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 night, we hosted our second meet-up at the month, this one at The Commons. There were many returning faces that we haven’t seen in a while, including some members of the local Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) chapter.

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. [BACA]

THEMES

  • Forgiveness and letting go: there was a lot of talk about letting go, forgiveness and surrendering. This concept was described in a profound way by one of our board members.

“I call it being in non-resistance, accepting exactly what’s going on right now.” — Sheryl Anderson

IDEAS & INSPIRATION

  • Helping is healing: something we always circle back to, how helping others actually helps ourselves too. Volunteering your time, mentoring someone—there are so many ways you can help others and find a purpose. There have been numerous studies on this, including some noted benefits in this article from Mental Floss.

Looking for more meaning in your day-to-day existence? Studies show that volunteering enhances an individual’s overall sense of purpose and identity—particularly if they no longer hold a life-defining role like “worker” or “parent.”  [Mental Floss]

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.

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 hosted the first monthly meet-up at Serenity Now Wellness, a location that we have the honour of using once a month, in addition to The Commons. We will host at Serenity Now the first Wednesday of every month, and a second meet-up at The Commons, the schedule will vary. We are so grateful to host meet-ups twice a month!

ABOUT SERENITY WELLNESS

Tessa Martin is a psychologist and the owner of Serenity Now Wellness, she shared how all of their practitioners are trauma-informed.

At Serenity Now, you will have access to our team of Calgary psychologists, mental health counselors, massage therapists, dietitians, and yoga therapists who are dedicated to creating a peaceful and relaxing therapeutic environment, enabling you to work through a diverse range of issues.

Last night, 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.

IDEAS & INSPIRATION

  • Mike Terry: Terry is a veteran biking across Canada for veterans. Recently, he shared a video on suicide that hit home for a veteran at our meet-up.

I want to carry the message that we as veterans are all connected, that we are all worthy of happiness and purpose. I want every veteran to know that it is ok to struggle. And that no one of us needs to face our demons alone or fear judgement for them. – Mike Terry

  • Tools on dealing with triggers (as shared by the group):
    • Gratitude journal
    • Writing
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • Boxing/fitness
    • Music
    • Food/diet
    • Massage
    • Reading
    • Photography
    • Nature
    • Animals
    • Support/friendships

RESOURCES

  • 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]
  • ‘The Body Keeps the Score’: this is a book on the body’s interaction with trauma, written by Bessel van der Kolk, MD.

Renowned trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk has spent over three decades working with survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he transforms our understanding of traumatic stress, revealing how it literally rearranges the brain’s wiring—specifically areas dedicated to pleasure, engagement, control, and trust. He shows how these areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and other therapies. [Amazon]

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 GOLF TOURNAMENT

Our mission is to provide survivors of traumatic life events with the treatment and support needed to reclaim their lives. Our goal is to pave the road for trauma healing and create valuable conversations about mental health, trauma and abuse. Removing the stigma, starting the healing, one day at a time.

One of the ways we are doing this is through our Therapy Grant Program, which allows approved candidates to receive designated therapy services, paid for via our foundation.

The fundraising goal of our tournament is to raise $25,000, that will enable 33 individuals to access therapy grants.

Full schedule available on the website!
18 holes | Prizes & swag | Lunch & Banquet Dinner | Silent Auction & Celebrity Golfers

Confirmed celebrity guests include:

  • Theo Fleury
  • Curtis Glencross
  • Mike Commodore
  • Gord Bamford
  • Colin Patterson
  • Dana Murzyn
  • Brent Krahn
  • Sean Selmser
  • Russ Romaniuk
  • Dwayne Hay
  • Mike Cvic

Sponsorships are still available and we encourage you to register and help us spread the word!

I was seven. He was a monster. That monster was my brother.

It’s both a blessing and a curse how your mind helps you remember and helps you forget.

How can you not remember? To live beside someone, in the same house, like nothing ever happened.

I was 22 and eight months pregnant when I did remember. I ran into him at a family wedding (my hubby’s family, not mine) in a hotel bar, in a small rural town. We were not close. We were a large family, with multiple divorces. It had probably been 10 years since I’d seen him. We chatted. We caught up. All’s good, right?

Things started to change. I was angry. Remembering things so painful, that they could actually break my brain. The most beautiful time of my life was marred by these memories. Did my stress during pregnancy affect my child? My child, who grew up to have severe mental health issues. Did my anger during her infancy damage her? These memories too, haunt me.

I told. I told my husband. He was supportive. I told my parents. They were detached, indifferent and unresponsive. That’s it. All over. I told. It would all get better. Right?

