News

Our conversations during our free monthly meet-ups take us in a variety of directions, and in order to ensure we circle back for reference, we post these resource blogs the day (or two) following a meet-up. The intent is to provide a roundup of resources or references from the conversation that night.

Last week, we had some new faces and some inspiring regulars. It was a night of many gifts and many lessons for us all, but there were some recurring themes to make note of.

ANNIVERSARY

We were wonderfully reminded that this month marks two years that we have been running our BFF Meet-up program! We want to sincerely thank everyone who has become part of our community and helped us make this our most successful program to date. Also, a huge thank you to The Commons for being amazing supporters and donating their space to us each month.

THEMES

  • Compassion and community: following the Humboldt tragedy that has struck so many, we discussed many takeaways that could be considered silver linings in this trauma. A recurring thought was that in the face of awful tragedy, the entire world learned how to love one another. This has been an amazing example of how a community can come together and the simple act of holding space and showing compassion can make all the difference.
  • Try everything: one of the great reminders we get from meet-ups is that there are a lot of things that can help you in your healing process, but not one thing will work for everyone, but we encourage you to try things until you find what works for you.
  • Support people need support too: a great point brought up by a therapist in the room, was that in professions who are there to support trauma survivors (therapists, doctors, first-responders, etc.) sometimes the importance of self-care doesn’t get the priority it deserves. Remember, doing your own work is just as important as helping other people do theirs.
  • Trauma comes in all forms: a powerful moment in our meet-up resulted from the sharing of a story about bullying. It was an important moment for many reasons, but it was a reminder and reflection for all of us that trauma comes in all forms. Our organization was born as a result of the Victor Walk and childhood sexual trauma, but our mandate has always been to support people dealing with all kinds of trauma. Our brains can view trauma as many different things: physical pain, disease, divorce, failing a test, fighting with our parents, abuse, war, bullying—the list is endless.

IDEAS & INSPIRATION

  • Sweat lodge: spirituality is always a theme that gets brought up at our meet-ups but many people advocated for the success they have had in sweat lodges. We would encourage you to do some research on this and explore some avenues to take part in one if it’s something that interests you. Many members of our team have taken part in sweats, and it is always a powerful experience.

REFERENCES

  • Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA): We were so honoured to be joined by members of BACA in Calgary. If you’re unfamiliar with the amazing work BACA does for children, here’s a bit about them:

Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (B.A.C.A.) exists with the intent to create a safer environment for abused children. We exist as a body of Bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established, united organization. We work in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children. We desire to send a clear message to all involved with the abused child that this child is part of our organization, and that we are prepared to lend our physical and emotional support to them by affiliation, and our physical presence. We stand at the ready to shield these children from further abuse. We do not condone the use of violence or physical force in any manner, however, if circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle.

OUR MEET-UP STRUCTURE

Because our meet-ups are growing each month (which we are so grateful for), we now have the need to provide more structure to these meetings so everyone gets more out of them. Last night we introduced a few rules and ideas for the meetings:

  • Please no cross-talk. We want to be respectful of people’s stories and their time, so please allow others to finish their piece, before adding on.
  • We encourage participants and members of our community to reach out to new joiners and offer to support them or be a mentor of sorts. This type of thing is a successful structure in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with their ‘sponsor program’.
  • As BFF members, we are at the meetings to facilitate a safe conversation, but a reminder that we are not therapists.
  • If you need someone to talk to between meetings, please reach out to the Calgary Distress Centre or call their 24-hour line at 403-266-HELP.

UPCOMING FUNDRAISER

We are in a dire position. Funds are extremely low and as a result, we have a long waiting list for our Therapy Grant program. Many Albertans are reaching out, in desperation with their PTSD and mental health symptoms, and BFF is left in the saddest of positions — unable to help.

On Saturday, May 5, Stoney Nakoda Resort & Casino is the host venue for the Breaking Free Foundation’s Celebrity Bounty Poker Tournament.  Play for a chance to bet against celebrity players.  In addition to cash payouts, prize bounties will be placed on all celebrity players.  Sign up today, and help raise some money for a worthwhile cause!

10 am to noon | Celebrity Meet & Greet
2 – 8:30 pm | Poker Tournament
9:00 pm | Concert with Theo Fleury and the Death Valley Rebels
~ Silent Auction runs from 10 am to 6 pm ~

More information and registration is online here.

Our conversations during our free monthly meet-ups take us in a variety of directions, and in order to ensure we circle back for reference, we post these resource blogs the day (or two) following a meet-up. The intent is to provide a roundup of resources or references from the conversation that night.

Last night, we had some new faces and some inspiring regulars. It was a night of many gifts and many lessons for us all, but there were some recurring themes to make note of.

