Hello! Who are you?
My name is Angela Broida, while I professionally use my former last name, Phillips. I live in central California, in a beautiful wine country town called Paso Robles.
My partner and I relocated from the Bay Area where we met a few years ago to Vancouver, BC. I have a 10-year-old English bulldog named Stella that has been with me since she was a pup, and a 1 year old baby named Ruby.
I’m a licensed therapist, clinical researcher, and work in the behavioral health tech space. I’m very passionate about my career but also other hobbies that include music, fashion, hiking, traveling, and overall just experiencing new things as opportunities arise. I would definitely consider myself a positive person and although I wouldn’t use the term by choice, happiness is definitely a part of my daily life.
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What is your struggle and when did it start?
Prior to becoming a therapist myself, I struggled with how to seek out or name things that happened in my past, contributing toward challenges in the present. If I really look back, much of it started with the pros and cons of being raised with a very strict but wavering religiosity in my home.
Though much of my moral compass and strong values derived from this environment, the eruption of my social and generalized anxiety disorders really started in that religious context and I felt I couldn’t live an authentic life, and I thus felt like I had to hide a lot of who I was.
This started as a child until I felt I could move out of my parent's home at 17 years old and try to get out from under the pressures and beliefs I didn’t align with that were physically making me ill.
The more I recognized unhealthy coping skills and the loss of those around me, the more I realized I needed to talk to someone and really do some work if I was going to survive and live a fulfilling and healthy life.
Enter the discovery and naming of prior traumatic events, PTSD, and ongoing anxiety disorder(s). Even at the beginning of my self-exploration and healing journey, I’d self-medicate mostly with alcohol to tolerate social situations while throwing myself into projects, work, or school to manage not focusing on relationships or my own problems.
While all of this distracted me enough to get through at the time, I wasn’t really comfortable, and nowhere near happy. I wasn’t truly connecting with others and I didn’t genuinely understand myself or what I wanted.
The death of my father in my early 20s triggered the idea that I’d accept that I may never want to be in a long-term relationship and justify break ups, and not deserving healthy relationships or really learning how to communicate.
Over the years I learned ways to process and cope in healthy ways, and never thought I’d find someone who was willing to walk through that with me but thankfully we met at the perfect time of growth and acceptance.
Fast forward to the birth of our first child and here’s where things start to resurface as they do for many new moms. Most simply, the “baby blues” differ from postpartum depression or anxiety by the length of time a new mom experiences the symptoms and the severity of those symptoms.
Those of us who already struggle with depression or anxiety are also at greater risk for postpartum severity which was a slight fear of mine going into the pregnancy but I felt confident that I’d be able to adjust like I had with so many things.
However, you never really know how your body is going to respond to so many changes. I had recently moved into a new home, in a new area with my partner, and didn’t realize the impact that my lack of a social network would have on me, as well.
Ultimately, I saw baby blues creep in along with more severe symptoms of depression and anxiety, with new symptoms I wasn’t familiar with. I had never felt hopeless or trapped, and although many moms I talk to today will admit, no one talks about these common experiences that can arise immediately after this amazing gift of life occurs.
I was in a fog, so confused, and felt all over the place. I had to ‘relearn’ a lot about myself, when to anticipate these new challenges arising, plan for prevention by doing more outreach for support, and become painfully open with my partner about all of the above. This is really difficult to do all while trying to figure out what changes are going on with your body and brain, AND learning how to care for a new human.
Over the months, I found myself getting more and more confident in motherhood and growing into my new role with increased comfort in my own skin. I made sure not to lose aspects of my identity and focus on hobbies that, although may not get as much attention as they had in the past, would continue to be a part of me.
One big aspect of this was my career and making sure I followed my gut when it came to decide whether or not I would want to be a stay at home parent. I was able to find an amazing job that allowed me to stay home and work remotely but keep my career and professional identity afloat.
I would revisit my tool kit for managing anxiety and these periodic, daily dips in mood, and learn different ways of approaching them. My personal opinion is that our mental health is an ongoing journey, and thus the focus is not to “get better,“ but to continue folding in the new life experiences that occur and learn how to balance out, in a way that brings peace, joy, love, and fulfillment, in whatever way that is for us.
