While trying to conceive, I did my homework on the various ways pregnancy and postpartum changes can affect a mom’s mental health, especially that of a first-time mom like me. I thought I knew about everything to expect after pregnancy, such as months of sleepless fog, roller-coaster hormones, mom guilt, and physical discomfort.
But I didn’t expect Postpartum Rage
The irrational, inexplicable rage I felt toward myself, my husband, most people I encountered, and — most ashamedly of all — my innocent, perfect newborn son.
The overpowering feeling of isolation of new motherhood, despite never actually being alone. Or the shame, guilt, and embarrassment I felt about the rage. Afraid someone would find out and check me into a mental hospital (no judgment) or take my baby from me.
Much like my brand-new angelic bundle, this secret of a sudden and terrifying onset of inexplicable rage was something I had to protect at all costs.
How I dealt with postpartum feelings of rage and depression.
So I did. I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. And I’m a talker! I’m the person friends come to with their troubles, and I’d never shy away from sharing my own to show that we’re all human. But this — postpartum rage — no one could know.
No one could know how I screamed up into the ceiling when my son spent a solid four hours screaming to no avail, no matter how hard I tried or what I tried to soothe him. I couldn’t make him happy. And that made me angry.
No one could know how I’d yell at my husband, telling him how useless he was until I’d lose my voice.
No one could know how I was terrified I might hurt myself.
No one could know how much I hated this angry, anxious, depressed creature I had become instead of the beautiful butterfly who emerged after pregnancy with all of her stuff together.
No one could know … until they had to.
In my case, it was life or death. I started to believe that my family was better off without me.
How I got Help for Postpartum Rage
I finally opened up about it to my husband. He listened to me, heard me, saw me — raw, vulnerable, and oozing symptoms of my mental health disorders. And he accepted me.
I think he loved me more in that moment and in all this time since.
I went to therapy with his support and started taking medications for depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I also began finding ways to bring joy back into my life by attending baby-friendly group exercise classes with other moms and jumping back into my ol’ trusty stress reliever — cooking.
Slowly, I began to open up with close friends, my parents, and even new mom friends. Talking about it made me feel seen and less lonely. It also allowed other moms to open up with me and each other. And then something amazing happened.
We all realized we weren’t alone. Most of us struggled with one or multiple postpartum mental health disorders, including rage. Suddenly, I wasn’t a failure. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone. Suddenly, I realized I was just a new mom getting to know herself and her baby.
Now, I can say with confidence that as we approach the third anniversary of my son’s birth, I’m getting better.
Motherhood looks different for every mom, as does mental health. If you relate to how I’ve felt, please reach out for help, whether your partner, family, friends, doctor, therapist, religious leader, or even on social media (online groups for moms are amazing).
You are not alone and you are necessary.
If you’re in immediate need of help, call 911 or SAMHSA’s national helpline at 1-800-622-4347 (HELP).