Declining to feed the holiday frenzy

I first participated in “Buy Nothing Day” on Black Friday when my children were little. It became my tradition. A friend, who had braved the shopping chaos, said that the local outlet mall (“Virginia’s Number One Tourist Attraction!”) was so packed with gift-seekers that parking overflowed to outlying lots, and that it was “a zoo out there!” 

Instead of wending my way through ravenous throngs and standing in interminable lines that day, I enjoyed the lovely seventy-degree weather, hanging laundry on the line, and going on an extra-long bicycle ride. I relished the feel of sun and breeze, knowing it will not be long before winter’s glum visage stares us down for seemingly endless months. These moments of satisfaction are a hallmark of having successfully “unplugged” the “Christmas Machine.”

I began lobbying my family to turn down the holiday volume in 2000 when the number of grandchildren and gifts given had turned Christmas Eve at my father’s house into an hours-long materialistic feeding frenzy. Like a friend once noted about her family’s celebration, we “could not see the Christmas tree for the trash around it.”

At first, my children and I were only able to identify what we did not like about the holiday madness, but we were not sure exactly what we wanted to keep. As a first step toward a more satisfying holiday season, I purchased copies of “Unplug the Christmas Machine” and “New Traditions,” books that helped my family define how we do want to celebrate. We noted that the number one thing that makes the season special for us is spending time with loved ones. Also scoring high was feeling relaxed in a calm atmosphere. We also like doing a few simple and meaningful things together, like baking one or two kinds of heirloom cookies to give to friends and neighbors, taking walks to see the lights at night, and decorating simply, with candles, evergreen branches, and a small tree. We might also donate some goodies to the animal shelter bake sale, learn a new song, or go to a friend’s sing-along.

Gift-giving did not disappear, but we downplayed the focus on material things. The children found stocking stuffers and candy in their stockings, and a few gifts under our little tree. When we opened gifts, we did it over a long course, so we could take time to fully appreciate each one.

These changes were initially not well received among the extended family, but after a few years, the aunts, uncles, and grandparents stopped insisting on giving my children Pound Puppies—or whatever was “in”—regardless of my daughters’ interests. The “reciprocity guilt” bothered me at first, but eased as I saw the effects of standing my ground, watching the material tide ebb. Indeed, one of the best things about unplugging the holidays is being emancipated from standing in the department store’s return line on December 26th. I still remember how free I felt the first time I was able to stay home with my family instead of going through the cattle chute with other grumpy post-Christmas reverse shoppers.

By the time my children were 16 and 13 they had repeatedly expressed pleasure at our having opted out of perpetuating the cycle of insatiable material gluttony that defines the holiday season for numerous Americans. They appreciated that the holiday season no longer brought stress and strain to our home, right through to the gift aftermath and emotional letdown. Instead, we were serenely enjoying *not* mall hopping, *not* lining up with the unhappy multitudes, *not* being constantly barraged with the same music ad nauseum, *not* worrying about finding “just the right gift” for the person who already has more than enough, *not* worrying about how much to spend on whom, *not* wondering if the children’s concept of the reason for the season is a glut of new stuff, *not* worrying how we will find room for a flood of new belongings, *not* stressing over how to pay for it all, and *not* planning to get up early the day after Christmas to stand in line with packs of other people who are glumly returning the junk they didn’t want or need. 

My family’s holiday activities became low-key. We kept our observances simple and meaningful. We spent little, stressed none, and found great satisfaction. Stepping back from the holiday feeding frenzy is one of the most subversive actions a family can take. After our move toward sanity, we saw our steps repeated by others. This built a small circle of friends and family members who had also chosen to back away from a stressful, harried, and cheapened holiday season. One never knows what small act may plant the seeds of a revolution.

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The “Patel Pause”: building capacity for trust after trauma

A brief, simple protocol of granting and withdrawing consent can help restore patient trust after medical or other trauma. An increased sense of safety and agency in your practice will help traumatized patients return instead of postponing care.

