In 2008, Carla O’Reilly, Tania Bird, and I wrote and released The Smiling Mask: Truths about Postpartum Depression and Parenthood (www.thesmilingmask.com).
The book encourages women and men to open up, share their experience, and ask for help. Each of the authors tells a story. Peggy Collins, our publisher, wrote our husbands’ perspectives, and Marlene Harper, PhD, wrote the medically-based preface.
My story is about how I took a difficult experience and turned it into a gift thanks to four remarkable women who believed in me, and to me believing in myself.
My husband Ward and I were excited to have a baby, but our first attempt resulted in a miscarriage. Six months later, after much soul-searching, our Ella Bella was born March 13, 2006, and our lives were never the same again.
We were elated to have brought such a miracle into the world, but other feelings were not so joyous. I experienced intense feelings of anxiety, worry, frustration, guilt, and anger. My anger turned into fits of rage because I struggled to calm my daughter.
I felt like a monster. I had experienced these emotions to a certain degree my entire life, but they had elevated to a level that disabled my ability to be happy and calm, and to feel competent as a mom. I was paralyzed by fear. Ella was difficult to comfort, and so was I.
In my chapter within The Smiling Mask, I describe what it was like to feel lost and numb when my daughter was eight months old. I was heavy with shame and guilt. I cried on the phone with Ward, because I was sick and tired of Ella’s non-stop crying and her refusal to nurse and sleep. What’s more, I was sick and tired of myself.
My husband finally demanded I get help, because he was about to have his own nervous breakdown.
Now, I am a FABULOUS mom and mentor for my daughter, who is my driving force. The greatest gift I can give her is to continue healing and standing in my power, with ease. I am a work in progress on my healing journey from being an anxious, paranoid, and angry teenager/woman/mother to finally being fulfilled and content with my choices.
It has looked something like this:
First, I felt like I was the victim.
I blamed people around me for my hell. The nurses were too busy to help in the hospital with breastfeeding; my husband didn’t understand my confusion in getting used to being a mom; my daughter’s incessant crying caused me to nearly shake her; my family and friends were clueless to what I was going through; my doctor made a big mistake by not diagnosing me; my mom lived too far away to help more often; I hated myself so much; I complained, got angry and depressed, and only had fun occasionally.
Next, I became more in control.
I went through a life-changing event after reading The Secret.
I became willing to accept help and more responsible for my well-being. I became that much more aware of my own power.
I realized, again, that I had the choice to visualize what I wanted, take action, and make it happen.
Life, in general, began to look pretty good.
I learned that my grandmothers, my mother, and I all went through anxiety and depression our entire lives, and that I had the choice to stop the cycle with Ella.
I met two courageous women, Carla and Tania, who wholeheartedly understood me and together we reached out to make a change.
My husband and I went through marriage counseling to foster a marriage we desire, took our relationship to the next level of trust, and became the family we always wanted to be.
I realized that I was a magnet and I needed to decide what kind of experiences I wanted to attract—happy or crappy.
I summoned the courage to work through and clear my beliefs and thoughts that simply did not serve my highest self.
I realized that baby steps start with simply being aware of what you are doing and thinking and feeling, and then moving forward with effective tools one day at a time, changing your behavior when you’re ready.
Then … I started to wake up!
I realized my intentions were limitations, because I was still not able to control everything.
I learned to recognize inspiration when it presented itself, and I learned to act on it.
I realized that the greatest thing I can do is agree to each moment.
I realized that when I surrender to a greater power (which looks and feels different to everyone) miracles tend to happen, miracles like…
- being comfortable in my own skin.
- having people open up and share their stories, because we created a safe space for them to share.
- choosing to learn from joy instead of pain.
- having my husband stand right by my side—including at speaking events.
- having an extraordinary bond and hearing things from my daughter like, “I love you! You’re the bestest mom and you make the best faces!”
- living the immense value in re-parenting my daughter—peacefully—so that I gain more tools to deal with my anger and share these tools with my daughter (connectionparenting.com).
- being members of the ground-breaking provincial initiative, the Saskatchewan Maternal Mental Health Working Group (skmaternalmentalhealth.ca), that is actually shifting policy in our province for mothers and their families.
- winning the YWCA Women of Distinction 2010 Award in the Circle of Friends category as part of a team of women who are making change in their community.
- becoming an Angelic Awakening™ Practitioner and honoring my own abilities, where I am now able to provide to others the same love, acceptance, and forgiveness techniques that took me to my next level of living (intagreat.ca).
- learning that life is about free will and that it’s not our place to control others; rather, our job is to empathize as we are all on our own learning journeys.
- realizing that we may simply live the change we want to see in this world, and we create change whether we want to or not.
- embracing a new way of living by being effortlessly thankful that I have given myself the space to let go, clear, and trust (mrfire.com/zero/ and www.hooponopono.org).
Today I have never felt more alive and connected to people and myself. My life is amazing, wondrous, and overflowing with gratitude—and what a fabulous place to be!
A Note from Dr. Shosh
Elita’s story demonstrates a wonderful turnaround. Despite feeling devastated, she was able to recover 100% and then some. Remember this as you go forward in your journey:
— Gather your best community for strength.
— You are capable of more than you know.
— Throw away the internal messages that harm you.
— Remember what you’re not in control of, and try to let go.
This experience, however painful and challenging, can turn out to be your best learning opportunity. Hold on to that truth as you ride the roughest waves. It won’t take away the pain, but it can help you keep a healthier perspective.
Photo by Anne Worner CC BY 2.0