group. Helped find collage images for a calendar one of the therapists made for the teen group. It was okay.
I found a piece for the front of this journal. I think I’ll try to add something every day. I’ve had too much sensory input. I’m burned out still have the evening group thing and shower, etc.
I slept only two to three hours last night. I was up until after 4 am, which made 21 hours straight. No nap today. I tried. But they kept coming to check on me and made too much noise with the door. I really hope it isn’t a problem tonight. I hope tomorrow brings me the feeling of benefit from this experience. So so far, no. Yeah, this is in pencil because no, pens are allowed.
I realized how good I am at putting on a happy face, even from myself, not recognizing when I need help, especially when my shrink blows off my concern. He blew off my concern, like my parents and some bosses.
I don’t want to go back to Dr. Schwartz, he doesn’t get it and doesn’t listen. Doesn’t care enough to be my psychologist, too small for me! I’m done with him. NEXT!
Eight pm is “wrap up,” a group event. The counselor calls out our names and we’re to tell if we had a goal today, whether we met it, and how we feel on a scale of one to ten, some typical goals, call, my daughter talked to my doctor, stay focused, stay positive.
I said my goal was to survive the past 24 hours. I did it and I felt a 2 out of 10. About 18 people are here in the recovery unit. Quote from Viva: It’s okay to play the mental hospital card in a mental hospital.
Viva has been to a few mental hospitals, so she tells me what to expect. She said they can’t really help because they’re just a different face of the system but I can use them to my advantage. I’m not sure what that means.”
[My mental hospital journal, June 28, 2018, Day 2 in the Cuckoo’s Nest called Rockford Center for Behavioral Health, owned by Universal Health Services, America’s largest mental hospital chain, notorious for abusing and neglecting patients]
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Enter the Cuckoo’s Nest

Night in the Psych ED

Me, four years ago tonight, at the cusp of what would turn out to be a horrible turn of events: “I’m having serious problems with my SSRI medication and I need to talk to a doctor. Increasing suicidal ideations, wish to die, sleeping a lot, drowsy, trouble waking, memory lapse, spacing out, headaches, concentration lapse, couldn’t see something in front of me.”
Though I had complained twice about the increasingly intense suicidal ideations (SI) that began a few weeks after I started taking the Lexapro, the hospital system’s “embedded” psychiatrist had been unresponsive. So, I called my PCP, who had prescribed it. Unlike the psychologist, the young resident actually listened and recognized the danger those pills posed. My PCP firmly advised me to stop Lexapro immediately, never take it again, and go to a hospital ED for a psych evaluation ASAP.
I went to Wilmington Hospital ED where they took my clothes and personal belongings without notice. This included my phone, so I could not make even one call. That was highly distressing! Nobody explained what would happen, what to expect, and who would help me. Nobody did actually help me. Instead, they left me overnight in a cold room with nothing but a chair with a tray.
According to ED records, apparently my so-called “psych evaluation” was conducted by an MD. He asked about the SI, which did not involve any suicidal intent. Nonetheless, the doctor told me I had “a plan.” He said I should go to Rockford Center for Behavioral Health. Inpatient care would be helpful, a gateway to services, like art therapy and a psychiatrist on the outside. I said I was afraid. He asked what I thought it would be like. “Cuckoo’s Nest!” I said. He assured me it was not. (But it was!)
Sometime that night or early morning I was re-traumatized when Psych ED staff subdued and sedated another patient. They had escalated the situation instead of helping her regain composure. As they pinned her down she was screaming “Get off me! Get off me!” just like I did when pinned down by abusers. Of course, witnessing her trauma gave me a horrible flashback! I was crying and shaking in terror. Afterward, the subduers stood around just outside the door to my room, which extended my distress reaction. I felt trapped! Nobody bothered to check on me. It’s like I wasn’t even there. Later, I told a staffer how badly I was triggered and he looked at me like I was speaking gibberish. Staff response to my distress was absent.
This illustrates the pervasive lack of appropriate care/intervention and a systemic push toward unnecessary incarceration at Rockford, a facility owned by a company known to violate patient rights as it makes great profit by cutting staff and patient services.
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The Cuckoo’s Nest lives

Four years ago this month I was in a cuckoo’s nest!

