Many people believe that 6 weeks is the window when new mothers need to worry about postpartum depression. Today’s guest, NBC’s “The Endgame” star Ryan Michelle Bathé, shares how that misunderstanding was devastating to her and her family.
Bathé shares with us how much she struggled after the birth of her first child, despite having access to — and utilizing — medical professionals. She shares how difficult it was and how no one around her realized anything was wrong because on the outside, everything appeared to be fine.
Actor and producer Ryan Michelle Bathé can be seen starring in NBC’s high stakes thriller series “The Endgame”, which premiered in February 2022. She portrays the relentless and socially outcast FBI agent Val Turner, who is on the hunt for an international arms dealer.
In 2020, Bathé launched Down on Maple Productions and signed a first-look deal with ViacomCBS MTV Entertainment Group. The partnership covers content created and/or developed for television and new media, with a focus on identifying emerging talent and underrepresented voices.
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without.
To book Gabe for your next event or learn more about him, please visit gabehoward.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Mental Health: A Psych Central Podcast where experts share experiences and the latest thinking on mental health and psychology. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.
Gabe Howard: Welcome, everyone. I’m your host, Gabe Howard, and calling into the show today, we have actor and producer Ryan Michelle Bathé. She is currently starring in NBC’s high stakes thriller series The Endgame. She also holds degrees from Stanford University and a master of fine arts from New York University. Ryan, welcome to the show.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.
Gabe Howard: As I was preparing for this show, I read an interview you gave about your struggle with postpartum depression after the birth of your first child and the thing that really, it broke my heart, you said, and I quote, “I thought my baby deserved a better mom.” It was hard for me just to read that, so I can only imagine how awful it must have been to feel that way.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Yeah. You know, I experienced it as a very true thing that I was thinking. I experienced it like, oh, this is, that was my reality. And my reality was that I had this wonderful child and he would never have the life he would deserve. It was all around me. Whether it was people in my industry who commented on my weight. And that’s another thing. It’s like a mom’s supposed to bounce back. And every article we read about every celebrity mom goes through the following things. I’ve never been happier. This is the best time in my life. Ironically, I’m in the best shape of my life. I thought it would be hard to lose the weight, but I buckled down and I did it for my baby. Right? Those are the five points, right? So everything I knew about mothers and motherhood was those five bullet points. And none of them were happening for me and none of the other things were happening for me. And I was happy with my baby. But I felt very, very, it was very stark. It was just it felt like a stark. It just felt stark. And every time I looked at my baby, there was this love. And as he grew, you know, babies grow every day. Every day, it’s like, oh, it’s a bigger baby. It’s a bigger baby every single day. You know?
Gabe Howard: They’re tiny and then they’re teenagers. Just.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: They’re tiny and they’re, exactly.
Gabe Howard: Just. Just like that.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: And there’s nothing in between, right? I have this baby because we wear the same shoes. Right? And I don’t know how that happened. I just I’m like, you’re my? You’re okay. You’re not my, you’re my baby. And I would look at him with this love and then it just would drop this sadness all the time. It was like it was just like this is this persistent sadness that whispering to me. It was like the sadness was an actual thing, a presence that would just whisper like, you know, he deserves more. Like, he just deserves a better mom than you, because you, you’re, you’re not up to this task and you can’t get up to this task because look at all the proof around you. That’s telling that it’s a fact. It’s a fact. This is a certified fact. And there’s nothing you can do about it. And how could you have done this to this little boy? How could you?
Gabe Howard: I really appreciate you coming on this podcast to talk about this because so many people in your position are either unable or unwilling to share. And they suffer silently because they think it makes them bad parents or bad moms. They think that it makes them look weak or wounded or it embarrasses their family. And I want to say how much I respect how difficult this must be for you to talk about.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Thank you. I also want to just give the caveat that I was never officially diagnosed. But that leads me to the next point, which is I didn’t know until after the fact that postpartum depression was not just something that happened within the first. I was always told that it was the first two, maybe six weeks postpartum. And it wasn’t until my son was about four or five that I realized I read an article that they said, well, you know, there’s updated guidance and actually postpartum depression can happen anytime from right after birth to about a year, year and a half. I was like, Oh, that would have been helpful information to have had. Once I got past that six-week period and there was no postpartum psychosis that my midwives and pediatrician look out for, you know, they give you the pamphlet, right? And it’s very simple. It’s very straightforward. And it’s three questions. And if you don’t answer those three questions within the affirmative, everything else has been, you’ve just got baby blues. You’re fine. And after six weeks, no one asks how you’re doing anymore.
