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Spring cleaning your emotional closet

Spring cleaning your emotional closet

When I was a little girl, I was sure that there were monsters in the basement.  I remember running full speed up the stairs, away from the dark cellar so that the monsters didn’t get me.  They were huge, scary and dangerous.  Avoiding it kept me afraid.  Had I faced them, I would have discovered it was just the furnace making a weird noise.  Slightly unsettling but not scary at all. Certainly not unmanageable.

Sometimes when we don’t want to feel something, it’s easier to compartmentalize our emotions.  We run away from them so that they can’t hurt us.  The problem with this is that our fear of them is usually greater than the pain they can cause us.  We feed our fears by looking away.  They get their power from silence and being ignored or hidden.  

By talking about them, we take away their power.

This May, we’re offering a repeat of our trauma program: Your Past is Not your Future: Master Strategies to Overcome Trauma.  For those of you who have already taken this course, try Mind Body Health and Recovery, an exciting new program co-facilitated by Naturopathic Doctor Adrienne Wood. Program size is limited, so sign up now to avoid disappointment. 

Warm wishes,

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

Knowing when you’ve arrived

Knowing when you’ve arrived

When I was young, my parents would take me and my three siblings on road trips to visit the East Coast.  We loved exploring Nova Scotia’s beaches and would spend hours looking for ‘beach treasures’ that had been left behind by the tide.  It’s a long drive from Toronto, and eager to start our holiday, we tried to make the trip with as few detours as possible.  

On one of these trips, we were on a remote road in Nova Scotia when my younger sister complained of feeling nauseous.
  
“Are we there yet?”  she asked, holding her belly.

If we were smart, we would have pulled over quickly. Unfortunately, we didn’t.  Minutes later, all I can say is that we all got an unpleasant lesson in wind velocity and splatter patterns.  

Had we paced ourselves better, this likely could’ve been avoided.  Taking needed breaks is very important, even though it makes the trip a bit longer.

I recently spoke to my good friend Finka about pacing myself at work, and I was wondering aloud about when I’d know when I’d “arrived”.  At what point would I get that sense of accomplishment that the job was done, and I could take my foot off the gas for a while and not have a never ending “to do” list in my head.

“Ah, that’s the myth,” she smiled wryly, “It doesn’t matter how successful you are, in any business, each success brings more challenges.  Challenge is the one thing that’s constant”

I thought long and hard about this.  I’ve been operating on the principle that one day, I will arrive.  My job will be done.  I realize now that life simply isn’t like that.  The more I do, the more I open the possibility for more to be done.

So what if recovery is like that?  It’s a steady stream of building, growing and understanding.  Each day we evolve into a better version of ourselves, whether we have PTSD or not.  If that’s the case, the need for pacing becomes incredibly important.  Maybe the point is not arriving, but the journey itself.  I’ll need to be sure to stop and enjoy the view, taking a breather when needed.  

What if we remind ourselves to take those precious moment to appreciate the little things.  Thoughtful interactions, humorous moments, small victories.  These are indeed the stuff life is made of.

Warm wishes,

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

Is recovery from PTSD possible?

Is recovery from PTSD possible?

It’s not uncommon to hear people say that there’s no recovery from PTSD.  

Well, in my mind, that’s simply not the case.

It’s true that you’ll never go back to being exactly the same person you were before you were injured.  But when you think about it, how many of us are ever the same as we used to be?  As we learn and grow in life, we can’t help but grow from our experiences.  What I’m referring to is post traumatic growth.

Sure, life might have been easier if I hadn’t logged seven years working in one of Canada’s largest penitentiaries.  I might not have been injured.  But then I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I’m kinda liking her.

Don’t know about you but I certainly don’t want to go back to being my high school self (although the flare jeans with Canada flag inserts were quite fetching).

I definitely do not want to relive the angst of my twenties.

I may have a few more bumps, and scars on me now, but they serve as a testament to the fact that I have truly lived.  I have a massive scar across my right knee that I got while building a school in Tanzania.  I’m proud of it, and in no way want to erase that experience.  

If I work too hard my muscles flare up – reminders of the need to pace myself better. Areas where I have previously been injured will always be vulnerable during times of stress.  They serve as my personal barometers for health.  I thank these symptoms for gently reminding me when I’m not paying close enough attention to my needs or limits.

I guess I’m saying that I work hard each day to keep the superwoman cape in the closet. It’s not easy because it feels oh so comfortable.   I try to simply focus on having a good day, going to bed at night feeling satisfied with whatever small thing I might have been able to accomplish.

So, it’s true, you will never be the same person you were before.  It is possible, though, to become someone capable of living a rich and full life, wiser for all the things you have experienced.

Warm wishes,

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

PTSD: disorder or injury?

PTSD: disorder or injury?

Let’s face it, PTSD is a label.  Having a diagnosis can be very helpful as it allows clients to access appropriate resources and supports.  However, it doesn’t accurately reflect the experience of recovering from trauma.  

When healthy people are repeatedly exposed to traumatic and dangerous situations, it’s normal that there’s a residual effect.  Like an athlete that runs too many marathons without enough recovery time, injuries are sustained that can be lingering or career-threatening.  

The word “disorder” does a disservice to the injuries suffered by those who put themselves in harm’s way in the course of their work.  People with PTSD are not disordered, they are injured.  Their wounds originate from repeated or severe exposure to trauma.  There’s nothing disordered about that, it’s a natural and predictable reaction to unnatural events or situations.  

Just because it’s invisible, doesn’t mean it’s not real.  We’re going to increasingly be using the term PTSI in our communications.  These injuries are significant, severe, and potentially life threatening if not tended to in a thoughtful, compassionate manner.  As with any injury, there’s a continuum of severity, ranging from mildly disruptive to debilitating.  Not everyone who has these injuries is the same.  The mechanism of injury, presentation of symptoms, and severity of harm may vary from person to person.  Nonetheless, everyone has an equal right to access treatment and care in a timely manner.  

Disorders are something we stick in the corner and don’t quite know what to do with.  Injuries are something we heal.  So we get it, without the label, it’s impossible to access appropriate care.  But between you and me, we’ll be calling it an injury. 

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

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