I’ve been working on trauma recovery for over 20 years. Unfortunately, some of the worst damage to my nervous system occurred through the so-called “standard treatment” for PTSD when I asked for help with Developmental Trauma four years ago. The Black box medication gave me intense suicidal ideations, the psychologist ignored my complaints about this and downplayed what was going on with me.
The prescribing physician did not follow up with black box protocols to check on the patient’s condition, and when I sent her an email telling her this medicine was not good for me, she called to say go to the psych ER for “an evaluation.”
The next thing I knew I was stripped of my belongings and clothing, kept alone in a cold room overnight in a psych ER where patients were abused by staff.
The next day I was shipped off to the local cuckoo’s nest, #RockfordCenter for Behavioral Health here in Delaware. Rockford is owned by the notorious Universal Health Services #UHS, America’s largest mental hospital chain. UHS posts a 30% profit, double the industry standard, by cutting services and staff. Also, they force their employees to hoodwink and abuse patients.
At Rockford I was abused, my rights violated, fed a polypharmacy concoction that did nothing but make me feel yucky, and received no individual counseling. It was a hell hole.
I was unnecessarily kept in hospital for 8 days and nights due to an iatrogenic condition caused by the psychology – medical – pharmaceutical complex we call healthcare.
The harm was so great that, though I have been artistic most of my life, after I got out of that Cuckoo’s Nest I could not even hold a paintbrush! I had to go back to preschool and splash, smash, smear, and paint with my fingers. It’s like they nuked me back to the stone age.
After that, I consented to some surgery and woke up to find the surgeon had performed two additional procedures and removed healthy tissue from my body without consent. This was like another nuking back to the stone age. The resultant medical PTSD makes even routine office visits stressful. I can’t have the surgery I need to repair 7 in of hernia in a 14-in belly. This is greatly disabling. I can no longer sail, canoe, kayak, or lift things over 25 lb. Life as I knew it was destroyed.
Fortunately, I’ve studied the neurobiology of trauma for almost 8 years. Otherwise, I would be dead. Our so-called health care system has no recognition of the nervous system and the importance of its regulation as well as its involvement in what we call mental health conditions. Health conditions.
Two years ago I started my Trauma Aware America page to help inform providers and empower survivors. I want to share the good news of neuroplasticity and the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology, which shows us we can help ourselves and each other heal through kind relationships. Holding space, compassionate witnessing, empathy, verification of strengths, just being together in safety.
In January I started teaching this online. I partner with my friend and colleague, Imogen Ragone , a long-time Alexander Technique and BodyIntelligence instructor. We call our classes, “BodyIntelligence, Neurobiology, and Trauma.” The first four classes are on the foundations of nervous system regulation, and the second set shows how each participant can build their own healing framework based on neurobiologically sound principles combined with simple practices also backed by neuroscience.
For the past 4 years pretty much my whole life has been focused on recovery. It’d be nice if the medical system stops kicking me back down. I intend to “never stop talking it,” as the great Maya Angelou advised. The healthcare system in America ain’t about health and it ain’t about care.
I’m grateful I have learned about the neurobiology of trauma and can now articulate it so other people don’t have to study it for 8 years to understand the basics we need to help ourselves and each other heal. I know we are the healing wave. 🌊
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Can’t we just run away from our trauma?

Can’t we just ignore or run away from our trauma?

I tried! I quit my whole other life. Fledged my young adult children, sold and gave away my stuff, fixed up the house, sold it out a major loss, and went off to live my lifelong dream of sailing tall ships. 💕

It was fabulous for about two and a half years. I sailed over 7,000 MI aboard a of vessels large and small, and voyaged on the ocean for as long as 12 days. ⛵

But the trauma caught up with me. My symptoms became unmanageable. Shipboard life makes heavy physical demands and I could no longer handle the pain.

I decided to get a small apartment and sail part-time instead of live-aboard. I settled in Delaware to be near “me beautiful and magical ship,” KALMAR NYCKEL, a recreation of a 17th-century armed merchant vessel from Sweden.