Wrong. I’m not proud of who I was. I wasn’t a good mother. That makes me sad. I have two beautiful children who deserved better. Could I have given them better? No. I was the best I could be with who I was at that point. I love my girls. I tried to make them perfect. They were perfectly dressed, perfectly clean, perfect manners. The perfect I never was. I was broken.

Fast forward 12 years and my husband and I are going to marriage counselling at the request of my not “perfect” daughter. She was not my version of perfect, she was perfectly her.

Relationships for me have always been a struggle. My marriage was no different. However, not halfway through the first session with my husband, I realized I needed to see a therapist for myself.

She knew, the minute I walked through her office door, she knew.

I’ve gone to many hours of therapy. I’ve confronted my abuser. I have PTSD, ADHD, Social Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and probably a few other letters. I have planned to kill myself. On a daily basis, I don’t want to be here. I just want the pain to go away. I’d never do it. I know I won’t. After losing my dad five years ago I knew I could never intentionally inflict that pain on anyone.

I distance myself from my friends. I am the queen of excuses and cancelling plans. I want someone to talk to. But really, who wants to talk about “This”? We are supposed to open up, help break the stigma. Very idealistic.

I just want to feel normal. To be able to have a job, friends, be able to carry on a conversation. I keep trying new meds, different foods, and new therapy techniques. Next week I start EMDR Therapy.

* Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.

I have high hopes. I will keep you posted!

Sheri Gray

* https://emdrcanada.org

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.

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’re going to start posting these resource blogs the day following a meet-up. The intent is to provide a roundup of resources or references from the conversation the night before.

Last night, we were given so many gifts, as many familiar faces returned and some new ones took part in conversation as well. It’s safe to assume, that everyone in that room left with a feeling of gratitude and compassion. Thank you.

Initial thoughts to circle back to: 

  • Remember that healing is a journey, not a destination. There are many peaks and valleys on this ride, but celebrate every small step forward.
  • Helping is healing. When you share your story, your vulnerability creates safety for someone else to share.

Themes: 

  • Compassion: When we encounter something joyful in our lives, it’s easy for us to instantly react with love and compassion. But pain doesn’t instinctively translate into compassion (for most of us), but learning to transform our reactions to pain into compassion is incredibly healing. A lot can get in the way of compassion, especially for those who have suffered trauma. When we feel wronged or hurt in some way, it’s difficult to actively let go of control and embrace a feeling we’re not used to associating with pain. [Read more]

“Compassion is a feeling of empathy for ourselves and for others. It is the emotional response to suffering, and it motivates a desire to alleviate that suffering.” — Kim Barthel from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’

  • 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’ 

References: 

  • Trauma loop: 

Brain states are states of confusion. A Trauma Loop is a brain state that has created a pathway in the nervous system. We use it again and again and it gets stronger. An example is a rage response to stress. Trauma loops occur when reality is overwhelming. Too intense, too scary, too loud, too fast. The nervous system can’t organize and reverts to survival threat response behavior. [Colorado School of Somatic Studies]

  • 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]

Ideas and inspirations: 

  • Writing: The practice of writing about trauma, or journaling, has been shown to have huge benefits both physically and mentally. In fact, a study from the University of Texas explored this notion, and found that participants who wrote about their traumatic experiences, visited counseling services less often, cut down on pain relievers, etc. [How to get started]
  • Spirituality: When it comes to our healing journey, there’s one aspect that oftentimes gets overlooked—spirituality. [Read more from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’]

Religious and spiritual experiences activate the brain reward circuits in much the same way as love, sex, gambling, drugs and music, report researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine. In addition to the brain’s reward circuits, the researchers found that spiritual feelings were associated with the medial prefrontal cortex, which is a complex brain region that is activated by tasks involving valuation, judgment and moral reasoning. Spiritual feelings also activated brain regions associated with focused attention. [Science Daily]

  • Create a “ta-da” list: one of our friends at the meet-up last night, suggested in lieu of a ‘to-do’ list, to have a ‘ta-da’ list. Instead of getting bogged down in how much work we have to do, try making a list of all you’ve accomplished. For practice, we will start with this at the next meet-up in January!
  • Star Trek: we had to throw this in because it made for amazing conversation! There has been unconventional practice on using episodes of Star Trek as therapy, in tackling different topics. Interestingly, this was the subject of a Psychology Today article that explains more.

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’re going to start posting these resource blogs the day following a meet-up. The intent is to provide a roundup of resources or references from the conversation the night before.

