Coregulation saved my father’s funeral

IMG_20200908_153116My father–whose behavior made him a monster to me–was buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery in September. I spent weeks readying. I bought dress slacks, pulled together an outfit, worked through my fears, and intensively practiced three lines of “Amazing Grace” to sing during the ceremony. Still, I was unprepared for a shocking moment that could have ruined the day. 

I kept my composure well through the surprisingly touching flag folding ceremony and after. But then the guns went off numerous times, CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! The rifle reports were too much for my nervous system. Their intense sharp sounds triggered my hyperacusis and audio-somatic synesthesia–symptoms of a hypervigilant brainstem–which sent me into RED ALERT! and opened the flashback floodgates. I tried to use the coping skills I’ve practiced for three years, which help calm my nervous system, but my hyper-vigilant brainstem did not comply. 

My body started to shake and I quickly recognized I was unable to down-regulate by myself. I knew I desperately needed to co-regulate, so I sought my brother, who stood physically distanced behind me. We both wore face coverings so I asked if I could hold on to him because I needed some co-regulation. Of course he agreed. 

I tried to attune myself to the calm of my brother’s nervous system as I also pendulated “ground, space, ease,” as my Alexander Technique instructor had reminded me. I held tight to my brother’s calm steady arm as I desperately worked to regulate. My body continued to shake and shudder and images, feelings, thoughts from the past swirled inside me. I focused on feeling my brother standing there for me, supporting me while I went through something horrible. 

It didn’t occur to me that the piper would play “Amazing Grace” during the gathering. By then my system had settled and I regained my composure. After that discombobulation, I didn’t feel up to singing aloud, so I sang along quietly. My therapist has said imagining has the same effect on the nervous system as the real thing, so I imagined I belted out the song. 

An older cousin read the eulogy he wrote. It was kind and moving. He choked up at the beginning and we all choked up with him. When he got to the part about how my father was such a good role model, had high moral standards, and taught my cousin and his brothers to fix cars, electricity, and other things, I was only slightly disoriented. The man he spoke of wasn’t the man I had known my entire life. I reminded myself that my cousin could be exceedingly magnanimous and that perhaps my father really did do those things for the boys in his life. He wasn’t cruel and contemptuous 100% of the time, and not to everybody. I also reminded myself that my father was the kind of man who would disinherit two of his children on the basis of sex. I sang “Amazing Grace” to myself again to ground myself.

When it came time to place a rose on the grave, I held my necklace with the portrait of Granddaddy, and silently recited modified lines from Jim Henson’s movie, “Labyrinth”: “Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I fought to take back the child you have stolen. You have no power over me!” In my mind I added, “Now you are in a marble box, going in the vault, in the dirt. You are a few handfuls of ash that can never hurt me or anyone else again!”

More recently, I told my therapist about this and other experiences of reconnecting with my brothers, their partners, and my nieces, and nephews. “It’s like I have a family!” I exclaimed.

“There are so many ways to be family that are f***** up,” my therapist reminded me. She suggested maybe it’s not that I feel like I have a family, but that I feel love. She’s right. It doesn’t feel like family; it feels like love. 

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“Instead of addressing the underlying issues”

“Women described being misdiagnosed or given painkillers instead of addressing underlying issues. One woman lost her child traumatically. Another had to experiment and eventually diagnose herself because her doctor was no help,” the newspaper noted, regarding Black women in our community.

“Instead of addressing underlying issues” is the motto of mainstream medicine/psychology. If the medical profits industry wanted to address underlying issues, it would have to focus a hella more on Developmental Trauma/Adverse Childhood Experiences, the Number One Health Crisis in the World. Developmental Trauma has a massive and lifelong negative effect that destroys human lives and taints those in future generations. Yet, we all but ignore it, particularly in medicine/psychology.

Developmental Trauma is correlated to a shocking degree with: learning difficulties, problems with authorities, violence, criminality, homelessness, joblessness, substance abuse, incarceration, relationship issues, mental health problems, and the onset of chronic disease at midlife followed by an early death. Add epigenetic trauma atop of this and it’s a wonder anyone survives. A perfect storm of social disaster, this trajectory is nearly impossible to escape and often causes Complex PTSD in survivors.

UNLESS the right kind of help is available. Which is rarely an option in a system that does not even acknowledge the underlying issue, much less, have a clue how to appropriately respond. Most of us are doomed!

Mainstream medicine/psychology is about 20 YEARS behind neuroscience. “Mental health care” widely available to people suffering from Developmental Trauma/Complex PTSD is Antebellum. It focuses on “chemical imbalances in the brain” and “learning to make better choices” when the underlying issue is a nervous system dysregulated by unresolved trauma. This degrading “treatment” pathologizes and shames people for their normal, natural, desirable, and brilliant neurophysiological response to threat.

This is a travesty! Such a system harms and kills people every day. It also harms the providers, who want to help and think they’re helping but don’t understand why the patient/client is not responding as they’d hoped and expected. They’re actually not “treatment-resistant,” but not getting the right treatment.