The Patel Pause is a pre-procedure protocol initiated in 2021 by pain specialist Hersh Patel MD, MBA, in collaboration with a patient who suffers from severe Complex PTSD from Developmental Trauma exacerbated by multiple medical traumas. Due to inhibitions caused by multiple lifelong traumas starting at an early age, the patient was unable to speak up when a procedure hurt. “I froze instead of telling him I would like the topical…I did what I was trained, hold still, shut up, and take it,” the patient noted in retrospect.

The trauma survivor explained the situation and asked Dr. Patel if he would help them work through it at their next appointment. They wanted to practice saying “stop” when they were in pain and to learn to feel it is OK to take a time-out and ask for the topical.

Dr. Patel liked the idea and further developed it. The day of the procedure he asked the patient if they would like “a trial run,” during which he would stimulate the injection site by pressing the capped needle against it. “Let me know when it’s painful and you want me to stop,” he advised. The patient quickly sensed that her pain specialist was never going to put enough pressure on the needle cap to make it actually hurt. This felt very supportive. The patient realized it was better because they could just say ‘stop’ for any reason, not only if it hurt. The two practiced the nascent protocol three times. “Each time it became easier. I felt more safe saying ‘stop,’” the patient enthused. “It felt empowering to have that happen, especially after non-consensual surgery robbed me of my sense of agency,” they said.

Dr. Patel decided to make this protocol part of his practice. He gave the patient the opportunity to name it. They decided it should be called the Patel Pause to honor the kind doctor who thoughtfully invented it. “Cognitively, I know I have agency with him, but my nervous system has not yet forgotten the abusive doctors who caused such deep harm I can barely make it through a routine visit. Every little reinforcement of agency helps. Dr. Patel’s being so kind to do this with me just took a few minutes of his time and actual care and consideration about what the patient needs,” the trauma survivor noted.

Having found the Patel Pause helpful before a procedure, the patient decided to ask their physical therapist to practice it before each dry needling of the lumbar region. With physical therapy three times a week the patient quickly realized their tendency to bark out the word “stop.” They decided to experiment with saying it more softly. This brought even more value to the pre-procedure protocol. “I just whispered it, ‘stop,’ and he stopped,” the patient enthused. “My nervous system was thrilled. It’s powerful to whisper and discover a man hears me, respects my boundary, and stops,” said the patient.

The steady repetitions of the Patel Pause during months of lumbar PT helped the patient’s nervous system prepare for a lumbar sympathetic block. To the patient, this was a new procedure in an unfamiliar section of the same hospital where the trauma occurred. They believe the advanced practice made the procedure easier and the environment feel safer.

The Patel Pause helps build a patient’s sense of agency through consent and withdrawal of consent. The patient determines when and for how long the provider may engage physically. That’s a very basic kind of agency, which the medical system greatly overlooks. This can disempower patients and make them feel like objects. “Consistent use with my PT has widened my window of tolerance for touch and helped my nervous system regain a new level of safety in a system that has been chronically fraught with danger for me. I now ask all my hands-on providers to utilize the protocol before they touch me,” said the patient.

With the Patel Pause patient agency is reinforced even when previously established with a familiar provider. “The more I explore the Patel Pause the greater my understanding of the deep need for a sense of agency in medicine, a realm where a patient’s agency is often bypassed in favor of expediency, familiarity, or certainty,” said the patient. “We need a lot more curiosity from our providers,” they asserted.

How to Perform the Patel Pause:

A patient’s sense of agency is centered on their feeling they have choices. It’s important to introduce the concept as an option, an offering.

You might note that you’ve come across this pre-procedure protocol that some people find helps them feel more comfortable during the procedure. You could tell the patient, “it’s kind of like a practice run to help your body and nervous system get familiar with what we’re going to do here. Some patients find that helps them feel more comfortable.”

Come to an agreement with the patient about what touching will be involved. You can use the below example as a starting point.

Tell the patient you’re going to make contact when they say it’s okay and you’ll stop when they say “stop” for whatever reason. Let them know it’s suggested to do this three times, but it’s up to the patient. And you can stop doing the whole thing at any time they say stop. “I’ll stop even if you whisper” can be very assuring.

The patient may also wish to see equipment and have it explained. That can help them orient in the environment, which may help them feel safer.

Explain the procedure and let them know it’s an option. If they accept, begin the procedure and talk through it.

