Supporting & Thriving

Supporting & Thriving

When stepping onto an airplane, you can expect to hear a short safety presentation from the crew. Passengers are usually instructed that in the case of an emergency, they should put on their own oxygen masks before assisting someone else.  If we don’t take care of ourselves, we cannot be there for others.  Sometimes, this means prioritizing ourselves even when someone we care about needs us.

This month, our focus has been on caring for those who support others.  In many ways, we are all caregivers.  Weather it’s in a first responder role or caring for loved ones, we can only continue in these roles to the extent that we take the time to properly nourish ourselves.

On November 30th, we are offering a 1-day program on self-care:

  • Learn how to improve your health, relationship, and ability to handle future challenges.
  • Gain clarity on your roles & needs
  • Master tools for success in all aspects of your life
  • Identify your strengths and make them work for you

Let us help you get to where you want to be.

We hope you’ll join us.  Contact us at (902) 472-3272 or info@landingstrong.com to reserve your seat.

A Day of Gratitude and Acknowledgement

A Day of Gratitude and Acknowledgement

     

       A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.

                                                                                                                         -Joseph Campbell

On this Remembrance Day, I give special thanks to those who have made sacrifices in the name of our country and our freedom.  Whether they went to war or were impacted here at home, it’s a time for acknowledging that there are many who suffered injuries on our behalf.  Even after wounds have healed, invisible injuries continue to affect many military members, veterans, first responders and the families who support them. For many of us, Remembrance Day is a daily occurrence.

For each of you, we give thanks for your work and the sacrifices you have made in the line of duty.

Recovery isn’t about forgetting our experiences, forgiving ourselves for past actions, or leaving an old identity behind.  Overcoming trauma is finding a way to live a meaningful life within a supportive community, despite the things that may have happened.  It’s a way of living comfortably, despite discomfort.

Anything that evokes intense emotion can be scary because it makes us feel vulnerable.  Love can be like that, but so can the harder feelings. Remembrance Day brings up a lot of emotion for many people.  You may want to go to a ceremony because a part of you feels that you should. You may worry about who you might run into, about losing composure in public, or not knowing how you fit in.  You may prefer to spend the day at home with loved ones.  This is a highly personal decision, and there are no right or wrong answers.  Whatever you choose to do, we hope that you do not do it alone.  Know that we are there with you.

 

*The painting pictured above, titled Winter Poppies, was created by an incredibly talented veteran and artist Kelly Mitchelmore. She also painted the striking forest scene that hangs in our waiting room. (Please note, this image is subject to copyright)

 

When the unexpected happens in public places

When the unexpected happens in public places

This has been a tough week. Lost lives and hate have been infecting the headlines in the morning papers. I was shaken when I read of the pipe bombs that were mailed to Democrats in the United States. Thankfully, they were intercepted before detonating. How many law enforcement officials risked their lives to move these dangerous packages away from the public? Then came the news of a hate-filled synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, where eleven people lost their lives. Four police officers were injured in the shooting, and many more police and first responders were exposed to the scene as they worked to rescue the civilians inside. Shortly after, I learn that Indonesia’s Lion Air Flight JT-610 crashed into the sea with 189 on board. I struggle to make sense of it all.

I can’t help but think back to the Swissair Flight 111 tragedy, and wonder how those affected by that event are coping with the news of a similar occurrence this week. Even for those who processed the difficult emotions they experienced as a result of Swissair and have been doing well, this recent crash is likely to trigger old memories. Recovering from trauma is possible, but making an effort to maintain our wellbeing and having ongoing support is crucial for long-term success. Overcoming trauma is not a linear process, there will be setbacks. Resilience is being able to recognize what your needs are when faced with stressors, and reaching out before they impact your life.

When I think of the scary things that can take place in public spaces, I try to remind myself of the better things people have done. I see the devastating effects that can result from just one person, but I also see flash mobs that required several people and many hours of singing, dancing and working together to create something special. During hard weeks like this one, I remind myself that those trying to better our community outnumber the disturbed few. I invite you to take a few moments to balance your exposure to the tragedy by reminders of the good that exists.

