Humans as social animals

Human beings are inherently social animals, but, unfortunately, the ability to properly function as a social organism takes a certain set of resources, of which many of us were robbed or never allowed. Proper human functioning is nearly impossible for those who grew up in abusive environments. Their resources are necessarily focused on the very basics, as I too often have.

At age 20 I struggled mightily with the weight of two decades of cumulative and compounded trauma from extreme child maltreatment and numerous near-death experiences at the hands of caregivers who threatened to kill me. 

This, combined with a total lack of psychosocial support that could have helped me recover, put me on an almost unbendable life course of struggle, pain, misery, relationship problems, difficulty with authority, mental health issues, homelessness, joblessness, and high risk of turning to addictive substances, engaging in self-harm, and committing suicide.

I had little capacity to choose anything. I was in survival mode.  Indeed, preeminent neuroscientist Dr. Robert Sapolsky asserts humans actually have very little free will; our choices, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings are driven by instinct, history, genetics, and our environment. We tend to forget about the latter. 

As shown by Sapolsky’s baboon research, the problem is our social structure, not us as individuals. We need a culture that promotes widespread human functioning as social organisms, not the domination system that destroys this and only serves the greed of those at the top. This is the choice society must make. It’s life or death. 


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DO THIS, NOT THAT! When Compassionate Witnessing Goes Wrong

In this video, Imogen Ragone and I provide practical information about what to do, and crucially, what NOT to do. They discuss how to identify and avoid the common mistakes that undermine meaningful connection, and what you can do instead.

Imogen and I co-teach Foundations of Regulation, a 4-week online course for people dealing with trauma and chronic stress. More information at:  

#compassionatewitnessing #neurobiology #stress #trauma

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Compassionate witnessing: what is it and why does it seem like magic?

Do you know what it means to be a compassionate witness? It’s a term that’s been bandied around quite a bit recently and is something we’ve discussed in depth in Imogen Ragone‘s weekly BodyIntelligence, Neurobiology, and Trauma ongoing study group. Being able to listen – to witness – another with presence and compassion does not always come easily. Yet with knowledge and skills, we can become better at providing this meaningful connection with others, while also avoiding the mistakes that undermine it.

#compassionatewitnessing #neurobiology #stress #trauma

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PRESS RELEASE: Medical PTSD Patient Plans Wilmington “Rally for Medical Rights and Safety” October 19


Medical PTSD Patient Plans Wilmington “Rally for Medical Rights and Safety” October 19

Artist-Educator-Activist Seeks to Improve Envionment for Patients and Providers   

Wilmington DE – October 6, 2022 – Artist-activist Shay Seaborne, CPTSD plans a “Rally for Medical Rights and Safety” at Rodney Square in Wilmington from 11 AM – 2 PM on Wednesday, October 19, 2022. An estimated ⅓ of patients experience healthcare-related harm during hospitalization and nearly 50% are preventable. Seaborne wishes to spread awareness about patient and provider rights and safety, bring together survivors and care providers for support, and “join our voices for greater administrative and legal protections.” Rally updates at Fellow artist-activist Viva Best, of Martinsburg, WV, will coordinate a collective interactive art experience for participants and visitors, including a healing water ceremony at the rally’s end. Participants and supporters are invited to wear red and to contribute to a community art project to illustrate the effects of preventable medical trauma on our community.

Seaborne is motivated by her own harmful medical experiences that include non-consensual surgery. The seriously injured patient sought accountability and was “stonewalled by a system that prevents resolution and offers layers of protection for the harmful provider, who is free to repeat offend.” Speaking with many others about her experiences, the activist-artist said she “heard too many stories of those who were also harmed and left with no legal recourse.” 

Health professional burnout, “associated with worsening patient safety,” is widely known but ineffectively addressed. Seaborne noted the suicide rate of doctors is twice the national average. “It’s not an individual problem,” she said, “but a systemic issue. Providers chronically face too many demands and lack sufficient resources. They pay the price with their own well-being and their lives.” According to Pamela Wible, MD, “physician suicide is a public health crisis. One million Americans lose their doctors to suicide each year.