Initial consent. The patient tells the provider okay or otherwise indicates they are ready to begin and be touched.
The provider touches the patient in the agreed-upon manner. When the patient feels inclined, they tell the provider “Stop.” Provider stops.
The provider asks the patient if they would like to do it again. If so, repeat steps 1 and 2. After the third “stop,” if the patient is ready, resume the touch and begin the procedure.

The most important aspect of the Patel Pause is the initial consent, withdrawal of consent, and giving of consent again. That pattern repeated over time can help build patient agency, which is essential for the sense of safety.

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Alienated from shadows, butterflies, and waving ferns


window view

Photo: view out one of the studio windows. I’m going to plant it with many kinds of flowers.

This feels strange. I’m still not used to living with so many windows. My nervous system is not yet familiar enough with the world outside them to be fully comfortable.

For instance, I frequently turn expecting a threat at the nervous system level, only to realize at the cognitive level the threat was the movement of the ferns in the breeze, the flight of a bird or butterfly, or the passing shadow of a cloud.

I’m reminded of that scene in “The Piano” in which Ada, having stopped speaking many years before, following a traumatic event, after which she was a mail-order bride.

In her new life, she’s with Harvey Keitel. Actually, the character Keitel plays, George Baines. Ada is alone in a Victorian living room, practicing making sounds with her body. She’s learning to speak all over again. For reasons left up to the viewer to determine, Ada wears a black lace veil or shawl over her head. She moves around the room as if led by her hands. Sounds from her mouth make the black lace billow.

Many times in my recovery from recurrent psychiatric and medical abuse and neglect I have felt something like Ada. Like I have to learn basic skills from scratch because my nervous system was so damaged I could no longer access those neural pathways. So damaged by psychiatric abuse I could not even hold a paintbrush. I lost numerous other capacities, too. Too many to list, and too painful to bear.

Also like Ada, I feel there are words in me yet unformed, a voice that still needs to come forth. Like I’ve been isolated in a faraway land for years, and as my doctor described it, I am now “reentering the culture that caused me tremendous harm.”

But this, the sense of having been so tremendously alienated from shadows, butterflies, and waving ferns! The concept is difficult to integrate in part because of the profound level of isolation I experienced. Three weeks into my new home I’m still discovering how much. I’m also discovering the return of my capacity to experience feelings I have long missed out on due to the dysregulation of survival mode. In the last week or so I have felt glimmers of joy, peace, and even little whispers of the sense that it’s good to be here.

This year has already been one of tremendous change and forward motion. The improvements in my quality of life are largely due to my determination and focused attention, but also my commitment to “never stop talking it,” as the great Maya Angelou advised us.

“Talking it,” telling the truth about my lived experience no matter how unpopular, helped me land in this cottage. I had told it to the landlord when I encountered him in the forest years ago and had no idea who he was or would be to me. Talking my truth also helped me develop a very safe and integrative relationship with my most beautiful doctor, which has fostered my capacity to build integrative relationships with other doctors. I gained two additional good doctors by telling my truth and teaching the neurobiology behind it.

Telling my story is pretty much all I have left. Everything else was stripped away by abuse and neglect. Cruelty and contempt at the hands of caregivers and others in positions of power. How we treat each other changes who we are.

This is why I can no longer accept compassionless medical practitioners. Compassion is the number one healing modality. If the relationship is not integrative, it is not healthcare.

I can also no longer accept any other meaningful relationship that is not clearly integrative. The social status of the relationship is meaningless to my nervous system. I simply need to be with people who treat me well. “Treat me well” is a double entendre.

Here’s to reclaiming and building the neural pathways for safe connection in my new environment and into the wider world.

#patientabuse #badpsychology #psychiatry #medicine #psychology #trauma #safety #connection #community #interpersonalneurobiology #relationships #nature #isolation #RedAlert #safety #connection #community #interpersonalneurobiology #relationships #nature #isolation #RedAlert #isolation #connection #saferelationships

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Letter to ChristianaCare’s head “Constable” (para-police)

In June of 2023, I received a number of calls from Dave Labriola, a “constable” or para-police from ChristianaCare (CCHS), the mega-hospital that dominates Upper Delaware. Labriola made false accusations, clearly didn’t understand the Code of Delaware to which he referred, and didn’t even seem to know that he was guilty of harassment himself.

