Let’s Talk About Men and Postpartum Anxiety
TV HOST STRUGGLED WITH POSTPARTUM ANXIETY is not a headline you expect to read from your bubbly, toothy sportscaster. Maybe it’s not one you expect to ever hear from a man. Can be. Is.
I love kids. I used to be one. Everybody knows me knows this above all. I wanted to be a dad since I was 5. I’m a godfather to 6 right now, all girls!
And I was/am head over heels with Francesca, of course. My wife would go/goes on long international trips and I’d be on solo-ish duty for weeks. No Sweat! I was happily capable and blissfully, mind-numbingly happy.
And then I wasn’t. I was scared. I was invaded by the most frightening thoughts.
I called a hotline and THEY PUT ME ON HOLD & CALLED ME BACK 2 HOURS LATER. I can laugh about that now, but C’MON!
Now, fact is: that hotline exists. That hotline helped me. The information available online on anxiety and postpartum manifestation is extensive: http://postpartum.org/services/dads/signs-of-ppd-anxiety-in-men/
And the statistics of men experiencing postpartum are very real. It’s just not something people talk about often. That needs to stop.
I was not ashamed. I was stunned. Everything in my life was being a dad, I was attacking it with an enthusiasm previously unknown to mankind.
And therein was part of my issue: I’m not sure it’s advisable to be blissfully, mind-numbingly anything. And I was like that in all my life. Gripping tight, trying to squeeze every ounce out of life. Feeling my feelings, feeling your feelings. Transference out the wazoo. Crying at toilet paper commercials.
Exercise or healthy food were addictions. Work was, too. I was trying to make every TV show I did be inducted into the broadcasting Hall of Fame.
I was a duck; it looked like I was chilling above water but underneath I was paddling feverishly.
My realization: I think it’s very difficult for all people to process their feelings in the moment they’re happening. Bottled up, they have a tendency to spiral into something different, and potentially metastasize into something really weird.
Point is: when it gets like that, it’s coming out.
It’s my experience dealing with anxiety means addressing those feelings, asking and answering before they congeal like that.
A risk of any job - but especially one where you perform for other people - is that you can start viewing yourself as other people view you. That’s natural in some ways, dangerous in others. Here’s why.
That puts you as an object of their sentence, not the subject of yours. Why give up yourself like that?
My goal has always been to be the authentic me on TV. But there was another goal I realized I was putting before that: always have the greatest day for all to see. I am an incredibly optimistic person, but even I was taking this too far.
I rationalized this by saying that our viewers were watching for their own personal enjoyment, so why allow my not-so-great day to come off on air and get in the way of that? That's not a bad thing, but in my mind it funkefied, and there I was on the set smiling through personal woes (food poisoning, kidney stones), personal crisis (the morning I called the hotline and worked hours later), and life (how many terrible, horrible national tragedies have we suffered?).
My realization that Best Day Ever wasn’t necessary took/takes work. Everyday. Now I aim for real. The Realest Day. It has my name all over it.
Tony Reali hosts ESPN’s “Around the Horn” daily 5pm EST. He is also a correspondent for “Good Morning America.” He lives in New York City with his wife Samiya and daughter Francesca.