Gabe Howard: The thing that my ear went straight to is you’re like midwives, pediatricians, professionals. So you had like a team of people around you. And yet it it still reduced itself to a pamphlet with three questions. I mean, this is a pretty serious medical issue. And you got the pamphlet with three questions.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Yeah. It’s there’s that very small window, it’s very skinny, the first six weeks where you and the baby are still, people still think of you guys as connected. And the concern is the postpartum psychosis where it’s incredibly dangerous and the stakes are very high. But I also think it speaks to mental health, where it seems like we only think of it in the extreme, right? And the people that are sort of the ducks where their feet are furiously going underneath the water, but everything is, as long as it looks good, keep on barely making it. You know, as long as you’re sailing across that lake in some fashion or form and you are not, we can’t see that you’re drowning. Great. You’re good. Now, if we see you’re drowning and you’re pulling somebody else around you down, somebody will intervene. But otherwise, if you can function, you’re fine. I wish we didn’t see it like that. I think it would help moms in particular, since we’re talking specifically about postpartum depression. Can you function? Is the baby fed? Did you shower once this week? Great. You’re good.
Gabe Howard: I’m thinking of my daughter-in-law. She had a baby and we were there and we waited 18 hours for the baby to be born. And it was a mess. I mean, there was just you’ve been through childbirth. I don’t have to explain it to you. And then the next morning, the photographer came in. Photographer took all these pictures, and then the pictures came in and they’re like, look, we captured the birth for you. And I’m looking at these pictures and I’m like, I yeah, that’s not what happened. That
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Mm-hmm.
Gabe Howard: These are beautiful pictures. They’re so beautiful. I mean, sincerely, they’re so beautiful. But yeah, that’s like 5% of what happened that day. And I think that if you’re a first-time parent, you believe that 5%, right? You believe all those beautiful photos and spreads and television and it really leaves you unprepared for well, for the things that happened to you.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Oh, yeah. Oh, 1,000%. Women do not talk enough to other women about any of it. About any of it. I mean, from childbirth to postpartum to a year to I mean, we just we don’t talk about any of it. I’m not quite sure why that is. And I have, I have wonderful friends. Wonderful friends. Some of whom had babies before me. And I just don’t know if it was because they didn’t have the language to talk about it. They were still processing what happened to themselves. But there is something very important about women getting together and having honest and frank conversations about just what you said. Right? But now we live in this age where even with our closest friends, we share the pictures. Look at my pictures, they came in and we ooh, and we ahh. Oh, my God, you look so beautiful. You’re so beautiful. Oh, the baby’s so beautiful. And all of that is important. But you don’t hear the word mucus plug unless you are in
Gabe Howard: Yeah.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Active childbirth or you’re a doctor. And even then you have to be an OB, right? Like I was like, how have I never heard the phrase mucus plug before? Now we should be talking about these things and we just don’t. And in that lack of transparency and in that lack of conversation, I think we set people who give birth, we set them up for failure, and we set their support system up for failure as well.
Gabe Howard: Ryan, let’s talk about your support system. You are married, and your husband was there with you. But you describe him as being both supportive and an annoyance to you. I believe that you said that he tried to help but that you were angry with him because you felt resentful that there were so many extra burdens placed on you that weren’t placed on him. Specifically, you talked about how he didn’t have to suffer in the same way, he didn’t have to wreck his body, and that he just appeared fine, and that you had to go through all these things and you felt alone. Did feeling all that resentment make it difficult to get support from him?
