While you may know her from her role as Jenna Marshall in Pretty Little Liars, you may not know that Tammin Sursok has suffered greatly from postpartum anxiety. The 33-year-old is attempting to “break the stigma” around her diagnosis with a powerful and honest essay that goes deep into what having PPA is really like.
In the essay, Sursok says that shortly after having her now nearly 4-year-old daughter Phoenix, she was overwhelmed with feelings of numbness and detachment and was simply, “watching a life outside myself, never really hinged to the earth. I remember not being able to swallow. Not being able to eat. Not being able to cry. Not being able to breathe. Just not being ‘able’.”
She goes on to explain that, like most moms, she was afraid to ask for help, fearful that her words would be “misconstrued” and, because of her celebrity status, that she would be “reduced to click bait for headlines.” Eventually though, she reached out to her own mother for help, who assisted her in making an appointment to see the doctor. Surok recalls the moment, saying:
“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. I was handed some pale yellow pills, told it was common and sent on my merry ‘just been diagnosed with a mental illness’ way.”
Sursok says that as soon as she arrived home she dissolved into a full-blown panic attack. Glancing down at the medication in her hand, the room started spinning and she started hearing voices calling her a “failure.” She had done everything she needed to in order to get help — she saw her doctor and got medication — but the stigma of not being good enough ate away at her. While she knew logically that postpartum depression is common and treatable, the weight of it left her immobile.
This is breaking point, this pressure to be the “perfect” parent, is something many of us can relate to on some level. Becoming a parent takes a toll on everyone — whether it’s through PPD, anxiety, or simply the stress of seemingly endless sleepless nights. We can all relate to the horrific way Sursok was feeling and truly respect her taking the steps she needed to get help.
Sursok admits that she never did take the prescribed medication (although she now thinks it would have helped tremendously) and says that she turned to alternative treatments like meditation, yoga, therapy, prayer, and changes in her diet to get through it. After three years, she says, she “slowly, inch by inch, rebuilt myself.”
By opening up about her struggles, Sursok hopes that she can encourage and inspire other moms faced with postpartum anxiety and depression to speak up and ask for help when they need it.
“As mothers, women, parents and caregivers, we need to break the stigma. … 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.”