Below are links to a few videos that remind me of the abundance of light, even on a darkened evening. These videos serve to remind me that, despite the odds, by paying attention to the people immediately around us, anything is possible. Feel free to share examples of events that inspire you (info@landingstrong.com) and we’ll share it with the community.

Irish Dancing Flashmob in Essex by Aer Lingus Regional and London Southend Airport

They play with joy: Flashmob Nürnberg 2014 – Ode an die Freude

They dance with passion:Three Incredible 80s Flash Mobs in Sleepy Seaside Town! 

They arrive in numbers: Waka Waka Biggest flashmob in the Netherlands

And everyone is included, even if they don’t fully know the routine: Flash Mob Mamma Mia Dupont Circle

Even in a place where collaboration and cooperation are unlikely, they join together to be seen and heard. A call to not be forgotten: Prison’s flash mob. Michael Jackson’s song

Embracing discomfort

Embracing discomfort

“Get comfortable being uncomfortable” was the suggestion that my friend and business coach, Eleanor Beaton, gave me this week. She was speaking to me about the importance of pushing ourselves toward new things, even when they are challenging or intimidating.

I discussed this topic in a previous blog, when describing my experience in yoga class. It was reassuring to be reminded that it’s normal to feel uncomfortable. Looking forward, I think I’m in for a long period of it. Instead of embracing the growing pains, I feel like a character in an Alfred Hitchcock film who is trying to get comfortable while lying on a bed of nails. It’ll take time and practice; some things just can’t be rushed.

There are many new and exciting changes going on, each one introducing new fears or worries.  Will we receive funding to start the 3 month program soon? Will the next PTSD Hero Comic be well received? Are the messages we are sending out on social media having a positive impact? Will we get the next grant application in on time?

To get through this time, I tell myself this is not a permanent state. I remind myself of the importance of self-care, making a point of taking a step back when I am feeling overwhelmed.  Most importantly, I rely on good friends and a hot tea to remind me I’m not doing it alone.

We’re taking a huge leap of faith, and creating something innovative and exciting. We feel honoured that you are with us, by being part of our virtual community. With each new addition to our email list, our community has grown by one. Every time you share posts, you help us to spread the word and expand our community. For as you know, it isn’t just a community for those who are injured. It is also for those who are supporting them, or cheering from the sidelines. We are in a marathon of recovery, and even the person who hands out water, or shares the word is part of a wave of social change. There is strength in numbers

Keep telling us what you think. If you have ideas or issues you would like addressed, feel free to send them to us directly at info@landingstrong.com. We love to hear from you!

Let’s talk about worms

Let’s talk about worms

When I see a worm, I think of my son when he was young. He would use them as bait to catch fish at the cottage. These are heartwarming memories.

For my grandmother, they were a symbol of a healthy garden and the joy she felt when her flowers were in full bloom.

For someone else, they might be a symbol of the mystery of the universe, given that they can be cut into two and still function fully.

For others, worms might evoke a fear response if they have previously had negative experiences with them; for example, an older sibling who tormented them by throwing worms in their hair.

A rainy day and the surfacing of worms can provoke widely different reactions. None of us can truly know how any given situation affects another person based on our own experiences.

Similarly, trauma is intensely personal. Bumping into a friend who seems down on a rainy day, I might assume that they are troubled by the weather. What I might not know is that the weather could be triggering a difficult memory from their past.

Even when a number of people experience the same event, each is uniquely affected by it.

The only way to truly understand the meaning of an event for someone is to ask. This month, our educational campaign centers on supporting those who are caring for loved ones who are injured. Strategy five in our caregiver resource touches on the importance of asking rather than assuming.

If you are already on our email list, we’ll be sending to you this resource at the end of the campaign. If you are not on our email list but would like to receive this and other free educational resources, please feel free to join our virtual community.

