Open Letter to A. Snortz, Psy.D.*

Stop Psychology Abuse poster

“Stop Psychology Abuse” by Shay Seaborne, CPTSD. Watercolor, photocopy, mental hospital pencil

I write this on the third anniversary of our final office visit. You probably forgot that day. I have not. To refresh: my GAD was back up to critical, I told you I had increasing suicidal ideations and thought it was from the Lexapro, I’d had a disturbing interaction with one of my abusive parents, I had cut myself again, and I had called to find out what happens to my IRA if I die. Your deeply neglectful and bizarre response was, “Isn’t that a normal question?” 

You neglected a basic professional duty: conduct a suicide evaluation when a person said “suicidal ideations.” Twice! You weren’t curious at all. You blew me off. If you have even a fraction of a soul you should feel tremendous regret and shame for the way you treated me. Your contempt for me impeded your ability to help me. You betrayed my trust in you as a professional, as a psychologist, as a healthcare provider, as a human being. You gave me no care, only the CBT hammer of shame, along with lies and betrayal. You played an arrogant game with my life. 

You are guilty of gross negligence, incompetence, and lack of education, motivation, effort, awareness, empathy, and understanding. You are exceptionally under-qualified for your job. But the system supports you. They even erased scads of emails for you. I bet it feels really good to have corporate and legal support as a benefit of being an educated and well-off white male, lesser beings be damned! Maybe it feels good because you think you got away with something, didn’t have to experience whatever words and feelings I would express to your face to hold you accountable for the harm you did to me. 

Perhaps you experienced a few small repercussions because you had to meet with leadership and take some remedial training or something else totally lame, but clearly, you didn’t suffer. Not like I still suffer 3 years later. If you suffered like I do you wouldn’t be able to work or even enjoy things you enjoyed months before. You wouldn’t have income. You would still be struggling to recover from what somebody did to you out of their ignorance and arrogance. 

I like to imagine my complaint to the licensing board made your butt pucker at least once. I doubt it though because a man who operates like you doesn’t seem to have a conscience. I guess you feel really special to have soooo much white male privilege that the entire system protects you at the expense of those you harm to the extent it will delete 2.5 years of patient portal emails between me and my providers. (If it smells like a cover-up it probably is a cover-up.) 

To correct the misinformation you put in my record, there was no therapeutic process. There was no rapport. That was your imagination. The definition of rapport is, “a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.” It’s not communicating well when you change the treatment plan without telling the patient. Clearly, you had no understanding of my feelings, ideas, or needs.

If you had been capable of rapport you would have been able to understand what I was telling you and would have responded appropriately. Instead, you were focused on whatever was going on in your head. Your unprofessional and secret personal agenda superseded your ability to provide appropriate care. Not just an appropriate level of care, but appropriate care at all

Whatever your motivation and reasoning, one thing is for certain: your piss-poor effectiveness as a practitioner of psychology is driven by your own brokenness. Your behavior is a clear indication of your own lack of safety and connection within yourself and your inability to connect or provide safety for others. In that regard I pity you because you’re pathetic, don’t even know what’s bothering you, are so cut off from yourself you have no clue why you do the things you do. You really need some trauma therapy yourself, I bet. Truly, a functional person wouldn’t treat somebody the way you treated me. So I pity you for what you are as much as I despise you.

Perhaps you should use your precious “filmstrip metaphor” to recognize where you could have made better choices. If not for your bad decisions I would be sailing my ship instead of writing lots and lots of letters and complaints. I would also not be empowering survivors to spot charlatans like you. 

You don’t have to get your panties in a wad and whine about this letter to your corporate protector, though I expect you will. Mediocre white men are scared if they don’t get all the special treatment to which they believe they are entitled. 

C************* gives you a secure, tho bland and uninspiring office. You’ve paid a price with part of your soul. You’re in a position that harms others, though you ostensibly went into it to help others. That must feel really awful inside. On a deeper level, perhaps part of you feels really bad, too, that you haven’t been able to resolve the issue with the person you harmed. 

This is actually my gift to you, holding you accountable here. Telling my truth released my father from the predator-prey bond on his deathbed. This time telling the truth releases me from a similar bond: the kind of relationship that gave you power over me, power to determine my treatment, power to neglect your duties so deeply that I ended up in the Cuckoo’s Nest, and power to avoid virtually all accountability for your egregious behavior. 

This is most likely my final communication with you. Not because it brings me resolution, but because the lack of resolution brings me to turn my attention toward the tools I have left. That is, telling my story to as wide an audience as possible in every way I can that might help people avoid being hurt the way you hurt me. 

My big mistake was to expect you would actually want to help me and have my best interest at heart. I wish I’d never seen your bland milquetoast face and your ’70s “professor” jackets with elbow patches. I wish I’d understood I was dealing with a highly arrogant and ignorant person. 

If you hadn’t put me on the Trauma Train Express to the Cuckoo’s Nest [Rockford Center for Behavioral Health destruction) and polypharmacy machine I’d have no idea just how f****** awful is our “mental health care” in America. I also would not have learned that Rockford is owned by a notorious company [Universal Health Services, UHS] that harms people for profit. I wouldn’t know what an awful system C************* is for anybody who’s been harmed by it. But I do know. 

I choose to follow Maya Angelou’s advice, “Use that anger, yes. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it.” I will never stop talking it. In fact, I use your image as the poster child for bad psychology. Thanks to your egregious neglect and abuse I am now officially a trauma awareness activist-artist. I teach providers how to avoid harming patients, and teach survivors how they might recover from harm by providers. I take pride in what I did with what you did to me. I turned the horror, disgust, and rage into a force for positive change. POW! 

I wish you the best of luck in reconnecting the parts of yourself that are broken off due to whatever trauma you haven’t recovered from, which causes you to so deeply harm others with so little regard or conscience. 

Sincerely,

Shay Seaborne, CPTSD

 

*Name changed to protect the writer from further threats issued by C************* for speaking out about my lived experience. I use “Snortz” because the Psy.D. snorts at his patients instead of listening to them. 

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Follow me on Facebook for more info on stress/trauma/PTSD/CPTSD

When you follow my TraumaAwareAmerica page on Facebook you can receive and find great info, tips, tidbits, insights, art, news, humor, and more about stress/PTSD/Complex PTSD and recovery, neurobiology, and mental health in general. Be sure to join the TraumaAwareAmerica Discussion Group, too!

 

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Turn Around Your Stressful Triggers with the Alexander Technique

My friend and Alexander Technique instructor, Imogen Ragone, and I share an idea from her BodyIntelligence work and the Alexander Technique has helped me “turn around” one of my most stressful triggers – hyperacusis and synesthesia stemming from trauma. We also discussed other situations in which you can use “the turnaround” and how you can use it yourself.

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14-Step Neuroscience-Based Recovery from Complex PTSD

Having lived with Complex PTSD my entire life and studied the biology of fear for several years, I’ve come up with a neuroscience-based recovery plan:

1. Recognize that I wapaper_dolls_doors_opens powerless during my traumatic experiences and the long-term effects of  Developmental Trauma and its changes to the architecture of my brain have made my life unmanageable.

2. Understand that trauma is never the fault of the survivor but a toxic or threatening environment.

3. Acknowledge that everything I did to survive was necessary; if I’d been capable of making better choices I would have. Understand some of my actions may have harmed others and I can apologize, make amends, make reparations, as my recovery unfolds and those capabilities return.

4. Appreciate the power of trauma to dysregulate the nervous system and that neuroplasticity is my salvation; what was built can be seriously renovated.

5. Decide to focus my attention on repairing my nervous system, integrating my brain, and healing my attachment style. “Focused attention is your superpower.” – Dr. Dan Siegel

6.  Make a searching and fearless inventory of the MASSIVE volume of good things stolen by trauma/abusers, and cultivate determination to reclaim whatever is reclaimable. Recognize that one secure relationship from childhood is the seed of my resilience.

7. Acknowledge Complex PTSD is a normal, natural, and brilliant response to an overwhelming experience or chronically toxic environment.

8. Recognize severe child maltreatment results in insecure, avoidant, or disorganized attachment styles and recognize these can be changed.

9. Use my understanding of the biology of fear to recover safety and connection, seek appropriate treatment, and educate my providers.

10. Discontinue encounters with providers and others who trigger or otherwise jank-up my nervous system; all interpersonal visits must be net neuropositive.

11. Accept that accountability will not come from the domination system that a) allowed the abuse; b) protects perpetrators; and c) wants me to shuddupalready. Just like my abusers.

12. Hold accountable whichever abusers are still alive in whatever ways bring me resolution.

13. Use my watercolors, words, and wits to find and develop materials that help inform providers, protect me from further abuse, and share with others.

14. Share my journey, struggles, and successes, encourage and empower others, and speak up against cruelty, contempt, and domination.

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Complex PTSD Recovery Tools

Having survived severe Developmental Trauma, lived with Complex PTSD my entire life, and studied the neurobiology of fear for about 6 years, I’ve developed a strong set of recovery tools. These are selected for their positive neurophysiological effect and support for a healthy nervous system led by safety and connection instead of driven by threat detection and protection. 

