“We are living under a pre-traumatic cloud”

Trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk says that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, “we are living under a pre-traumatic cloud,” in this video from The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), one of my favorite sources of information.

People “may be stuck at home, unable to work, or feeling isolated from dear friends and family. This all can leave people feeling helpless…[with the need to] regain a sense of agency during the pandemic…According to Bessel, there are insights we can draw from trauma therapy that could help…[people] when they’re feeling helpless or reeling from the unpredictability of life during a pandemic.”

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“5 Things Anyone Can Do to Build Resilience in the Face of Pandemic Stress and Trauma” Facebook Live with Imogen Ragone

In my second Facebook Live with my friend and Alexander Technique instructor Imogen Ragone, we discuss the difference between stress and trauma (and the similarities), how the Pandemic is affecting us, and 5 things you can do to help build your resilience right now and even come out of the pandemic better off than where you started.
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“Staying off the Trauma Train with Shay Seaborne: PYP 409”

“Staying off the Trauma Train with Shay Seaborne: PYP 409” with Howard Jacobson at Plant Yourself
My first feature-length podcast interview was with Howard Jacobson, gracious host of the Plant Yourself Podcast. It was fun and we covered a great deal. As Howard notes on the podcast page, “we covered the origins of trauma, the mistaken societal beliefs that reinforce trauma and get in the way of healing, and ways of empowering trauma survivors to reconnect with their bodies.” In addition, Howard and I talked about how the pandemic can set off unresolved past issues, and how we can protect ourselves from the most insidious long-term pandemic effect: chronic stress. Click on the link above to listen or go to YouTube below for the video.

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Tapping Into Your Body’s Intelligence to help with Stress and Trauma

Alexander Techinque is my primary go-to tool to relieve stress and take a break from the distress cycle. It is simple, portable, reliable, easily adapted to any lifestyle, and, with practice, can foster profound positive changes. This was my first Facebook Live event, and I so enjoyed this conversation with Imogen Ragone, so there will be more to come!

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When does the trauma stop?

After I experienced medical abuse and neglect last year and the year before, on top of a lifelong pattern of trauma I asked myself, “WHEN DOES IT STOP?” My self replied instantly, “When I make it stop!”

Last fall I decided to teach trauma awareness and prevention to frontline providers because they have the greatest potential to help or harm. I increasingly talked about trauma and Complex PTSD to inform my care providers. I created a 1/3-page trauma-awareness handout I ask to have put in my file when I meet potential new members of my healthcare team. It informs them of my specific needs, the needs of trauma survivors in general, and info about the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study.

I switched to a more holistic medical practice and found my new PCP’s office quite receptive to the idea of trauma awareness for staff. That led to my first online presentation, “Intro to Trauma Awareness,” a 20-minute art-driven Zoom session that seems to have opened the way.  Recently, BrainShapeLLC owner Tamera Siminow invited me to be a guest on her podcast to discuss”Resilience in the Time of Covid-19.”

What does it take to become a trauma-awareness activist-artist? It takes a lifetime of struggle against the ravages of the early-onset neurophysiological disruption greatly ignored by our culture, including the medical community. Making it stop takes immense courage and fortitude. It also takes some luck and unexpected support.

Nobody made the trauma stop for me and I want to help make it stop for myself and others.

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Stop the cycle of cruelty and contempt

Every child deserves to grow up in a safe environment that encourages connection. That’s part of our human birthright, what we’re designed for, what we need in order to reach our potential.

Too many children experience lack of safety and connection. That puts them on a nearly unavoidable trajectory of additional trauma, dysfunctional relationships, mental health problems, social issues, school and employment problems, substance abuse, and the onset of chronic disease at midlife, followed by early death. Early death is the silver lining, the relief. Without necessary aid to resolve the trauma, abused children grow into greatly disadvantaged and vulnerable adults.

Traumatized people are easily retraumatized. The most traumatized often are the most despised by society; they end up on the streets, in rehab, in prison, or dead. Their relationships are troubled because they learned poor attachment from their parents and can’t change the pattern without help. They have more health problems than unabused people, may have seemingly bizarre symptoms, and are easily misunderstood by medical personnel, most of whom have no training in trauma-informed care.

When an adult child of developmental trauma walks into a doctor’s office they are often already on Red Alert because of the power differential. They are hypervigilant about being abused again by someone in power. This can disrupt the doctor-patient relationship, particularly if the doctor holds the common medical system view, “I am the healthy doctor who can heal you and you are the sick patient who needs to be fixed.” That’s bad medicine, and especially bad for people whose neurophysiological processes are beyond the uninformed practitioner’s comprehension.

A trauma expert quipped that if Complex PTSD/Developmental Trauma were in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) the volume would be quite thin because almost every mental health problem would fall under it. Trauma experts say most of society’s persistent ills, most of a person’s ills, stem from unresolved developmental trauma. 

The trauma is unresolved because the person lacks the resources to recover. A person can’t recover unless and until they feel safe. People do not feel safe when on the street, addicted, in prison, or enduring abuse by yet another narcissistic partner or boss. They spend their life in a continuing struggle against the cruelty and contempt heaped upon them by caregivers when they were an innocent child. Most often, they unwittingly pass along the trauma to their own children, multiplying and perpetuating the cycle of cruelty and contempt. This is normal in a world that lacks trauma awareness and trauma informed care. We must do better. The wellbeing of our children and grandchildren and the future of humankind depend on it.

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“Resilience in the Time of Covid-19” podcast

As the pandemic rolls on I notice signs of chronic stress and even trauma in friends, family, and acquaintances. They describe symptoms like anxiety, panic attacks, depression, loss of hope, and more. I saw these are mild symptoms of chronic stress / trauma / PTSD. This is also just the beginning of the pandemic effect. Michael Osterholm, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, noted, “this isn’t about the next couple of weeks, this is about the next two years.’” Chronic stress/trauma is a continuum, so if we can focus now on protecting our nervous systems from further damage we can come out of the pandemic in as good a shape as possible. That’s my goal, as well as to empower as many other people as possible to do the same for themselves and each other. I recently discussed this with my good friend, Tamera Siminow, owner of the neurofeedback practice, BrainShape. This led the two of us to record a podcast for you, titled “Resilience in the Time of COVID-19.” In a period of seemingly great powerlessness.e hope our conversation offers you take-away tools that help you feel empowered, connected, and hopeful. 


Gateway of the Inner Body meditation audio by Eckhart Tolle
This recording is one of many tools you can use to help you become more familiar with your felt sense, the sense of the inner body, a vital connection. 

Hand Washing Without Stress video with Imogen Ragone
“Take the tedium and the anxiety out of washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with this practice. Each time you wash you hands you can not only be getting rid of those pesky germs, but also letting go of excess tension and stress so you feel more at ease in yourself!”

Healthy Mind Platter from Dr. Dan Siegel
Dr. Siegel’s website details the seven daily essential mental activities to optimize brain matter and create well-being: Focus Time, Play Time, Connecting Time, Physical Time, Time In, Down Time, Sleep Time. 

Flower/Candle breath exercise: Break the Cycle of Distress with Self-Regulation by Shay Seaborne
Self-regulation is a key ability for all people, one often disrupted by trauma, especially in those with earliest onset. These simple practices can help an anxious person down-regulate to a more positive and prosocial activation level. They are most beneficial when practiced in advance of anxiety so they are familiar as a go-to for relief.

Mindfulness, Mindsight, and The Mind: What Are They, and Why Do They Matter?” by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
Dr. Siegel explores the areas of mindfulness, attention, and consciousness through an interpersonal neurobiology and mindsight lens. By looking closely at the history of mindfulness, a detailed understanding of the mind, and the neural structure that underlies the subjective experience of being mindful, we begin to understand how a mindfulness practice supports integration, health, and overall well-being.

BodyIntelligence and Alexander Technique
One of my biggest stress/anxiety tools. My personal study of the neurobiology of trauma and its resolution have shown me that Alexander Technique (AT) is greatly in line with the science that heals. Alexander Technique has become my go-to for noticing ease in even the most difficult situations. Imogen developed her own unique approach, which she calls BodyIntelligence, that “integrates mindfulness, posture and self-care, to give her clients practical and empowering strategies to relieve and prevent stress and tension.”

Tension & Trauma Release Exercises
Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (or TRE®) is a simple yet innovative series of exercises that assist the body in releasing deep muscular patterns of stress, tension and trauma. Created by Dr. David Berceli, PhD, TRE safely activates a natural reflex mechanism of shaking or vibrating that releases muscular tension, calming down the nervous system. When this muscular shaking/vibrating mechanism is activated in a safe and controlled environment, the body is encouraged to return back to a state of balance.

Prevent Secondary Traumatic Stress in Healthcare Providers
“Providers treating patients with challenging medical conditions can sometimes feel drained, upset, or frustrated. This may be especially true during times of increased workloads or heightened personal stress…The ability to identify, understand and manage one’s emotional reactions is paramount to preventing and/or managing secondary traumatic stress.” Includes warning signs and self-care tips.


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Things Nobody Wants to Know Are Part of Me

The amount and magnitude of cruelty and contempt I endured in my life is mind-boggling. If I described to you some of the events that were common in my childhood you would vomit or at least feel like it. Yes, things nobody wants to hear because they’re too awful. Few can hold even the idea of the things that happened, much less the details. Except me.  I hold them all! They are in me, part of who I am. So are the brilliant ways I survived them, what I did when I figured out what I had to do to survive that kind of terrorism. I thought two of my abusers were going to kill me. I was afraid they would and they liked that. And I wished they would kill me because death would have been easier than living with what they did to me. But they didn’t kill me. That wasn’t the point. The point was the sense of power they felt in evoking my terror. To nearly obliterate a child–to do to her what was done to them–made them feel big and strong, a victor instead of a victim. My abusers taught me to freeze because escape was impossible. The freeze is a kind of death, actually. Everything stops except the heart and the terror, and maybe the breath. Terror itself can squeeze the life out of you. This I know.


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The Coming Tide of Covid-19 PTSD

Increasing portions of our world now operate in PTSD land. People are chronically stressed by the constant threat of danger from something over which they have no power. I want to welcome you to my world. Yes, Covid-19 is a different kind of stressor from those I’ve experienced, but the traumatic effects are basically the same.

A friend said she and her colleagues at work are have difficulties with things like decision-making, anxiety levels, emotional outbursts. Signs of trauma that can develp into PTSD. We’re going to have a huge uptick in PTSD diagnoses in a nation with a corporatized “healthcare” system that harms instead of helps because it ain’t about health and it ain’t about care. It ain’t even about science. It’s about monetizing the most vulnerable people so a few can enjoy outrageous means. Things are going to suck way more than they do now. Unless! Unless we are able to take our mental health care into our own hands through use  of available empowering tools and resources that support human mental health, the core of our physical health. I hope to provide tools, encouragement, and inspiration for healthier brains, nervous systems, and relationships during this especially stressful time. 

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“Dance Therapy for Complex PTSD” podcast interview

Dance/Movement therapy is one of several effective somatic modalities for healing Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). In our “Dance Therapy for Complex PTSD” podcast discussion, Dance/Movement therapist Orit Krug and I discuss how Dance/Movement therapy can help us resolve trauma.

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