Chrissy Teigen pens open letter about her experience with postnatal depression and anxiety

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Kayleigh Dray
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It’s easy to look at women in the spotlight and assume that they are living a perfectly happy life: they look glamorous and confident on the red carpet, they have their careers firmly in hand, and their social media feeds are usually flooded with happy ‘insta-perfect’ pictures.

However, as is so often the case, you can never truly know what someone is truly going through behind closed doors. Which is why Chrissy Teigen has decided to use her position in the spotlight to shine a light on her own battle with postnatal depression and mental wellness, in a bid to help pave the way to a better understanding of the issues faced by so many women.

Penning an essay about her experiences for Glamour, Teigen begins by saying: “To a lot of you, I think, I seem like the happiest person on the planet.”

She then goes on to describe her wonderful relationship with husband John Legend, her successful (and fun-filled) career in the spotlight, and her joy at welcoming her “perfect” daughter, Luna, in April 2016.

“I had everything I needed to be happy,” continues Teigen. “And yet, for much of the last year, I felt unhappy.”

Her feelings of “stress” and “detachment” and “sadness” began shortly after she gave birth to Luna – although Teigen blamed them on the fact that she was living in a hotel, due to construction on her and Legend’s house. “I remember thinking: ‘Maybe I’ll feel better when we have a home,’” she writes.

Teigen soon went back to work on Lip Sync Battle, taking her four-month-old daughter with her, and her co-workers “treated me incredibly well”; they put a nursery in her dressing room, they lowered the noise levels, they allowed her plenty of privacy, and she was allowed regular “pump breaks” – but Teigen still found things incredibly difficult.

“I was different than before,” she explains. “Getting out of bed to get to set on time was painful. My lower back throbbed; my ­shoulders – even my wrists – hurt. I didn’t have an appetite. I would go two days without a bite of food, and you know how big of a deal food is for me. One thing that really got me was just how short I was with people… [but] I blamed it on being tired.”

When she wasn’t in the studio, Teigen “never left the house”. Keeping all the curtains and blinds closed, she would spend the majority of her days “on the exact same spot on the couch” due to her severe lack of energy.

“There was a lot of spontaneous crying,” she adds.

Teigen goes on to explain that, during that time, she experienced “overwhelming” pain in her back, her wrist, and her bones – seemingly with no explanation. Her appetite reached an all-time low, she felt nauseated “all the time”, she kept “waking up throughout the night”, and she wasn’t “enjoying life” anymore.

Finally, she went to visit her GP, and they finally recognised her symptoms for what they were – postnatal depression and anxiety.

“I remember being so exhausted but happy to know that we could finally get on the path of getting better,” she writes. “I started taking an antidepressant, which helped. And I started sharing the news with friends and family—I felt like everyone deserved an explanation, and I didn’t know how else to say it other than the only way I know: just saying it.

“It got easier and easier to say it aloud every time.”

It got easier and easier to say it aloud every time.

Teigen, like so many other women in her situation, admits that she “just didn’t think [postnatal depression] could happen to me”. However she goes on to point out that mental health “does not discriminate.”

“I couldn’t control it,” she writes. “And that’s part of the reason it took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky, and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling. Sometimes I still do… [but] I’m speaking up now because I want people to know it can happen to anybody and I don’t want people who have it to feel embarrassed or to feel alone.

“I also don’t want to pretend like I know everything about postpartum depression, because it can be different for everybody. But one thing I do know is that – for me – just merely being open about it helps.”

Teigen hopes that her personal struggles will encourage other mums to seek help, and other big names have been similarly open of late.

In October 2015, Drew Barrymore told People she was depressed after the birth of her second daughter Frankie, saying: “I really got under the cloud”.

The 42-year-old said it came as a surprise to her as her first pregnancy, with daughter Olive, was relatively straightforward.

Barrymore said: “I didn’t have postpartum the first time so I didn’t understand it because I was like, ‘I feel great!’ The second time, I was like, ‘Oh, whoa, I see what people talk about now. I understand.’”

“It’s a different type of overwhelming with the second. I really got under the cloud,” she added.

And, earlier this year in an interview with Good Morning America, Hayden Panettiere has given fans an update on her nearly two-year mental health battle, revealing she feels she can take some positives from her experience.

“It takes you a while, and you feel off,” she told show host Lara Spencer. “You don’t feel like yourself, [but] women are so resilient, and that’s the incredible thing about them.

“I think I’m all the stronger for it. I think I’m a better mum because of it, because you never take that connection for granted.”

Speaking about the feeling she experienced after the birth of her daughter, Kaya, in 2014, Panettiere added: “I think it helped me identify what was going on and to let women know that it’s OK to have a moment of weakness,” she said. “It doesn’t make you a bad person, doesn’t make you a bad mother. It makes you a very strong, resilient woman.

“You’ve just got to let it make you stronger.”

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
  • Sleeplessness
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Aches and pains
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite 

There are many other symptoms of postnatal depression and you’re unlikely to experience all of them at once.

If you or someone you know would like advice on postnatal depression, visit the NHS website here or Mind's website here.

Images: Instagram