Alanis Morissette says she felt like she was 'slowly dying' amid postpartum depression: 'It's like your whole self disappears'

"After Ever was born, I remember thinking, 'I just need to get back to work because that's where my true identity is,'" Morissette said.

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Alanis Morrisette opened up about her postpartum experience and motherhood in a new podcast interview.
Alanis Morissette is opening up about her postpartum journey, motherhood and more. (Photo by: Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Alanis Morissette is a powerhouse singer-songwriter who weaves together rock angst and poetic confessionals.

However, in a new interview with the "Mom and Mind" podcast released on Monday, the 49-year-old admitted she's not as impenetrable as she may seem. The Ottawa-born mother-of-three opened up about the challenges she faced with postpartum activities each time she gave birth, the life-disrupting changes of motherhood and the loneliness she's felt for years.

While being under a spotlight as a celebrity can sometimes be blinding, it doesn't necessarily capture every facet of a star's life. Morissette indicated that although she often hides her personal story to survive as a woman, she also aims to be a source of positivity for her fans.

"My survival strategy has hovered around people pleasing, which is not a huge shocker for so many of us women in a context of patriarchy. It's a smart survival strategy until it starts eating away at our bodies and mental health and wellbeing in general," the "Ironic" songstress shared. "I believe I haven't been asked my story for several reasons, one of which is that a lot of people sort of look to me for upliftment or support or guidance or maybe even direction or championing."

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 1892 -- Pictured: Musical guest Alanis Morissette performs on Friday, December 15, 2023 -- (Photo by: Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images)
Morissette, 49, shares three kids with her husband. (Photo by: Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images)

She added she thinks a lot of people don't particularly want to "dwell in the darkness and the swamp," nor do they probably want to add to their personal struggles by hearing about her own. Still, she said there's beauty in life's challenges.

Moreover, she noted it's too "incomplete of a story" when people, like herself, have created identities revolving around always being empowering, uplifting and a bright light whenever you enter a room.

Morissette shares three kids with husband Mario "Souleye" Treadway, and the couple welcomed their first son, Ever, on Dec. 25, 2010. They then welcomed daughters Onyx on June 23, 2016 and Winter on Aug. 8, 2019.

Although she's been a mother for more than a decade, Morissette said she's finally been able to unpack, organize and understand the hurdles she's faced postpartum with some "objectivity."

"There was such a steely white knuckling through the last 13 years, frankly, through the last 49 years," she shared. "But the last 13 years, it's just ratcheted up to a whole other degree of challenge and bereftness and frozenness and all the qualities that come along with postpartum activity."

"I couldn't do postpartum alone, and yet I was trying," Morissette said, admitting that each postpartum period was worse than the last.

For her, she said postpartum was dark and swampy. It was a time in her life that was "covered in tar" and destroyed parts of her identity she was happy about. However, it was also a period that led to a bit of personal growth.

"This entered into a whole new self-perception, too, of 'maybe I am a human being,' and I'm vulnerable in a way that kind of goes against what my egoic identity was," she said, adding she was proud to be someone who was vulnerable but also empowered.

"But all of those things kind of die when postpartum took hold. ... It's like your whole self disappears. Do people turn away? Do people not want to hear about that? Of course they don't."

To get through those difficult periods, she said she relied heavily on the support of others and really leaned into her community. The singer admitted she found it difficult to ask for help, especially since many people in her generation were taught to push through challenges.

"There's this messaging that autonomy wins and needlessness wins," she added. "All of these things run counter to the exact things that moms need when they've given birth. We need everything that is the most vulnerable outreach."

Exhausted mother with postpartum depression taking care of her baby. (Photo via Getty Images)
Postpartum depression is a common medical condition new mothers experience. (Photo via Getty Images)

Experiencing her first pregnancy and giving birth to son Ever after a 36-hour home birth, Morissette shared there's nothing that could've prepared her for the "complete rearrangement of all of life" that comes with motherhood. In addition to the biochemical, hormonal and neurochemical changes of becoming a mother, the star said she was shocked by the impact having a child had on her marriage, friendships and career.

"So many of us career moms, we just immediately think we have to jump right back into [our] career," she said. "After Ever was born, I remember thinking, 'I just need to get back to work because that's where my true identity is.'"

While pregnant, Morissette had high levels of progesterone, a hormone that supports the early stages of pregnancy and can help boost your mood and have a calming effect on the brain.

"Then all of a sudden, on the other side, it was an intense drop," she added. "It was like I was dropped off the top of a building and every element came into play."

At that point, on top of trying to reach out for help and manage relationships, she noted unaddressed trauma came up unexpectedly, too. It was a deep suffering she said had left her feeling like a child.

"You're just standing by all 753,000 of those parts that just want a minute, and what winds up happening postpartum — for me anyway — was I tabled everything because there is this beautiful person here who I'm enrolled in and in charge of making sure they make it. So it's a life or death thing," Morissette shared.

Morissette shared she didn't realize at first that she had postpartum depression. She initially thought it was simply "another chapter of things being weird" in her life.

"Every day it got worse and worse and worse, but I didn't notice it because it didn't feel like a massive quantum leap shift," she said. "It just felt like I was slowly dying."

In her first experience with postpartum depression, she said it took a year and a half for her to reach out for help. She recalled speaking to a postpartum depression expert who offered suggestions like taking up meditation. Despite meaning well, Morissette said those practices weren't robust enough to be the "one way out" of the condition.

"The ideal, generous love of a postpartumly-challenged woman is just f—ing hold space for her," Morissette shared.

She recalled her own experience with her husband during her postpartum period, saying he held a lot of space for her and remained patient. It's only now that she's starting to apologize to him.

Alanis Morissette and husband Mario “Souleye” Treadway pose at the opening night of the new Alanis Morissette musical
Morissette and husband Mario "Souleye" Treadway tied the knot in 2010. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)

"I'm just like, 'Honey, the fact that you're still here is amazing,'" she recalled about a recent apology. "Because I didn't behave that well with him. He's the first to say he didn't behave that well in moments with me, too. So I'm not taking too much responsibility, but it wasn't wildly pleasant to be married to me during that time."

Ultimately, it's love that Morissette said is powering her healing journey and helped her keep it together amid postpartum activities. She recalled a reporter asking her why she'd ever have any more children after knowing she'd likely re-experience postpartum depression.

"I think my answer at the time was something along the lines of, 'But look at them. I love these people so much, I'll do anything, you know,'" she shared.

"I can be riddled with terror, enraged, lost, depressed, suicidal, ready to die, and be totally in love, have no regret about any choice I've made. I'd do it again."

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