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

Even before it officially arrived, Dorian was here

Even before it officially arrived, Dorian was here

Even before it officially arrived, we felt the effects of Hurricane Dorian.  Bayer’s Lake shopping Centre was jammed full of cars, with people honking at each other in a manner that was distinctly un-Nova Scotian.  Long lines formed at grocery stores and gas stations, and shoppers scurried about frenetically.  A province where people usually hold the doors open for one another, on Friday they rushed through, allowing doors to slam shut behind them.  A woman I recently met described the rising anxiety she felt at the thought of being without power.  During Hurricane Juan in 2003, she went 14 days in the dark.  There were many indications that this was a province that has previously suffered the devastating effects of a hurricane.  

 Although kids were thrilled at the cancellation of school, many of us struggled with the clean-up and aftereffects of Dorian.  Communities bonded with one another, checking to see if everyone was okay.  Even while I send this note out, many of you in rural areas are still waiting for power.  Personally, I received a few free skylights in my roof and the removal of my porch, no charge, courtesy of Dorian.  Although we are grateful that we suffered nothing close to the devastation of our friends in Bahamas, many people worked very long hours this week in order to help restore order and comfort to our lives.  A special thanks to those police, firefighters, first responders, volunteer tree removers and Hydro workers who put in very long days on our behalf.  I spoke with Rod, from Hydro Nova Scotia.  He showed up at our house at 6:30 Sunday am to cap off loose wires and then again on Wednesday night at 10:00 pm to help restore power.  His team had been working 6:00 am until 10:00 pm all week.  

The effects of trauma are multi layered.  Experiences from the past colour the lens through which we view our present.  This recent event reminded me of that.  So if you notice people being a bit less happy, comfortable, or patient than usual, let’s cut them some slack.  They may have lost their crops, still be in the dark, be figuring out how to repair their cars or homes, or possibly, be struggling to regroup after being reminded of the aftereffects of Hurricane Juan.  

Warm regards, 

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

Savouring the last taste of summer

Savouring the last taste of summer

Last weekend, I took some time to sit on our cottage deck, soaking in the last few rays of summer. There’s always something a bit sad about Labour Day weekend.  Like all good things, summer must come to an end.  Joe and I enjoyed some bruschetta, made with tomatoes purchased at the local farmer’s market and basil harvested from our garden. We took the time to savour the rich flavour of the food in front of us, enjoying the stillness of the lake and the calmness of the moment.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of daily life, forgetting to slow down and savour the colours, smells and textures around us.  Autumn is a particularly good time for this.  I invite you to take photos of the natural beauty around you.  Capture a shot of something that settles you: something that bring you peace. Take a moment to write a line about what makes it special and send it to Mackenzie at mseagram@landingstrong.com.  

Let us know if you’d like to remain anonymous or if we can acknowledge your first name and we’ll share your inspirations on our social media channels. 

Many hearts beating together make us stronger.

Warm regards, 

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

What does it mean to relax?

What does it mean to relax?

As is the case with any vacation, my goal is to relax and recharge, allowing me to give my full attention and energy to the things I care about once I return home.

How do I do this?

For the next seven days, I’ll be back-country canoe tripping through Killarney Provincial Park, one of Ontario’s most pristine and spectacular wilderness preserves.  It’s inevitable that at times I‘ll be uncomfortable: fending off bugs, carrying heavy backpacks over long portages, or sleeping on bumpy ground. Joe, Kyle and Mackenzie are psyched about eating porridge every morning…me not so much so.

I know from past experience though, that it’ll be well worth it.  I can relax by doing less, or challenge myself by doing more. Generally speaking, the most important aspects of self-care that I practice involve expending energy. It may involve camping, doing art, reading, writing or walking in nature.  Some part of me is generally in motion.  Sometimes I do it well, sometimes not.

We often think of relaxation as being a passive activity: slowing down, watching Netflix, and giving ourselves permission to do less. Sometimes this is true, but if it becomes a pattern, it’s no longer relaxation.  It becomes a pattern of existing. 

