Recovery isn’t linear

Recovery isn’t linear

High performance athletes can’t always do what’s expected.  Occasionally, they might have a minor sprain or injury that needs nurturing.  In the case of a major setback, they might be on the sidelines for a longer period of time.  This doesn’t mean they aren’t a top performer.  It simply means that no matter what we’re good at, or what we’re trying to work on, none of us can be good at it all of the time.  
 
Sometimes when we have a setback, it might be easy to doubt whether we’ve made any progress at all.  
 
Maybe the good mood I had last month wasn’t real…”
 
I feel like I’m back at square one”
 
I thought I was doing so much better, what does it mean now that I’m really struggling?”
 
As in any journey, the path has peaks and valleys.  The emotions you feel at any one point in time will never be a constant.  True, the good times will pass… but so will the bad. 
 
The most important thing to remember in those moments of self-doubt is that’s the time to reach out.  It’s totally counter-intuitive, but a certain way to turn things around quickly.  When we most want to retreat, that’s actually when we need to advance.  
 
Don’t wait until you’re feeling good to join one of our groups… it would be a very empty room if we all took that approach.  Take a look at the programs we’re offering in the new year and see if there’s one that seems right for you.  There’s a seat waiting for you. 

Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

What keeps you awake at night?

What keeps you awake at night?

This week, I’m on the South Shore running an intensive Veterans Retreat.  It’s a chance to disconnect from everything, and spend uninterrupted time devoted to assisting injured veterans and first responders recover from trauma exposure.

We sit in a close knit circle, and start each morning by asking participants how they slept, and whether they had any new insights following the work we did on the previous day.  Most importantly, we ask them if they had any dreams.  Whether they’re good or bad, I’ve come to appreciate the value of dreams in trauma recovery.

No one likes having nightmares.  As children, we’re taught to try to not think about them, distracting ourselves from the images that most disturb us.

The problem with trying to suppress thoughts is that it keeps them bubbling to the surface while we sleep.  Let’s call it our nocturnal internal guidance system.

The brain knows what it wants to process.  Whether we like it or not, bad dreams are our mind’s way of letting us know that we have unprocessed memories or emotions that need unloading.

So, I bet you know what I’m going to say next…the only way to stop the bad dreams is to work through the underlying cause.  

It’s only by shining a light on our darkest places that we are able to remove the threat… see what needs to be seen so that we can move forward.

Strange as it seems, dreams (good or bad) are our friends.  They serve as our inner compass, pointing us in the direction of where we need to look.

So instead of shying away from bad dreams, consider leaning forward, taking a closer look at what your subconscious is trying to tell you.  It’ll generally point you in the direction of health.

Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

The stories we tell

The stories we tell

There’s a Lakota expression that says “Healing takes place in the spaces between people”.

Each time we tell our story, it changes.  An evolving narrative that morphs depending on who we tell it to and how we’re received.  It is easy to get stuck, repeating the same tale internally in a repeated manner.  Through sharing, we open the window to new ways of viewing ourselves, and differing interpretations of the past.  

It’s not what happened to us that causes trauma, but rather the meaning of the experience that determines its impact.

We may have experienced a trauma alone, but in the retelling be supported, diminishing our sense of isolation. 

We may judge ourselves negatively from the perspective of our youth, but through our adult lens, find the wisdom of compassion. 

We may only be able to see something from one perspective, but with the compassion of peers open our eyes to other possibilities.

In this technological society that we live in, it’s easy to feel lonely despite a multitude of internet connections. I invite you to take the time to share even a small bit of your story in real time with someone you trust.  Notice what small shifts might occur when you no longer carry the experience alone.

Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Lest we forget

Lest we forget

It’s a time of year to remember.  His story.  Her story.  Their story.  We remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as those who bear the scars of injury, either physical or internal.  Every battle has a cost.  On this day, we join together to pay particular attention to the lessons learned, honouring those who have fallen.  
 
