Life is a struggle vs life is a climb

Life is a struggle vs life is a climb

Glancing through Facebook, it’s easy to believe that for most people, life is a series of joyful moments.  Even knowing that social media is a highlight reel of people’s lives, it’s easy to start believing that others are always happy.  
 
In reality, I think of life as more of a climb.  Some days a struggle, but most often a climb. 
 
I’ve had the opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro twice.  The night before the summit push is long, cold, dark, and tortuous.  There are many times I asked myself why I was doing it.  Reaching Uhuru peak at the break of dawn, it all made sense.  When we’re in the struggle, it’s often hard to see the point.  Glancing back in the darkness, the distant glow of headlamps of the other groups weaving their way up the mountain reminded me of how far we’d come, even though we weren’t yet at the top. 
 
We judged our movement by the needs of the group, taking breaks if people were struggling, telling stories, and singing songs when spirits needed to be lifted.  We knew we were going to do this as a team, and that we would leave no one behind.  
 
By husband Joe has led over 7 school groups up Kilimanjaro.  Of the people who attempt to summit Kilimanjaro, about 50% are successful.  With these school groups, after months of training, group work, and team building, the success rate is almost 100%.  What I have learned from this, is that we work best in teams.  The second time I summitted felt harder than the first.  Although the photos look the same, they represent two completely different experiences.  Both of which were preceded by many months of training. 
 
Perhaps life is like this, a climb, punctuated by triumphs and joyful moments.  If I’m not having fun today, that’s okay, as long as I’m content with the longer term journey.  Wherever you are on your journey, we invite you to reach out and join us as we move forward, together.  

Warm wishes,

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

Honouring who we are

Honouring who we are

This week, I devoted time to sort through stuff in my basement with the intention of clearing out junk that has accumulated over the years.  I found a box filled with all of my report cards from elementary school to the end of high school, as well as some journals, creative writing assignments, and art books.  I’ve always believed that life is about constant change, striving to be a better person, growing, adapting and taking on new challenges.  Looking back at my younger self, I’m not so sure that I’ve actually changed.  There’s a consistency to who I’ve always been that’s reflected through the art, writing, and report cards of my younger self.  
 
Striving for personal growth, fighting for social justice, practicing the voice of leadership, and expressing my thoughts through writing and art are themes that have been consistent through my entire life.
 
Even in grade five, my stories were about trauma and redemption.  I wrote about hardship, regrouping, and finding the strength to get life back on track.  In all of these stories, people had to trust in themselves and others in order to move forward.   
 
There are many days in my adult life where I question myself, and wonder if I have what it takes. Looking back, I realize I’m on the right path.  Some days, I’ll do it well.  Some days… not so much.  
 
Despite how much I think I’ve changed, maybe underneath it all we’re not that much different from who we’ve always been.  The gifts we’re born with that make us unique, are there from the beginning.  It’s a matter of how much we honour and develop them that determines whether or not we’re on the right path. 
 
If you’re injured or finding yourself off-track, it’s likely not because you’re a different person now, but rather, that you haven’t yet figured out how to continue being the person you’ve always been.  
 
We’re not just a trauma recovery centre.  We’re also a centre for resiliency and personal growth, for both those who have been injured as well as those who love and support them.  
 
If you’re interested, we still have space in our next caregiver program.  Honour who you’ve always been, but learn to take care of yourself in the process.  

Warm wishes,

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

Snow day

Snow day

Do you remember dreaming of snow days as a child?  I’d cross my fingers in hopes that school would be cancelled.  Snow day.  These two beautiful words evoke excitement and anticipation, with the thought of an unstructured and unsupervised day laying ahead.  Even as we grow older, the freedom associated with snow days persists.  Some of us might make a last-minute rush to the grocery store to stock up on storm chips.  Others might curl up on the couch for Netflix marathons.  
 
Although I know that heavy snowfalls will precipitate massive cancellations in my client schedule, I have to confess… a part of me gets excited.  I’ll have a whole day of no structure, and little supervision.  What kind of trouble can I get myself into, I wonder?
 
Okay, I know I’ll end up using this time to catch up on overdue work.  But it’s incredibly satisfying knowing that I don’t have to. 
 
At Landing Strong, we recognize that snow days aren’t as much fun for everyone.  Driving in such conditions is stressful.  For those of you in first responder roles, we acknowledge that you are putting your coats on as we are coming home and taking ours off.  For this, we thank you.  
 
Snow days are a reminder that the emotional meaning of current events is coloured by the lens of past experiences.  What might be positive for one person could be alarming or stressful to another.  Trauma is like that too. 
 
Trauma isn’t about what happens to us, rather, it’s the personal meaning of the event in the context of our lives that’s important. 
 
That’s why we can’t judge others’ reactions to things when they differ from ours.  We haven’t walked in their shoes, or seen things through the lens of their experiences.  By seeking to understand, we diminish the aloneness of their experience. 

Warm wishes,

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

Being the architect of my universe

Being the architect of my universe

I fully enjoyed my holidays, but have to admit…the thought of returning to work is somewhat daunting. 