I refused to be intimidated by Labriola’s bully tactics, which flustered him. He cut short the conversation and apparently went and told on me to his daddy, Major Hill, the head of the para-police.

Major Hill called me a day or two later to tell me that ChristianaCare had “discharged” me from the system with no further notice; I was no longer able to receive care from my 3 best providers, pow! I told the head constable that his dude, Labriola, needed some retraining, as he harassed me. Major Hill came back with a 4th-grade bully’s response, “No he didn’t!” Um, yeah, I can read the Code of Delaware. It’s not neuroscience.

My encounters with CCHS constables were disturbing, mostly because since then I discovered that they count on intimidation, bullying, and sometimes kicking and beating downed patients to “keep the peace.” Manly threats likely take care of most aggrieved patients. Sorry, fella’s doesn’t work with me. That’ll get you a letter on official stationery. This is what I sent:

Major Hill
Public Safety
Christiana Hospital
4755 Ogletown-Stanton Road
Newark, DE 19718

                                                                                                            June 23, 2022

Dear Major Hill,

As I noted during our brief phone conversation this morning, your constable, Dave Labriola, is actually guilty of harassing me.

My phone log clearly shows Constable Labriola called multiple times and did not identify himself until the 3rd. That is harassment under this section of the code: “(5) Makes repeated or anonymous telephone calls to another person whether or not conversation ensues, knowing that person is thereby likely to cause annoyance or alarm.”

Your constable’s legitimate complaint was that I put up the cards. It was legitimate for him to tell me to stop. The rest was out of bounds, clearly intended to intimidate.

“(1) That person insults, taunts or challenges another person or engages in any other course of alarming or distressing conduct which serves no legitimate purpose and is in a manner which the person knows is likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response or cause a reasonable person to suffer fear, alarm, or distress;”

It was obvious the constable was attempting to scare me into believing his false accusation. He also harassed me about what letters I might have received from the hospital, specifically the legal department. A constable’s legitimate work does not entail abusing harmed patients by making false accusations and harassing them. He should have gathered his facts in advance and shouldn’t have tried to scare me into believing his BS.

If your Constables want to accuse a person, they need to first be very clear about how the person’s behavior meets the criteria. Otherwise, they are fabricating BS, which is intended to cause distress, to harass; it is not legitimate behavior. I’ll let Patient and Family Relations know, for whatever good it would do. At least it’ll be on the record in case somebody else has the guts to stand up to out-of-bounds behavior from your department. I know I’m not the first.

Shay Seaborne, CPTSD

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The half-brother I’ll never meet

Today is my half-brother’s birthday. When I was a teenager my mother told me to commit to memory her first child’s birth date, hospital name, city, and state. I recited them to myself again and again and throughout my life, I made sure to not forget. My mother had given birth to her first child a few weeks before her 16th birthday. She was taken to a very closed adoption state to give birth. She had told me they said “It’s a boy” and took him away without letting her see him. My mother said nothing else about the circumstances of her son’s conception or birth. 

Almost 30 years ago I contacted his birth state about records and possible ways to find my half-brother. I continued to look for ways to find him but the system was cumbersome and expensive.

This brother played prominently when I attended a 3-day Family Constellations seminar in the fall of 2018. The therapist said that my connection to him was important. That he’s the brother I needed. I believed it. I wanted the closeness of an older brother who might be especially glad to have a younger sister. As long as I can remember, I wanted an older brother: somebody who would kind of replace the father figure who wasn’t there for me. Somebody who would look out for me, take me under their wing, stick up for me, give me some guidance, and just be an important older person in my life who I can feel safe with. That’s what I really wanted, the kind of safety that I imagined I could have with an older brother.

The Family Constellations therapist suggested that I choose a name to call my half-brother. I knew his father was a carioca, so my half-brother’s name would be something Brazilian, like João, so that’s what I called him, after the famous composer, singer, and musician, João Gilberto.