  • Self-care ideas include journaling or writing, many people seconded having a gratitude journal. Physical activity can be a great asset as well, and reading was also noted as an effective tool for self-care.
  • Changing perspective led us into a great conversation about how thinking about our trauma from another person’s point of view, can really reshape how we think about that memory. Try it for yourself!
  • EMDR is an incredibly powerful tool for dealing with trauma and PTSD. 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.
  • Complex PTSD: we were led into this discussion surrounding another branch of PTSD, Complex PTSD. This article gives some great insight:

Unlike formally recognized PTSD diagnoses, C-PTSD doesn’t stem from a singular event, but is instead the result of sustained abuse and powerlessness, from which the victim has little hope of escape.

“C-PTSD occurs when the hyper-vigilance of PTSD is accompanied by a breakdown in the ability to self-regulate,” said Julian Ford, a psychology and law professor who heads the Center for Trauma Recovery at the University of Connecticut. “Intense emotions or emotional deadness will overwhelm the person’s ability to cope. Mentally, they will suffer lapses in consciousness or in problem solving or judgment. And interpersonally, they will have extreme conflict in or withdraw from relationships.” [Vice]

The Breaking Free Foundation Golf Tournament is coming up on September 21, and the push is on for more golfers! If you don’t golf, you can simply join us for dinner. Details and registration 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’re going to start posting these resource blogs the day following a meet-up. The intent is to provide a roundup of resources or references from the conversation the night before.

  • EMDR is a great therapy tool for PTSD and untapped memories. 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. More on how EMDR works.
  • This Brene Brown video on empathy is a great illustration on how to hold space for someone.
  • Some quick strategies for diffusing your anger, as per this Psychology Today article.
  • Dealing with trauma in children can be tough to navigate. Here are some tips on recognizing trauma in children, and also on responding to disclosures. The organization RAINN has some great tips for how and when to start the conversation with your kids about sexual abuse.
  • If you’re looking for information on reporting a historic sexual assault, Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse has a program, PACES, that helps navigate this.A Sexual Assault Worker who is trained in sexual assault trauma and is experienced in the justice system can help address your concerns and assist with a variety of issues including:
    • Answering questions about your options in reporting the assault.
    • Going with you to the police and crown prosecutor.
    • Answering questions about police and court processes – what to expect.
    • Discussing your concerns about going to court.
    • Going with you to court and offering support.
    • Assistance writing a Victim Impact Statement.
    • Assistance filling out Victim Compensation forms.
    • Providing post court follow up.
    • Making appropriate referrals.

 

If you’ve ever attended one of our BFF meet-ups, you’ve likely heard Theo Fleury talk about his successes with EMDR therapy. When it comes to trauma treatment, this particular type of therapy has some incredible research and anecdotal evidence to back it up.

Before you decide whether or not EMDR is the right approach for you, here’s some information about what it is and how it works.

What is 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.

How does EMDR work? 

When people experience trauma, the brain does not process information as it would normally. A moment can become a lasting memory, and flashbacks can come in the form of images, smells, sounds, etc. EMDR however, allows patients to take direct control of how their brain processes information. By reprogramming the traumatic memory into a neutral or positive memory, you remove the upsetting emotions that come with it. You will still remember the event, but it won’t leave you in distress anymore. There are many different ways therapists do EMDR, but the idea is to activate both sides of your brain during the reprogramming of the memory, and this can be done with alternating lights or even just tapping with hands.

EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way. [EMDR Canada]

How long does EMDR take? 

Before your actual EMDR session, you will have one or two meetings with the therapist so they can properly understand the nature of your difficulties and trauma, in order to properly prepare for the EMDR session. They may also determine that EMDR treatment is not a good fit for you. EMDR sessions last 60 to 90 minutes on average, and the number of sessions you need can vary from one to several.

How effective is EMDR? 

Approximately 20 controlled studies have investigated the effects of EMDR. These studies have consistently found that EMDR effectively decreases/eliminates the symptoms of post traumatic stress for the majority of clients. Clients often report improvement in other associated symptoms such as anxiety. The current treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR as an effective treatment for post traumatic stress. EMDR was also found effective by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the United Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National Council for Mental Health, and many other international health and governmental agencies. Research has also shown that EMDR can be an efficient and rapid treatment. [EMDR Canada]

Who can benefit from EMDR? 

EMDR is noted as an effective treatment option for those suffering from PTSD, or those who have a hard time talking about their traumatic experience. However, many studies have shown EMDR to benefit people with:

  • Panic attacks
  • Complicated grief
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Disturbing memories
  • Phobias
  • Pain disorders
  • Performance anxiety
  • Stress reduction
  • Addictions
  • Sexual and/or physical abuse
  • Body dysmorphic disorders
  • Personality disorders

To find a therapist in your area who uses EMDR therapy, visit the EMDR Canada website.