I can’t help but think of the large to do list awaiting me.  The tightness in my chest serves as a reminder that I may be expecting too much of myself.  I don’t think I’m alone in this regard.

“I am the architect of my universe,” I remind myself.  “If I don’t like the way something feels, it’s no one’s job but mine to change it”. 

I decided to set aside some time this afternoon and draw up lists.  Get those “to do” things out of my head and onto paper.  I assigned them priorities. The list isn’t actually as long as I thought.  

The beauty of the sun glistening on the lake reminds me that deadlines are arbitrary.  There is really nothing that is urgent: no one is going to die if I don’t get it all done immediately. Instead of things I have to do, I’ll view my tasks as things I can feel good about accomplishing.

Most importantly, I’ll make sure to add a bunch of fun and creative things to my list.  If this is to be my job description for the next year…I want it to be creative, engaging and enjoyable.

I add an extra list…creative hobby ideas, and feel myself lighten.

Changing the world might be important, but so is enjoying the day 🙂 

Warm wishes,

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

Have you met Max?

Have you met Max?

He’s Doug’s dog.  Max may greet you cheerfully when you walk in the door at Landing Strong.  Wagging his fluffy white tail while showing off his fabulous winter sweater.  

Max comes in to work because he hasn’t had an easy time lately.  His lifelong companion Murphy passed away and the adjustment has been hard on him.  Always together, Max suddenly found himself without his best friend.  When I first met Max he was sad and somewhat withdrawn.  Overtime, he’s growing in confidence and is coming out of his bed more often.  The more he interacts, the better he does.

Grief is like that.  Isolating and all encompassing.  It makes it hard to get up and go out…particularly if all we want to do is lie in bed.  The thing is, grief is not meant to be experienced alone.  There’s power and strength in expressing the roar of pain associated with loss.  Pain is meant to be seen and heard…that’s why we cry out.  It’s an invitation for connection…for recovery never happens in isolation.

Extending our thoughts and hearts to each and every one of you who are experiencing the pain of loss.  Know that you are not alone.

Warm wishes,

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

Small flakes big snow

Small flakes big snow

This week I looked out the window and noticed a flurry of tiny snowflakes making their way down from the skies. Weather forecasters were calling for a large storm, and I knew that was going to make for a complicated day at the office.

“Small flakes big snow” one of the clients mentioned on their way out, “get your snow shovels ready!”

I’ve heard that expression before, and wondered about its origins.  Is there some ancient wisdom I’m unaware of that would allow me to be able to better predict my day simply by looking at the size of snowflakes?   A few minutes of google research later, I realize it’s not quite so simple.  Warmer temperatures lead to higher water content, and thus larger flakes.  Colder atmospheric temperature forms smaller flakes because there isn’t as much sticky stuff to hold the flakes together.  So in a way It’s true: if it’s warm outside it isn’t likely to stay snowy for long…it might turn to slushy wet stuff or rain.  Small snowflakes and lower temperatures are a sign that whatever falls is likely to hang around for longer.

It strikes me that change is a bit like the snow.  If we try to do too much too soon (large flakes) it isn’t likely to be lasting.  Small repeated steps in the right direction, however, accumulate over time and can lead to a mountain of change. If we turn the heat up on ourselves too quickly, it’s not sustainable.   If I want to take up running, for example, and start by trying to run 5 km at once, it’s likely too much.  Sure I did it some years ago, but that doesn’t mean my body will recognize that movement now.  A series of small steps, building up over time will increase my stamina so that I’m better equipped to do the run.  Maybe a better goal is to start walking 10,000 steps a day instead.   If I want any positive change to be lasting, easing in with gradual small changes is the way to go.

Keeping in line with our New Year commitment to self-compassion, I will embrace my inner (running) warrior, and enjoy pleasant walks through the snow this winter. Enjoying each small flake as it accumulates into something bigger. Maybe you will too?

Warm wishes,

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

Savouring what matters

Savouring what matters

The Holidays can be a difficult time for many, with increased expectations around social engagements, drinking, crowds and overindulgences.  What if we simply focus on what the holiday spirit truly means.  No matter what our spiritual beliefs may be, it’s a time when people come together to celebrate, offer support to one another, and reflect on the passing year.  

It’s undeniably a time of year where shopping, preparing elaborate meals, and commercialism seemingly take over.  It’s also true that almost half of all charitable donations made by Canadians happen in the last two months of the year.  This suggests that despite the stress associated with the season, it’s a time when people are thinking of those who face more challenging circumstances.  

In the midst of one of the busiest times of the year, we are able to set aside our differences and recognize our shared humanity.  When people are spending the most and perhaps are feeling the stress of their financial state, they recognize that this discomfort isn’t temporary for many.  When they are surrounded by those they love, thoughts turn to those who may not be as fortunate.  

We hope you’re able to take some time over the holidays to reflect on all the small things that are meaningful to you in your life.  We are grateful for our connection with you, our sense of shared purpose as we support those who are injured, and our appreciation for those who continue to put themselves in harm’s way so we may be safe.

Warmest wishes for a safe and happy holiday season,

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

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