Who is Della the Janked-Up Ladybug?

Della the Janked-Up Ladybug™ is a fairly recent arrival to my art. I’m interested in the cartoon as a medium that offers a measure of safety to viewers, so they can take in something that might otherwise be overwhelming. My favorite example of this aspect of cartooning is the Art Spiegelman graphic novels, “Maus” and “Maus II” in which he uses cartoon characters to tell his father’s story of surviving the Holocaust concentration camps as a Jew.

Ladybugs have a personal meaning for me. I used to take time out of my workday to set free those trapped in the building when I worked in a highly abusive office. Being kind to a little ladybug in that cruel environment was a protest of the heart.

The concept for Della developed slowly. I previously used a ladybug as a central character in a painting because the creatures seem easy for humans to identify with, and yet far enough removed from human to be safe if, say, she gets smashed by The Flyswatters of Shame.

Della first appeared as an embellishment in a larger painting, sort of like the little comic strip “dingbat” or sidekick political cartoonist Pat Oliphant used, though his was a penguin. I decided to name her Della, short for Delaware, because this is my adopted home state, the ladybug the state insect, and this is the place where I was subjected to psychology abuse. The little creature so charms me I made her my mascot and will likely put her in comic strips to illustrate that Delaware is a commonwealth that doesn’t care about mental health or rights of those with mental health.

Della the Janked-Up Ladybug

My Day in Court

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






The Flyswatters of Shame



Della’s in the detail!





Nov 5, 2019: “The Fly Swatters of Shame.” Partially inspired by what I learned about shame from David Bedrick.
Consciously or not, denial, minimization, and blame are always intended to protect the speaker over the survivor.



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








She's all exclamation points...Mar 29, 2020: “I think I found my inner cartoon character.  She’s all exclamation points because that’s what life gave her. She’s going to go to the doctor for help with Complex PTSD from developmental trauma. Poor thing!”


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“Anger is a secondary emotion”

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

Although I painted well earlier in life, I could not even hold a brush after that stint in the Cuckoo’s Nest. Initially I couldn’t make shapes, only splatter, drip, and smear. The psychology abuse I endured at Rockford Center for Behavioral Health degradation caused such a severe disruption to my nervous system it flattened me back to preschool.

I painted this with my hand. On the back I wrote, “Anger at being abused, at not being able to stop it, even as an adult.” I was still reeling from the outrageous maltreatment I received when I asked for help for Developmental Trauma.

When I asked for help, instead I received an initiation into the world of psychology abuse, in which vulnerable people are subjected to some of the various kinds of torture mainstream medicine and psychology calls “treatment.”

The domination system of modern medicine and psychology treated me with the same predator-prey dynamic in which I had been raised and subjected to severe maltreatment. The system replicated the pattern of abuse from my childhood. It reinforced the damage already done.

Every provider I encountered was ignorant of Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) training, which is enough to cause severe harm to a trauma survivor, even from a provider with the best intentions.

In my week at Rockford I received no individual therapy and was forced to regularly ingest a pharmaceutical cocktail, a component of which was toxic to me.

I was also deprived of my rights and strip searched, which retraumatized me as I had been strip searched and digitally raped by US Customs as a child.

Some of Rockford’s abuses are recorded in the parent company’s recent $122M fraud settlement with the DOJ. This includes hoodwinking people into thinking they need to be there, and keeping them there when they don’t.

That alone is egregiously harmful and an outrageous violation of human rights. But this is SOP for Universal Health Services (UHS), America’s largest mental health hospital chain, which recently settled a $122M False Claims Act suit. UHS monetizes 700,000 mental patients a year.

Meanwhile, Wall Street and the mental health profits industry applaud UHS for its continued ability to post a 30% profit, double the industry standard. Everybody wants to be like UHS. It doesn’t matter that they grind people into dust, suck the marrow from their bones, spit them out, and wait for them to come back for another round.