“Happiness“ is subjective, but I’d say I’ve reached a new level of understanding when it comes to my definition. I no longer sit in the “what if“ of my life but I embrace the challenges that are ahead and welcome them as a way to continue to refine my skills and grow as a person. The community I have around me is responsible for so much more than I would’ve ever guessed it would be.
How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?
I have always taken a lot of pride in my independence, drive, and optimism. So, to go from being so blissfully in love and recently married to a partner I never thought I’d find, to someone struggling with feelings of hopelessness and panic, I was quite a mess.
Instead of crying, I’d try to bottle things up but quickly reset and embraced this honestly with my close family and friends. Although the support was extremely helpful, I did wonder if the feelings would ever dissipate. Having the skills to remind myself that this so commonly happens to new moms was a game changer but still didn’t soften the blow for months of this struggle.
My family was far away and my husband was back at work for days at a time, so it was less noticeable than it may be for others to see. I will say that once I opened up, they all realized the challenges but also saw me start to figure things out and become more of myself again.
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Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?
Although I still struggle with the idea that I’m no longer only living for myself and/or another independent adult, those returning symptoms that would come on each day are now less and less frequent and much less severe. They’re blips on a screen and remind me of how far I’ve come not only in my postpartum journey but in my entire life.
Around 3 months postpartum I felt about 25% improvement, 6 months around 50%, and 75% around 9 months. As I approach a year with my little one, I’ll never say 100% is realistic but I’m closer and happier than ever and looking forward to continuing this new journey.
What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?
What helped me the most was building my social network and finding people that have interests outside of parenthood. This is so key in my opinion because the biggest challenge one can experience when becoming a parent is losing themselves. I knew this from my own training and just needed to understand how to apply this to myself.
As my experience is unique, being a therapist, I always recommend reaching out to an unbiased professional or friend if you don’t have one. I was able to take my training and apply it to myself effectively, but this was with the help and insight from others in my community.
Finally, I cannot express how important it was for me to track how I was feeling along with what I was putting into my body. From medications to foods, it all matters and I found patterns that I was able to disrupt and catch before making me feel progressively worse.
Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?
I started sharing with my partner very early on, and eventually added family and friends, particularly the network of moms I had built and chatted with regularly. This “mom group” idea made me cringe, initially, but allowed me to share the taboo and unspoken thoughts many of us have in a way that many of us would never think to speak aloud.
Since then, I’ve become more vocal on social media and have reached out to support others who may need a space to do the same. It’s definitely still difficult and taboo but I continue to try and normalize it all, as I go.
If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?
My favorite quote of all time is the effect of, “learn what it is that you need and then learn how to ask for it.” This has remained true for me in most circumstances including this one. Communication is always key and we all need support when going through something so significant, regardless of how amazing the experience is.
As I grew into my new role as a mom, I had to pay really close, mindful attention to myself and make room for whatever thoughts and feelings were coming through. I tried to remain as unbiased as possible and treat myself with the kindness and compassion I would with any of my friends.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?
Honestly, something I talk about a lot in my professional work and practice a lot of in my personal life is limiting social media, and external factors when it comes to these ongoing challenges.
All that said, there are certainly resources that I found to be helpful during, and after my pregnancy, and throughout my journey with trauma, anxiety, and other challenging symptoms.
As a therapist and researcher, I’m always looking at new research, articles, authors, books, and other materials that fall in line with the work that I do. In that sense, I sort through hundreds and hundreds of pages every month.
Explicitly, during this most recent and challenging time, I stuck with friends, podcasts from supportive doulas and parenting experts, but overall what normalized the experience for me was an app called ‘What to Expect’ that gives you a play-by-play as to the milestones your child will experience, as well as the normalization of what a new mother is experiencing along the way.
Almost to a T the curated emails and milestones would pop up on my phone or in my email that would again reinforce what I was going through and give me hope as to what I could look forward to in the future, but also how to be present with where things were currently at, no matter how challenging they may be.
It took away a layer of stigma around baby blues and postpartum anxiety or depression and became the one constant that I didn’t have to talk to or didn’t have to listen to me, but that I just got to read on my own time. I then started sharing this as a daily update with my partner, and it became part of our routine when we were together first thing in the morning or at the end of every day.
Finally, I started journaling about my experience from both the highs and the lows, and everything in between. I had been on a hiatus from journaling for some time and knew the benefits so it only made sense to restart that process again. I go back-and-forth but I’ve always found it helps me in the moment and gets me back on track when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Where can we go to learn more about you?
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