Alyssa Milano has opened up about how she came to terms with her generalised anxiety disorder in a powerful new essay.
However, with so many people prepared to dismiss it as the “baby blues”, it can be hard for women to speak out and get diagnosed – something Alyssa Milano knows all too well.
Writing in a personal essay for TIME, the activist and actress has opened up about a miscarriage she suffered before her son, Milo, was born – and explained how the postnatal depression she experienced after his birth triggered her generalised anxiety disorder.
“I have a secret, and I am not alone,” she says. “I am a mother, an actor and an activist – and like over 40 million Americans, I live with a mental illness.”
Milano goes on to explain that she experienced a debilitating panic attack shortly after giving birth, but that her anxiety worsened when she went back to work on a television show.
“Every day, I would drive to work and think about all the ways that Milo could die in the hands of his caretakers,” she says.
“Every night, after working 16-hour days, after I was finally able to hold my child and put him to sleep, my day’s anxiety would culminate into a debilitating anxiety attack.”
Eventually, Milano decided enough was enough and went to the emergency room, asked for a psychiatrist and got help.
“I felt as though I had no choice,” she says, revealing that she “asked to be committed”.
“I stayed in a public psychiatric ward for three days. At last, I began to feel as if my pain was recognised.”
Despite her experiences, Milano knows all too well that she’s lucky she was able to get the help she needed and is raising awareness that not everyone is as lucky as her.
“We should not confront these challenges by placing more hurdles in front of Americans who desperately need the care,” she said. “I was lucky enough to have the means and the insurance to get the help and support I needed. What happens to those mothers who don’t have the kind of support I received?”
As such, Milano has called for readers to rededicate themselves to talking about mental health, especially with lawmakers so that policies to increase accessibility to mental health care can be passed.
“Let’s remind each other that no one should have to face these challenges by themselves,” she finishes.
The symptoms of postnatal depression
Mental health is an issue that affects many of us, but women in particular can be vulnerable to issues: the most recent figures from the NHS show that one in five women in the UK have reported a mental illness in recent years, compared to one in eight men.
While the symptoms of postnatal depression can be complex and vary widely between different people, doctors have said that the most common is that “you feel increasingly depressed and despondent. Looking after yourself or your baby may become too much.”
Other symptoms include:
• Loss of interest in the baby
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Not being able to stop crying
• Feelings of not being able to cope
• Feelings of guilt and self-blame
• Not being able to enjoy anything
• Memory loss
• Feeling unable to concentrate
• Low self-esteem
• Excessive anxiety about the baby
• Panic attacks
• Extreme tiredness
• Aches and pains
• Feeling generally unwell
• Loss of appetite
There are many other symptoms of postnatal depression and you’re unlikely to experience all of them at once. And, because everyone reacts differently, the warning signs are often ignored: this is why it is so important that you speak to your GP or health visitor if you have any concerns, and don’t struggle alone hoping any problems will go away. Remember, it’s not your fault, it doesn’t make you a bad parent, it doesn’t mean you’re going mad and there is a wide range of support available.