I think it’s safe to say that everyone knows what Postpartum Depression is, and we all have an idea of what it is supposed to look like: think Kirstie Alley crying at the television in a bath robe (am I showing my age with this reference?) But what a lot of people don’t realize is Postpartum Depression isn’t always just sadness, and crying over silly things. In some cases there is no crying at all and the emotions that are triggered in a new mother are big and scary- to her and her family. Mom rage. Have you heard of it? Did you know it’s actually a symptom of PMADs (perinatal mood and anxiety disorder)?? Yes, it’s the irrational cousin to illogical crying and it is AWFUL. Rage is different than anger. Anger is a natural emotional response to stimuli, and it can motivate you to find solutions to problems. Rage on the other hand, is completely uncontrollable anger sometimes leading to violent or senseless acts. It’s important to note- most mothers who experience this symptom have no previous experience with rage of this kind. It comes on suddenly and often surprises the mother as much as her family who catches the brunt of her rage.
I’m going to take this time to say if you are experiencing postpartum, or any sort of mom rage (it happens to moms of all stages) and you are afraid you will bring harm to your child, partner, self or even a pet… GET HELP NOW. It is not your fault that you’re experiencing this, but it’s your responsibility to reach out to a medical provider for assistant. Your child’s pediatrician is a good resource for you- you can definitely talk to him/her about your feelings at the next well check for your child. Another good resource is Postpartum Support International- PSI ( http://www.postpartum.net ) where you can get on the phone with a trained person who can talk to you and refer you to a provider for further support. Please, don’t do something you can’t take back– get the help you need, now.
I experienced postpartum rage with the birth of my first son. At the time, I had no clue it was caused by a psychological condition. I honestly couldn’t control it, and that’s the thing with mom rage… even mom doesn’t really understand why she’s yelling. I remember saying horrible, nasty things to my partner- who really wasn’t doing anything wrong. I would get so angry- yelling and being mean to him that I would wear myself out and fall asleep sobbing because I didn’t understand why I was always mad. I fully understand what mothers mean when they say they “just get so mad.” I knew in my logical mind that I could not take my rage out on my baby, and so my husband was always the target of my rage. It was no way to live, and did not make for a very healthy marriage.
Unfortunately, in my case… I didn’t learn to manage my rage in a healthy way for a very long time. I don’t want you to have the same problem I did, so I am here to offer some helpful tips for you if you’re experiencing mom-rage. Before we discuss ways to help yourself, let’s chat about the possible causes of mom rage. It’s important to remember that often rage is a symptom of anxiety. What are some anxiety triggers for moms??
- The comparison trap! Moms are comparing themselves to the picture perfect images they see on social media, and this is DANGEROUS. Social media is a lie! You are seeing only what those mothers want you to see. They aren’t showing you the bowls of cereal on the dining table- soggy and spoiling. They don’t show you the weeks worth of laundry hidden in the bedroom closet. They don’t take videos of their toddler’s tantrum or their teen telling his mother to “F__ off.” (even though he knows better.) They only show you the pretty things, and sometimes those pretty moments are preceded by a lot of shouting, sweating and crying.
- Mothers have an uncanny ability to stretch themselves far too thin. Even if you just had a baby- you’re probably doing everything you can to “bounce back.” You’re trying to keep up with housework, family visits, friendships, pets, errands, doctor’s appointments, your marriage and your newborn baby. It is exhausting even for the brand new mother! Consider the more established mother- a couple of kids, a job, PTA meetings, school projects and fundraisers, friendships, appointments for everyone, errands, meal planning, budgeting, a marriage, your kids’ every single need. Motherhood is busy! Moms aren’t superhuman and they get overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed = anxiety.
- Read through the two previous examples of a day in the life of a mother… notice something missing? Moms are always prioritizing everyone else’s needs first. Again I say, moms are not superhuman- they need to eat, sleep and relax too! Newborn moms are especially bad at remembering to feed themselves properly. And that old adage “sleep when baby sleeps” has made every one of us scoff loudly more than once, right? When we aren’t taking care of ourselves, we are apt to get cranky.
- The last challenge we have is hard to explain. No, really, it is hard for us to explain! The mental and emotional energy that goes into running a household day in and day out is totally draining! It’s hard to explain why we are tired, because it’s not something tangible that can be seen by others. Newborn is cluster-feeding, and you can’t sleep comfortably with baby on your chest? Stayed awake last night worried about how your preschooler writes all his letters backwards? How about the teeth clenching, heart racing, and knuckle whitening feeling of repeating yourself over, and over and over again all afternoon? It’s all really hard to pin down, but boy… does it wear a girl out! Emotional exhaustion is a big factor in triggering mom rage.
Once you recognize your triggers, you can start to work on anticipating them. Sit and think about it- what triggers you? If it’s a lack of alone time, then try scheduling some alone time in, and girl don’t you dare feel bad about it. If its hunger, make sure you eat regularly. If its being stretched too thin then explore the idea of asking for help, or hiring it if that’s feasible. I’ve known women who find that getting to the gym and working out is their key to happiness, and for others it’s a bi weekly nail appointment. For me? It’s quiet time! Time to sit in beautiful silence and think my thoughts. Find your thing, and stick to it. If you are having trouble controlling your emotions still, even after trying to find your triggers, getting enough rest and eating enough- call your medical provider and talk to them. Don’t forget 20-30% of mothers experience some kind of mental health issue after having a baby, and beyond. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s totally normal.
Motherhood is not supposed to be grey. So if your experiencing any kind of symptoms, at any stage of life… reach out! It’s okay to ask for help! You’re beautiful, you’re needed and you need to take care of YOU. When you take care of yourself, that spills over into all aspects of your life. Take care of yourself, mama!