So this week I’ll expend some energy to get out of my head, and into nature and connection with people I love.

I know some of you are off doing the same – playing music, camping, fishing and surfing.

If your old interests aren’t serving as a source of inspiration anymore, it might be time to try something new.  As we change, so do our needs.  That’s why we’re introducing “Community Connection” days into our programming at Landing Strong.  Open to anyone who is on the path of recovery and has participated in one of our workshops, these days will offer a chance to get together in a fun and restorative way. We’ll start advertising them in the next few weeks.

If you haven’t participated in any of our programs yet, consider signing up for one this fall. We are always welcoming new community members.
 
Warmly, 

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong

The business of getting better: part 1

The business of getting better: part 1

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading about business.  At Landing Strong, we’re committed to providing top-tier services on a non-profit budget.  Hence the need for great business strategizing. 

As I read, I’m struck by how many business principles are equally relevant to health and recovery. Over the next four weeks, I’d like to share with you things I’m learning with the hopes that you too will find them helpful.  Please join me on my voyage of inspiration.

Lesson 1: Success is the bi-product of a series of small experiments

It’s an unfortunate reality that most new businesses fail. In the Lean Start Up, Eric Ries claims this is because new business owners tend to make a common error: they put a large investment into a single idea and hope like heck that that they got it right.  The author suggests a more innovative approach to entrepreneurship is to run start-ups like a series of small experiments that inform and guide business development.  No single stage is too big an investment, and it is always possible to pivot and change tactics if it looks like an idea isn’t working out as expected.  

I love this notion, because there’s no pressure to get it right the first time.  In fact, the assumption is that you likely won’t get it right immediately, and you’ll probably have to continuously gather feedback to inform product refinement.

What if we applied this principle to healing and recovery?  One of the most common errors I witness in terms of people who are trying to make changes in their lives is the pressure they put on themselves to get it right the first time they try something new.  If it doesn’t work, they assume it was a bad idea.  Maybe, in fact, it was a great idea, it just needed a bit of feedback and fine tuning. 

When we design new Landing Strong programs, we work hard to get client feedback at the end of each session. Why?  Because our assumption is there are parts that were likely great, and other parts will probably need to be tweaked in order to improve.  The program becomes the product of an organic interaction between facilitator and participants.

Recovering from trauma exposure involves reinventing the self.  It is, in a way, a new business start-up.  Instead of waiting to have it all figured out and hoping we get it “right” let’s consider recovery as a series of small experiments in which you will be trying on new ideas or behaviours, seeing which are helpful and which need tweaking.  We should expect the first version of anything won’t likely be right.  Rather, it’s a first step in the gradual shaping of something new and wonderful. 
 

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong

Trained to stay strong when the going gets tough

Trained to stay strong when the going gets tough

As many of you already know, this is a special week.  It’s National Police week, a time when we’re encouraged to pause and think about the invaluable contributions these men and women make to our quality of life.  We thank not just the officers, but also their families, for the steadfast work they do in supporting their loved ones.

It’s my privilege to work with a number of officers, and I am constantly astounded by the extreme situations they find themselves in, and the incredible resourcefulness it takes to stay focussed on the job at hand.  I bear witness to the toll it takes on them, and the dedication they demonstrate through years of service. How do they stay resilient I wonder? This question has been a lifelong obsession for me, taking me back thirty years to my master’s research when I interviewed officers across the country, trying to understand the unique stressors that police officers face while on the job.

It takes a special kind of person to stay strong when the going gets tough.  The job takes a number of forms: whether it’s keeping our streets and highways safe, working homicide cases, investigating cybercrime, conducting sex crime investigations, working undercover with gangs, conducting military investigations, or in the case of RCMP members, doing time in isolated Northern communities.  

To each and every one of you, we are grateful for your efforts.

Thanks to you, our communities are that much safer.

Warm regards,

Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych.
Founder, Landing Strong