The 45-year-old actress reveals in a personal essay published by Time magazine that she suffers from Generalized anxiety disorder, which she believes was "triggered" by postpartum depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of this type of anxiety include "persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events" as well as at times fatigue and nervousness.
In the essay, Milano opens up about having a miscarriage two years prior to giving birth to her first son, Milo. Shortly before she was scheduled to go into labor, the Charmed star suffered complications and was forced to go against her birth plan and undergo a C-section. Nearly a full day after labor began, Milano and her husband, Dave Bugliari, welcomed Milo, but the new mom says she was in great pain.
"That first night, after we returned from the hospital, I suffered my first anxiety attack," she admits. "I felt like I had already disappointed my child. I felt like I failed as a mother, since I was not able to give birth vaginally or nourish him with the breast milk that had not come in yet. My heart raced. My stomach seized up. I felt like I was dying."
Milano says her next anxiety attack came when Milo got a high fever and suffered from a febrile seizure. "'No, no, no,' I thought to myself. 'This can’t be happening again. I don’t have time for this,'" Milano remembers. "This was still 2011, and I was supposed to start work on a television show the following week."
The attacks only got worse when Milano returned to work.
"Like many working moms, I was overwhelmed by guilt for leaving my son during work hours, and like many others who suffer from anxiety, my pain was not taken seriously," the actress says. "Every day, I would drive to work and think about all the ways that Milo could die in the hands of his caretakers. Every night, after working 16-hour days, after I was finally able to hold my child and put him to sleep, my day’s anxiety would culminate into a debilitating anxiety attack."
After many nights like this, Milano asked to be committed and checked herself into a public psychiatric ward for three days.
"At last, I began to feel as if my pain was recognized, but it wasn’t easy," Milano continues. "Here’s the thing about mental illnesses: you don’t always look sick, and the answers are not always clear or black-and-white."
She concludes her essay with a message for her fans, "And if you see me on the street, please come tell me that I am not alone."
Here's more on Milano's life as a mom to Milo, 6, and Elizabella, 3: