Burnaby woman provides some Chicken Soup for the Soul
In many ways, Elizabeth Smayda's life was shaped in the 1970s.
That's when a bout with postpartum depression left the Burnaby woman feeling isolated while recovering from an illness that was not as well understood and accepted as it is today.
She rarely shared her story, due to the stigma, but always thought that if she did, it would be with the hope of helping someone else.
Smayda, 64, has done just that by writing a short piece about her experience and how her spirituality played as big a role as any medical treatment in her recovery all those years ago. The story has just been published in the latest volume in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books, entitled Finding My Faith.
"My journey would've been much less painful for me and everyone else involved if I had loved myself through it," Smayda said in hindsight of her recovery.
Her experience gave her a different outlook on life, she said. It also helped put her on the path towards her future career "because it helped me to connect with the vulnerable in society."
Smayda eventually got training in hospice work and as a nursing assistant and counsellor.
She worked as a counsellor for 14 years at the Elizabeth Fry Society in New Westminster, when she was known as Betty Russell.
"It was the first job that was definitely what I was meant to do."
For the past eight years, she has worked at Vancouver General Hospital's extended care unit as a health care assistant.
It's there that she worked with a former patient, Reta, for six years.
"She was a very courageous lady," Smayda said of Reta living with complications of diabetes.
"She couldn't see, she couldn't walk but that lady, she still found reasons to laugh. She had an amazing spirit."
Smayda credits Reta, also a Chicken Soup for the Soul fan, with encouraging her to submit a story for publication.
Several months later, when Reta died, the idea stayed with Smayda and after being further inspired by a reading by one of her favourite authors, Lisa Genova, she decided to take the plunge.
Now that she's seen her story in print, she's thrilled and hopes to continue writing.
As for what Reta would think, Smayda said, "She would be just elated."