My Delaware residency made me eligible for mental health insurance for the first time. I thought it meant I would finally have access to consistent help with recovery from severe Complex PTSD.

But the moment I walked into the facility operated by the mega-hospital I was sucked into a trauma machine! They put me on a Black Box medication, did not follow the recommended safety protocol, ignored my complaints that the Lexapro was giving me SI, and neglected to refer me to a provider who could offer the appropriate level of care.

Thanks to the “standard treatment,” which ignores the neurobiology of trauma in favor of supporting Big Pharma, in 5 weeks I went from being distressed to experiencing intense suicidal ideations. Delaware has no Before Stage 4 mechanism so I was funneled to the psych ER and from there to the Cuckoo’s Nest. I spent 8 medically unnecessary days and nights being warehoused, drugged, and retraumatized. 😡

Since then the so-called healthcare system has destroyed my health so much I can never crew aboard a tall ship again. So here I am, digging my way out by learning the neurobiology of trauma, applying it to build a healing framework for myself, and hoping to help others find their way more easily.

Yes, running away from our trauma can be wonderful! But it doesn’t resolve the trauma.
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Open letter to Delaware Division of Professional Regulation

A medical procedure begins with consent. Without consent, it is not medical treatment. It is abuse.

The state police said the licensing board determines whether the surgeon’s non-consensual cutting of my genitals was a crime or medicine. A medical procedure begins with consent. Without consent, it is not medical treatment. It is abuse. Cutting a person without consent is assault. Cutting a person’s genitals without consent is genital mutilation. 

Surgical violation of my genitals compounds the impact of the sex abuse I endured as a child. The surgeon knew I was particularly vulnerable and purposely exploited that. A real doctor would be extra careful and kind with a patient like me. A caring doctor would have made choices to support my health and well-being. The surgeon premeditatively chose the opposite. He intended to cause harm, and he did nearly destroy me. I struggled to keep going, but I knew in my bones he was a serial offender and I could prove it if I could only lay it out with great clarity. 

My complaint document is the culmination of almost 3 years of effort. Each time I felt overwhelmed by grief or rage I took one tiny step toward reporting him. I looked up an agency and saved the address one day, read a bit of state law the next, and wrote a paragraph on yet another. I also searched for articles, asked advisors for support and feedback, and parsed my records and interactions with the surgeon and staff. In addition, I spoke about the trauma of the non-consensual surgery with every provider I visited. Each of them expressed that it should not have happened. 

An ethical medical professional highly values consent. They would never degrade a patient who had an issue with lack of consent. The surgeon showed contempt for my agency and my concerns. Contempt is the antithesis of medicine. 

The surgeon’s contemptuous act executed unwanted permanent changes to the most intimate part of my body. This has deeply affected all areas of my life. Due to the Medical PTSD sparked by the surgeon’s massive betrayal, I cannot undergo necessary major surgery and may never be able to. My activities are greatly restricted and my physical capacities are significantly reduced. I am in near-constant pain and frequently feel disturbing sensations in my core. I experience chronic distress. To regain my previous way of life is impossible. I must live with the heavy negative effects for the rest of my days. 

If anyone on the board believes what the surgeon did to me, and however many other women, is okay, that this is medicine, then God save their soul. 

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Don’t “flip your lid,” down-regulate!

How does regulating the nervous system help sufferers of trauma and chronic stress? What is the “window of tolerance” and how can we widen ours? What happens in our brains when we “flip our lid” and how can we avoid it? My friend Imogen Ragone and I discuss these and more in this short video in our series about BodyIntelligence, Neurobiology, and Trauma. Working with Imogen makes it easy for me to add video as a next level to my advocacy and empowerment efforts. I hope you find it helpful.

#TraumaAwareAmerica #Regulation #NervousSystem #Trauma #PTSD #WindowOfTolerance #RelationalNeuroscience

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The myth of self-regulation

Healing from trauma requires co-regulation with regulated nervous systems, particularly for those who experienced Developmental Trauma, which most often occurs in relationships. We are MADE to co-regulate. Wired for it. Co-regulation is a biological imperative. That means we cannot survive without it. But our culture tells us there’s something wrong with our character if we can’t override our own biology and self-regulate. It’s not what’s wrong with us it’s what’s wrong with the culture.

