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

What keeps you awake at night?

What keeps you awake at night?

This week, I’m on the South Shore running an intensive Veterans Retreat.  It’s a chance to disconnect from everything, and spend uninterrupted time devoted to assisting injured veterans and first responders recover from trauma exposure.

We sit in a close knit circle, and start each morning by asking participants how they slept, and whether they had any new insights following the work we did on the previous day.  Most importantly, we ask them if they had any dreams.  Whether they’re good or bad, I’ve come to appreciate the value of dreams in trauma recovery.

No one likes having nightmares.  As children, we’re taught to try to not think about them, distracting ourselves from the images that most disturb us.

The problem with trying to suppress thoughts is that it keeps them bubbling to the surface while we sleep.  Let’s call it our nocturnal internal guidance system.

The brain knows what it wants to process.  Whether we like it or not, bad dreams are our mind’s way of letting us know that we have unprocessed memories or emotions that need unloading.

So, I bet you know what I’m going to say next…the only way to stop the bad dreams is to work through the underlying cause.  

It’s only by shining a light on our darkest places that we are able to remove the threat… see what needs to be seen so that we can move forward.

Strange as it seems, dreams (good or bad) are our friends.  They serve as our inner compass, pointing us in the direction of where we need to look.

So instead of shying away from bad dreams, consider leaning forward, taking a closer look at what your subconscious is trying to tell you.  It’ll generally point you in the direction of health.

Warm regards, 

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

The stories we tell

The stories we tell

There’s a Lakota expression that says “Healing takes place in the spaces between people”.

Each time we tell our story, it changes.  An evolving narrative that morphs depending on who we tell it to and how we’re received.  It is easy to get stuck, repeating the same tale internally in a repeated manner.  Through sharing, we open the window to new ways of viewing ourselves, and differing interpretations of the past.  

It’s not what happened to us that causes trauma, but rather the meaning of the experience that determines its impact.

We may have experienced a trauma alone, but in the retelling be supported, diminishing our sense of isolation. 

We may judge ourselves negatively from the perspective of our youth, but through our adult lens, find the wisdom of compassion. 

We may only be able to see something from one perspective, but with the compassion of peers open our eyes to other possibilities.

In this technological society that we live in, it’s easy to feel lonely despite a multitude of internet connections. I invite you to take the time to share even a small bit of your story in real time with someone you trust.  Notice what small shifts might occur when you no longer carry the experience alone.

Warm regards, 

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

Lest we forget

Lest we forget

It’s a time of year to remember.  His story.  Her story.  Their story.  We remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as those who bear the scars of injury, either physical or internal.  Every battle has a cost.  On this day, we join together to pay particular attention to the lessons learned, honouring those who have fallen.  
 
When military members come home from deployment, it is an incredibly important time for them to be supported. Romeo Dallaire has very eloquently articulated the challenge of returning from Rwanda.  Following Vietnam, thousands of American soldiers returned home to a nation rocked by politics.  Seeking support, many were met with criticism and judgement.  Wounded by atrocities overseas, these men and women are doubly injured if they fail to receive the support they need at home. Remembrance Day is a time when we set politics aside in order to extend our gratitude to those who have served.

One of the toughest facts is that it isn’t just on the battlefield where lives are lost.  In the US, twenty veterans take their lives each day.  In Canada, more Afghanistan veterans have lost their lives to suicide than on the battlefield.  Even those who serve at home are at risk with more than half of all military deaths taking place during training exercises.  War is complicated and dangerous.  Preparing for it, supporting it, and coming home even more so. 

Let us remember that although the deployments or service may be over, for many the battle rages on.

We stand behind them and with them, not just on this day, but every day.

Warm regards, 

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

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