THEMES

  • Trauma and control: trauma takes our control from us so it’s natural that survivors and victors of traumatic experience look for control in other areas of their lives. Disordered eating, addictions, compulsive behaviours — all examples of looking for control. Is it possible to seek control over something that is not unhealthy? Yes! We can choose healthier food options, we can choose to exercise and how we exercise. This leads us into the next point…
  • Mindfulness: mindfulness and meditation were constant themes last night, as many participants noted these as being important tools in their toolbox. One of our favourite participants, Susan Rochow of Eckert Centre, explained the notion of mindfulness in this aspect so perfectly:

“It’s really the issue of intentional dissociation.  There is a time to be present with thoughts and feelings, and there’s a time to turn them off.  When we do it via auto-pilot, that’s dissociation – great survival technique, but not particularly “healthy” as a lifelong strategy.  When we do it mindfully, we are saying to ourselves, “this is important and needs my attention, but not right now.”  This is a really important skill to develop….to be able to be with our stuff, or put away our stuff, depending on what we need in that moment.  For example, it’s important for me to be able to contain my stuff when I’m going to work, when I need to sleep, when I’m tired of crying, etc.” — Susan Rochow

  • Forgiveness: this question always gets asked, and it’s the hardest one to answer. There is no secret recipe for getting to forgiveness. Try not to pressure yourself into forgiveness. Forgiveness is a feeling, not an action. Forgiveness can be difficult for many reasons: we haven’t let go of our anger, we want to harm those who’ve harmed us, or simply the notion that forgiving will free our offenders from justice. When battling with being able to forgive, it’s important to note that forgiving does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean justifying the actions of your offender. [Read more]

“Remember, real forgiveness does not make excuses for the other person’s hurtful behaviour. Forgiveness is a decision that you make with your whole self after you have done your emotional work.” — Kim Barthel, from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’ 

IDEAS & INSPIRATION

  • Spirituality: this is a concept that circled back into the conversation last night. Spirituality often gets mistaken for religion, but spirituality is broader than religion, it’s a simple belief system that helps us connect to ourselves, others and things beyond us.

“To me, spirituality is all about relationship. Most addicts are traumatized in their family of origin situations, so what they really lose faith in is relationship. That’s a setup for addiction. The trauma causes emotional pain for which the best answer is spirituality.” — Theo Fleury from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’

REFERENCES

  • EMDR: EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is an integrative psychotherapy approach. This type of therapy uses a patient’s own rapid eye movements, to take emotionally charged memories out of traumatic events. Using eye movements and “tricking your brain”, therapists can essentially reprogram the memory of a traumatic event to more positive or neutral emotions. [Learn more about how it works]
  • Eastside Family Centre: this is a walk-in counselling service provided by Woods Homes. If you are looking for help between meetings, this is a great option.

NEW MEET-UP STRUCTURE

Because our meet-ups are growing each month (which we are so grateful for), we now have the need to provide more structure to these meetings so everyone gets more out of them. Last night we introduced a few rules and ideas for the meetings:

  • Please no cross-talk. We want to be respectful of people’s stories and their time, so please allow others to finish their piece, before adding on.
  • We encourage participants and members of our community to reach out to new joiners and offer to support them or be a mentor of sorts. This type of thing is a successful structure in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) with their ‘sponsor program’.
  • As BFF members, we are at the meetings to facilitate a safe conversation, but a reminder that we are not therapists.
  • If you need someone to talk to between meetings, please reach out to the Calgary Distress Centre or call their 24-hour line at 403-266-HELP.

FUNDRAISER

We are in a dire position. Funds are extremely low and as a result, we have a long waiting list for our Therapy Grant program. Many Calgarians are reaching out, in desperation with their PTSD and mental health symptoms, and BFF is left in the saddest of positions — unable to help.

Because of this our Chair, Amber, has organized an emergency fundraiser to help our organization stay afloat! Trauma comes in all forms and BFF sees it all, and we need your support. On February 24th, you can take part in an incredible evening in support of BFF. Some of Calgary’s most talented artists have stepped up to help us put on a night that will drive incredible conversations and much-needed funds.

At the event, you’ll be able to bid on inspiring art — all inspired by trauma or PTSD. The stories behind these incredible works of art will flood you with emotion. Not to mention, these are breathtaking pieces that anyone would want to have in their homes! In addition to the silent art auction, songwriters and spoken word poets will be performing pieces, inspired by their own trauma experiences.

It is going to be an incredible night. Space is limited, so get your tickets! The event is taking place at the gorgeous new Railyard Brewing. Please note: there is no kitchen on-site, but we will have a small concession open with proceeds to BFF.

Today is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving that affords people all around the world the chance to support a charity or non-profit that’s important to them. While there are so many great organizations to support today, and every day, here’s 25 reasons we would love your support.