After that seminar, I tried again to find my half-brother. I contacted the state again, and this time was told they could put a note in his file in case he was looking for contact info. I also had my DNA analyzed at Ancestry and 23 and Me, hoping to find some connection. About a year later, I received a message from my half-brother, who had just learned he was adopted. 

The Family Constellations therapist had told me that “ João” got the better end of the stick, meaning that his life was easier than those of his younger siblings. I figured it was likely because at least he didn’t have the influence of our father. It turns out that he did have a much better life, although not without its tragedies and traumas, including the trauma of his position in the family. He was the replacement boy for the young son who had died. The father was a physician and blamed himself. The substitute son could never feel like he measured up or like he was really part of the family. The older brother was abusive, as well. And yet, his better childhood environment gave this brother a more solid foundation. He didn’t have so many obstacles to overcome just to function. So he went to college, started a business, had a career, a long marriage, and good health. 

When she was impregnated with her first child, my mother was just a few months past 15, about the same age I experienced the start of a year of abduction, slavery, torture, trafficking, rape, and gang rape.

Now that I understand the magnitude of the transmission of intergenerational trauma unless it is mindfully stopped, I understand that my mother wouldn’t have trafficked me if she hadn’t been trafficked herself. If it hadn’t been normalized in her childhood. She wouldn’t have given me drugs and alcohol and left me alone with strange men. She wouldn’t have orchestrated these types of encounters. She also wouldn’t have set me up to be strip searched by US Customs. Or laughed about it after. Her mother did horrible things to her and my half-brother’s father was probably one of them. A pedophile who liked pretty young girls, maybe especially virgins. That’s what kind of man he was. A man who would think it’s okay to shove his tool into a teenage girl. 

By the time I met my half-brother online in 2020, his wife was declining due to the recurrence of cancer. He expressed delight at the idea of having two younger sisters and younger brothers. We had some very nice phone calls and messenger chats. I thought he was the kind of older brother I always needed. He told me I was the kind of sister he’d always wanted.

His wife passed and the rest of our siblings flew out for the funeral. I was incapacitated by hypercritical allostatic load from compound trauma. I could not function well enough to travel. 

At first, my half-brother offered some empathy, as well as admiration for what I had survived and how well. Over time, though, his view of me changed. He made clear his opinion that my real problem was that I was actually not the kind of sister he always wanted. He wanted a sister who met his expectations to follow his advice, regardless of whether it was helpful or even scientifically sound, much less, appropriate for me as an individual. I did not follow his unhelpful advice but gave him the neuroscience about why it was unhelpful. My half-brother, a career science teacher, discounted and ignored the neurophysiology of my condition and chose to chalk it up to a supposed character flaw that made me unworthy of his respect. He treated me as if my thoughts and behaviors are the problem and he is the solution; his corrections would fix what was wrong with me if only I would do as he decrees!

My half-brother gave me the equivalent of “Just do some yoga, think better thoughts, be happy, and your life will be wonderful like mine.” When I declined, his response was essentially, “You’re an idiot who wants to be stuck where they are. You choose your misery so you deserve to be degraded and kicked and spat upon by those who say they want to help you.” Perhaps my half-brother treated me like his “A brother” (Adopted brother) treated him and perhaps how their father treated both of them. That would make sense of his behavior. He certainly treated me similarly to most members of my family of origin.

In my half-brother’s blinkered view, my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are the problem. In actuality, they are expressions of the real problem: a nervous system dysregulated by people like him. By people who treat me as he demonstrated that he wants to treat me. My half-brother wants to give me more of what ails me, just like the mainstream culture and the medical-psychiatry-pharma-insurance complex. NO. 

Dr. Dan Siegel says “Empathy is not optional in our relationships,” and this is particularly true for trauma survivors. Empathy is the number one need, as it is the foundation for safe energy and information flow in relationships. Without authentic empathy, there is no genuine safety. My half-brother’s display of contempt and cruelty precludes him from any meaningful role in my life. I have gone full no contact. Total cut-off. Unless and until he can recognize, describe, and apologize for the harmful behavior as well as demonstrate new patterns rooted in goodwill, acceptance, mutuality, and respect. 

My half-brother wanted me to dishonor my natural, normal, and necessary integration process and pretend to be someone I’m not so he could be more comfortable. In other words, he was trying to shut me up. NO.