The federal government and some states got some of the money back that UHS defrauded. There is some kind of monitoring to be installed for a few years. and nothing for the victims. We don’t even get say in what kind of monitoring should occur or what kind of changes should be made to actually help people instead of hurt them.

This is “mental health care” and “justice” in America. This is why I speak up, tell the horrific truth, and punch back however I can. I need to Make. It. Stop.


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Starship ENTERPRISE metaphor for life with Complex PTSD (CPTSD)

I like to use a tall ship or starship/Star Trek analogy to describe the experience of life with Complex PTSD. Imagine you’re aboard the USS ENTERPRISE, and she’s under attack. The red alert alarm constantly sounds, reminding you that you are in great danger. All you can think about is how to survive.

But you’re not actually under attack. The attack ended a long time ago. Only the ship’s systems didn’t update to that change in status. The red alert alarm keeps sounding. Shields up! Weapons ready! Always! Day and night. Exhaustingly.

You might recognize the system is janked but you can’t tell for sure and you don’t dare turn off the alarm in case the danger is real. But when you are under danger you don’t know because the alarm keeps going all the time.

In the chaos of the red alert you try to make good decisions, think things through, connect with people for help and camaraderie. But that damn red alert keeps sounding and you can’t think, connect, or make good decisions.

On top of that, the other systems are wonky, too. You don’t just hear that annoying red alert alarm all the time, you also hear every other alarm. They sound constantly and you think they’ll drive you crazy. You don’t know how to take care of this and it is overwhelming.

Now imagine you’ve been aboard this janked-up ship, trying to survive, think, connect, your whole life. You don’t know any other way. You don’t know the absence of red alert. You don’t know what it’s like to be able to think without that damn siren going 24/7. You don’t know how it feels to hear another person talk without that screeching in your ear.

Now, imagine it’s your job to rewire that entire spaceship yourself with no manual. Any tools you need, you have to find and make yourself. In addition, a lot of those tools are illegal. They exist, they work really well, but you’re not allowed to have them because corporations haven’t figured out how to monetize them.

Then you ask for help from somebody who says they know how. You trust their word but instead of helping, they jank up everything worse and create such havoc that sorting out the mess sets you back by two years. They tell you it didn’t happen, and if it did, it’s not that bad, and if it is bad, it’s your fault because you’re not thinking clearly, you made bad choices, aren’t motivated, don’t really want it fixed, or you didn’t forgive the right person or pray to the right God on the right day with the right words in the right way. Whatever the problem it’s your fault, because you are inherently and unacceptably flawed.

You keep trying to find a good electrician, mechanic, systems analyst, or even a freaking schematic, but you feel like a pinball. You ping from one underqualified and maybe even ignorant or possibly malicious supposed helper to another, and your beautiful ship is degraded further each time.

Meanwhile, when you try to talk about it on the intergalactic radio almost nobody wants to know about this disaster. Most don’t want to believe it happened, don’t understand the ramifications, and cannot comprehend or respond to your vital need for help with repair.

That’s pretty much life with Complex PTSD. 


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“Unleash the Ladybug!”

Della the Janked-Up LadybugDella the Janked-Up Ladybug helped me launch my tiny-but-pointed #TraumaAwareAmerica initiative. It focuses on trauma awareness/education and the rights of traumatized people. I initially aimed at frontline providers, because they were the ones who could have greatly helped instead of putting me on the Trauma Train Express, like they have and do with countless others.

However, since the pandemic hit, my scope has widened to help everyday people understand pandemic stress is the first station on the Trauma Train Line and there are simple things we can do to stay off it or get off it sooner. It’s a lot easier to avoid or resolve trauma early than years or decades later, after it has set deeply.

My initiative is driven by the desire to prevent the kind of deep harm I experienced from #PsychologyAbuse. The “treatment” only greatly worsened my condition. And nobody is accountable by law. This is the same story for countless others, marginalized and exploited by the so-called mental health “care” system in America. A profits-oriented machine that all but ignores the number one health crisis in the world: Developmental Trauma. It is time for me to “Unleash the Ladybug!”

I’ve been studying the neurobiology of trauma for almost 6 years and find neuroscience is 20 years ahead of the rest of mainstream medicine and psychology. This puts the entire human population of the world at huge risk. We need to know this stuff now.
The doctors and psychologists are not going to swoop in. There is no rescue but us.



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I hate mindfulness dogma!

Some mindfulness proponents tell us we don’t have trauma if we just live in the present and “let the past go.” When it comes to Developmental Trauma, this is shaming and incorrect!

Unresolved trauma prevents us from living in the present. It is a nerophysiological response to threat that becomes fixed in the body until it can be resolved. It’s not about “letting go” but of slowly reorienting the nervous system toward safety and connection. This is not merely the responsibility of the injured person, but of their whole community. It takes a community to create Developmental Trauma and a community to heal from it. Mindfulness is a huge help, yes, and it can also be used to harm!

This is a serious problem with mainstream mindfulness culture. Even Eckhart Tolle skirts the issue of Developmental Trauma with a handful of mumbles. Mindfulness dogma is shaming of trauma survivors. It is just as awful as the Christian dogma and the psychological dogma. It is HARMFUL to trauma survivors. HARMFUL. It needs to stop. Now.
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I was a teenage sex slave

Victim SandwichThe moment I became a teenage sex slave. Each drop of blood signifies one month of that abuse. It began several weeks after my 15th birthday. A 25-year-old acquaintance, on hearing about my mother’s worsening mental illness and abuse, offered me a safe place to stay and said he could help me find a job. Instead, he tricked me into domestic and sexual slavery. He isolated me and used physical and psychological abuse to keep me under his control.

After grooming me for a few days, Stephen R. DeNutte of Manchester, NH, was satisfied that I was scared, needy, and vulnerable enough to make a good target for his perverse predatory predilections. My parents had prepared me well. Like the previous rapist, he came in the room while I was asleep and did what he wanted. He did not have to immobilize me because I was already petrified. I felt nothing. 

He isolated me from any kind of support and constantly shamed, threatened, and coerced me. The sex slaver made me read pornography. He spat on me, humiliated me, shamed my body, physically forced me, and subjected me to physical restraints. He repeatedly told me, “You are my sex slave!” He also gave me alcohol and pot. However, after a while, he told me I was not allowed to drink anymore because “You like it too much.” I did like it! It was a temporary escape from the nightmare of my reality. An escape he did not want me to have.  Like my first abuser, he enjoyed making me the recipient of torture, but his mode was far more caclulated, protracted, and repetitive. It was as if he designed it for maximum terror, to keep me on the edge of death as long as possible. 

When I found my fight and began to resist, he pinned me face down and twisted my arm behind my back until my elbow made a loud “POP!” It hurt for months afterward. 

His family and friends acted like it was normal, like he was just my boyfriend, like boyfriends do these things to their girlfriends. My mother never called the cops, CPS, or came to see me. She abandoned me to that slaver. In fact, she had actually trafficked me twice in the year before. 

I didn’t go to Child Protective Services because they had placed someone I knew in a home where the foster father raped the child. It was safer to be raped by the predator I knew than the one with which the CPS roulette wheel might land me. 

My relationship with the sex slaver was similar to the one I had with my father. He was cruel, contemptuous, controlling, had power over me, and enjoyed causing me pain and harm. I was miserable, but it felt familiar. If you’re going to be with a predator, it’s better to be with the one who isn’t your father. 

As my strength to resist increased, the sex slaver realized I was no longer a good little victim. He told me to call my father and “go home.” 

My father came to pick me up. He saw where I had been and with whom. He made it clear that whatever happened was my fault and I should shut up and pretend nothing was wrong. Also, he subjected me to his continued verbal and emotional abuse. I had no reference point of normalcy. I thought everything that happened was my fault and I deserved it. Because that’s what my environment reinforced every minute of every day. I suffered in silence as I went back to school and tried to function. But I felt like I had been through a kind of war I could not describe, like I was from a planet nobody could know. 