Neuroaffective Relational Model (NARM) therapy: a modality designed specifically for recovery from Complex PTSD. Unlike previous therapists, my NARM practitioner actually helps me regulate. This is a resilience and strengths-based process, what a person with Developmental Trauma needs. 

Craniosacral therapy helps my body release tension and better regulate.

Alexander Technique classes twice a week, plus daily practice helps me cultivate a sense of ease and safety. These simple-but-profound exercises are a mainstay of my recovery.

Laughter Yoga online gives me fun, safe, engaging social interaction that is beneficial to my whole body and ability to connect, feel safe, and have fun. 

Therapeutic riding / co-regulation with horse 3 times a week helps build healthy routines, creates the incentive to move, helps me downregulate, builds strength, flexibility, and coordination.

Forest Walking, which helps regulate the nervous system. I often notice how trees keep growing no matter what disasters have befallen them. 

HeartMath 3x daily coherence/HRV practice helps me build and cultivate neural pathways to “reduce and avoid stress while experiencing increased peace, satisfaction, and enjoyment.”

Authentic Movement helps me feel safely connected and present in my body while in motion. 

Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) gives my nervous system the opportunity to downregulate or recalculate environmental threat level. 

Medical Marijuana helps alleviate symptoms and assist with processing trauma. Studies show “cannabis can reduce activity in the amygdala – a part of the brain associated with fear responses to threats…[and] cannabinoids could play a role in extinguishing traumatic memories.” Cannabis’s entheogenic properties can help process trauma. 

Mindfulness, which, according to Dr. Dan Siegal at UCLA School of Medicine, helps integrate the brain.

Interpersonal Neurobiology, the knowledge of which helps me understand the biological imperative to connect at the heart level and learn how to achieve it. This “interdisciplinary approach invites all branches of science and other ways of knowing to come together and find the common principles from within their often disparate approaches to understanding human experience.”

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SGB for PTSD

SGB Ultrasound

Hand-held ultrasound shows soft tissue of the neck during SGB treatment.

Since Sept 2020 I’ve had five Stellate Ganglion Blocks (SGBs) as a treatment for my Complex PTSD. This minimally invasive and largely safe treatment has been used to treat PTSD for about 10 years and shows remarkably impressive results with long-lasting and even permanent relief. 

I was initially doubtful because studies are largely on young vets with PTSD from war, rather than older people with Complex/Developmental Trauma. However, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Eugene Lipov, who developed the procedure for PTSD. He told me that in his experience “hypervigilance is hypervigilance,” effectiveness depends on individual response, “how much trauma they’ve had and how long they’ve had it,” and with my complex and compounded trauma he felt I had about a 50% chance of success.

The good doctor was right! Each treatment gave my nervous system the opportunity to downregulate or recalculate my threat level. Aside from tinnitus and chronic muscle tension, all other symptoms were dampened. Access to my prefrontal cortex (PFC) increased, energy and spirits rose, and pretty much everything was easier. For about two weeks. This is a fraction of the usual 1-3 month relief.

Symptom Creep and Ongoing Trauma

At about 14 days “symptom creep” came on rapidly and my functionality went down in seemingly equal measure. During the first treatment gap of 35 days, my condition quickly deteriorated until the last two weeks I was near death and very near death.

Fortunately, tho I am a difficult/complex case, the SGB treatments still seem to “build on each other” as others describe. Gradually, my baseline anxiety level has gone down, as has the level of ambient pain. This is a great relief!

It occurred to me that ongoing traumatic events are a significant factor in my SGB effectiveness window. I would have a better response to SGB if I could focus only on healing my nervous system instead of dealing with continuing trauma. I can’t control most things, but I can avoid some triggering things.

Medical Trauma Hiatus = Forward Motion

After two particularly bad experiences with new providers, which heavily triggered me and caused me great dissociation, I determined it best to suspend all medical interactions except those with providers I can trust to not trigger/harm me. I canceled all others, including consults, tests, and screenings, even my dental check-up. Now, I can focus as exclusively on healing my nervous system as possible.

Soon we will complete SGB #6, which will be a left-sided procedure instead of the usual right. This due to new info I found at Dr. Sean Mulvaney’s site. He reports that a small number of patients, who respond well to the right side, will respond profoundly to the left. Fingers crossed!

Good sources of more info about SGB for PTSD:

Dr. Eugene Lipov’s new Stella Center

Dr. Sean Mulvaney’s site

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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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