Ironically, all of my “B” (“Birth) siblings have met our half-brother, but I have not. I will not, even though I’m the one who knew about him from our mother, tried to find him, and had the biggest hopes for a relationship.

It’s likely that part of me will always be a little sad that I didn’t get to meet this brother, that the connection was faulty and superficial, and that I’ll never have the older brother I would love so much to have. But mostly, I will be thankful I have the capacity to recognize this and let go of the idea that he has to be close or that I even have to have an older brother. I certainly have made it this far without one.

My real problem is that I’ve been around too many people like my half-brother. I need only “I’m okay, you’re okay” relationships, no “I’m okay, you’re not okay,” which is what he tried to assert. No, thank you. Bye-bye. Next!

Maybe I’ll observe the day with a brother casting-off ceremony. I’ll burn some little bits of string to symbolize that the dynamic between me and my half-brother is too small for me. I’ll burn them in the name of freedom, lightness, authenticity, and safe connection. I can’t focus on unsafe connections. I can’t convince people that I’m worthy of connection or make them capable of it. I must accept that some don’t have the capacity to connect with me. Therefore the effort to connect with them is a waste of time, energy, and focused attention. So instead I turn evermore toward the things, people, places, relationships, and memories that support a healthy nervous system, an integrated brain, and secure attachment. All that feels like home. 

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No shame in survival responses!

No shame in survival responses! Every living organism is naturally and normally oriented toward safety, integration/wholeness, and well-being. From an Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) lens, the “something preventing that from happening” is never the organism, but impediments created by the environment.

In addition, an IPNB view shows that feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are expressions of the internal state. When the internal state is regulated, so are feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and the body systems. The goal, then, is not to “move past the disordered condition,” (“disordered condition” being a pathologizing/shaming and inaccurate term), but to remove impediments to the natural and normal orientation. IE, change the environment into one that supports human health and well-being.

Mainstream thought represses the truth that trauma responses are never the fault of the individual but a failure of their environment. The nervous system will learn to feel safe when the individual is safe enough for long enough. But who is safe in our culture of cruelty and contempt?

Fortunately, the scientific field of Interpersonal Neurobiology reveals the truth; how we treat each other changes who we are.

We don’t need more shame; we need an Interpersonal Neurobiology Revolution.


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The courage it takes to speak up against sexualized violence

I often hear that I am courageous for speaking my truth about sexualized violence in my life and its prevalence in America. Yeah, I know. But what is this courage really about?

I’m not courageous because I speak my truth. I’m courageous because I speak my truth despite knowing that the system is set up to protect the abuser instead of me.  That’s where the courage comes from, speaking up in an unsafe environment.

“The legal system is designed to protect men from the superior power of the state but not to protect women or children from the superior power of men. It therefore provides strong guarantees for the rights of the accused but essentially no guarantees for the rights of the victim. If one set out by design to devise a system for provoking intrusive post-traumatic symptoms, one could not do better than a court of law.” — Judith Lewis Herman, MD in “Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror”

Sometimes I am concerned that my military sexual assault case will be blown off as unimportant since there was no skin contact or penetration. But the perpetrator did not have to do those things to accomplish his goal, which was to dominate my body with his and show me that there was nothing I could do. He was right. Until now. May justice prevail.

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Letter to the hospital para-police

One year ago I mailed this letter to the head “constable” (para-police) at ChristianaCare (CCHS) hospital. He had called to inform me that, with no further notice, I was no longer allowed on CCHS property. His call came a day or two after that from another constable, Dave Labriola, who harassed me by phone. I thought I’d send this letter to Major Hill as an official complaint and follow-up to our conversation. I received the “no further contact” letter from the hospital’s legal department a few days later. It’s doubtful anything has changed, but at least I did my part in speaking up about this abusive system. Here’s my letter:

Major Hill
Public Safety
Christiana Hospital
4755 Ogletown-Stanton Road
Newark, DE 19718                                                                                        June 23, 2022


Dear Major Hill,

As I noted during our brief phone conversation this morning, your constable, Dave Labriola, is actually guilty of harassing me.

