Alanis Morissette on her third bout of postpartum depression
“CBS This Morning” will be dedicating most of its broadcast Wednesday to a live special focusing on mental health. It’s called “Stop the Stigma: A Conversation About Mental Health.” We want to remove the shame and blame from the discussion around mental illness diagnoses.
This morning, as part of our commitment to tackling these issues, we are focusing on the mental health of mothers. According to the American Psychological Association, up to one in seven women experience postpartum depression, which can appear days or even months after delivering a baby.
Alanis Morissette is sharing her nearly decade-long experience with postpartum depression. In a candid essay on her website, the 45-year-old mother of three revealed she’s dealing with the condition for a third time following the birth of her son in August. She said she’s having sleep deprivation, fogginess, physical pain, isolation and anxiety.
Morissette believes many women don’t get enough emotional support after childbirth. She told CBS News’ Mireya Villarreal that postpartum depression can feel like you’re covered in tar and underwater.
“This time around, it’s less depression, it’s more anxiety and a little more of the compulsive, obsessive thoughts,” Morissette said.
“When you talk about invasive thoughts, what does that include?” Villarreal asked.
“I mean images that are horrifying, just a lot of times about safety about the people you love, your loved ones, your children … and then me just having to remind myself, ‘Oh no, this is just postpartum depression swooping in again. Stop.”
In her revealing essay, she writes postpartum depression, also known as PPD, “is still a sneaky monkey with a machete – working its way through my psyche.”
“There is something about chronicling the experience in real time,” she said. “If the goal is a stigma-free perception of any mental illness or any mental health conversation, understanding and giving the details of what it really looks like from the inside is important.”
The Grammy Award-winning singer first realized she was dealing with postpartum 16 months after the birth of her first child in 2010.
“My survival strategy is to just push through … and then I spoke with a professional who knew all about postpartum depression. And I asked her, ‘Does this go away if I just white knuckle through it?’ she said, ‘No, it actually gets worse.’ So as soon as I heard that, I thought, it can’t get worse than this … so then I went on medication right away.”
Morissette also approaches her recovery in part by meditating, leaning on loved ones and turning to a familiar passion: music.
“When I’m in any state, emotionally sad, angry, freaked out, lonely, isolated, depressed, I can write. Thank God for that,” she said.
“Are there moments where you’re like, ‘It’s gone. I’m cured?'” Villarreal asked.
“There are moments where I think it’s gonna be kind of easy, or I do get a little cocky. But I don’t think of it in terms of cured because I know that postpartum isn’t something that lasts a week. You know, for me, it’s at least two years, maybe a little longer,” she said.
Signs of postpartum depression can include anxiety or panic attacks, uncontrolled crying or sadness, fear of being left alone with the baby, or lack of interest in the baby altogether. The American Psychological Association recommends that anyone experiencing symptoms for more than two weeks seek help. If left untreated, the condition can last many weeks or months.
“Was there ever a moment where that fear made you want to say, I can’t do it again?” Villarreal asked.
“No because I’d experienced the other side of postpartum depression and having this relationship … I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “I’d be willing to go through it again. I know that sounds a little insane but, you know, I’m willing to – present sacrifice for future gain. I’ve done it a million times.”
Morissette also has advice for friends and family. She recommends welcoming moms who’ve just given birth with open arms and no expectations, saying just showing up can make a huge difference.
Mireya Villarreal also has a personal story to share about another issue pregnant women face: miscarriages. You can read her powerful essay