Ryan Michelle Bathé: I mean, it’s that old adage, right? In relationships, like you have to express yourself and you have to tell them what makes you happy. You cannot expect them to read your mind, right? Fair point. However, if you don’t have the words to express yourself. Now we’re into this whole other territory, right? In relationships. So for me, it was I just didn’t have the words. I didn’t have the words. And I think that that’s also a part of mental health is like, how do you get help for something? Part of the illness, part of what’s happening, part of the struggle is you’re isolated from yourself. You don’t even know how to have these. The only conversation I could put words to was This baby deserves better. That’s all I had. I didn’t have access to anything else, particularly because everything else was about survival. Right? And you have a new baby. It’s a learning curve and you’ve got to figure out tummy time. You’ve got to figure out. Seems like it’s 15 minutes a day. How hard could it be? But I’ve got a baby. And you realize sometimes it gets a little dicey.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: You know what I mean? It’s like, oh, did you do tummy time today? You know? And it’s the laundry and it’s this. And there’s so many points in the day that are around survival for you and this child. Right? And I didn’t have the words to explain to him what was going on. And again, I’m functioning. Right? It’s not like he would come home and the baby would be unclean, in his feces and I would just be listlessly staring out the window. Then it’s like, oh, something’s wrong, right? When you can function, people around you then don’t understand that there’s a problem. And if your way of handling things as well has been just to function. A lot of people, when they’re in these situations, their only coping mechanism is to function, right? So if you think about it, I’m going through postpartum depression. I don’t know it’s postpartum depression because they said postpartum depression only happens within the first six weeks. And after six weeks, you’re fine. All the information tells me that it’s not. That it’s me. That there’s nothing going on but me. And then I have another voice that’s telling me this baby deserves better, deserves better.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: So the only thing I can do to climb out of that is to function. To consistently and persistently try to function better. So getting three baths today. you know, change his diaper 18 times a day. So he’s in the cutest of clothes. He’s got his tummy time. I’m going to do 30 minutes of tummy time. Like I’ve got sight words. I’ve read a book and he’s four months old, mind you, you know, and I’m doing everything I can. Did we listen to classical music today? So on the outside, looking in for my husband and anyone else, they saw a woman who power-walked through the neighborhood, who tried to do a plank once in a while. You know, who’s making baby food, who’s feeding them, going to whole foods and getting the organic this and on the outside who would have known? Who would have known? And on the inside, all of my energy went towards functioning. So when it came to, I was just flailing. And it wasn’t until much later, when I was able to understand what I was going through and put words to it. But in the midst of it, it wasn’t available to me.
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Gabe Howard: I want to circle back to something that you said where you needed to lose the baby weight to be a good mother. Now, from I think any reasonable person’s perspective, how much you weigh has nothing to do with your ability to be a good parent. But that’s not the message that society gets, and that’s clearly not the message that you got.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: No.
Gabe Howard: What was that like for you to just look at a number on a scale and decide that that determined whether or not you were a good mom?
Ryan Michelle Bathé: I wish I could put it into words. And again, you know, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you and I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but it has taken me. My son is ten. It’s taken me ten years to unpack all of this, like really and truly. What’s me? What’s society? What is a dangerous thing that says? Like, to really come to all of those conclusions? It has taken me ten years to even begin to unpack. And when I say unpack, that doesn’t mean things are now in their drawers. I’ve just taken them out of the suitcase. Okay. And I don’t know where they go. Like, we have to be like, let’s go with that metaphor. Like unpack, not put things away and compartmentalize. And like, okay, that’s done. Like, I’m still with the suitcase open and everything is out, right? And I don’t know. And it’s not folded. It’s a mess.
Gabe Howard: Making progress, but slowly.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: It is slow progress. Slow progress, because again and maybe it’s because it’s the industry that I’m in. And so that was a trigger and because it was a persistent and consistent trigger. Maybe that was another reason why I continue like I sort of tipped into a very deep depression and being surrounded by people who are constantly talking about weight and constantly talking about what they ate and constantly talking about their workout and constantly talking about it. And it does become the smaller you are, the bigger your badge of honor in our business and our industry. And again, that was my community. Maybe it would have been different if I had been in a different community, but that was the only community I had. It was a bit I mean, that was just it. There was this phrasing around losing the baby weight that I realize now is a part of this thing that I did not have a name for, diet culture. Didn’t know that that was the thing. It makes a lot of sense, but I didn’t know it at that point, right? Where your worth as a mother is definitely looped into how fast you snap back. It’s a very real thing. I had a person in my life who was close to me vis-a-vis the business. They were a close business associate of mine and the person said to me, I question your work ethic because you haven’t lost the weight.
Gabe Howard: Wow.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Yeah.
Gabe Howard: That’s such a bold statement. I mean, it’s almost a scary statement.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: And she set me down to tell me. It was like, I have something to tell you. And it was a big moment. It was, I question your work ethic because you haven’t lost the weight. And I know other women who do it very easily and very quickly and you just don’t. You have not. You don’t work hard enough. And is this really something you want to do? And she said, there’s no shame in being a stay-at-home mom. But that’s I question your work ethic. And then I question whether or not you even want to be in this business because of because you haven’t even tried to lose the weight.