When military members come home from deployment, it is an incredibly important time for them to be supported. Romeo Dallaire has very eloquently articulated the challenge of returning from Rwanda.  Following Vietnam, thousands of American soldiers returned home to a nation rocked by politics.  Seeking support, many were met with criticism and judgement.  Wounded by atrocities overseas, these men and women are doubly injured if they fail to receive the support they need at home. Remembrance Day is a time when we set politics aside in order to extend our gratitude to those who have served.

One of the toughest facts is that it isn’t just on the battlefield where lives are lost.  In the US, twenty veterans take their lives each day.  In Canada, more Afghanistan veterans have lost their lives to suicide than on the battlefield.  Even those who serve at home are at risk with more than half of all military deaths taking place during training exercises.  War is complicated and dangerous.  Preparing for it, supporting it, and coming home even more so. 

Let us remember that although the deployments or service may be over, for many the battle rages on.

We stand behind them and with them, not just on this day, but every day.

Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

The face of courage

The face of courage

They say courage is born on the battlefield.  That may be true, but I think just as often it arises in the aftermath, when we work to face our emotions. Anyone in a service profession knows about putting a “game face” on.  You know it, showing no fear even when you are about to walk into a situation that is dangerous, frightening or threatening.  Joe Frazier knew it when walked into the ring to face Muhammad Ali, arguably one of the greatest boxers of all time.  Ali had a total of 56 professional wins, 37 of them by knockout.  So when Frazier walked in the ring, he likely knew that he had a 50% chance of being knocked unconscious.  Yet he did it anyway.  
 
Shoving our emotions aside in times of distress is important and often necessary.  It allows us to remain functional.  The challenge is knowing when and how to take our game face off, and look deeper to discover what it is that we are actually feeling.
 
In treatment groups I’ve had Special Forces Members, Police, RCMP, Firefighters, Paramedics, EOD Techs, Corrections Officers and Trauma Counsellors say the same thing.  Coming to treatment was one of the hardest, but most important things they have ever done.
 
So perhaps courage does take many forms.  The obvious ones, and the more invisible form as we all come together to regroup, recalibrating our central nervous systems, and reclaiming important aspects of self that may have been lost along the way.
 
In my mind, that is indeed the face of courage. 
 
Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

I’m fixing my Karma

I’m fixing my Karma

Okay, so maybe I was not perfect this week.  Pretty good at work, but a bit on the grouchy side with my husband [sorry Joe].  I think something I was worried about spilled over into the home front.  We talked it out, and all is good now.  I’m reminded of the importance of repair.  If I’ve done something thoughtless, it’s easier to allow time and distance to heal rather than having those difficult conversations.  But in the spirit of Karmic correctness, it’s always better to face up to those times when we have faltered.

I heard the expression “I’m fixing my Karma” the other day, and loved it because it makes the assumption we are all works in progress.  Walking, running, stumbling, and then getting back up again, dusting off, and trying to find our stride.  I want to work not just on forgiveness for others, but also forgiveness for myself.

Each day, we all do our best.  Perhaps that’s more than enough.
 
Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

The wisdom of tolerance

The wisdom of tolerance

I started reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming this weekend, and was reminded that unless I have walked in someone’s shoes, I really have no way of knowing what they’ve been through.  Michelle speaks kindly of her stern and humourless Aunt Robbie who lived on floor below Michelle’s family.  If young Michelle and her brother Craig got too wound up, Aunt Robbie let them know:

Aunt Robbie would flick the light switch on our shared stairwell, controlling the lightbulb in our upstairs hallway, off and on, again and again- her polite-ish was of telling us to pipe down. 

Michelle’s parents took this in stride, reminding the children that even if they didn’t know the context, they were instructed to remember that context existed.

Everyone on earth, they’d tell us, was carrying around an unseen history, and that alone deserved some tolerance.