The rally offers a variety of presenters, who will relate medical harm stories through spoken word, songs, or art. Attendees will be encouraged to bring their own written words, signed or unsigned, that could be shared with Delaware elected officials. Seaborne envisions something much larger. “I hope this is the beginning of a groundswell,” the activist said. “We, The People, need to end control of medicine by corporate hands and resuscitate its heart, which is the safe and supportive doctor-patient relationship,” Seaborne said. “With our voices of lived experience, we can raise a chorus for policy and legislative change. As vocal constituents, consumers, and providers, we can pressure the legislature and the industry for better medicine for ourselves and future Delawareans.”


About Shay Seaborne 

Shay Seaborne came to Delaware to crew for KALMAR NYKEL in 2015 after she quit her prior life to go for her lifelong dream of sailing tall ships. A few years later she became a trauma awareness artist-activist in response to disabling medical abuse she suffered after she asked mainstream medicine for help with severe Complex PTSD. No longer able to qualify as sailing crew due to her medical injuries, Shay “decided to stay and fight.” For over two years the Ardentown resident has taught the public and providers about trauma and stress recovery from an Interpersonal Neurobiology-informed (IPNB) perspective. Through the online courses she co-instructs with Imogen Ragone, Shay helps trauma survivors learn how they can build their own dynamic neuroscience-based healing framework. Ms. Seaborne plans a patient safety initiative for the next Delaware General Assembly. With ceramics and watercolors Shay creates outsider/underground art that reflects her lived experience as an extreme ACE Score survivor and promotes neuroscience concepts. Her Lapbook Gallery, “NOT Informed NO Consent,” a short graphic novel-like story that details her experience of non-consensual surgery, will be available for viewing on request at the rally and is also available in digital format.

Shay Seaborne, CPTSD
Artist, Educator, Activist


Public Facebook Page: Trauma Aware America

Facebook Groups: Trauma Aware America Group  and Patients for Trauma Awareness

Instagram: @shayseaborne_cptsd

Hashtag: #TraumaAwareAmerica

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Letter to DE Medical Licensing Board re Discipline for Non-Consensual Genital Cutting

The Predatory Man is a Monster in DisguiseDear Chairman and Members of the Board,

As you know, in a doctor-patient relationship the professional has the burden of responsibility to perform their duties. This includes respecting the concept of informed consent and the patient’s right to make decisions about what happens to her body.

In Delaware, it seems it doesn’t really matter what [Surgeon’s name redacted to protect the author.] did to me and how it affected my mental and physical health forever. Rather, the question is whether his behavior was outside the standard of care set by the medical board. Informed consent is the standard of care.

Even if we ascribe good motives to a surgeon who performs additional procedures, he should not reach that decision without obtaining consent from the patient. Even if he acted out of the purest of motives, it is not okay. “I do this to you and you figure it out over the course of months” is a violation of patient trust and agency.

The lawyers want you to look at one sentence in the consent form, not at what the surgeon did to his patient. That perspective is one reason Delaware’s patient protections are shockingly weak. Without public accountability, there is virtually no way to recognize a [Surgeon’s name redacted to protect the author.], Earl Bradley, or Larry Nassar until it’s too late. The existing “protections” recently noted to me were that I can ask the next surgeon to tell me in advance and hope they are honest, or “talk to your legislator,” neither of which provides any actual protection. There are few protections, even for you and your loved ones. Filing a complaint will be the closest you can get to accountability or justice.

You can’t fix a malignant narcissist with sensitivity training and a private reprimand is no protection for the women of Delaware. If the penalty is a “letter of concern” he will have two more chances before there’s an investigation. Of course, given the sensitivity of the experience and unlikely chance of any resolution, odds are low another patient would have the tremendous fortitude required to navigate this process, to even first put words to the unspeakable cruelty and its impact on our whole selves and whole lives. Even if she somehow does, he still gets one more chance. Without any mark on his public record, the surgeon can also move his practice to PA, MD, NJ, or any other state, where he would not be impeded.