  1. We support all people affected by trauma, either first-hand or as support people. Trauma affects everyone.
  2. Canada has the highest rate of PTSD in the world, with over 9 per cent of the population developing PTSD over a lifetime. Keep in mind, that not everyone who suffers trauma will develop PTSD, but this is still a staggering number.
  3. Vicarious trauma from PTSD can be passed from parent to child or from client to trauma worker, which is why we also work with therapists, first-responders, teachers and more.
  4. PTSD affects twice as many women as men.
  5. Sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than other traumas. In Canada, 1 in 3 people suffers unwanted sexual contact.
  6. Our mindfulness journal is an easy way to support us and give to yourself in the process; journaling and writing are incredible tools in the healing process.
  7. Our Therapy Grant Program allows trauma survivors to access high-quality trauma therapy with trauma-trained and certified psychologists.
  8. For our Therapy Grant Program, we pay our trauma psychologists their regular rate, in order to ensure the utmost quality treatment for our clients, and support these amazing people in the work that they do.
  9. But demand is huge for our Therapy Grant Program. In fact, we have nearly 20 people on a waiting list who are desperately seeking the help they deserve.
  10. Therapy Grant recipient: “If I were to compare where I am at after eight months of involvement with BFF, I would say that I have really started to step up into being more of who I truly am. I have started to love myself much more than I could have ever imagined before. I know I have value now, and I know that what I have to say matters. I now know that I am worthy, and I am so blessed to be able to share energy and a safe space with other people like me.”
  11. Christine Littman: “The cost of proper trauma therapy can be overwhelming and unattainable, making it easy for a person to delay or avoid seeking treatment altogether. Mental health, when ignored or denied, can lead to many other physical and mental issues. To those of us who are just beginning our journey of healing, knowing where and how to start can be an overwhelming and intimidating process. The guidance and direction that the Breaking Free Foundation provides is crucial in helping a person take the first step. A step that can easily be abandoned if trying to face it alone.” 
  12. Our Monthly Meet-ups are a free place for trauma survivors and their supporters to come and talk about anything related to trauma—mental health, addiction, you name it.
  13. We have requests from people in Ontario, Northwest Territories and Manitoba to expand our Meet-up program, and we are working on getting this done!
  14. We are in the process of getting our charitable status, but in the meantime, we work so hard for every dollar we receive. Right now, donations are crucial to our survival.
  15. You can be part of our “me too” movement and support us at the same time by purchasing our “me too” bracelet, designed by Drops of Gratitude in Calgary.
  16. Our annual Victor Walk is a national initiative to raise awareness about childhood rape, and give a voice to those affected by this epidemic. We hope to turn every victim into a Victor.
  17. 32 per cent of Canadians [have] experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to intimate partner violence or a combination of these while they were young.
  18. Do you know someone suffering from addiction? Trauma is at the root of addiction.
  19. Do you know someone suffering from depression, anxiety or mental health conditions? Trauma is at the root of mental health problems.
  20. People who suffer from social, economic or educational disadvantage or racism within a given country are more likely to get PTSD than those who don’t.
  21. Did you know 52 first-responders have committed suicide this year so far in Canada? It’s true. This demographic is particularly vulnerable to the effects of PTSD.
  22. EMDR is an incredibly effective therapy treatment for PTSD, but it is expensive, that’s why our Therapy Grant Program is so important.
  23. Every dollar we receive is helping someone dealing with the effects of trauma. We have one employee, our incredible Executive Director, Shandra Carlson. Because of this, a lot of work we do is facilitated by volunteers, so your dollar is really being put to work at BFF!
  24. Someone you know is suffering from PTSD or the lingering effects of trauma.
  25. You can make a difference in someone’s life.

FACT: one in two girls and one in three boys falls victim to unwanted sexual advances before the age of 18.
FACT: 60% of rape victims are under the age of 17.
FACT: Sexual assault refers to all incidents of unwanted sexual activity, including sexual attacks and sexual touching. Sexual assault = rape.

Canadians must rally together to take a stand against the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and rape. Our first Victor Walk in 2013, was a huge success nationwide, and since then we have been working to keep the momentum high with the community we’ve built up together. A national movement powered by an Orange Wave of Courage, the Victor Walk will see Theo Fleury giving a voice to those who have been affected by trauma throughout their lifetimes. Supported by communities across the country, this Victor Walk on July 22, 2017, is recognized as a national movement and is hoped to change the way Canadians understand the effects of childhood trauma.

In 2017, our team will be walking an extended route for five days from Saskatoon to Regina, Saskatchewan, to bring a very bright spotlight on the horrors of childhood rape. Eight million Canadians have suffered from shame and pain of childhood sexual trauma long enough. An exciting addition to this year’s walk, in every stop in Saskatchewan, we will be screening the eye-opening documentary, Victor Walk, which followed Fleury and his team on the first Victor Walk in 2013. The film screenings are FREE!