My phone log clearly shows Constable Labriola called multiple times and did not identify himself until the 3rd. That is harassment under this section of the code: “(5) Makes repeated or anonymous telephone calls to another person whether or not conversation ensues, knowing that person is thereby likely to cause annoyance or alarm.”

Your constable’s legitimate complaint was that I put up the cards. It was legitimate for him to tell me to stop. The rest was out of bounds, clearly intended to intimidate.

“(1) That person insults, taunts or challenges another person or engages in any other course of alarming or distressing conduct which serves no legitimate purpose and is in a manner which the person knows is likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response or cause a reasonable person to suffer fear, alarm, or distress;”

It was obvious the constable was attempting to scare me into believing his false accusation. He also harassed me about what letters I might have received from the hospital, specifically the legal department. A constable’s legitimate work does not entail abusing harmed patients by making false accusations and harassing them. He should have gathered his facts in advance and shouldn’t have tried to scare me into believing his BS.

If your Constables want to accuse a person, they need to first be very clear about how the person’s behavior meets the criteria. Otherwise, they are fabricating BS, which is intended to cause distress, and to harass; it is not legitimate behavior. I’ll let Patient and Family Relations know, for whatever good it would do. At least it’ll be on the record in case somebody else has the guts to stand up to out-of-bounds behavior from your department. I know I’m not the first.


Shay Seaborne

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Permanently discharged from the mega-hospital and thankful!

One year ago today ChristianaCare (CCHS), the mega-hospital that dominates Upper Delaware, sent me a letter to inform me that it was “terminating our relationship” and that I was being “discharged from all ChristianaCare outpatient practices.” The letter claims that my “actions towards ChristianaCare caregivers have consistently created a hostile environment for our care team that is not sustainable,” which is laughable, and a projection.

Out of the dozens of doctors I encountered over my 4 years in that system, I only had major issues with these:

  1. the “embedded psychologist” who ignored my complaints about the increasing suicidal ideations caused by the Lexapro prescribed by a resident physician and failed to keep his promise to find qualified care for my severe PTSD and thereby effectively fed me to the Cuckoo’s Nest called Rockford Center for Behavioral Health, and
  2. The surgeon who cut wedges of healthy tissue off my genitals without consent and has done it to other women so often and so many times the nurse called it “The Dr. G___ Special.” (If I spell out his name I could face legal consequences; that’s how well the law is set up to protect predators, perps, and incompetents in medicine.)

According to the letter, if I enter any CCHS campus for anything but emergency care, or contact any ChristianaCare representative or provider, the mega-hospital may file “harassment and/or criminal trespass charges,” which is hilarious, as its own “constables” (para-police) harassed me under the very clear definition in the Code of Delaware. Funny how the corporation can get away with harassing aggrieved patients, but the patient is the problem. Corporate America at its best. It ain’t about health and it ain’t about care.

Hello, Christiana Care:

Actually, your system was toxic for everyone–patients, providers, and administrators–decades before I showed up. It’s laughable that you try to pin it on me.

What you really mean is that I’m the one who talks about CCHS abuse of patients and won’t shut up. What offends you is that I refuse to stop talking about what that toxic culture did to me and too often does to the others who encounter it.

“Discharging” me from the system was the best thing CCHS ever did for me. In fact, turning to your institution for help with Complex PTSD is my biggest regret in the past 5 years.

I met abuse, neglect, and incompetence in your Emergency Department, where the physician wrote down absolute nonsense in my record, and your records department resorted to corporate skullduggery to avoid correcting the record.

I experienced even further abuse in your Psych Emergency Department, where I was neglected, traumatized, lied to, and manipulated into agreeing to Rockford for “a few days” because it would be “a gateway to services,” but it was a freaking Cuckoo’s Nest of abuse, rights violations, neglect, warehousing and drugging. I could only expect worse now that you’ve put the mark on my record.

These and other abuses caused me to develop serious Medical PTSD. I can’t have the 7″ of hernias in my 14″ belly repaired due to the terror of being “surprised” by a surgeon again.

In the year since my permanent discharge, I’ve discovered that much of my “Medical PTSD” was actually ChristianaCare PTSD. Visits and procedures in other facilities are not nearly as challenging. I actually feel quite safe at Delaware Outpatient Center for Surgery, where no provider 0r staffer has caused me harm.  So, thanks, ChristianaCare Highly-toxic System, for setting me free. I wish everyone could know this level of relief from your cruelty and contempt.