What incredible wisdom, to remember this simple fact.  If someone does something rude or thoughtless, I can assume it’s deliberate.  Alternatively, I can remind myself that I don’t know what’s been happening in their day, or what kind of life they’ve had.  I can tell myself that that seemingly unkind action may simply be out of context.

So the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, or is rude to you in line, it may help to send a request to the universe that their day will get better.  Wish them a bit of happiness in what may be a difficult day.

Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

The things I’m thankful for

The things I’m thankful for

I like to take Thanksgiving literally.  A time for reflection, and gratitude.

The internet and news remind us that there’s a lot wrong with the world.
This weekend I plan to turn it off.
Instead, I want to think of the many things that I’m thankful for. 
 
Simple things, nothing earthshattering…

A perfect latte on a cold day

The tantalizing smell of a roasting turkey

The good company of family and friends 

Sun rays glistening off a water’s surface

The cry of a newborn baby

Crisp fall air and brilliantly coloured trees.

Picking perfect apples on a sunny Saturday morning.
 
Join me in thoughts of gratitude and plenty,
Warm thoughts and Happy Thanksgiving 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Starting the day with intention

Starting the day with intention

This week, I met someone new.  Let’s call her “Ray of Sunshine”.  She sparkled so brightly I was almost blinded by the bling that adorned her arms and fingers.  Fluorescent pink eye shadow and a matching headband complemented her brightly flowered shirt.  

“Thanks Girlfriend” she sung out to me happily as she rang up my purchase.  

“Great outfit” I offered smiling 

“I gotta whole cupboard ‘a bright flowered shirts to choose from” she chimed in,  “Makes me happy”.

Now that’s a woman with intention, I thought with admiration as I left the store.  It felt good that this happy stranger had referred to me as “girlfriend”, randomly deciding that kindness was to be her default greeting.  Everything about her told me that before she had even started her day, she’d decided it was going to be a good one.  What would happen If I started each day with the same degree of intention?

Something to ponder as I search my makeup drawer for baby blue eyeshadow and a matching sparkle shirt. 🙂 
 
Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong

Keeping ourselves hidden

Keeping ourselves hidden

During a recent training trip in Quebec, I took advantage of a warm afternoon by taking a stroll down a remote country road.  At the end of the road, the sound of a trickling waterfall caught my attention. Drawn towards it, I spied a small blue door supported by weathered stone pillars.  On the door was a sign declaring “Propriete Privee,” or private property.  Surrounding the small waterfall were five lines of barbed wire, ensuring that no one enter the property.  
 
What a shame, I thought to myself, that such a special spot be barred from view by others.  The owners may have had good reason to guard their property – perhaps trespassers had abused the privilege of visiting.  I realized though, that those past incidents served to form the rationale for a permanent barrier.  The gate served not only to keep people out, it also prevented people from coming in.
 
It isn’t uncommon that we build barriers to keep ourselves safe following trauma.  Whether it’s imaginary walls or barbed wire, the thought of letting others in can be threatening.  I have no doubt that when we build the walls we do so because they are needed.  How do we know, though, when it’s safe to take them down?
 
Joining a treatment group offers a safe way to connect with others.  You’ll never be asked to share anything you aren’t ready to share, and we offer a structured and supportive way of exploring topics that we hope you’ll find useful on your journey to health. We still have a few seats left in the “Stop Faking Good & Start Feeling Good” group, please call to sign up soon to avoid disappointment.  Our upcoming Community Connection days allow a more informal way of connecting and having fun.  Running over three Fridays in October, the first one on October 4th is for Veterans and First Responders who have taken programs at Landing Strong.  The second (being held on October 11th) is opened to those who have taken group programs with us and to their partners, spouses and others who have been important supports.  On October 18th, we welcome anyone who has taken a Landing Strong Program as well as any Veteran, Military Member or First Responder who might be thinking of taking a program, but aren’t sure and want a chance to test the waters.  We are offering these Community Connection Days free of charge, just give us a phone call to let us know you’re coming.
 
Warm regards, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Executive Director, Landing Strong