I shared a post on my Facebook page this morning, written by my friend and incredible human Heather Westberg King, and it’s resonating with a lot of people for an important reason. We need to talk about rage and it’s relationship to anxiety and depression more.
I touched base with a mother that used our private and anonymous space to talk about rage. (I still do work through Postpartum Support International) You would not believe how many mamas carefully bring up rage, so scared they are going to be seen as The Worst Mother.
Rage is one of the number one offenders of Anxiety, especially for mothers. (Not all who struggle with anxiety struggle with rage, but it’s VERY common) Anxiety needs out. We can find safe ways to express it, but sometimes it still comes out sideways. So many mamas think the rage is a symptom of them being horrible humans. In reality, it is so uncontrollable, so surprising, no human would be able to always control it. So we have yelled, screamed, punched the wall, grabbed an arm, carried a baby or kiddo too hard and heavy to their room, slammed doors, turned red…and then we flee, hide. Sit and cry and cry and cry and wonder what just happened and WHY? They were just fighting over a toy. They just didn’t feel like eating. They were just fighting a nap, WHY did I freak out? What the hell is wrong with me?
These mamas don’t just have just a little Mom Guilt, they have debilitating Mom Shame.
This happens to mothers without all that much anxiety too, but those of us with anxiety experience rage more. Struggling with a postpartum mood disorder on top of sleep deprivation and constant demands while doing it mostly alone…well, that’s a recipe for pain.
This is what I tell the moms I work with, that are struggling with rage:
This isn’t who you are. This is a HARD time and your anxiety and/or depression are at fault here. What matters is that you care about it. You hate it. You want to fix it. This is what makes you a courageous and GOOD mother. What matters is that you learn ways to handle your rage, to treat your anxiety. What matters is that you get help for this treatable PPD, PPA stuff. Can you see a therapist? Learn some tools for coping? Can you choose flight mode rather than fight mode, by practicing it? Feel the rage bubbling, tell yourself to GO, then lock yourself in your bedroom. Pound the pillows, and then scream into them. Let the anxiety out. Its bubbling over is all, but you are showing up to deal with it. You are like a shaken bottle of Coke sometimes, all that pressure, bubbling and stretching until the top blows. This can get worse, if you don’t find help that works for you. Don’t allow shame to win, that’s what it wants. The spiral can keep you in the vicious cycle, or you can interrupt it as you learn to see it for what it is and what it isn’t. It isn’t YOU. You are loving and gentle, maybe even more patient than you could ever imagine. Who we are gets invaded by unwanted visitors sometimes, but we are still holding the power. You are not alone. You are not failing. You still get to call the shots. That’s exactly what you did. You reached out here to talk about rage. You took the first step toward healing, and that my dear, is fantastic mothering.
(edited to add) Sleep deprivation alone can cause this rage thing, too. Just saying. Lack of sleep is torture and it makes it very hard to function as you normally would. I think new moms really need to know this, so they know why they are struggling so much. Not everything is PPD/PPA, etc…it’s all hard. But if you aren’t sure, talk to your doc or therapist.” – Heather Westberg King
Here’s where the Me part comes into this. I’ve spoken about this before, beginning back when I first shared my story of recognizing postpartum anxiety in myself. It was the rage that scared me the most. It was the rage that finally made medicate myself.
At my rock bottom, when I finally gave in to taking medication, I completely and totally and wholly understood how moms end up killing their children. I could see how the sequence of events would unfold from that volcano of rage inside them. And I said to my husband that I had to go and get medicine right then or I could become a mom on the news.
Talk about some shame. I lived with it and still do. Thankfully, many moms and professionals have said to me that what matters is not what I thought, but what I acted on. You’re not a bad mom if you have those thoughts. You are sick. You are a GREAT mom if you can gather the metric ton of courage it takes to tell one single person you need help and take the very hard steps to get well.
So don’t just talk to new and expecting moms about how hard colic might be, or tips for breastfeeding or finding the right formula. Talk to them about rage. Let them know that’s totally a thing that happens to good moms all the time. And they don’t have to live like that with that shame and that guilt. If they feel rage, they could be sick and they can get better.