3 Gateways to Presence

Interoception, Exteroception, Proprioception. My Alexander Technique instructor and friend, Imogen Ragone and I discuss how “awareness of our inner self and bodily sensations (interoception), of our position and movement in space (proprioception), and of the stimuli coming from outside ourselves (exteroception) are key gateways to being present – something we are in great need of when we are stressed. In my sixth conversation with trauma awareness activist Shay Seaborne, we discuss these three concepts AND give tips on how to cultivate each one. All three are important to our wellbeing, giving us key resources that help us build resilience in the face of both trauma and the everyday stresses of life.” View the full series. 

 
#TraumaAwareAmerica
#AlexanderTechnique
#PTSDawarenessMonth
#ComplexPTSD
#ComplexPTSDawareness
#PTSDrecovery
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PTSD Awareness Day: Trauma-Informed Care is Vital

Trauma Un-Informed Psychologist

To the editor of the News Journal: PTSD Awareness Day is June 27, an occasion to acknowledge the vital need for Trauma Informed Care (TIC) training for frontline providers. As the pandemic continues and PTSD diagnoses rise, many will needlessly find themselves aboard the Trauma Train Express. They will suffer even greater harm simply because they ask for help from trauma-uninformed and thereby harmful providers.

When I turned to monolithic ChristianaCare for help with Complex PTSD from Developmental Trauma, the organization and its providers were unprepared and short of resources to deliver necessary services or appropriate care. The corporation has been a danger to me as a trauma survivor.

ChristianaCare denied the pharmacogenetic test that would have prevented the prescription toxicity issue, ignored my words and needs, retraumatized me, and recklessly funneled me to Rockford Center.* I experienced eight nightmarish days of retraumatization, followed by several dreadful weeks of polypharmacy withdrawal. ChristianaCare’s maltreatment set back my progress by two years so far.

The absurd lack of response from ChristianaCare’s Patient and Family Relations and leadership exacerbated my distress. The corporation neither offered or allowed repair, which impedes resolution of the trauma caused by its systemic failure.

This outrageous experience propelled me to become a trauma awareness activist-artist. I emphasize that, without high quality TIC training–such as that offered by the non-profit Zero Abuse Project–ChristianaCare and other providers will remain uninformed and ill equipped for the fast-rising tide of trauma survivors. They have and will needlessly cause additional great harm to countless highly vulnerable people. 

—-end—

*Rockford Center for Behavioral Health, owned by America’s largest psychiatric hospital chain, Universal Health Services, or UHS. “A yearlong BuzzFeed News investigation — based on interviews with 175 current and former UHS staff, including 18 executives who ran UHS hospitals; more than 120 additional interviews with patients, government investigators, and other experts; and a cache of internal documents — raises grave questions about the extent to which those profits were achieved at the expense of patients.”

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Why We Need Trauma Informed Care (TIC)

Why We Need Trauma Informed Care

The trauma survivor’s Red Alert system is stuck on “HIGH,” but the trauma-uninformed psychologist has no clue. This one, at ChristianaCare thinks he is The Well And Knowing Doctor Who Bestows His Wisdom And Thereby Health Upon The Broken Patient. He can’t see the raging monster that chews her up. He has only a hammer called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Sadly, CBT can be a disaster for a trauma survivor. Her prefrontal cortex is largely inaccessible due to the trauma, and she needs her therapist to help her build a sense of safety before her brain can calm enough for CBT. An uninformed provider can and often does cause great harm to trauma survivors. His focus on “make better choices” is not only unhelpful and harmful, it pathologizes and shames the trauma survivor. This. Must. Stop.
Artwork by Shay Seaborne. All rights reserved.

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Remembering the man to whom I owe my life

Granddaddy On this Father’s Day I wish to recognize and honor the man to whom I owe my life, even though I only had a short time with him. That was my Granddaddy, my maternal great-grandfather. He was the only grandfather figure I knew. He managed to give me enormous gifts during the two or three weeks my mother, siblings and I lived with him and my great-grandmother. I loved going to Santiago Elementary School, but time with my Granddaddy after school and on weekends made me especially happy, because when I was with him everything was okay. 

I felt safe at my great-grandparents’ house, in part because my father was on the other side of the country. That time away from my monster and with my Granddaddy gave me a sense of safety, even if transient.

Granddaddy gave me pure love and acceptance. I felt it in my body when I held his hand and walked down the sidewalk, palm to palm. The tender skin of age and youth pressed together in a communion of the heart and spirit born from deep abiding love for a child. My granddaddy gave that to me and because of that, I have it in me. 

My great-grandfather changed my life because he showed me safety and connection with his touch, with the wrinkles in his eyes, the softness of his hands, and the firmness of his fingers around my own. His heartfelt kindness gave me a tiny spark of hope, love, and comfort to hang onto.

Granddaddy was the one adult who showed me tenderness, love, protection, and a reflection of my true worth. Without these, I would not have survived. Those few hours I was with my Granddaddy turned out to shape my life in countless invisible ways that sustained me through unspeakable cruelty and contempt. He helped me be stronger than all of that put together. 

My great-grandfather’s love, magic, kindness, tenderness, and steadiness became something I could hold on to. Granddaddy showed me my instincts were right. Part of me knew that life couldn’t just be hell; there had to be some safety and love in it. He confirmed that. Even though I felt some degree of safety with other people sometimes, there was nobody else who was so lovingly there for me. Granddaddy showed me we all need to be lovingly there for each other.

