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  When I first met Max he was sad and somewhat withdrawn.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

Trust is not a four letter word

Trust is not a four letter word

“I don’t trust anyone.” 

It’s a phrase I hear quite often, usually by people who’ve had harmful experiences that left them feeling disillusioned or hurt.

It’s natural to build walls to protect ourselves when we feel threatened.  The problem is, trust is often described in black and white terms: it’s there or it isn’t.

In reality, I see trust as having many dimensions.  Let’s think about it for a moment.  If we were facing a zombie apocalypse, who would you most want by your side?  Is it the same person who you’d hire to care for your children or grandchildren?  Probably not.  Mary Poppins and Van Diesel definitely fall into different categories of trust. Trusting someone with your physical safety needs is different that trusting them to care for your children.

I trust my husband Joe implicitly, but he might not be my first choice when it comes to decorating cupcakes (flashback to our wedding where we decorated our own bride and groom cakes.  Joe’s cake consisted of a war scene with Tonka tanks, explosions and GI Joe parachuting down into the middle).  Yeah…I definitely don’t trust my husband when it comes to decorating cakes… but,  I do trust him to be there for me when it comes to the really important stuff.  

I like to think of trust as a three dimensional star with many prongs.  I can trust some people along many dimensions, others along only a few.  That’s okay, as long as I don’t trust people in areas that aren’t their strength.

So if you catch yourself thinking “people can’t be trusted,” try looking for exceptions in this “all or nothing” thinking pattern.  It may be there are some things they do well. See what happens if you modify your expectations accordingly.  
 
Warmly, 

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

The meaning is what allows us to tolerate the pain

The meaning is what allows us to tolerate the pain

Every military member and first responder signs up knowing their job involves risk.  You may not know exactly what the risks are, but have a general sense that things could get very ugly.  Why do we do it?  Why expose ourselves to harmful things when we know that there’s a significant chance of personal injury?
 
Why support a family member who may be taking these risks?
 
Why would someone willingly enter a burning building, respond to a fatal motor vehicle accident, take on the responsibility of making life-or-death decisions, or be in the role of caring for those who have injured others?  
 
We do it because deep down, we believe we can make a difference. 
 
Whether it’s through direct exposure in the field, or more indirectly through the viewing of images and videos, there’s no doubt that repeated trauma exposure takes a toll.   
 
Through witnessing one another’s experiences, we’re able to appreciate the difference each person made.  We’re a community that walks with you to understand your injury and help you reclaim parts of your life that may have been lost.  
 
Come walk with us this Fall, we’re running group programs that are well-suited for both new and returning members of our team.  We’ll be sharing details on our social media pages this week so be sure to check us out on Facebook or our website
 
With gratitude, 

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

D-Day Commemoration

D-Day Commemoration

It was on the night of June 5, 1944 that Winston expressed to his wife that they were going to bed with the knowledge that by morning, 20,000 soldiers may have lost their lives.

He was referring to Operation Overlord, the biggest seaborne operation in history.  An event that served to turn the tide of the Second World War as 156,000 Allied forces united to storm the beaches of Normandy in an effort to liberate the country from Nazi occupation.

More than 10,000 people lost their lives in an all or nothing gamble that paid off, but at tremendous cost.

Yesterday marks the seventy-five anniversary of the D-Day landings.

I woke up this morning with gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifice of those who paved the way for the rights and freedoms that we enjoy today.  

To the soldiers, the veterans, their families, and the leaders who bore the weight of such heavy decisions.  I give thanks.   
 

Warm regards,

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