Tammin Sursok: 'My postpartum anxiety was debilitating'

20th Mar 17 | Family

Pretty Little Liars star Tammin Sursok has gone public with her battle with postpartum anxiety to erase the stigma surrounding the condition.

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The actress gave birth to daughter Phoenix Emmanuel in October, 2013, but she recalls the joy of having a new baby was quickly erased by feelings of "detachment" and "numbness".

"I sat on the uninviting, stark doctor's bed, hunched over in fear," she writes in an essay for News.com.au. "Fear that I wouldn't be able to get out of the dreamlike state of detachment. Fear that I wouldn't realise my potential as the mother I knew I could be, fear that my life would forever be that of a never-ending slow motion horror film. Feeling nothing, I was numb, and yet feeling everything, like an electric fire through my spine..."

Sursok was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety six months after her daughter's birth, but it took the 33-year-old several years to recover because she didn't want to take the medication prescribed to her.

"I was handed some pale yellow pills, told it was common and sent on my merry 'just been diagnosed with a mental illness' way," she continues. "As I arrived home I remember staring at the medication in the palm of my hands and it triggering a complete panic attack. I lost my balance, as the room started to spin, with the almost cartoon like voices yelling, 'Failure, faulty, imperfect, let down'."

"My breathing laboured and I almost passed out," she adds. "I hysterically threw the medication in the bin (which I'm now sure would have helped me greatly) and never did end up taking them. Ironically, I wondered, if I didn't help myself, was I more of a failure? I spent the next three years healing. 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."

Sursok still struggles with feelings of anxiety, but she has learned how to better cope with them, and she hopes speaking out about her experience will help other women in similar situations feel like they are not alone.

"My daughter is three and a half years old now and the great days far outweigh the panic, my hands no longer shake and eyes have readjusted to where I can truly take her in," she writes. "Although I do fear for the next child, I know that I'm bolstered with so much knowledge and experience that I am stronger and wiser."

"As mothers, women, parents and caregivers, we need to break the stigma," she concludes. "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."

Sursok is not alone in her battle with postpartum anxiety and depression - Hayden Panettiere, Chrissy Teigen, Brooke Shields, and Drew Barrymore have all been open about their experiences with mental health issues after giving birth.

© WENN Newsdesk 2017