I strongly urge you to exercise the strictest possible discipline against [Surgeon’s name redacted to protect the author.]’s license for this breach of professional and ethical conduct. It’s important to make a public record of his behavior so other women who want to choose a doctor can understand what he might do to them, too. If you don’t do everything you can to stop him, you’re telling me and all the women of Delaware that we’re not worthy of your protection from egregious harm simply because this abuser wears a white coat.

The lawyers say that due to one sentence in the consent form, I consented to everything. I say I did not consent to tissue removal or external incisions. Please view the accompanying Lapbook Gallery and decide for yourself. It took great courage and effort for me to come forward. I have done everything within my legal power to make it stop. Now it’s up to you. Please, make it stop. Thank you.


Shay Seaborne, CPTSD

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Public Safety Meeting Presentation: “The Intersection of Public Safety and Mental Health”

Last night, for the first time in many years, I spoke in public. This was at a local public safety meeting coordinated by my State Representative, Larry Lambert, a fine human being. Also present were representatives of our local first responders, as well as our State Senator, Kyle Evans Gay. When it was my turn for the floor, I spoke for just under 3 minutes:

As a person with a mental health diagnosis, I’m particularly interested in the intersection of public safety and mental health. As the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study shows, there is a shockingly high correlation between Adverse Childhood Experiences and all social ills, including violence and criminality.

Adults traumatized as children are especially vulnerable to harm from uninformed responses, as I have experienced on multiple occasions mysekf. Even the mobile crisis unit caused me more problems than it resolved.

As a person with severe Complex PTSD from extreme childhood abuse including trafficking and a year of abduction and torture, I cannot ask for help without recognizing the potential for great harm any time I interact with a public safety representative, doctor, nurse, therapist, or psychologist.

When trauma survivors ask for help we are often put directly on the trauma train to Rockford or Dover, true cuckoo’s nests owned by Universal Health Services, America’s largest mental health hospital chain, notorious for patient abuse.

If you send me or convince me to go to the ER or Rockford, you will be turning me over to places that are not equipped to help me and actually will cause more harm. That’s how it is in Delaware and in America.

The mainstream medical system’s standard treatment for PTSD is Black Box medications and talk therapy that often re-traumatizes the survivor. This treatment nearly killed me 4 years ago after I asked for help with developmental trauma, which is the number one health crisis in the world.

This so-called healthcare system is actually stacked against trauma survivors. It clings to the archaic and increasingly disproven biomedical model while it greatly ignores the MASSIVE developmental, psychosocial, and neurophysiological components of mental health.

If I end up at the hospital again I will again be deprived of my rights, strip-searched, abused, neglected, and drugged. I will receive no individual therapy, only mostly really crappy group therapy and even worse food, in a roach-infested building where the employer pressures the employees to abuse patients. This is widely known. BuzzFeed News did an investigative report about it years ago and it’s still happening.

Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us. If responders offered a listening ear instead of assuming they know what to do, they can significantly reduce the number of fatalities and jail time for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.

Wilmington is Trauma City. As first responders, you are often exposed to potentially traumatic experiences. We need you to take care of your mental health and each others’. We need safe connection above all.

PLEASE: do everything you can to avoid sending us to the ER or the mental hospital. Neither of those places is equipped to actually help trauma survivors.

For more information, including about the Neurobiology of mental health, visit my public service website, or follow my hashtag #TraumaAwareAmerica

Thank you for your consideration.

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Cuckoo’s Nest, Day 6

Stop Psychology Abuse

“Stop Psychology Abuse,” by Shay Seaborne, watercolor, mental hospital pencil

“Dr. Silman said they couldn’t release me tomorrow after all. That I had to stay a couple more days. WTF? She tried to tell me I’m not stable yet. I showed her the cover of my notebook and noted, ‘This is not the work of someone who is suicidal’

I asked about leaving and she said there were so many patients who want to leave and she has too much paperwork.

