Anger. Rage. Bitchy pants. Call it whatever you want, a lot of women who have postpartum depression experience anger as one of their symptoms. It’s a symptom that’s not talked about often enough and, for me, that made it really hard to get a proper diagnosis when I was struggling after my first son was born.
If you’re not a mom who experiences the type of anger—rage, let’s call it rage, because it’s so much more than anger—often associated with PPD, you probably can’t begin to imagine what it’s like. If you do experience it, you quite possibly have yourself convinced you’re the only one.
You’re not the only one.
Postpartum rage, is so common, and I never imagined I’d find as many other new moms saying “me too” as I did when I finally started to share my experience with rage.
Months and months ago I started to write a post to share with you here. It was an effort to describe what rage looked like for me. How it manifested. But the post stayed in draft form because I wasn’t sure I could adequately capture it.
It has been a while since I’ve experienced that type of rage. I finally—blessedly, almost coincidentally—happened upon the right combination of medication. The rage, often dormant but still there, just below the surface, went away. And yet I still want to try to describe how I felt when it was a daily presence in my life, because I think it’s really important that we talk about this. So I’m going to try, to the best of my ability, to describe what my rage looked like.
It’s the unexpected:
I take my dog for a walk in the evening after a pretty typical day. I’m not in a bad mood, but when the dog on the corner barks wildly as we walk by, I lose it: “Shut up, you stupid dog!” I bark back. I’m surprised at the outburst; I didn’t see it coming.
It’s the stuff no one else can hear:
I’m tired and the baby is waking up over and over and refusing to be soothed. “Ethan, enough,” I plead. “Enough!” My voice is desperate, defeated. I’ve said it before and I know it doesn’t help, but I say it again anyway.
It’s the uncharacteristic:
I’m driving, only vaguely aware of the tension in my shoulders. Somewhere deep down I’m counting—hours until bedtime, days until a weekend sleep-in, weeks (months? years?) until things get easier. Another driver cuts me off and I drop an F-bomb and slam my hand into the steering wheel. It’s unusual enough for me that I pause for a moment, noticing.
It’s the knowing-it’s-not-rational-but-doing-it-anyway:
I’m at home with the boys on a weekend while my husband is getting some work done. When the invitation comes to have dinner at my parents’ house with my family, I relish it because it means I don’t have to cook and will have a few other hands to help for a short time. My husband opts not to come, deciding instead to use the time to finish what he’s doing, and that makes me mad for reasons I can’t identify. When we get home and he sees that I’m upset, he asks why. I shout, “Because…I just am!” and stomp up the stairs.
These are just some examples of many. I’m not sure they’re the most characteristic, but they’re certainly typical.
Have all mothers been there? Maybe. A time or two. But it’s different when you live with it every day. It’s different when it affects your relationships at home and at work. It’s different when you can’t control it.
So if you’ve experienced this day-in, day-out, at-the-drop-of-a-hat, cannot-be-controlled type of rage, let me say this: You’re not the only one.
You’re not the only one.
And it can get better.