'Horrifying images': Alanis Morissette speaks about her third battle with postnatal depression

Photo:Instagram/Alanis
Photo:Instagram/Alanis 

Singer and songwriter Alanis Morissette has opened up about her experience with postnatal depression in a candid interview about stigma, recovery and finding solace in writing music.

The 45-year-old, who welcomed baby Winter in August, was diagnosed with PND after the birth of her son Ever, eight, and daughter Onyx, two. And while she's currently battling the condition for a third time, she says the symptoms are very different.

"This time it's less depression," Morisette told Entertainment Tonight. "It's more anxiety and a little more of the compulsive, obsessive thoughts," - accompanied by "horrifying" images.

"A lot of times [they are] about safety, about the people you love, your loved ones, your children," Morissette continued.  "And then me just having to remind myself, like, 'Oh, nope. This is just postpartum depression swooping in again. Stop.'"

Rather than waiting this time to seek help, however, Morissette chose to speak up earlier - a lesson she learned after she was first diagnosed with PND.

"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?' And she said, 'No, it actually gets worse,'" Morissette explained. "So, as soon as I heard that, I thought, 'It can get worse than this?' So I went on medication right away."

As well as leaning on her loved ones for support, meditating and writing, as part of her recovery, the mother-of-three has been sharing her experience as it happens

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Alanis Morissette (@alanis) on

"There's something about chronicling the experience in real time," Morissette explained. "If the goal is a stigma-free perception of any mental illness or mental health conversation, understanding and giving the details of what it really looks like from the inside is important."

Advertisement

And while she has days when recovery seems "kinda easy", Morissette knows all too well that there's a long road ahead.

"I don't think of it in terms of cured, because I know that postpartum isn't something that lasts a week," she said. "For me, it is at least two years, maybe a little longer."

Morissette also hasn't written off the idea of future pregnancies with husband Mario "Souleye" Treadway.

 "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,"  she said.

"I know that there's a light at the end of the tunnel."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Alanis Morissette (@alanis) on

In a second blog post published on Tuesday, Morissette shared more details of her illness and her thoughts on how society treats mothers. "There is such a beautiful method to the madness, if you think about it. but who can think when the neo-frontal cortex — the part of the brain that plans and manages attention and cognition— is compromised post-partum?" she wrote

"Maybe it isn't madness at all. Maybe it is perfect. Maybe it is poetry. Even as our culture wants to see us "bounce back" and "go back to normal" — ie: high functioning, high cognition, high giving, high yield… within days of giving birth (a birth that for so many was potentially traumatic and requires gentle and slow healing.. and again… more loving hands around)— we are still subject to these perfect effects of post-partum."

And, Morissette notes, so we should be.

"A culture that would want us to bypass all this, ignore these normal and intended "symptoms" of post-partum … is a society that might entirely be missing the point of what us mums and women are DOING once our babies come out. And how it is all meant to be this way. And our resisting of it— my resisting of it— is the only cause of true suffering."

In her essay, Morissette also reflects on whether post-natal depression, anxiety and OCD, " is simply life's way of ensuring the ongoing unfoldment of life. Seeing it this way— it inspires my eye to be on whatever it takes to not let her (me) slip away into the depths without an outreached hand or two to keep us from any extreme.

"Village is mandatory for survival." she continues, adding, "It's a funny thing, to attempt to see clearly in a sandstorm with no goggles."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Alanis Morissette (@alanis) on

Dr Nicole Highet, Founder and Executive director of The Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE) says it's reassuring to hear celebrity mothers talking openly about these kind of thoughts that commonly occur, "but often no one is talking about."

"Up to one-in-five women experience anxiety in pregnancy and in the year following the birth of their baby," Dr Highet says. "This can lead women to experience catastrophic thoughts (like that something terrible will happen) or overestimate the impact beyond what is realistic. This is all part and parcel of anxiety. "

Dr Highet adds that it underscores the importance of being aware and informed about anxiety and as well as depression, "to enable expectant and new parents to understand what is happening, take control of their thoughts so that they can be managed, and not leave the person feeling overwhelmed or like they are unable to cope."

For more information about the range of emotional and mental health challenges that can occur when having a baby, and the treatments available, visit cope.org.au.

PANDA Helpline:  1300 726 306