All of the details of the 2017 route will be updated as they are available, but here’s where the 2017 Victor Walk Tour will be heading and when:

  • July 18: Saskatoon 
    • 4:30 – 5:30pm: meet at Persephone Theatre (100 Spading Crescent E) for walk
    • 5:30pm: rally with Theo Fleury & Victor Walk team (location TBD)
    • 7:00pm: documentary screening at Persephone Theatre (100 Spading Crescent E)
    • Stay up-to-date on Facebook
  • July 19: Swift Current
    • 4 – 4:30pm: meet at Subway (1100 – 11 Avenue NE)
    • 4:30 – 5:30pm: walk
    • 5:30pm: rally with Theo Fleury & Victor Walk team at Market Square (corner of Central and Chaplin)
    • 7:00pm: documentary screening at Lyric Theatre (227 Central Avenue N)
    • Stay up-to-date on Facebook
  • July 20: Moose Jaw
    • 4 – 4:30pm: meet at Subway (825 Thatcher Drive E)
    • 4:30 – 5:30pm: walk
    • 5:30pm: rally with Theo Fleury & Victor Walk team at Moose Jaw Funeral Home (268 Mulberry Lane)
    • 7:00pm: documentary screening at Moose Jaw Funeral Home (268 Mulberry Lane)
    • Stay up-to-date on Facebook
  • July 21: Estevan
    • 11 – 11:30am: meet at Subway (513 – 4 Street)
    • 11:30am – 12:30pm: walk
    • 12:30 pm: rally with Theo Fleury & Victor Walk team (location TBD)
    • 2:00pm: documentary screening at Orpheum Theatre (1235 – 4 Street)
    • Stay up-to-date on Facebook
  • July 22: Regina
    • 4 – 4:30pm: meet at Subway (919 Albert Street)
    • 4:30 – 5:30pm: walk
    • 5:30pm: rally with Theo Fleury & Victor Walk team (location TBD)
    • 7:00pm: documentary screening at Conexus Arts Centre (200 Lakeshore Drive)
    • Stay up-to-date on Facebook

Many of you have expressed interest in joining us on the five-day journey, however due to safety reasons, we cannot oblige.

We encourage you to join your own community walk, or if you live along the route that we are walking, meet us during the walk to cheer us on. Please click here to find out how you can organize a Victor Walk in your area, and be a part of one of the greatest teams ever assembled to make a difference on behalf of childhood trauma.

Cities where Sister Walks are being organized:

Watch the trailer for Victor Walk documentary.

*The Victor Movement reserves the right to refuse people or groups to join or participate in the Victor Walk at it’s sole discretion. The Victor Movement is not liable in any way for any injury or damage caused by participating in the Victor Walk.

**Sources: Sexual Assault Canada, Badgley Report, Statistics Canada.

The Victor Walk movement is an initiative of the Breaking Free Foundation, helping support those who have suffered trauma. All funds raised on the Victor Walk, go to support the Therapy Grant Program via Breaking Free Foundation.

A HUGE THANK YOU TO OUR 2017 SPONSORS!

Without the generous donations of amazing businesses, the Victor Walk movement wouldn’t be possible. We have sincere gratitude to all of the people and organizations that stepped up this year to make our 2017 walk a success.

By definition, trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, a definition that natural disasters fits right into. When Mother Nature’s wrath wreaks havoc, it can take both a physical and psychological toll that is widespread. Alberta is no stranger to the trauma left by natural disasters, the floods of 2013 left a huge path of destruction, and now thousands of people are dealing with the ongoing trauma of the fires burning in Fort McMurray this week.

Individuals who survive trauma, or are exposed to it in some way can develop PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and it can have a damaging effect both physically and mentally. Besides the people being evacuated, first-responders are also at huge risk to develop symptoms of PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Flashbacks, or reliving the trauma
  • Nightmares
  • Intense fear
  • Avoidance
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Guilt, worry or depression
  • Difficulty remembering the trauma
  • Hyperarousal
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Severe emotional distress

It’s difficult to determine when those symptoms will arise, some people feel fine at first only to develop PTSD later on. In general, survivors of natural disasters are recommended to seek professional help if they find they continue to suffer from the effects of PTSD for more than a month. 

If you are dealing with the trauma of a natural disaster, immediate mental health resources are available in Alberta via CMHA Calgary. If you want to speak to a trauma-specialized therapist to deal with your PTSD or trauma symptoms, please check out our free Therapy Grant programIf you want to help with the fire relief in Fort McMurray, donate to the Red Cross.

Keep in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook to learn more about trauma, the effects of trauma and how to cope with PTSD.

— Written by Amber Craig, BFF Chair 
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