I told her the combination of sleep meds worked pretty well and asked if I’d have an Rx for those when I left. She said she wanted me to go off the Bis___ and take a higher dose of Trazadone, now 100 mg. That was her ploy for keeping me longer!

Ashley: ‘You could file a 72-hour form but that wouldn’t do you any good. Dr. Silman would feel more comfortable [the psychiatrist would ‘feel more comfortable? This isn’t about the psychiatrist’s feelings!] if you stay two more days.’ I was pissed!

‘That’s not a basis! I need a basis!’

About two hours later I saw Ashley and told her, ‘I decided to accept reality and make the best of the rest of my stay.’ She put on this Nurse Ratched voice, ‘That’s what we need to hear to let us know you are getting better and ready to leave.’

The group on ’emotional triggers’ was the worst ever. It’s like she was trying to trigger us! She didn’t keep the group on track, didn’t keep herself on track, talked as much or more as the participants, and talked about seeing gun violence and murders on social media. Noooo!” – Me, July 3, 2018, DAY 6 at the #UHS Cuckoo’s Nest called Rockford Center for Behavioral Health

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Cuckoo’s Nest, Day 4

“I told Dr. Silman the suicidal ideations were completely gone. She tried to convince me that the relief from suicidal ideations was not from being off the drug, but from ‘being in a supportive environment.’ I bit my tongue because I wanted to ask, ‘Really? Where?”’ But by then I knew the rules: toe the line, take the meds, go to group, be a good girl…
[After: I learned that the elimination half-life of escitalopram is about 27-33 hours. So, 30 hrs after a 10mg dose only 5 mg would remain in the body, and after 60 hrs only 2.5mg. This means that bitch doctor knew that I was right about the reason the ideations vanished and she chose to defend the meds anyway.]
Dr. Silman said she felt I still needed an antidepressant and she Rx Zoloft, another SSRI with suicidal ideations as a side effect. I would be vigilantly watching for any and raise a stink at the first one.
I asked dr. Silman about a treatment plan. She said ‘Your treatment plan is to meet with me, go to group, and take your meds.'” – Me, July 1, 2018, DAY 4 at Rockford Center for Behavioral Health Destruction, the Cuckoo’s Nest, AKA, “it ain’t about health and it ain’t about care”
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Cuckoo’s Nest, Day 1

“What am I doing here? I hate it so far. Noisy, institutional. No real comforts, shitty pillow, cold room, can’t see through the window. I don’t even have personal care items, like soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush, and toothpaste.
So here I am, in a residential mental health facility. It feels awful, but I also, but also I hold out hope that I will finally get the help I have long needed. I guess we will see.
I got them to let me write a check to Janna for rent. I’m going to make a list of things to ask her to bring me in a paper bag, because, plastic bags are not allowed. Lots of things are not allowed. Too many.
They strip-searched me and then locked up everything but my clothes. At least I can keep my shoes, but no phone, purse, pen, or necklace. This pillow really sucks. I’m wearing an electronic bracelet, a beacon. It tracks where I am. Doors are locked electronically. Anytime we go somewhere like to dinner or the cafeteria, we are counted roll called and led to and from there is a lot of lining up here.
I’m supposed to talk with a dietician and a social worker tomorrow, my psychiatrist, too, I think.
Quote Of The Day: “Which would you rather sleep on, a rock or these mattresses?
Trick question. They are both equally terrible.”
Luckily, I have no roomie right now, I hope it stays that way. I’m not here to be social. I need my own space. Unfortunately, they make rounds and check on us every 15 minutes. This makes it hard to nap slash sleep. So I’m asking for a sleep med tonight. Also toothbrush toothpaste, deodorant, and disposable underwear. I called Yana, and she’ll bring some things for me. Probably tomorrow.
This place is so noisy. I can hardly get away from the TVs. One in each day room. I hate them. Maybe I’ll wear my ER earplugs when I’m awake after dinner. I went to the creative arts group. Helped find collage images for a calendar one of the therapists made for the teen group. It was okay.
I found a piece for the front of this journal. I think I’ll try to add something every day. I’ve had too much sensory input. I’m burned out still have the evening group thing and shower, etc.
I slept only two to three hours last night. I was up until after 4 am, which made 21 hours straight. No nap today. I tried. But they kept coming to check on me and made too much noise with the door. I really hope it isn’t a problem tonight. I hope tomorrow brings me the feeling of benefit from this experience. So so far, no. Yeah, this is in pencil because no, pens are allowed.
I realized how good I am at putting on a happy face, even from myself, not recognizing when I need help, especially when my shrink blows off my concern. He blew off my concern, like my parents and some bosses.
I don’t want to go back to Dr. Schwartz, he doesn’t get it and doesn’t listen. Doesn’t care enough to be my psychologist, too small for me! I’m done with him. NEXT!
Eight pm is “wrap up,” a group event. The counselor calls out our names and we’re to tell if we had a goal today, whether we met it, and how we feel on a scale of one to ten, some typical goals, call, my daughter talked to my doctor, stay focused, stay positive.
I said my goal was to survive the past 24 hours. I did it and I felt a 2 out of 10. About 18 people are here in the recovery unit. Quote from Viva: It’s okay to play the mental hospital card in a mental hospital.
Viva has been to a few mental hospitals, so she tells me what to expect. She said they can’t really help because they’re just a different face of the system but I can use them to my advantage. I’m not sure what that means.”
[My mental hospital journal, June 28, 2018, Day 2 in the Cuckoo’s Nest called Rockford Center for Behavioral Health, owned by Universal Health Services, America’s largest mental hospital chain, notorious for abusing and neglecting patients]
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Enter the Cuckoo’s Nest

