Tammin Sursok of Pretty Little Liars is telling the truth about PPD
We write a lot about postpartum depression because truthfully, we don't think enough has been said on the subject. Too many women are still afraid to speak up and get help — and it's no surprise considering the premium our society places on the image of the perfect, smiling, blissful mother.
Another celebrity has stepped up to the plate to tell her PPD story. Tammin Sursok is best known for her role as Jenna Marshall on Pretty Little Liars — and recently, she penned a brave and candid essay for news.com.au about her struggle to keep her head above water after the birth of her daughter Phoenix in 2013.
Sursok said in her essay that postpartum anxiety hit her "like a ton of bricks." The essay starts with Sursok describing the day she was diagnosed. She had described her emotions as a "dreamlike state of detachment" and a "never-ending slow motion horror film" to a doctor, who handed her some yellow pills and sent her on her way.
Instead of feeling relieved, Sursok was fed up and felt "branded" by those two words: postpartum anxiety. Six months of trying to explain her pain away as "just hormones" and "just sleep deprivation" required more than a two-word diagnosis and a bottle of pills, she felt.
Her words about suffering with PPD are haunting — and excruciatingly relatable to many new mothers:
"I spent my life trying to pave my own road like a relentless, tunnel-vision warrior, reframing every painful experience into that of a positive one," Sursok wrote in an Instagram post with a black and white photo of her and her baby daughter. "But then again, I've never really suffered so much that it broke me. Suffered so much that I felt like my entire body was made of glass and a mere touch would create hairline fractures that would slowly break, like pieces of a puzzle, and take my soul away with it."
Sursok knew in her gut that the pills weren't the answer for her — although they're definitely the answer for some others. Sursok knew she needed to find another way through this sense of failing as a new mom. She was determined to fight through the awful feeling of detachment without meds. So she decided "motherhood is something that will forever change you." And so she opted to let it change her, and her course in life.
"I spent the next three years healing," she wrote. "Through meditation, yoga, therapy, mindfulness, prayer, nutrition, and reading and connecting with others who had been through the same experience, I somehow slowly, inch by inch, rebuilt myself." Her journey is a brave one, and we're grateful to hear about it.
Sursok has no regrets about asking for help, nor about the way she created her own journey of healing. Phoenix is now 3, and Sursok's "great days far outweigh the panic." It's a hugely helpful reminder for so many women that there is healing from PPD, that the pain and anxiety can ease.
Tammin Sursok's articulate voice is one we particularly welcome: "We need to break the stigma. Lives are being lost. We need to speak up about our tales of sadness and hope and joy. We are no lesser because of it and only through heartache comes true resilience. And not to sound trite, but 'we need to be the change we want to see in the world,' and it all starts with us."