Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Smiling Mask Team's Journey to Hope!

On Saturday, September 25th, The Smiling Mask Team joined many family members and friends who organized, "Journey to Hope" a walk to promote suicide prevention and education and provide a place for survivors and family to heal and honour loved ones. The event was held at Crescent Park in Moose Jaw, and this year I was honoured to be asked to share my story.

Having come full circle in my journey through this illness, I want to say thank you to everyone who stood by me through those four long years when I was struggling to find the light. Today, I know I have found it. I would like to now share with you my speech.

Love and Light,

Carla O'Reilly
Author & Inspirational Speaker
The Smiling Mask-Truths about Postpartum Depression and Parenthood

Good afternoon,

On behalf of myself, Elita Paterson and Tania Bird, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the organizers of Journey to Hope, for inviting us to be a part of this event. Suicide prevention begins and ends with awareness and empathy. If we as a community understand and recognize the struggle between the head and the heart we can provide hope and reduce tragedy.

As three women who strived to be the perfect mothers, our unrealistic expectations only led to severe Postpartum Depression. We lived with an outward mask, pretending to be happy. Unfortunately, our journey through motherhood began with fear, isolation, social pressure and a loss of self. After struggling and contemplating suicide, I understand first-hand what the deep hole felt like as described by anyone who has suffered with mental illness.

The feelings and emotions that go along with depression are akin to a dark, spiraling staircase, with no sense of impending light. The painful and judgmental thoughts one can experience, can also be described as a Game of Dominos . One negative thought after another after another after another. When you continue to think negatively, you self-fulfill that prophecy and the habit becomes ingrained.

After struggling for over four years, I made a choice to forgive myself and no longer be a victim to my illness. In 2008, the three of us came together with a mission to provide awareness, acceptance and assistance for families struggling with Postpartum Depression and together wrote The Smiling Mask. We realized that we all have the power of positive choice. We all have the power to create self-happiness! Elita Paterson explains this inner power in the Smiling Mask, “If I thought myself here, I can damn well think myself out!” The key to this powerful statement is: Just as negative thinking becomes a habit so can positive thinking.

Recognizing that you have the power to perceive any unfortunate circumstance happening to you, and choosing that opportunity to create and grow as well as help someone else, is life changing! We truly believe the mantra, “You have two hands: One to help yourself and one to help someone else!” The power to destroy mental illness stigma comes from within! You must first forgive yourself, then move forward to a place of self-acceptance and, finally, self-love.

Finding a mentor, friend, support group or seeking counselling to help guide you on this path is key. Remembering that you are not alone is also key to wellness. Speak UP, speak OUT and share! Know that this is the first step on the healing journey. And, it is a journey, a marathon, not a sprint.

Our hope is that by sharing our truths and continuing our campaign of the four "E"s: Education, Empowerment, Encouragement and Empathy, the world will understand that, “Reaching out for assistance is not an expression of weakness; it is you taking hold of your power! Empathy and compassion are the very heart of our existence.”

Today I leave you with a wish to find hope and healing and know your loved ones are safe, smiling and surrounded by peace and love.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

We hit PPD info jackpot!

We hit this jackpot when Rachel Day excitedly reached out to us August 27 from the United Kingdom wanting to also share her story on our site AND her book (!) ~ for her to then share our stories on hers! Then we asked her if her husband would consider answering a few interview questions. She responded by saying that they were divorced but still had a strong relationship and she would ask. Well, not only did her ex-Husband answer our questions, so did her fiancé who also went through Post-Natal Psychosis with his first wife!! Truly, truly admirable and courageous people for each and every one of them to share their lives like they have for the world to read and learn. May your hearts be open to their courageous words of hope!

Rachel Day's story....
The men in her life, stories....

May you also check-out Rachel's site AND incredible book at with admiration and gratitude!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Mother's Love Reborn with Forgiveness

I met Carrie, in 2005, when I began to attend the YMCA Postpartum Support group in Regina. Nearly five years ago, the friendships made have withstood time and the most beautiful thing is that we have all grown to forgive ourselves for the illness, for our judgments of our mothering ability and to move forward into love for ourselves and our children.

In the spirit of helping other mothers, Carrie has shared her experience in the following interview. I would also like to say I have witnessed her healing as I attended her child's birthday party one month ago and saw a mother who was free, spirited and able to adjust her sail as the the gail force winds tried to destroy her perfectly planned picnic. She did not stress, or falter...only laugh. The laugh that told me this was just another day in the life of a mother.

Thank you Carrie, for your friendship, I am so proud to be your friend!


Thank you for choosing to share your story Carrie, why do you think it is so important?

Sharing my story is important for two reasons. The first reason, being to help others; telling mothers or soon to be mothers of all the good, bad, and ugly truths about Postpartum Depression (PPD) may help them recognize the signs and the different ways to deal with it. The second reason is to help myself. Sharing my story gives me a sense of relief. I know, now, that I was not alone. I can help to change the perception of how others see this disease! This is empowering!

What were your symptoms like?

I had suffered with severe depression during my pregnancy. At the beginning the symptoms were fatigue, lack of energy, uncontrollable crying spells, feelings of guilt and suicide. I had run my car into a pole hoping for the worst to happen so my child would never be born and never have to have me as a mother. After I had delivered my baby I had feelings of guilt, anxiety, irritability and fatigue. I felt like I couldn’t cry, I had distanced myself from everyone around me; I never felt that bond or "love" that a mother should have for her child. I had visions of throwing my son down the stairs. I also had dreams of crashing my car and killing us both. Those are only a few visions, but the most memorable.

How long did you suffer before seeking help?

I had been in counseling for months before the birth. After the delivery, I attended the Postpartum Support Group at the YMCA.

What did you do in order to get help and why do you think it was so important for your family?

Other than the counseling, I took anti-depressants and anti-psychotic medication. I believe it was important for me and my family so I could regain my confidence to be a mother and experience that feeling of love. My sister stepped in to support me and raised my son for eight months during his first year of life. It took a lot of family, friends and counseling to feel ready to be a mother.

What proactive steps did you take with your second pregnancy that was different from your first knowing more about Postpartum Depression?

The steps I took with my second pregnancy started as soon as I had received the positive test result. I had started on new medication, sought counseling, talked a lot about my fears and hopes about having another child. After I had my daughter, I continued with everything as well as took time out for myself to do activities I really enjoyed.

What lessons have your learned from your healing that are positive for your family?

The first lesson and the most important one that I learned was that having PPD was not my fault. I have learned that you can’t change the past but you can make a new beginning! I always felt like I owed my child everything and felt guilty for what I had done. Healing helped me to understand that my love for him was enough; I didn’t have to prove myself. He was a baby and loved me no matter what.

How has this experience helped you in other aspects of your life?

The experience has helped me to believe in myself. No matter what goes wrong or how hard life gets I can get through it. Positive thinking, love, family and friends are all a person needs to overcome anything!

What words of encouragement can you offer for mothers who are suffering right now?

You are not alone!! Talk to someone. Understand it is not your fault. Believe in yourself. Being a mother is the most wonderful gift.