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

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

Who would you invite to dinner?

Who would you invite to dinner?

This week, Mackenzie downloaded a podcast to my phone that I thought was terrific.  It made me laugh, feel sad, and prompted some deep reflection about the nature of relationships.  It’s the story of a couple trying to work out differences in three binge-worthy episodes.  The format of their discussion is 36 critical questions.  I use the word critical because they quickly get to the heart of what is most important in a relationship.  At the core, do we share the same values, laugh at the same things, cry at the same time, and know how to let loose and have fun in a meaningful way?

It’s impossible to listen to this podcast without reflecting on one’s own relationships.  I’ll share one of the questions with you,

         “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?”

In answering this, I went through a list of possibilities, ranging from Oprah to Gandhi to Michelle Obama. I’m happy to say that after a great deal of thought, I chose Joe.  That’s right, the same man who I’ve been married to for the past 28 years.  When push comes to shove, he’s the guy who I want to take me to dinner.  

I invite you to enjoy the podcast, and perhaps use the list of questions (excluding #35) to spark discussion. It’s called “36 Questions” and is a 3-episode podcast musical.

Warm thoughts from the Landing Strong Team,

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

Welcoming new perspectives

Welcoming new perspectives

I have a piece of wildlife art on my wall: a majestic stag, staring intensely at me from a forest glade.  When I look at it, my body settles.  In fact, when I’m on a break between sessions, I often sit on my couch and stare at this deer, looking at it as it looks back at me.  A couple moments of mindful reflection in the blur of an otherwise busy day.  

A few weeks ago, I noticed a client standing in front of this piece of art, staring at it thoughtfully.  I immediately assumed it was bringing him the same joy it brought to me.  When I observed him more closely,  I saw a flash of pleasure dance across his face.  I suddenly remembered that he was a hunter.  

“You’re thinking about shooting that deer!”  I proclaimed, somewhat shocked.

“No,” he said to me, grinning slyly.  “I’m thinking of cooking it up over a campfire, and eating a great venison steak.”  

It’s all a matter of perspective. It doesn’t matter what we’re dealing with in life, there are always many ways to look at any situation.  

A snow day this week could be a headache, or cause for celebration.  

Are you aware of the direction your thoughts take you?  Our automatic thoughts are powerful guides in terms of how we interpret the world around us.  They drive our emotions.  It’s generally not a situation that causes an emotion, but rather the way we think about it that drives the feeling.  

If we want to change our feelings, we have to change our thoughts.  We can’t always control our environment, but we can control how we choose to think about it.  

One of the most impactful ways of gaining a new perspective is to work within groups.  We’re able to see ourselves, not just through our own lenses, but also through the lens of others.  A carefully facilitated and safe therapeutic group provides the ideal venue. 

We offer a variety of workshops and programs. Landing Strong members are welcome to join at any time. New programs are being launched on a regular basis (check out the “Programs and Workshops” tab under LandingStrong.com)  We hope you’ll join us. Spoiler alert: Keep an eye out for our emotions management program, coming soon!

Warm thoughts from the Landing Strong Team,

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

We are all affected by trauma.

We are all affected by trauma.

Twenty years ago I did some time in a federal penitentiary. 

It’s not what you might think.  I didn’t break the law.  I was acting in the role of Chief Psychologist for four hundred federal male offenders.  Trying to help them undo the harm they had done to others.

Truth is, there are some wrongs that simply can’t be righted, no matter how hard we try. The dead can’t come back to life, and some emotional injuries run too deep to be healed.  Figuring out how to lessen the emotional impact of such loss is incredibly important, both for the victims and the perpetrators. Otherwise, there is no moving forward.  

During this time I met Pierre Allard, an amazing Chaplain who has been championing the Restorative Justice movement in Canada for decades.  He told me of a reconciliation group he had facilitated, where a group of offenders who had committed murder met with family members of victims of murder.  The goal was for the two groups to sit in a room together, so the men who had committed the crimes could hear how the loss of a loved one had impacted the survivors.  My discussion with Pierre centered not on the actual meeting, but rather, the minutes leading up to it. 

The family members were brought into the room first.  Many were pale and out of shape.  Grief had visibly been affecting a number of them physically.  Their eyes were bloodshot, rimmed by dark circles from decades of sleepless nights. They walked with slumped shoulders and shuffled gaits. Avoiding eye contact with one another, they clutched their coats tightly around themselves, despite the warmth of the room.  They spoke hesitantly, their thoughts jumbled with the powerful unprocessed emotions that they were experiencing. 

Then the offenders came in. They entered with straight backs and sure strides, carrying well-sculpted bodies, the result of countless hours in the weight room. They sat together with comfort and familiarity.  Articulate and thoughtful, they spoke of their deep regrets and immense shame.  Their clear voices were indications of having spent many years processing their feelings and experiences with professional staff within the facility.  

I remembered this story recently as I witnessed the impact of trauma on the loved ones affected by it.  It is not just the immediate victims who are injured.  Those who love and support them are also powerfully affected.  Secondary traumatization can be profound.  In many ways, these people too have experienced a profound loss.  They may not have been in the direct line of fire, but for many, the person who came home injured from work may not be recognizable.  Years, and even decades, are spent trying to restore connection.  Countless efforts are made to end the isolation that can accompany the injury of a loved one.  They wait patiently, looking up a lonely road, waiting for their loved ones to return home. Soldiers in their own right, they travel a journey that is seldom discussed.  Used to turning attention to the injured family member, it can be hard to know how to care for themselves.

Let’s not forget anyone on this journey.  Not those who have been injured in the line of work, nor those who support them. Whether it is in the role of a spouse, partner, child or friend, we are all affected by trauma.   

Warm thoughts from the Landing Strong Team,

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

Finding fun in unexpected places

Finding fun in unexpected places

Just before Christmas, I had the chance to accompany a competitive girls basketball team to a tournament in Arizona. In addition to watching some great basketball, my husband Joe and I had the opportunity for a hike up Camelback Ridge, a famous trail in Echo Canyon Park. As we passed the trailhead at 4pm, a park ranger warned us to be back down by 5:25pm.  Confident and energetic, we forged ahead, making the steep climb to the peak by 5pm. At the summit, we stood proudly among a gathering of happy people enjoying the spectacular view. A friendly and hard-core looking hiker warned us that the 5:25pm deadline was real, and the park gave out tickets to anyone who is late getting off the mountain. We laughed and took a series of great photos to the warm glow of the setting sun.  

Making our way down, we continued to take great photos. We started to be passed by a series of ultra-marathon looking types jogging quickly by. Enough runners passed that I started to think that maybe they knew something we didn’t: either, they were being chased by wild game; or the 5:25pm penalty was real. With a surge of energy, we started to sprint down. My husband laughed at me, as he’s never seen me scamper down a mountain slope with such glee. It had become a game – Belinda versus park ranger. With sixty seconds to spare, we made it across the finish line. I looked around to give the ticketing officer a high-five, but none was to be found. Enquiries with other hikers revealed that ticketing is a practice, but seldom enforced. However, the large number of foolish hikers stranding themselves up on the mountain after dusk with only their cell phones to guide them was real. The emergency response team is frequently called to help pull people out after they injure themselves after dark.

All in all, what could have been a stressful situation ended up being the highlight of my trip. Sometimes when we’re stressed situation, it’s hard to see the silver lining.  Only afterwards are we able to reflect on the strength, courage or skill it took to get ourselves out of it.  

Although I know the journey that each of you is on might be difficult, we hope that you are able to take time to catch the sunset or beauty that exists within it.

Warm regards from the entire Landing Strong Team,

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