Hope is just around the corner

Hope is just around the corner

There they are.  Crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils, pushing their way to sunlight, oblivious of everything that has transpired during this past year. 

With reassuring predictability and beauty, they remind us that hope is just around the corner.

Stay the course.  

Take a moment to breathe in the fresh fragrance.

Notice the rich colours.

Like prickly bears after a long hibernation we’re eager to be roaming freely.  Reconnecting with long lost family and friends.  I vow to remain patient, tolerant and kind, grateful for the vaccinations that will once again return a semblance of normalcy to our lives.

Giving thanks to all those who have worked so tirelessly to keep us fed, healthy and safe.

Warm regards,

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

What if we were royalty?

What if we were royalty?

Recently I’ve been enjoying the television series The Crown, and find my thoughts returning to a scene where Queen Mary explains to her granddaughter the young Queen Elizabeth, the importance of remaining impartial: 

“To do nothing is the hardest job of all. And it will take every ounce of energy that you have. To be impartial is not natural, not human. People will always want you to smile or agree or frown and the minute you do, you will have declared a position, a point of view…and that is the one thing as Sovereign that you are not entitled to do.”  “Well that’s fine for the Sovereign… but where does that leave me?” Queen Elizabeth responds sadly.
 
It strikes me this conversation is not limited to royalty. Many of us are in service related professions where we routinely perform duties that may not be in line with personal beliefs or preferences.  Putting on a “game face” is part of the job, and a display of emotion can compromise our ability to do so effectively.  

Soldiers are asked to go onto the battlefield, defending a cause they may not believe in. They do not have the privilege of evaluating whether they want to advance when ordered to do so.

Police are asked to place themselves in the midst of violent situations, working to protect those who, a moment earlier, may have been threatening them.

Paramedics repeatedly respond to calls at the same house for drug overdoses.

To be of service means, by definition, to put our needs aside and tend to those of others.  There comes a time, though, when we need to put ourselves first.  Recognizing what we are experiencing, and finding a safe place to work through the emotional residue.

Only then do we truly care for ourselves.  Separate and distinct from the work we do.

Warm regards,

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

The business of getting better: part 4

The business of getting better: part 4

Developing a solid Plan B

In her book Option B, Sheryl Sandberg describes the devastating impact of unexpectedly losing her husband Dave during a trip to Mexico.  The purpose of the trip was to renew their wedding vows after eleven years of marriage.  One minute he’s on the elliptical trainer climbing his way to health, and the next moment he is lying on the floor, gone.  Suddenly, she found herself in a deep void attempting to begin a life that she did not imagine nor choose.  She described feeling completely unprepared and alone. Grief became a demanding companion, with ordinary events like school parents’ night becoming unexpected landmines.

Her friend and Psychologist Adam Grant flew across the country to support her.  His words of comfort were that she would need to allow her grief to run its course.  She asked Adam how she could get some resiliency.  He told her that resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity.  It isn’t about having a backbone, but rather, about strengthening the muscles around our backbone.

I know that many of you have endured life altering loses.  “Option A” of life, as we originally expected it, no longer exists. It might be the loss of a person, of health, of your identity, or of your belief in the world.  For some reason, the unfolding of your existence has been irrevocably altered.

What do we do in such times? In Sheryl’s case, it was to recognize that Option A as she put it, life with her husband Dave, was no longer available. The only option, according to her friend Adam, was to “kick the shit” out of Option B. 

What stage are you in? 

Have you started to allow yourself the possibility of developing an alternative option for yourself?

Like Sheryl, we encourage you to allow others in, to assist in the re-visioning and restructuring of your life.  Know that we are here for you.

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

Old traditions, new routines

Old traditions, new routines

I have a confession to make. I love Christmas, it’s the simple things that make it special really…like the smell of my mother’s traditional shortbread recipe filling the house as we play good tunes and decorate cookies together. Although my mother is gone, the smell reminds me of her love. Or watching cheesy Christmas movies together and participating in family fitness bootcamps. It’s a time when we all take time away from our busy lives to connect. My kids will come home, we’ll cook some good food together, and maybe have a kitchen dance party or two. In this busy life, and despite the many events of the season, for me, it’s a time of reflection and appreciation.

Have you noticed how easy it is to fall into routines in our daily lives that place the needs of others ahead of our own? We form patterns that might not be sustainable, often leaving us discouraged and exhausted. I’m reminded of the importance of taking time to “refill the well” before the supply runs dry. It’s an aspect of our wellbeing that’s often neglected.

If we don’t make a conscious effort to destress at the end of each day, the cumulative effect of what we carry in our lives can become increasingly difficult to hold. That’s why doing something we enjoy each day is so important. We are offering two programs in January, both designed to build resilience and help us stay strong.

For First Responders and Veterans living with PTSD, anxiety or depression, we have the “New Year, New You” workshop on January 11th.

For Caregivers, friends and family of these First Responders and Veterans, we are offering Part 1 of our “Care for the Caregiver” series on January 7th for those who weren’t able to attend the first series.

We hope that you will join us.

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.

Warm regards from the entire Landing Strong Team,
Belinda