Night in the Psych ED

Me, four years ago tonight, at the cusp of what would turn out to be a horrible turn of events: “I’m having serious problems with my SSRI medication and I need to talk to a doctor. Increasing suicidal ideations, wish to die, sleeping a lot, drowsy, trouble waking, memory lapse, spacing out, headaches, concentration lapse, couldn’t see something in front of me.”
Though I had complained twice about the increasingly intense suicidal ideations (SI) that began a few weeks after I started taking the Lexapro, the hospital system’s “embedded” psychiatrist had been unresponsive. So, I called my PCP, who had prescribed it. Unlike the psychologist, the young resident actually listened and recognized the danger those pills posed. My PCP firmly advised me to stop Lexapro immediately, never take it again, and go to a hospital ED for a psych evaluation ASAP.
I went to Wilmington Hospital ED where they took my clothes and personal belongings without notice. This included my phone, so I could not make even one call. That was highly distressing! Nobody explained what would happen, what to expect, and who would help me. Nobody did actually help me. Instead, they left me overnight in a cold room with nothing but a chair with a tray.
According to ED records, apparently my so-called “psych evaluation” was conducted by an MD. He asked about the SI, which did not involve any suicidal intent. Nonetheless, the doctor told me I had “a plan.” He said I should go to Rockford Center for Behavioral Health. Inpatient care would be helpful, a gateway to services, like art therapy and a psychiatrist on the outside. I said I was afraid. He asked what I thought it would be like. “Cuckoo’s Nest!” I said. He assured me it was not. (But it was!)
Sometime that night or early morning I was re-traumatized when Psych ED staff subdued and sedated another patient. They had escalated the situation instead of helping her regain composure. As they pinned her down she was screaming “Get off me! Get off me!” just like I did when pinned down by abusers. Of course, witnessing her trauma gave me a horrible flashback! I was crying and shaking in terror. Afterward, the subduers stood around just outside the door to my room, which extended my distress reaction. I felt trapped! Nobody bothered to check on me. It’s like I wasn’t even there. Later, I told a staffer how badly I was triggered and he looked at me like I was speaking gibberish. Staff response to my distress was absent.
This illustrates the pervasive lack of appropriate care/intervention and a systemic push toward unnecessary incarceration at Rockford, a facility owned by a company known to violate patient rights as it makes great profit by cutting staff and patient services.
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