The Myth of Self-Regulation: How Our Inner Community Supports Us Every Day
A FREE Video Learning Session with Bonnie Badenoch, PhD, LMFT
In this video, we’ll be exploring:
What every therapist (and human) needs to know about themselves
Why our well-intended tools and plans can often fail to help clients
How to encourage a safe and nurturing “inner community” in others


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America’s “standard treatment” for childhood trauma: more abuse and neglect

If you had “good enough” parents you were blessed with a fairly regulated nervous system, integrated brain, and secure attachment style. These contribute greatly to a sense of well-being from which health arises and a good life can unfold.
If  your parents were not good enough, according to the mainstream narrative, you are supposed to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps, let it go, put it in the past, forgive and forget, let go let god, look for the silver lining, be thankful it wasn’t worse, and give up your victim mentality!”
You may experience emotional extremes or numbness, flashbacks, intrusive memories and thoughts, suicidal ideations, depression, anxiety, or any of a wide variety of so-called mental health conditions.
You will be naturally more vulnerable to additional trauma, and it will come. As a trauma-trained child, you grow into an adult who experiences a sickening repetition of abusive situations and dynamics. This in part because you were taught abuse is normal and you should accept it.
As an adult with Developmental Trauma, you will also very likely experience the onset of chronic disease at midlife. The chronic stress hormones generated by your unresolved trauma will erode your health and express as symptoms like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, sleep apnea, bone loss, sleep problems, and much more.
In addition, your capacity to form and maintain healthy relationships is so thwarted you don’t have a clue what that feels like. This is a serious disability.
According to the dominant culture you are on your own to fix the part of yourself that can’t be repaired except by the biological imperative of safe interpersonal connections. That’s absurd!
It’s a setup for failure. Especially if you ask for help. The “standard treatment” for Complex PTSD is more likely to cause you harm than help you heal. Psychology will make you play Russian roulette with pharmaceuticals, many of which will clog your brain. Others may even make you suicidal. If they do give you suicidal ideations and you ask for help with that, you will be heavily exploited.
The standard treatment is to hoodwink you into thinking “a few days” in the local mental hospital will be kind of like a vacation, but it will actually be a week at Cuckoo’s Nest Jr. They pitch the mental hospital as “a gateway to services.” Why is there no “gateway to services” before incarceration in the Cuckoo’s Nest?
If you live here in Delaware you end up in Rockford or Dover Mental hospital and you’ll be horrified by the experience. They deny you your rights before they even take you through the first locked door. (I recommend you turn around before then.)
After you go through that locked door you give up all your unsanctioned belongings including your phone and purse. Then they strip search you. After that, you get a crummy room with who knows what kind of roommate, and no privacy. You meet with a very uptight psychiatrist who puts you on multiple psychotropic medications without much regard to your neurobiology or needs. It’s more about what they “feel” you need.
In the clinker, you learn that if you try to leave before your insurance runs out they will threaten you with commitment. Or they will find other ways to keep you longer. “We changed your medication so you have to stay another 48 hours!” (I recommend you have a lawyer on standby.)
You’ll get a crappy diet and if you meet with the dietitian they’ll tell you the kitchen staff is not here to meet your dietary needs. The kitchen serves mainly fried food, fatty meat, and starch. The roach population will take care of the crumbs.
As part of your process of getting out of there, they scare you into signing up for the outpatient program. And then a creepy intimidator guy stands over you at the point when you’re allowed to write out what you thought about your stay.
After what you’ve been through, you are so afraid that they can do whatever they want to you that you call a lawyer to find out if you have to go to that outpatient program.
If you don’t like this treatment and you complain to The Powers That Be, they will treat you like you’re the problem. Because you are! When you speak the truth you are the problem.
So, that is what it’s like to have parents who weren’t “good enough.” Whose own lack of nervous system regulation and resources prevented them from helping their children regulate, grow an integrated brain, and develop secure attachment. That is intergenerational relational trauma. Developmental Trauma, the number one health crisis in the world.
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