 

 

 

Finding our tribe

Finding our tribe

It’s not uncommon that we see the best of people in the harshest conditions. It shows up in a number of ways: volunteers laying sandbags to fight floodwaters; communities taking in strangers to offer shelter from a storm; or in more extreme conditions, bi-standers risking their lives to protect or defend people they don’t even know.

It’s those critical moments when people show up when it counts the most. When we think back to those times, it is the moments of courage and compassion that strike us the most.

They say that North America is consumed by the search for happiness. Research studies reveal that it is, in fact, purpose, meaning, and social connection that are most important.

If you are reading this, chances are you are in some form of community service: military, policing, firefighting, corrections, paramedical, or medical. Perhaps your service is supporting those who have taken on these difficult roles. We take on these challenges for different reasons: to create something better for ourselves; to establish purpose or meaning in our lives; or even to be of service to our country. What’s interesting, though, is that ultimately when people are under fire it isn’t their country they are worried about – it’s the person standing next to them. It’s in social connection that we find the greatest meaning.

We all need someone who will have our back, in good times or bad. We all need a tribe, a family, or a group to call our own. Sometimes it takes something awful happening for us to figure this out.

Landing Strong is about creating a tribe: a place where we are all connected by our united sense of meaning and purpose. Our goal is to create opportunity for connection and movement for those who are tired of being where they are at and ready to move forward.

Things I’m thankful for

Things I’m thankful for

This morning started like many others. The alarm sounds, calling the dogs to the side of the bed. It’s almost 6 a.m. but there’s no sign of the sun just yet. Suited up in all-weather jackets, hiking boots, and headlamps, my husband and I head out on our morning walk. We travel along the first half of our familiar trail in silence since it generally takes 15 minutes before I can string together a coherent sentence this early in the morning. It’s a route we do almost every morning, roughly four kilometres of grassy trail that winds through the forest by our house. Some mornings we see a local fox and her kits, more commonly deer.

This morning, my thoughts gravitate to the Landing Strong Centre. Every day brings forth new possibilities. I’m happiest when someone new reaches out and asks to join our community. Today was a good day as Doug Allen and I worked collaboratively to create a series of workshops for Caregivers. As we take time on this Thanksgiving weekend to think of the people and events we are most grateful for, caregivers are at the front of our minds.  These are the folks who stick with it, morning and night, through better and through worse, working tirelessly to support the recovery of their loved ones.

This weekend marks the launch of our caregiver campaign. Every week, we will be sending you tips and tools for managing the challenge of loving someone who has PTSD. They are the people who tirelessly continue to show up, with little expectation of thanks or acknowledgement.

No matter what news awaits me at work, I start my day with four kilometres of nature trails. Through rain, mist, mud or hail, the dogs need to go out. Through good news or bad moods, I keep moving.

The trail may stay the same, but each time I experience it differently.

Like you, I am on a journey. The work will never be finished, so I can’t put life on hold until I’m done. I’ll pace myself: working a bit on it each day. It’s through a series of repeated small steps that big things become possible.

Warmest regards for this Thanksgiving weekend. A special thanks to my family, the Landing Strong Team, and Extended Community (that’s you) for walking with me.

If you build it, they will come

If you build it, they will come

‘If you build it, they will come…’ that’s been my mantra over the last year, as renovations were underway in the new Landing Strong Center. Like a comet hurling through space, I set forth on a mission to see a world class treatment facility in Windsor Nova Scotia: a safe landing for veterans and first responders who have been injured as a result of their service. Last night on the eve of the grand opening, I suddenly got nervous.

What if no one comes? I worried. The place looked fantastic and everything was ready to go.

I needn’t have fretted. The moment the doors opened, the room filled with laughter and warmth as people engaged in the many fun activities we had organized.

