Alanis Morissette Talks Postpartum Depression, Miscarriage

By Kelly Burch 06/28/19

“Not singularly relying on myself to diagnose myself is key, because the first time around I waited,” the singer said about postpartum depression.

Alanis Morissette

Singer Alanis Morissette is planning ahead for how to deal with postpartum depression when she welcomes her third child.

“Not singularly relying on myself to diagnose myself is key, because the first time around I waited,” she said in an interview with SELF

Morissette and her husband have two young children. After both pregnancies, the "Ironic" singer-songwriter said that she felt depressed. Because of her history with the condition, she immediately recognized what was happening. 

“For me I would just wake up and feel like I was covered in tar and it wasn't the first time I'd experienced depression so I just thought ‘Oh, well, this feels familiar, I'm depressed, I think,’” Morissette said. “And then simultaneously, my personal history of depression where it was so normalized for me to be in the quicksand, as I call it, or in the tar. It does feel like tar, like everything feels heavy.”

Morissette thought because she had overcome depression before, she could do so again. In the past, doing service through her songs and connecting with audience members helped her heal. However, that didn’t work during her postpartum episodes. 

“I would just think, ‘Oh I'm just going to go out into the world and serve and then I'm going to feel better,’ but that didn't do it. And then I had my various forms of self-medicating [that also didn’t help]. So, creativity’s not doing it, tequila's not doing it... and I even sang about it,” Morissette said. 

Eventually, she reached out to a doctor for help. With this pregnancy she is planning ahead, asking friends and loved ones to keep an eye on her and connect her with help when they are concerned, even if she insists that she is okay. 

“I have said to my friends, I want you to not necessarily go by the words I'm saying and as best as I can, I'll try to be honest, but I can't personally rely on the degree of honesty if I reference the last two experiences,” she said. 

During the interview, Morissette also talked about miscarriages and her struggle to get pregnant. 

“I [...] felt so much grief and fear,” she wrote to SELF in a follow-up email. “I chased and prayed for pregnancy and learned so much about my body and biochemistry and immunity and gynecology through the process. It was a torturous learning and loss-filled and persevering process.”

However, she also learned about rebuilding her health in the process. 

“When I [...] chased my health in a different way, from multiple angles—[including, among other things] extensive consistent blood work monitoring to trauma recovery work to multiple doctor and midwife appointments to many tests and surgeries and investigations, things shifted,” she wrote. 

Overall, being pregnant and parenting has been an intense experience, Morissette said. 

“It's this whole chemistry of emotions. Hormones and chemicals that are just coursing through your body. It [can] be triggering, or flashbacking, or re-traumatizing,” she explained. 

Through it, she has learned to do what she needs to do to take care of herself.

“Extroverts restore, in theory, with people, and introverts restore alone—so for me, one of the biggest questions with me having two or three kids, was where is that solitude? How and where?” she said.

“For me, it's just about getting really creative, and maybe it's a hotel room here or bathroom stall here. Making sure there's doors that go out behind our house so there's a little area with a little gazebo here... whatever I need to do to create this. It’s not anyone else’s job to be responsible for my temperament. Maybe pin-drop silence right now is the key. Or it might be hey, being pure presence with my daughter right now is the key. Or right now crying is the key. Fucking binge-watching a TV show is key.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.