As a survivor of Developmental Trauma and subsequent trauma starting before I could speak, I’ve had to educate myself and my providers to avoid further harm. Harm like I found at the #ChristianaCare mega-hospital complex. Their providers: Rx a black box med; denied me the pharmacogenetic test that would have revealed that class of medicine is bad for me; ignored my concerns about suicidal ideations from the black box Rx; secretly changed my treatment plan so I was *not* referred to the specially trained providers I needed; ignored my increased concerns about suicidal ideations from the black box Rx; sent me to their ED for “a psych evaluation” that was not a psych evaluation but a sales pitch for #RockfordCenter for Behavioral Health, a modern era Cuckoo’s Nest; shipped me off to the funny farm; refused to address my grievance and remedy the systemic problems that caused this; and now the hospital tells me I need to stop talking about what happened.

“When it comes to trauma the problem is with reality,” as Dr. Bessel van der Kolk noted. But mainstream medicine/psychology does to trauma survivors as did our abusers: pretend to be beneficent, build the victim’s trust, turn around and exploit them when they least expect and are most vulnerable, act like it’s the victim’s fault.

If this is the kind of obstacles we face, most of us adults with Developmental Trauma are doomed. Few will make it out alive. The rest will be convinced that they are defective. They’ll suffer long and hard before they die young.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. America could become a society that cares about those whose root problem is they were stuck in a dangerous or toxic situation as a child. Their early experiences wired them for fear, danger, grief, loss, pain, and suffering. They’re hurt, angry, and don’t know what drives it, and the antiquated medical/psychology system doesn’t have answers.

Fortunately, neuroplasticity is our salvation. We can learn how to reorient a PTSD-wracked nervous system. We can develop new neural pathways that foster our sense of safety and connection. The Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology, 66 titles and growing, is particularly helpful.

Here’s to the day mainstream medicine/psychology can embrace the neurobiology that saves adults with Developmental Trauma from the typically cruel trajectory. Here’s also to the probable decades between, when We, The People, can learn this on our own and help ourselves and each other heal. No shaming or pathologizing necessary!

“When we understand the biology of fear we don’t’ have to be railroaded by it.” #TraumaAwareAmerica

#DevelpmentalTrauma
#AceStudy
#AdverseChildhodExperiences
#ComplexPTSD
#PTSD
#CPTSD
#Neurobiology
#TraumaRecovery
#StopPsychAbuse
#PsychologyAbuse
#PsychAbuseSurvivor

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“A Conversation withTrauma Awareness Activist and Artist Shay Seaborne” on 89.5 KOPN

In this KOPN radio interview with Vic Day of “Women’s Issues, Women’s Voices,” my host asked me to explain how I became a Trauma Awareness Activist-Artist, or, as I say, “janked-up, ticked off, and doing something about it.”

“It was the only thing left for me to do after a lifetime of trauma and being harmed by the medical system I turned to for help with trauma.”

 

Part 2 The definition

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Everybody’s nervous system is janked!

She's all exclamation points...

Everybody’s nervous system is janked up at least some. Especially in 2020. You can choose to heal your nervous system. You can choose.
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Follow me on Facebook for more info on stress/trauma/PTSD/CPTSD

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. 

Shay Seaborne, CPTSD Facebook page

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Comprehensive Trauma-Informed Care Training from Zero Abuse Project is available online!

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! 
 
 
#TraumaAwareAmerica
#ZeroAbuseProject
#TraumaInformedCare
#DevelopmentalTrauma
#ACEstudy
#StopPsychAbuse
#HelpDontHarm
#TraumaInformedCare
#TICtraining
 
 
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WARNING: Cognative Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can harm!

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.

Two years after CBT “treatment,” I’m still in recovery for the deep harm this method caused me because it is not trauma-informed and actually inappropriate for those whose brains are on fire.

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.

#TraumaAwareAmerica
#StopPsychAbuse
#NoCBTforTrauma
#TraumaInformedCare
#TraumaAwareness
#HelpDontHarm

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Who is Della the Janked-Up Ladybug?

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.

Della the Janked-Up Ladybug

My Day in Court

April 28, 2020: Della first appears as a “dingbat” at the bottom of “My Day in Court,” watercolor and mental hospital pencil.

 

 

 

 

 

The Flyswatters of Shame

 

 

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.

 

 

Trauma Disrupts Vital ConnectionsJan 24, 2020: Trauma and Shame Disrupt Vital Connections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She's all exclamation points...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!”

 

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“Anger is a secondary emotion”

Anger is a secondary emotionAnger is a secondary emotion,” a watercolor I painted 2 years ago, about 3 weeks after my ordeal in the ER and mental hospital. Anger is often an indicator of a violation. This one was enormous.

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.

#traumaawareamerica
#developmentaltrauma
#mentalhealthmatters
#stoppsychabuse

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Starship ENTERPRISE metaphor for life with Complex PTSD (CPTSD)

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. 

#TraumaAwareAmerica
#ComplexPTSD
#RedAlert
#CPTSDawareness
#StopPsychAbuse

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