I stood back for a moment, and took it all in. I had expected most of the visitors would be people from other organizations or businesses. Then it hit me. This was not the case. The vast majority of the people in the room were veterans and first responders. Talking, connecting… heck even doing mindfulness exercises and chair yoga together.

It was then that I realized it had already started. The Landing Strong community was forming. These men and women were claiming the space… making the program theirs. They did not come and leave quickly. They stayed, and connected with one another, renewing old acquaintances and forming new ones.

A group of them even brought me a most touching gift… a beautiful orchid. How fitting, I thought, that they should bring a flower that grows with a fragile beauty out of the harshest places.

Thank you my friends, for helping make this evening so memorable.

Finding our way

Finding our way

I was deeply touched last week when I read an article about Skippy, an 10-month-old barn cat, who crawled home ten days after going missing. He had three broken legs and puncture and talon marks on his back leg. Carried away by an owl, Skippy fought furiously for survival until the bird of prey dropped him, leading to the broken bones. With his one good leg, he somehow managed to drag himself home.

Like Skippy, many of us have an equally strong desire to find our way home; even when it may seem impossible. Although the breaks and injuries might not be visible, invisible wounds can prevent an easy return. Once we have arrived at our destination, that’s often when the real work begins. Will we ever be the same? Is recovery possible? What must happen for us to fit into home as we previously knew it?

This is the work of Landing Strong. It takes incredible resilience to make the journey. We hope that you will join us on September 27th in celebrating the strength, courage, and fortitude it takes for service men and women, veterans, and first responders who are struggling to find their way home.

Pacino’s moment of compassion

Pacino’s moment of compassion

Another great restorative yoga class this week left me feeling calm and centered (thanks Lisa!). At the end of the class, we practice Savasana, a pose where we lie silently on our backs, eyes closed. This exercise isn’t a physically challenging one, but it is one where the mind tends to wander. During this part, our instructor played a wonderful rendition of the tune “Sea of Love,” the theme song from the 1989 box office movie sensation. In this moment, where we are supposed to be clearing our minds, I was replaying a scene from the movie involving Al Pacino, who plays the role of a burnt-out cop. He is part of a sting operation designed to apprehend people with outstanding warrants, luring them in with the promise of having breakfast with the American Major League baseball star Dave Winfield. Everything was going smoothly until one late-comer shows up holding the hand of his young son.

“Hey, am I too late?” he asks.

“You got an invitation?” Al Pacino demands. The father hands over a piece of paper.

“Ernest Lee, the invitation’s for you only,” Pacino asserts.

“I can hardly meet Dave Winfield without takin’ my boy”, the man pleads.

Not wanting to ruin what was clearly a positive relationship between father and son, Pacino decides to cut him a break.

“We’re all booked up.” Pacino discreetly flashes his police badge, signalling to the father that the baseball player event was a trap.

“Thanks man,” the father backs away with his son.

“Catch you later,” Pacino responds before driving away.

It’s a dark film, about a dark topic, but many years later that’s the scene I remember… someone in a dark place, showing an act of compassion.

Memory and association are closely related. It is not the actual events that create our emotions, it’s how we process and remember these events. If I were stressed out maybe I would have remembered the fact that Al Pacino was a drunk and that the movie was actually about a serial killer. Because I was relaxed, I just remembered the good bit… the compassion.

This is a reminder for me to take the extra time to care for myself. If I take this extra time the bad things I may have experienced don’t seem quite so awful. (And believe me, in my seven years acting as Chief Psychologist in a federal penitentiary, there was bad stuff). If I take the time to process these events, they don’t affect me as much. I am more able to remember the good aspects of my job.

Many of us have experienced or witnessed incredibly traumatic or dark things as a routine part of our daily work. Looking back, how we feel about them is largely determined by how we remember them. The lens of trauma only remembers things the same way, repeated over and over. By welcoming the perspective of others in a safe and supportive environment, we open ourselves to seeing things in a new light, often changing the way these events emotionally impact us.

Link to Al Pacino’s Sea of Love

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