Gabe Howard: The exact phrase was you haven’t even tried to lose the weight, which is something that this person could not possibly know. So there’s just an assumption that because you haven’t, you haven’t tried?
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Yeah. Yeah.
Gabe Howard: And what did you say?
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Nothing. I mean, I was gobsmacked. I was just gobsmacked. There was nothing to say. And at the time, I kind of took it on as truth again. Right? Because I’m at this point when she said that, maybe six, seven months postpartum, not realizing I’m still going through hormonal. I mean, I was still breastfeeding at that time. I think when she said this to me and in my mind, at the time I sat there and I remember we were in a coffee shop and I remember thinking, well, maybe this is what love and dedication looks like, telling people the hard truths. And I’m already thinking that I’m not good enough and that I’m not enough. As a mother as a woman and this just was outside confirmation that the voices inside of my head were right. So. So you had fertile ground. It’s not like she said it to concrete brick walls. She said it to rich fertile earth for her words to take root.
Gabe Howard: I think many of us have periods of time where we feel like we’re not good enough or that we could do better or that we just need to try harder. And, in general, everywhere we turn, people accidentally reinforce that to us. Which is completely unhelpful, but it I just sort of part of the human condition, right? But you have come to the other side of this and are able to talk about it and talk about it productively. How? How, how did you do it?
Ryan Michelle Bathé: The thing that really helped me the most was when I realized that, yes, you have this period of six weeks where you have to take extra special care of yourself, but that a postpartum body, mind, soul, whatever all postpartum holistically is not just six weeks. It’s not just six weeks. If I cannot stress that enough, I cannot stress that enough. Now, if there’s some woman who’s reading this and was like at week five, I was fine and filled with joy and light forever and ever. Then you are a privileged and blessed person and go spread that love and light and joy to other people. But again, if you are where I was, it’s not six weeks. Think of it as like nine months. Think of it as a year. That’s your postpartum period. So that was one thing to sort of look at. Like for me and again, this was not until probably gosh, two years in maybe three? And I realized that I, I just had this moment of clarity, like a lot of people say, where I realized I was unwell. I was like this is not. Like my son is two and a half and there’s so much joy in the little things in life.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: And yet I feel like I’m on the other side of a glass wall and I’m watching the joy and I’m watching life happen. And I know for a fact that this is not a normal feeling. And I knew I had a moment of clarity where I literally was looking. It’s like I could physically feel or see that wall, that glass. I had this thought my family would be better off without me and it wasn’t like I’m going to go do anything to myself. It was not a suicidal thought. But it was very clearly like, I’m going to leave my husband, leave my child with my husband, and I will go someplace else because they are going to be better off without me. I felt very clearly I’m an albatross around my own neck and I can’t raise this child and I can’t be with this man because I am so terribly unhappy. I’m miserable. It was that thought that made me go, what do I do with this?
Gabe Howard: Ryan, what changed? Was there ever a turning point moment for you?
Ryan Michelle Bathé: I think if I had to think of a turning point, ironically, it was I ended up getting pregnant with my second child. And I thought, okay, whatever happened with Andrew, like, now there’s another one coming. And I was, I get something called hyperemesis, which is where it’s like morning sickness times about a billion. And maybe there was something about the fact that I couldn’t function. It was like I was parked or benched, you know what I mean? It was like, you can’t do anything. You can’t leave the house. At one point I had to go to the emergency room like it was. I was in a physical crisis. And maybe that physical crisis is what like looking back and again, I’m processing this, I’m sifting through the things that I’ve unpacked, right? So like I said, it’s a mess on this bed. So I think for me, I remember having a moment where I was like, now I really have to live. Like, I have to live. I have to live for this little one that I’m carrying, the one now. And so as much as I think they might be better off without me, I said that’s a trauma that my son doesn’t deserve. Do I really want to send him through that trauma? And now I’m pregnant and I got to get it together. I discovered Brené Brown and I started reading a lot of her books. I decided I was just going to immerse myself in everything and anything that I could to kind of figure out what was wrong with me.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: And that’s when the light bulb of, well, you know, postpartum depression can happen anytime between birth and two years old. Oh? And that’s kind of parted the clouds a little bit, you know what I mean? And then I’d find another piece of information about what your body actually goes through and your hormones and when you have a baby and how it’s not just you. And that was another piece of information that sort of cleared the way. And it was little by little pieces of information that I just didn’t know or have access to that began to clear things a little bit. It was a gradual process. It was not overnight. And as women, I think we feel the sense of like, well, I’m not as bad as you, so go deal with the woman who’s in crisis. Go deal with that woman. Go deal with that. I’m fine. I’m fine. I don’t need you. I’m good. I’m good. I’m good. I’m over here. We’re fine. We’re fine. And it was like another light bulb, you know, another little, you know, even still, like I said, the clouds are still parting because I’m like, whoa, when you’re trained to function, no matter what, you just, you just do.
