Life Beyond The Smiling Mask
by Carol Marriott
You cannot change the wind,
but you can change your sail
Extreme gratitude, a tiny dog, a ton of courage, the love and support of family, friends, and community, and a deep appreciation and acknowledgement of the gifts revealed through challenge are some of the tools in Tania Bird’s tool box, as she has navigated her struggle with post-partum depression.
Tania, co-author of the book The Smiling Mask, shared intimate moments of her journey through post-partum depression with me during our interview. Throughout our conversation, I was inspired by her strength, courage, wisdom, and depth of faith in the good of the world, and her vibrant spirit and capacity for setting her sails toward healing and wholeness. She shares that every time she has been unwell, there have been many gifts and blessings that have transpired.
Although Tania and the two co-authors, Elita Paterson and Carla O’Reilly, tell their stories succinctly in The Smiling Mask, this particular article focuses on the many tools Tania has used to help herself heal on her own journey. These are tools that are available to anyone who is experiencing the myriad of life’s daily challenges—obstacles, grief, depression, and physical and mental illness—and for anyone who wants to live a richer, more fulfilling life.
Meet Suzie, one of Tania’s healing companions—a young Miniature Schnauzer. Although Tania had grown up on a farm where there were outside dogs, she had never experienced an affinity for dogs, or had developed a close relationship with a dog until Suzie came into her life. Suzie was a gift for Tania’s daughter, Katherine. At age five, Katherine was still not sleeping through the nights in her own bed. Tania’s husband Darren had an idea. As Katherine was showing huge rockets of desire for a dog, Darren promised Katherine a dog if she could sleep in her own bed for forty nights. Amazingly, Katherine rose to this challenge and easily succeeded!
|The Smiling Mask was written to create awareness, understanding, and acceptance of post-partum difficulties; to bring peace and validation to mothers and fathers by engaging and empowering families and communities in the life change and natural experience of parenthood.
As promised, eight-week-old Suzie came to live with their family. Since that time, although Suzie is Katherine’s dog and sleeps on her bed with her every night, the close bond that Tania and Suzie developed has been one of the key healing tools on Tania’s journey. Suzie has become a true therapy dog.
Tania is amazed at the deep, energetic connection she experiences with Suzie. Through brushing her, caring for her, taking her to obedience classes, and spending their days together, Suzie has helped Tania heal on many levels.
Although Suzie is a constant source of joy and comfort, and a big part of her healing journey on a day-to-day basis, Tania set her sails toward healing using a wide variety of healing modalities. Early on, she began attending a post-partum support group run by Sally Elliot in Regina, where they were only permitted to focus on complaints during the first ten minutes of the meeting. Many friendships and connections that were formed through this support group continued beyond the group meetings. When Tania, Carla, and Elita presented at a perinatal conference in Saskatoon, they received a standing ovation. The nurses encouraged them to put their story to a documentary and a friend, who is a film producer, created and produced a documentary called The Smiling Mask that has been viewed locally, nationally, and internationally.
Tania’s journey to wholeness has been founded on four main keys to healing—self-awareness, self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, and self-love, with self-love as the main focus. Sometimes our ingrained beliefs need to be replaced, but first we have to become aware of them through self-awareness. Tania has found a tremendous comfort in the simple but profound art of gratitude. As an example, when she started to work toward changing some of her ingrained beliefs, she began with her finances. It seemed there was always more month than money. With some practice using daily gratitude, for everything big and small in her life, she noticed how much more easily money would come to her, and how when she felt happier and healthier, her “consumer wanting” feelings dissipated.
Tania learned that she was challenged with Celiac disease when she was 25, so maintaining a healthy diet has been a big priority. Limiting sugar and eliminating wheat has helped her balance her blood pressure, hormones, and brain chemistry throughout her periods of struggle. She says that yoga has been really good on a whole lot of levels.
When asked for what advice she would give to others, she suggests a strong need to talk about what is going on for you. “Don’t suffer in silence. Get lots of sunlight, drink lots of water, let go of sugar and flour, and work at exercises to re-program your thinking. Discover the work of Byron Katie, Louise Hay, and the many other self-help teachers, books, and programs available. There are many wonderful resources out there.”
Driven by their collective personal experiences, Tania, Elita, and Carla have co-authored The Smiling Mask book, produced a documentary by the same name, and created a website, all of which are transforming the lives of women and families around the world. As awareness advocates, they have shared their personal experiences with the medical community as well as the general public. They team together in a powerful healing force full of honesty, humour, and empathy that attracts readers to understand the human condition of mental illness. Their book was nominated for the Readers’ Choice award at the 2009 Saskatchewan Book Awards. Their latest accomplishment is winning the Circle of Friends category at the YWCA Women of Distinction Gala. To learn more about these three woman and their work, visit their website www.thesmilingmask.com for an abundance of helpful resources.
Carol Marriott is an equine-assisted learning (EAL) facilitator and owns Ravenheart Farms. She is also a Certified Life Coach, Reiki practitioner, and voice dialogue facilitator, who enjoys awakening hearts and inspiring potential. To contact her and/or learn more about her, visit www.ravenheartfarms.com, phone (306) 542-3557, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also see the colour display ads on pages 32, 43, and the back cover of the 18.3 September/October issue of the WHOLifE Journal for her workshops and offerings.