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  • Dr. Amanda Cressman, N.D.

Getting to Joy Through Sadness  

This may seem like a funny title or topic to write about it, but it is one very dear to me. I had written an article awhile back about my Journey with Colic…about my experience with my newborn babe who wouldn’t respond to treatment for her “colic”. She cried the majority of the time (12-18 hours/day) for the first 3-4 months of her life. It was humbling to say the least, as I couldn’t make her better. And what followed these 4 months was not what I anticipated. Once the crying stopped and we discovered we had a wonderful, happy little girl…I got sad…real sad and soon realized that I had post partum depression. I have been reluctant to write about this, as I wouldn’t consider myself completely over it, but I watched a movie that convinced me that it was time to share about my experience.

I used to love movies…I adored them. I enjoyed sitting down and watching the beautiful scenery of somewhere far away, listening to a fantastic music score created specifically for it and appreciating the wonderful acting the supported a story line worth telling. This was when I was younger and since then, I have rarely enjoyed a movie. I guess I’m searching for something that inspires me, encourages me to think about things differently or to be better. But…I got this all back last week when I watched, Inside Out. I was told to watch this film by someone I respect and I was so grateful she did so, as I would not have normally decided to watch a cartoon. Watching Inside Out reminded me of something I forgot in these past few months…sometimes you can’t jump over or crawl under an uncomfortable emotion you are experiencing. Sometimes the only way to get to the other side is to go through it and that has been the best advice with my postpartum depression.

For those of you who haven’t watched, Inside Out, I won’t give it away but simply put, it’s about a young girl growing up and follows her emotions that are trying to guide her through a difficult time. What is most surprising is the focus on all emotions – whether that be joy, sadness, fear, anger, etc…the film helps us understand that all have a place…including sadness.

We often hear we should fake it until we make it. To not focus on anything negative, so as to not attract it…but sometimes that does the opposite of what we hope. By avoiding the uncomfortable or bad thoughts, we aren’t being real with what is and we can’t find the proper support/help.

So – how does this Pixar film relate to my Postpartum Depression? Well, after I found myself crying watching this film until there were literally no tears left to cry, I realized that I had been fighting something that just was. I desperately wanted to be happy, to be joyful, to savour up each and every moment I had with my girls, but sometimes, the Joy was lacking…sometimes it felt like Joy had left all together. The more I pretended or hoped it wasn’t there, the more I felt it. I was Sad. My short maternity leave was everything I didn’t expect it or want it to be – with a crying babe, surprising life stressors and a horribly cold winter that kept me inside. My time with my baby was hard and the truth was, most people didn’t want to hear about that when I tried to share. We live in a culture where the expected answer to “How are you doing?” is, fine, good, great or wonderful. But how often do we feel that? Sometimes we feel rotten, upset, hurt, sad, used up or even angry.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, there is pressure to have it all figured out, to be healthy, fit, optimistic and on it. I was none of those things and the harder I tried to get there the less I experienced them. Inside Out reminded me in a gentle but beautiful way, that sometimes the only way to get to Joy is to allow Sadness in. In doing so, you acknowledge whatever you’re going through instead of pushing it away. Once I did this, I could better support my post partum depression. I could be real with it and find the proper support that I needed to get myself back.

Since then, I’ve had more glimpses of Joy and anticipate that it will continue to grow, as I get myself back.

Sometimes the only way to get to the other side of a difficult situation is to go through it and we are fortunate to live in a time where there are so many options of support to help us get there.

If you are needing support, finding your way to Joy, I’d love to help.

Dr. Amanda Cressman, ND

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