'Anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks': Tammin Sursok on life as a new mum

Tammin Sursok with daughter Phoenix as a baby.
Tammin Sursok with daughter Phoenix as a baby. Photo: Instagram

Although we're all becoming more aware of postnatal depression and its warning signs, anxiety is still something that we need to talk about more.

As a result, Aussie actress Tammin Sursok has written an essay sharing her personal experience with postnatal anxiety to help make more new parents aware of the illness. 

The 33-year-old star of Pretty Little Liars wrote about her struggle on news.com.au, saying that anxiety hit her "like a ton of bricks" after she gave birth to daughter Phoenix in 2013.

Tammin says that, like many mothers, she found asking for help tough.

"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. 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."

 

Things I did wrong as a mother today: 1- My daughter was the only kid not dressed in green today as we arrived at school. 2- I dropped some iced coffee on her skirt 3- At the coffee shop she mentioned to everyone that she was mad because she revealed I actually forgot to put her undies on. Things I did right as a mother today: 1- I told her the gold on her skirt she was wearing was a pot of leprechaun gold and that she was the most unique and special at school which made her completely light up with her head held high feeling like she was so special. 2- I apologized profusely when I dropped some coffee when she told me "it's ok my mummy, accidents happen". I told her I loved her so much 3- we found some undies in the car and we made a game out of it and laughed until we couldn't breathe. You are as good or as bad of a mother as you want to be. It's all your perception. Happy Friday mommas/mummas.

A post shared by Tammin Sursok (@tamminsursok) on

When she told her doctor about her "dreamlike state of detachment" and "never-ending slow motion horror film", the doctor immediately diagnosed postnatal anxiety and prescribed medication.

The diagnosis was just the start of the journey for Tammin, who didn't want to be medicated. "Now what?" she asked. "After six months of trying to figure out what was 'wrong' with me, trying to boil it down to 'just hormones', and 'just sleep deprivation' and 'just life adjustments', I was officially branded by two words."

Tammin felt as if she had failed as a mother, but she spent time consciously working to become herself again. She didn't want to be the "detached mum" she felt she was with Phoenix.

Advertisement

"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."

Tammin's story is a great reminder to mums everywhere that we're not alone in our struggles after we give birth. And that it's important to ask for help and work towards recovery, with the support that works best for us.

Tammin concluded her essay by sharing that Phoenix is now three-and-a-half, and that "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 says that although she worries about what will happen when she has another baby, she knows that she will be stronger and wiser next time.

Her great wish for this essay is that it will help other mothers to talk about their experiences and realise they are not alone. "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."

Signs of postnatal anxiety

According to BeyondBlue, here are some signs that you may need some help: 

  • anxiety or fear that interrupts your thoughts and interferes with daily tasks
  • panic attacks — outbursts of extreme fear and panic that are overwhelming and feel difficult to bring under control
  • anxiety and worries that keep coming into your mind and are difficult to stop or control
  • constantly feeling irritable, restless or on edge
  • having tense muscles, a tight chest and heart palpitations
  • finding it difficult to relax and/or taking a long time to fall asleep at night
  • anxiety or fear that stops you going out with your baby
  • anxiety or fear that leads you to check on your baby constantly. 

If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, visit BeyondBlue.org.au (or call 1300 224 636) or LifeLine (call 13 11 14 or chat online after hours).