The fitness influencer and new mom to daughter Indi, 11 months, was dealing with postpartum depression, and decided to work out four weeks after giving birth, slightly ahead of the six week mark that doctors typically recommend.
“I had struggled with depression and anxiety before, so I knew what was happening. But I couldn’t do what I knew I needed to do to get better: exercise,” Arias, 27, tells Parents magazine for their March cover. “I did start again four weeks postpartum, but some followers wrote things like, ‘Oh Massy, you are supposed to be resting, not getting your body back.’ But I wasn’t worried about my body; I needed to feel better. Comments implying I wasn’t doing what was best for Indi messed with my head.”
The mom-shaming only piled on to what Arias says was a difficult time.
“The postpartum period was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through, made worse because I was determined to breastfeed but my nipples were a bleeding mess,” she says. “Those first weeks, I would forget to eat. I would forget to bathe. It was all Indi, Indi, Indi. If she napped, I couldn’t sleep because I’d have to check to make sure she was breathing. I had so much anxiety. ‘Am I doing this right? Why is she crying so much? Those frickin’ hiccups, when will they go away?’ I was crying every single day. I was losing it.”
Arias says that reaching out to her family for help is what got her through those first few months.
“The best thing I did was to communicate how I was feeling to my mom and [Arias’ husband] Stefan,” she says. “If you bottle it up, you will be in trouble. Maybe the most important thing Stefan did was find me a mothers group. He said, ‘Hey, I’m a man, and as much as I want to, I can’t get it.’ He had to push me to go, but being with women going through the same thing was so good.”
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Arias is urging everyone to reach out if they’re feeling down.
“It’s important to remember that he only knew I needed help because I told him,” she says of her husband. “Latinas never talk about mental health. I’m determined to change that and to help other mothers speak up.”
And now, almost a year later, she’s figured out how to best care for Indi and for herself.
“Slowly, I started feeling like I knew what was right for us. For instance, I decided to pump and take Indi to the gym so I could exercise,” Arias says. “Now that I am a mom and have gone through childbirth, I am like, bring it on. Here’s my take on feminism: Maybe Stefan is the one who can pick up heavy furniture, but we women are the strong ones. I hope that my daughter looks back and says: ‘My mom is a badass. My mom was fearless. My mom went after everything she wanted in life.’ I feel like nothing can stop me now.”