The Thin Blue Line

The Thin Blue Line

Those of you who have signed up for careers in the military or as first responders understand what it means to be dedicated to a life of service.  Family members also become part of this commitment, making sacrifices so that others may be safe.

I was speaking with a law enforcement officer today who described the “thin blue line” that has become synonymous with the police line of duty.  The black space above the line commonly represents society, order and peace, while the black space below, crime, anarchy and chaos.  It’s a thin blue line (police) that runs between the two, keeping society protected.  Uniforms often reflect the thin blue line, or variations of it.  Although the stripe on your uniform may be a different colour, the unifying theme is the commitment to service and duty.
 
I’m often struck how deep and automatic the dedication to service runs: putting oneself in harm’s way so that others might be protected.  Even after long careers, veterans often search for ways to “give back” or be “of service” to their communities.  Many people describe repeatedly volunteering for horrific duties so that others won’t have to.  Whether it’s volunteering to assist with the Swissair disaster, responded to a fatal house fire, working daily with gangs, investigating homicides, or being first at the scene after a horrific car accident, someone always steps forward, putting themselves at risk so that their friends, colleagues, and community, may be protected.  As you well know, this is not without a toll.  Not feeling the injury while at work doesn’t mean that a deep-seeded pain isn’t there.
 
What happens when the uniform comes off?

Whether it’s at the end of a long shift, during a break following injury, or after a long career, knowing how to care for oneself is not always simple.  I often hear people talk about “becoming the job.”  Family members fret that their loved ones no longer feel the same.

It’s for this reason we are launching our new program Identity and Transition: discovering who you are when the uniform comes off Whether you’re on active duty, in transition, or retired. This course is for you. If you’re not yet ready to sign up for the program, we hope that you’ll follow our online resources related to this important topic. 
 
Warmly, 

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

Acknowledgment of Invisible Injuries

Acknowledgment of Invisible Injuries

Most new start-ups fail within the first three years.  Trying something new is hard, and keeping it going can be even harder.  Whether it’s an exercise program, a change of eating habits, or setting the goal of launching a world class treatment centre, holding true to a vision of where you want to be is never easy. 
 
Starting up Landing Strong is something I’ve dreamt of for years, but couldn’t quite find the courage to do.  The risks were great, but the community’s needs were even greater. Surrounded by a team of incredibly committed professionals, we launched Landing Strong.  We didn’t know when we opened the doors whether anyone would come.  Thanks to you, our programs and hearts are full, particularly this week after receiving word that we are being awarded funding from the Veteran Family and Well-Being Fund.  Veterans Affairs Canada is solidly in our corner, helping to make this dream a reality.  A special thanks to the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia for helping us secure this funding.  
 
We’ll continue to submit funding proposals so that we may offer barrier free access to care.  
 
For this moment, we’re pausing to celebrate the assurance that we’ll not just survive, but thrive in the critical first few years of operation.  
 
With gratitude, 
 

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

Mowing your lawn one line at a time

Mowing your lawn one line at a time

One of the challenges of PTSD and depression is that tasks can feel overwhelming.  A simple chore, such as mowing the lawn, can feel much larger than it actually is.  Perhaps when you’re mowing, you notice that the flowerbeds need weeding, or the lawn furniture is in need of repair.  And while you’re at it, you notice the back side of the house needs painting.  And you may kick yourself silently for not doing it last year, when you first noticed it was peeling.  Suddenly, mowing the lawn becomes a list of everything you haven’t done right in your life over the last six months.  
 
A wise first responder shared an insight recently,

“It’s okay to mow just one line, if that’s all you’re up to.  Doing a little bit is better than nothing.”
 
He spoke of the importance of simply starting, without being paralyzed by the need to finish everything completely.  
 
We’ve taken this to heart, and have been applying this principle across different aspects of our lives.  Perhaps, I only have the energy to clean half my kitchen.  That’s okay.  
 
Today, I decided to text a friend because I didn’t feel up to a phone call.  
 
Small steps toward a larger goal get us there a lot faster than trying to do too much, too quickly.
 

Warm regards,

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

It doesn’t matter what others think

It doesn’t matter what others think

It doesn’t matter what others think.  If it’s real for you then it’s important.

