It’s a condition that affects one in nine women and can last for months, with symptoms such as anxiety, guilt and panic attacks. At the very least, it can cause daily feelings of stress, and at its worst, suicidal thoughts.
And it can happen to any woman after giving birth—even celebrities like Chrissy Teigen. Postpartum depression, with its clinical moniker and associated stigma, is a personal struggle that women often don’t feel comfortable talking about. In an effort to help people understand the gravity of the condition, the Sports Illustrated cover girl and mother of the adorable Luna Legend has penned a letter for Glamour revealing her own experience with it.
“To a lot of you, I think, I seem like the happiest person on the planet,” she writes, adding that she “had everything I needed to be happy. And yet, for much of the last year, I felt unhappy.”
After giving birth to Luna in April, Chrissy had to deal with headlines that attacked her parenting techniques as well as her use of in vitro fertilization, but those weren’t her toughest challenges. At home, the supermodel was experiencing irritability and ambivalence, difficulty sleeping, overwhelming mood swings, spontaneous crying and physical changes as a result of appetite loss.
“I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy,” she writes. “I blamed it on being tired and possibly growing out of the role: ‘Maybe I’m just not a goofy person anymore. Maybe I’m just supposed to be a mom.'”
Chrissy even refused to leave the house when she didn’t have to work on Lip Sync Battle, spending her days on the same spot on the couch with the shades closed. She lacked the energy to walk upstairs to bed, to go on a date with husband John Legend, to shop at the grocery store—to do anything.
“Before, when I entered a room, I had a presence: head high, shoulders back, big smile,” she writes. “Suddenly I had become this person whose shoulders would cower underneath her chin. I would keep my hands on my belly and try to make myself as small as possible.”
After a visit to the hospital and a plentitude of doctors, Chrissy discovered the cause of her pain: She was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. She started taking an antidepressant and shared the news with friends, family and colleagues.
“To have people that you respect, who are the best in the business, witness you at your worst is tough,” she says. “Even though this was something I shouldn’t have to apologize for, I did want to apologize.”
As Chrissy admits in her letter, she doesn’t like saying she has postpartum depression because “the word depression scares a lot of people.” (She simply refers to it as postpartum.)
“I also just didn’t think it could happen to me. I have a great life. I have all the help I could need: John, my mother (who lives with us), a nanny,” she says. “But postpartum does not discriminate. I couldn’t control it. 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.”
Chrissy understands that this refusal can contribute to the very stigma she wants to change. Ultimately, she wants people to know a simple fact about postpartum depression: “It can happen to anybody,” she writes, “and I don’t want people who have it to feel embarrassed or alone.” By speaking out, she’s managed to once again stir up the conversation on a universal issue—and we love her for it.