Some months after my return to my father’s domain I became intensely suicidal and planned my death in detail. Only a small miracle caused me to quit that plan and swear to myself I would never take my own life. 

I often shamed myself for not fighting the sex slaver when he pinned me, and for not escaping sooner. But recently I discovered it was actually a smart defense and not a character flaw. From Dr. Pat Ogden I learned that the “feign death response” is powered by the dorsal vagal system. When the dorsal vagal nerve is stimulated everything slows down. The body starts to shut down and the muscles go limp in response. When sympathetic tone drives the body in an unsustainable way, physiology demands some respite and it often comes in the form of shut-down. Dr. Ogden noted, “These instinctive responses are innate, but if we suffer from unresolved trauma we’ve usually formed habits like default defensive responses.” 

Now I realize a part of me knew if I hadn’t frozen it probably would have made my perpetrator more violent. Instinctively I knew not to use any of the other defenses because he was bigger and stronger. Also, I now know that the shut-down response is my default when I’m overpowered or overwhelmed. My father set the pattern when I was very young. Looking back I can see that both of my parents prepared me for the year of slavery. It is a difficult reality to face. But I do it one breath at a time.

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The night I learned to fly

Night I learned to fly- whole“The Night I Learned to Fly” is the latest in a series of paintings that answer the question, “How did I survive?”

By enduring unspeakable terror early in life, I learned to dissociate so well and so easily I could enjoy a lovely flight over the city while he raped me. 

I don’t know where my mother went, but I suppose she was with a man somewhere else in or on that building. We were in Mexico City, had been out at the bar, drinking, and met these guys. I was 15. I never told anybody because my mother made it clear I was responsible for my abuse. My mother passed on to me what her mother made clear to her. 

Fortunately, I learned to fly.


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What the f*** happened to me

Rockford Center for Behavioral Health, July 5, 2018You know how you feel when you come out of a movie at midday? you blink and you realize that you had forgotten there is this other world out there. You see it in a new way. At least for a little while.
That’s how I felt two years ago today, after I was unnecessarily kept in this place for a week. This is Rockford Center for Behavioral Health degradation.  There I endured a protracted ordeal that included: confiscation of personal items, strip search (can you say “tramatic”?), heavy medication, electronic beacon on the wrist, violation of patient rights, neglect, abuse, filthy conditions, horrible food, underqualified “group therapy leaders,” NO treatment plan and NO individual treatment, as well as threats to commit self-admitted patients who wanted to leave before their insurance coverage ran out.

Two years later I still struggle to recover from their #PsychAbuse. I went in because a doctor at ChristianaCare assured me I could find help for my Complex PTSD ( janked-up nervous system). “It’s a gateway to services like a psychiatrist and expressive arts therapy,” he promised. But I came out with a MORE janked-up nervous system, plus several weeks of withdrawal symptoms from the imposed polypharmacy. The “care” I received from the system set me back a great deal and affected my physical health, as well. It’s impossible to participate in activities or exercise regularly when been flattened by trauma upon trauma upon trauma, with far too little time or assistance to recover. 

Rockford Center is owned by Universal Health Services (UHS), which “operates 26 Acute Care hospitals, 328 Behavioral Health inpatient facilities, and 42 outpatient facilities and ambulatory care centers in 37 states in the U.S., Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.” According to the Buzzfeed News investigative report, “What the Fuck Just Happened?,” UHS owns about 25% of the facilities in the US and “more than a third of the company’s overall revenue — from both medical hospitals and psychiatric facilities — comes from taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid.” UHS turns a 30% profit by cutting staff and services, tricking people into coming, keeping them as long as possible, and milking medicaid and medicare. THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! They harm people every day. But this is apparently A-OK with Delaware and pretty much everyone else. I’m here to help #MakeItStop


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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. 

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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. 


*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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