People often apologize for being injured.

“I shouldn’t be this way, I was never deployed.”

“I shouldn’t be struggling, I only went to Afghanistan once and my buddy over there is fine and he was there twice”

“I shouldn’t be taking up a seat in this group, there must be others who need it more than me.”

In fact, I’m not sure I have ever run a group where a large proportion of the members don’t somehow feel that they didn’t earn the right to be there.

I remember a day in my private practice when I saw an army intelligence officer who was struggling.  During a tour overseas he was required to witness countless satellite images that haunted him.  After returning home, he walked with shoulders slumped, burdened by his experiences. Working together, we tried to lighten his load.

Sitting patiently in the waiting room, waiting for her appointment, sat an anxious petite 10-year-old blonde girl.  Her forehead was creased with worry wrinkles, her nails bitten to the quick.  Her hand wringing as she anticipated speaking of the things which were most upsetting to her. 

Did both have an equal right to treatment?  I believe so.  Certainly their experiences are very different.  In my mind, it isn’t about measuring the degree of pain one has experienced.  Rather, it’s about noticing the impact those experiences have on our ability to navigate our way through life.  Whether we have been hit by missiles or paralyzed with anxiety, the pain is real.

It’s not our place to judge whether or not you should feel a certain way.  If it’s real for you, that’s all that matters.  

Warm regards,

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

Hello universe

Hello universe

It’s a funny thing sitting down at a computer, composing thoughts that will be sent out into the universe.  Who are you I wonder?  What are you thinking? What are you feeling?  Will I be able to write something that will make a difference in moments when you may feel tired or alone? Am I able to offer something that is helpful, or simply bring a smile?  Normally, when I go out for coffee with a friend, I rely on my companions feedback to let me know how the conversation is going.  It may be a smile, a glint in the eye, or a shared confession of the soul.

But when I look at my computer screen, it’s different.  I imagine you, my on-line friends, busy in your lives, squeezing a quiet moment for yourself so that we might connect and hopefully find points of convergence in our lives.  It’s those quiet moments of reflection that cherish, opportunities to dip into the well that nourishes us.

I think today I’d like to make you a cuppa tea, and offer you a freshly baked cookie.  There’s something about the smell of fresh chocolate chip cookies that feels like home.  Because they’re virtual, they’re calorie free, so you can enjoy as many as you like!   Please sit with me as I welcome you into my heart.

Next week Joe and I are off for a well needed break in the Dominican Republic.  My main goal is movement.  That’s it, allowing my body to go anywhere or do anything without fear of time constraints.  I don’t know about you but for me, one of the biggest challenges of aging is range of motion.  If I don’t move enough, I lose myself.  We’re taking our inflatable paddle boards so that we might explore and dip to the tune of our internal rhythms.  By the time you get this blog, I’ll likely be out there, floating in the crystalline Caribbean.  I’ll take a piece of you with me, and think of you all as I connect with the sun, the sand, the ocean breeze, and my quiet self.  Thank you for enriching my community.  For although I may be miles away, I know we are still connected.

Thanks as well to those of you who have offered comments and feedback, it means a great deal and helps guide the next discussion.

Warm regards,

Belinda

Do I make a difference?

Do I make a difference?

It’s a common question we ask ourselves, particularly during periods of change or transition.  After years of service, taking off the uniform can mean a stripping of identity.  “Who am I behind the uniform?” you may wonder.

Growing up, I dreamed of changing the world, somehow making it a kinder, gentler place. The older I grew, the more I understood this was not so simple.  Today, my aspirations are more humble. Every night as I lay my head on my pillow, instead of judging whether I changed the world, I simply ask myself the following:

“Have I had a heartfelt discussion with someone today and felt a meaningful connection?  Have I been a good person today?”  If the answer is yes, then I sleep well.  If not, then I‘m motivated to do something about it. It’s my belief that a series of meaningful connections leads to a mountain of change, and a whole lot of purpose.

So when you look in the mirror and wonder if you’re making a difference, I challenge you to ask yourself the simple questions.  It’s my sense that the meaning and purpose will follow.

Warm wishes from the entire Landing Strong Team,

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