Reese Witherspoon got candid about her “scary” experience with postpartum depression

On a new episode of Jameela Jamil’s I Weigh podcast, Reese Witherspoon opened up about her history with mental health. Witherspoon has cultivated a consistently successful acting (and, now, producing) career since she was 14 years old—which begged the question, courtesy of Jamil: “How in the fucking world have you stayed sane?” In response, Witherspoon admitted that she hasn’t always. She got real about having postpartum depression after giving birth to two of her three children.

“I’ve had so much therapy,” Witherspoon told Jamil. She clarified that she started therapy when she was 15 or 16 years old. “I definitely have anxiety. My anxiety manifests as depression, so I would get really depressed. My brain is like a hamster on a wheel and it won’t come off. I’ve been managing it my entire life.”

But Witherspoon shared that she faced more mental health challenges after having her children. (She shares children Ava, 20, and Deacon, 16, with ex-husband Ryan Phillippe. She also has Tennessee, 7, with her current husband, Jim Toth.)

“One kid I had kind of mild postpartum, and one kid I had severe postpartum where I had to take pretty heavy medication because I just wasn’t thinking straight at all,” Witherspoon said. “And then I had one kid where I had no postpartum at all.”

After having Ava at age 23, Witherspoon said she felt “completely out of control” when she stopped nursing.

“Nobody explained to me that when you wean a baby, your hormones go into the toilet,” she said. “I felt more depressed than I’d ever felt in my whole life. It was scary.”

The Little Fires Everywhere actress added that she “didn’t have the right guidance or help,” and there “wasn’t the type of communication we have now.” Witherspoon also stressed the importance of taking women seriously about their mental health struggles—something that, all too often, simply doesn’t happen.

“I think hormones are so understudied and not understood,” she told Jamil. “I kept reaching out to my doctors for answers. There just isn’t enough research about what happens to women’s bodies, and the hormonal shifts that we have aren’t taken as seriously as I think they should be.” She added, “I have deep compassion for women who are going through that. Postpartum is very real.”

Also in the conversation, Witherspoon shared that her grandmother also struggled with depression and anxiety, and that the “stigma around it debilitated her.” Witnessing that experience makes Witherspoon even more grateful that she’s “able to get help when I need it, [and] I’ve been able to take medicine.”

She’s determined to erase the stigma around mental health that still exists today. “There’s nothing embarrassing or shameful about this,” she said.

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