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Why Chrissy Teigen Keeps Talking About Postpartum Depression
06.19.17
Photos by Michelangelo di Battista via Marie Claire

The headline for Chrissy Teigen’s Marie Claire July cover story reads, “The (Truly) Unfiltered Chrissy Teigen.” Living up to her reputation for candidness, Teigen doesn’t shy away from commenting on her postpartum depression: “Every step I take feels a little shaky. It’s such a weird feeling that you wouldn’t know unless you have really bad anxiety…You feel like everyone is looking at you.” She brings it up again later in the interview when discussing the possibility of expanding her family: “Maybe I should be scared [of having PPD again], but I don’t know. It couldn’t be any worse than it was – could it?”

This is not the first time Chrissy Teigen has casually woven mental health into an on-the-record conversation with a journalist.

In the March issue of Glamour, she wrote, “for much of the last year, I felt unhappy. What basically everyone around me — but me — knew up until December was this: I have postpartum depression.”

In April, she told Refinery29, “When I was in the midst of everything, I could never imagine myself on the other side of it. Now, I’m able to look at September, October, November, December, and shake my head at how dark and crazy of a period it was. Unfortunately you can only really do that when you’re out of it. There’s no other way to explain it.”

Time after time, Teigen’s honesty becomes internet-sweeping headlines. This may seem exploitative, but I actually think it’s exactly what she intends. She isn’t solely responsible for making mental health part of the national conversation, but she is normalizing it in a very particular way — a way that she is uniquely equipped to exercise. Unlike a TED talk or a researched New York Times op-ed, Chrissy Teigen has enormous star power, and that star power is the key to unlocking a place for mental health in pop culture’s historically limited lexicon.

Chrissy Teigen isn’t just combatting the “hush hush” stigma around mental-health issues — the socially reinforced inclination to clamp down and keep difficult feelings quiet — she’s also combatting the clinical stigma. By “clinical,” I mean the ease with which mental health can be reduced to impersonal statistics and scientific studies instead of taking the form of the face of your best friend or your mom or coworker or favorite celebrity who loves fried chicken and making jokes on twitter.

News of Teigen’s experiences with depression and anxiety inevitably runs alongside writeups about acne products, dating pitfalls, friendship advice and other universally relevant content about the joys and struggles of being human. She isn’t just making mental health normal to talk about — she’s making it abnormal not to.

It’s significant that Teigen hasn’t tried to wrap up her pregnancy, or her postpartum depression, with a neatly tied bow. There is enormous pressure on women in general, but especially women in the public eye, to have an aesthetically perfect pregnancy and to “bounce back” immediately afterward, both physically and mentally. Those who aren’t consistently overcome with happiness during and after pregnancy are considered non-normative, which is kind of odd since I’m told it’s a pretty life-changing experience, and would understandably cause some outer and inner upheaval.

The narrative Teigen has created around her experience with motherhood bucks the compulsion to be perfect and instead acknowledges the not-so-wonderful alongside the wonderful. Instead of waiting to talk about her postpartum depression while she was safely on the other side, she openly admits to still feeling “shaky.”

There’s not a lot of leeway for moms who deviate from the prescriptive identity set forth, because admitting to anything less than perfection can easily be seen as a strike against you. By bringing it up again and again, Teigen’s making it clear that this is just another ongoing chapter in her life — a chapter that doesn’t have an ending yet.

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  • Aydan

    I appreciate this and find that this is a type of situation in which celebrity is done right. Celebrities are humans too and while they are called upon to have opinions about everything and stand up for everything (a mistake in my view), I fully appreciate when someone who has gone through something so common to greater society and is able to use their celebrity platform to bring awareness and attempt to take away the stigma. Chrissy’s awesome!!

  • belle

    As someone with depression and anxiety that began at (if not before) the age of seven, I can’t imagine how hard it would be if it hit you at all once, especially after such a life changing event like giving birth. Glad it’s being talked about more! I wish mine was temporary, but even that presents challenges of its own.

  • I love that she is using her celebrity to raise awareness and continue the conversation about mental health. As someone who spends most of her time online advocating for more dialog about mental health..it’s nice to see it talked about on a larger scale 🙂

    • Haley Fox

      Heard you saying how much you like Man Repeller on the Ladies Who Lunch podcast! Funny to see you commenting here too. Love your videos!

  • Amy Leigh Putman

    It’s really awesome that she is normalising the issue so many women struggle with but don’t talk about. I just feel a bit confused, it seems as if she is trying too hard to look happy on social media, as if she is constantly trying to show the world what a perfect, ‘cool’ wife and mother she is. Unfortunately, it’s making me doubt her authenticity.

    • Haley Fox

      Being depressed doesn’t mean you never feel a second of happiness or no longer have a sense of humor. I don’t know who she “authentically” is, but it seems that posting what she enjoys is more authentic than appearing equally miserable on social media and when she’s opening up for an interview.

    • Alice

      I get what you’re saying, but what would you want her to post? Sure, she could post an image and a big text but I bet people would be all up in arms or wanting to know the magic cure if she posted a photo smiling next.

      I don’t think celebrities see instagram the way we normies do, they see it as a way to build their brands.

  • Elegant Duchess

    It’s great to see a celebrity raising awareness. It’s way too much stigma attached to having a depression or anxiety that very often leads to exclusion from society and people visibly “trading on egg shells” around you .
    Great article and thank you for sharing

    http://www.elegantduchess.com

  • Ciccollina

    Yet another reason to adore Chrissy Teigen. I didn’t even know who she was until a few months when I found myself trying to stifle chuckles at my desk as I read her twitter account.

    I love her refusal to do the whole Miranda Kerr motherhood-is-easy-and-I-don’t-realise-how-hashtag-fucking blessed I am. Where Kerr is nauseating, Teigen is refreshing.

  • Morgan Rhe Tadlock

    As someone living with both bipolar depression and anxiety, while undergoing heavy treatment, I cannot be more appreciative of Teigen utilizing her platform to normalize the discussion of mental illness. Following the heaviest time in my life I lost a lot of “friends,” after finally being honest with them and myself. So much is still stigmatized and misunderstood. So many struggle with undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses, affecting not just themselves but those who love them. Lives are lost daily and mine was almost one of them. I truly believe that each open discussion leads to at least one more life saved.

  • Shugie

    Maybe if you spent less time on twitter attacking President Trump, you would have more time to spend on your health and kids.