The 41-year-old actor opened up about her battle with depression in an Instagram post shared on Monday, in honour of World Mental Health Day. In a lengthy caption, Howard reflected on the “first job” that she got after becoming a first time parent and experiencing postpartum depression. She shares two children, Theodore, 15, and Beatrice, 10, with her husband, Seth Gabel.
“It was the last day on my first job as a new mother,” she wrote. “I was still in the throes of postpartum depression, and I was in a car, alone, heading straight into the exquisite sunset we’d anxiously awaited all day.”
The Jurassic World Dominion star then described this experience as “an existential moment.”
“Since no one could hear me, I asked the question aloud: What is the purpose of ALL OF THIS?!” she continued. “Those words are the response I received: to move through obstacles with grace, and that struggle will guide you toward the sunset. We are here FOR the obstacles, not to avoid them.”
While she said “battling depression has been the biggest challenge to [her] identity,” she admitted that her “crises” have been a huge part of “the human experience”.
“My entire life, I had been so hyper-focused on blocking negative thoughts that I failed to embrace or appreciate that these feelings and emotions and crises were not only not to be avoided, but that they were integral to the human experience,” Howard continued.
The actor then explained that she’s since embraced an “optimism” and that’s helped her “navigate both internal and external obstacles”.
“Those challenges ARE the journey, the purpose, not an annoyance we can gaslight with militant optimism and denial,” she wrote, before adding that she’s not the “optimist” but instead “an emotionally-charged ball of wonder and awe, practicality and possibility, with an indefatigable capacity to find humour and joy in the absurdity of whatever life serves up.”
Howard concluded her post by telling her followers that this is “where [she’s] landed today” on her mental health “journey”, although her feelings about it could still be “different” on another day.
This wasn’t Howard’s first time opening up about her mental health. In an essay for Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle site Goop, the director wrote about the feelings of emptiness that come with postpartum depression.
In the piece, she recalled an interview she did about her postpartum depression that made her “cringe,” explaining that the way in which she described the condition wasn’t “authentic”.
“I cringed when I watched my interview on television because of my inability to share authentically what I was going through, what so many women go through. I fear more often than not, for this reason alone, we choose silence,” The Village star wrote. “And the danger of being silent means only that others will suffer in silence and may never be able to feel whole because of it.”
Howard added: “Do I wish I had never endured postpartum depression? Absolutely. But to deny the experience is to deny who I am. I still mourn the loss of what could have been, but I also feel deep gratitude for those who stood by me, for the lesson that we must never be afraid to ask for help, and for the feeling of summer that still remains.”
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, the Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.