Gabe Howard: And that’s a message that mothers absorb and parents absorb, but that’s a message that mothers absorb, that women absorb. Since birth, since birth, no matter what, you have to do it. Hard stop.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Yes.
Gabe Howard: And getting help for yourself is portrayed as selfishness. Even if we get away from postpartum depression. Let’s just talk about mental health of parents, mental health of women, mental health of moms. So much is put on you.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Mm-hmm.
Gabe Howard: I know you said zero weeks to two years as postpartum depression, but mental health crisis can hit anyone at any age,
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Yes.
Gabe Howard: Regardless of whether or not you have children.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Regardless of whether or not you have a history, you don’t have to have a history of mental health crises. That’s the other thing that I think is so important. Like this is all of us. This is all of us. We need to start talking and thinking about mental health like we do everything else. Right now, we think about it like we think about, I don’t know, lung cancer. Well, I don’t smoke. So it’s not my problem. Right? There is a correlation. We think it only happens to certain people. We don’t even have the language in our society to say that things can trigger a mental health crisis. You don’t have to have a history of it. You don’t have to have a history in your family. You can be triggered. You can find yourself in that situation if you don’t handle it. And that was the situation I found myself in. And all I could think about was that this isn’t me. And I felt guilty about even saying it because I was like, There are people who really do have to deal with this. And it’s like, yeah, that people is you people. You, you are the people. It’s you. It’s all of us.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: It’s not those people over there and it’s their problem. It’s all of us. It happens to all of us. And any one of us can find our time there. To think that it only happens to certain people, I think is devastating us. It’s devastating all of us. And to think that it only happens to people who are either weak or allow themselves to be triggered, which I hate that. I hate that we’ve turned trigger into there’s certain factions or corners of society that have turned trigger into a dirty word or a word that means you’re weak. You never know what, what it’s going to be. And it could come out of nowhere. Sometimes it makes sense. Post-partum depression, you have a baby, big life changes, and sometimes it’s something small that can start you tumbling and into a mental health crisis or situation. But we all have a mentality and all of us have to keep it healthy. So mental health is something that we all need to be aware of for ourselves and also for others. And it’s not those people over there. And it’s not a weakness. It is a part of the human mosaic.
Gabe Howard: Ryan, how are things now? We know your career is going great, you are starring in a new show on NBC, The Endgame. I’m watching, I love it. How are things in your personal life? How are your husband and your kids?. How are things in your personal life? How are your husband and kids?
Ryan Michelle Bathé: You know, it’s always, it’s always a struggle. It’s so funny you should ask. Like, Sterling and I just had a really long conversation not too long ago about all of this, and I was like, Wow, it took ten years to be able to have this conversation and put words to things. And he opened up in some ways that I hadn’t heard before. And same with me. And I was like, Huh, this is growth. You know? And I just I want to, I want to let people know that it might take you ten years, it might take you five and maybe you’re lucky, it only takes you two months. But it takes time sometimes. And things are definitely on an upswing. And I’m just grateful for this conversation because I just, I hope and pray that I can shorten that for someone else, it wasn’t hopefully in vain. There may be one woman or a man out there or someone that this resonates with in a way that the cloud will start to part.
Gabe Howard: Thank you. Thank you for making people aware of this and helping people take that first step.
Ryan Michelle Bathé: Thank you for giving me the opportunity and thank you for being the person who continues to share your journey and making a space for people to know that this is again, this is all of us. This is all of us.
Gabe Howard: It was my absolute pleasure, Ryan. And a big thank you to all of our listeners. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations.” I’m also an award-winning public speaker who could be available for your next event. My book is on Amazon because everything’s on Amazon, or you can grab a signed copy with free show swag or learn more about me on my website, gabehoward.com. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe to the show. It’s absolutely free and could you do me a favor and recommend the show to your friends and family? You can use email, social media or good old-fashioned word of mouth. I’ll see everybody next Thursday on Inside Mental Health.
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