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Close Encounters with Hospital Para-Police

The state of Delaware allows public and private institutions to employ constables or para-police to help “preserve the peace and good order of the state,” including on ChristianaCare (CCHS) facilities. Though they are not allowed to carry guns on duty, constables can otherwise act the same as police officers, including making arrests.

Evidently, at the East Coast’s 11th largest hospital system, parapolice can also act like goons and thugs, as evidenced by this “Raw Video: Hospital constables rough up man.” It shows 4 constables punching, kicking, and kneeing a man while forcibly restraining him in a room at Wilmington Hospital on Feb. 24, 2017. “‘Take him to the room with no camera,’ Carter remembers hearing someone say, adding he searched for a camera when he entered the room…Carter questioned constables why they were being so aggressive, but he said he already sensed what was coming. ‘I could tell the way they grabbed me and they were being all physical that something was going to happen,’ he said.” The article includes that “At Christiana Care, we are committed to an environment in which every person is treated fairly and compassionately,’ Browne said in Christiana’s first release. “This incident does not reflect Christiana Care’s values of serving our neighbors with respect and dignity.'”

Really? Who was responsible for their training? What kind of institutional culture fosters such violence? 

According to “deconstable,” who posted in an forum, ChristianaCare, will “pretty much pay to send [constables]…to any training course you want,” but evidently it does not focus on actual training in dealing effectively with human beings. 

In the Delaware Online article, “Man roughed up by hospital constables: I knew it was coming,” CCHS Vice President of Communication Karen Y. Browne is quoted as assuring that “four constables and two supervisors have been ‘separated’ from the organization,” and “We’ve already begun retraining our public safety staff on our policies and procedures, and are committed to preventing anything similar to this from happening again,” which would seem to solve the problem IF the issue was those 4 officers, rather than institutional culture.

However, within a few weeks of that incident, some of the remainder of the 67 constables were involved in another rough-up incident. In this video, “Change still sought with constables at Christiana Care,” a private citizen describes how ChristianaCare (CCHS) para-police rushed, cuffed, and detained him after he filmed them physically accosting someone. When they gave his phone back, they told him he had to delete the video or be charged for “making a video inside of a private institution.” The accosted man said in the interview, ” I just want change. I don’t want a lawsuit, I don’t want money, I don’t want fame or notoriety, I want change. I want the people to be treated fairly. I want people to know that there’s no reason to treat people like less than people.”

Deconstable noted in the user forum that the mega-hospital replaces “uniforms, duty gear, patrol vehicles…yearly,” and that “whatever the newest ‘police toy’ is out on the market they buy it for us.” (Golly, that’s comforting!) The forum user also stated that the mega-hospital it is the “only hospital in Delaware to have a fully trained K-9 program. We have 4 teams of canines and handlers that are nationally certified in both explosives and patrol work.” Deconstable described the job as “some days its security work unlocking doors, on other nights when 100 people show up for a shooting victim that arrived from the City of Wilmington you’ll have your hands full; and everything else in between like family fights, disorderly persons, thefts, combative patients, trespassers, and involuntary mental health committals [Emphasis mine]. 

My own encounters with ChristianaCare’s parapolice in 2022 were not physically violent, but abusive nonetheless. They harassed me by phone, accused me of crimes they could not describe or relate to law, and clearly did not have an understanding of the Code of Delaware they were supposedly citing. It would have been ludicrous if it had not been so pathetic. These guys acted like ignorant bullies. I believe that’s why they’re hired. I mean, they supposedly go through a mental health exam. Shouldn’t that screen out the nasty ones? From my experience, it seems those are the ones hired. 

The issue with ChristianaCare parapolice is not one or two incidents, but an organizational culture designed to overstep, while it says its “promise to you” is to “to serve our neighbors as expert, caring partners in their health. We do this by creating innovative, effective, affordable and equitable systems of care.” This is quite counter to much of my experience in that rigid and chaotic system. Unfortunately, it’s clear I am far from alone.

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