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The freeze response

The freeze response is one of the most primitive and life-saving. It is used in situations the body/mind considers life-threatening. When a person can’t fight, can’t run, and feels they are going to die, they freeze or collapse because those are the only options. The freeze response  conserves resources and numbs psychological and physical pain.

To freeze lets a person put energy into surviving the event with the least possible impact on psyche and ability to function. However, the brain and nervous system can be over stimulated and trained to overreact to lesser situations. This is generally the result of chronic unpredictable toxic stress, particularly in early childhood. That becomes the way you are wired because you never get the chance to express that traumatic energy. It becomes stuck in the body.

A freeze response is actually very helpful for a child who is in grave danger from a terrifying parent. The freeze response can help the child emotionally protect. For instance, an alcoholic parent who becomes violent when drunk. If the young brain has witnessed or experienced sporadic and repeated violence it will learn to be much more fearful of life and peole than that of a child in a healthy environment.

The traumatized brain and nervous system can be retrained to fear less, although this takes great time and effort. I work each day to resolve a tiny bit of the trauma that could not be released because a highly toxic developmental environment disallowed completion of the trauma response cycle. My body became stuck on red alert because there was no resolution. Unresolved trauma is cumulative and compounded, so it’s far easier to not jank up the kid than to unjank the adult. This is why we need a #TraumaAwareAmerica

 

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Posture, Body Language, Stress, and Trauma

Alexander Technique instructor Imogen Ragone and I discuss “the implications and impact of posture and body language on people dealing with stress and trauma, and what neuroscience is telling us about this.” Imogen dispels “some common myths (and potentially harmful advice) we so often hear about improving our posture” and gives a quick tip “with a different approach that is both more physically comfortable and more sustainable.” View the full series. 

This video was originally broadcast live from Imogen’s Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/CalmConfidentControl/

Find out more about Imogen and her work at: https://imogenragone.com

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“CyCling” with Ease to Down-Regulate Stress and Trauma

Alexander Technique instructor Imogen Ragone and I discuss and practice TheCyCle™ – “a simple yet powerful way to calm your own nervous system and release excess tension from your body.
“In our last video Shay told us about three important coping tools for anyone suffering from stress and trauma. The first one, and possibly the most important, was DOWN-REGULATION. Being able to DOWN-REGULATE is key to interrupting and lowering your stress responses.
“In our fourth conversation, Shay and I discuss TheCyCle™ – a practice she has learned from me which helps her calm her own nervous system. It has become her go-to down-regulation tool. TheCyCle takes only a couple of minutes to do, and you will get the opportunity to learn and experience it for yourself in this video.
“TheCyCle comes directly from the Primal Alexander work of Mio Morales, and I teach it to all my clients. It’s not only a way for you to calm your own nervous system, but also provides a framework in which to practice the type of thinking and awareness that cultivates ease in a way that’s portable and accessible in many situations.” View the full series. 

This video was originally broadcast live from Imogen’s Facebook Page
Find out more about Imogen and her work.You can join Imogen’s BodyIntelligence Community, a free Facebook group.

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Unashamed of my Complex PTSD

A few people have asked my why I talk so much about Complex PTSD, or Developmental Trauma. I am open about my struggles with ​Complex ​PTSD and depression​ in part because I am not ashamed.​​ I have physiological conditions brought on by developmental trauma​, a galaxy of cruel and neglectful things done to me as a child and exacerbated by abusive employers​ and doctors. ​PTSD and depression do not indicate a character flaw​. I did nothing to ask for this, it is not needed for my spiritual development, ​something God gave me because I can handle it​ or as punishment for impiety​​. Nor is it​ ​payback for some ​supposed ​horrible thing I did in ​this or ​a past life. Complex PTSD is the result of disordered attachment combined with ​tr​​a​u​matic experience​ and ​lack of social ​support​. It doesn’t mean I’m deficient. It means I was born into a family with a legacy of intergenerational violence. Complex PTSD does not indicate the sufferer’s deficiency or failure, but that of her early environment.

I wish to help erase the cruel stigma attached to mental health conditions. People with mental health conditions do not deserve ridicule, shame, or abuse. ​We​ deserve extra care​, just like people with broken bones or tumors.​​ ​Healing from childhood trauma takes a great deal of effort, courage, resourcefulness, professional help, and community support. ​

Talking about Complex PTSD/Developmental Trauma helps me and others. Being open helps me a​f​firm through my actions that ​I ​have nothing of which to be ashamed. The kind responses to my distress are part of what helps me heal. ​Talking about it ​also ​helps other​s​ heal. It helps people understand their loved ones with mental health conditions​ and people with mental health conditions to understand they are not alone. Once in a while someone will contact me privately and say something like, ​”​It happened to me, too​.”​ ​Some say my courage encourages them. Occasionally one will ​say they never told anyone before but they’re telling me because I’m the first person they’ve felt safe to tell. Telling one’s truth for the first time is the first big step toward healing.

May all survivors find the support they need to heal.

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“Stress, Trauma, Neuroscience and the Alexander Technique” Facebook Live

In my third Facebook Live talk with my friend and Alexander Technique instructor Imogen Ragone, we discuss the importance of down-regulation, titration, and co-regulation for anyone dealing with stress or trauma. I explain what I’ve learned from my study of neuroscience about the neurobiology of stress and trauma. These three important concepts support recovery and healing, and Alexander Technique and BodyIntelligence have helped me develop them.  View the full series. 

 

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“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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