Mena Suvari says she struggles with postpartum depression "every day" since delivering her 1-year-old son Christopher.
In a new interview on the podcast Broad Ideas with Rachel Bilson, the actress, 43, opened up about dealing with anxiety from an early age and how it's taken more shape since becoming a mom.
"I’m trying not to [hide] much anymore," the American Beauty actress explained of her willingness to be open about her struggles. "If I could shave off some suffering for someone, then I want to do that. I’m more than wiling to be that person, because it breaks my heart to ever … consider someone else going through a lot of what I've gone through, so it kinda makes sense to give in. That’s how I live my life."
"This old lady just doesn’t want to play games anymore," she added. "We have to talk about these things."
In her 2021 memoir The Great Peace, Suvari writes of surviving sexual abuse at 12 years old and overcoming drug addiction as a young actress in Hollywood. Writing the book, she said, was cathartic, and helped her navigate much of that old pain.
"The mindset I was in at 12, all the little things that happened to me as a very young person, I believe that it creates a mindset," she explained. "I do have memories of feeling alone. Very alone. That no one was ever going to ask [if I was OK], no one was ever really going to care, no one was ever really going to do anything, and so I just learned to do everything on my own — and that’s why no one noticed. I became very good at doing what was asked of me."
When recalling Christopher's delivery, Suvari says she spent "24 hours at home" and "24 hours at the hospital" in labor. At one point, the hospital gave her an epidural that "they had to redo again."
Ultimately, she ended up having an emergency C-section.
"I still feel like I’m allowed to hold some space for being sad over not having [a vaginal] birth," she explained, noting that she hopes to normalize talking about these feelings for other women. "I just want to make that area a little bit bigger for people, because it’s not fair to just be like, ‘But you're fine right?’ 'But you didn’t die.' 'But your baby is OK.'"
Still, the actress says striving for a healthier outlook is a daily task.
"I struggle with postpartum every day," she says, later clarifying that she’s referring to “postpartum depression.” She adds, ”All I’m doing next month is testing my hormones, so yeah, it’s all very real. I deal with it every day, of, how do I navigate this space?”
Working with a postpartum doula who helps her understand her feelings so that she may better direct them, Suvari says, she recalled a moment when she realized the magnitude of her pain.
"I remember sitting on our balcony freaking out, saying, 'I have to get out of the house. I have to get out of the house,'" she remembered. "My husband, he said, ‘You can go. You can go for a walk,’ and I was like, 'But I didn’t think I [can].' I was freaking out. I was like, I have to do something for myself but I can’t leave. I had to learn [to let go].
"I still struggle with that," she continued, "I don’t have to be in [my son's] face 24-7 to raise a good human being, because of my fear. It’s a lot of work."
Now, Suvari hopes she can help other mothers who may also fail to understand their own struggles.
"I don't want to sugarcoat it anymore," she said. "I do want to help others. I don’t think it suits anybody if I sit here and act perfect ... especially at this day and age ... We’re all trying to survive and do the best we can, and we have to help one another."
The actress has opened up in the past about how she's dealt with struggles — particularly the sexual trauma she faced as a young girl.
"Everyone was raving about how I looked 18. But I was 12," she recalled to The Guardian in July about her childhood. "What was communicated to me was that I was an adult, therefore I can act like an adult."
Writing of these experiences in her memoir, she added, allowed her to recognize the harm that had been done.
"I needed to express myself. I needed to purge this in order to move on … I very much wanted to let it go," she said of the writing process. "I think the biggest thing is that, for me, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to consider a lot of these moments as abuse or trauma, because I always excused it. That’s a big part of survival — I had to learn how a lot of things served me then, and they don’t have to serve me any more. I feel like stuff never really goes away, you just garner a new perspective on it, and a new patience for myself and more compassion."
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