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.

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