Postpartum depression is unique to each woman, certainly, but I firmly believe that we can all learn from each other’s experience. So today, I’m sharing another piece of my experience: postpartum rage.
This is not how I told my husband that I had PPD. He knew before I did. This is how I told my husband that my postpartum depression had thrown the switch on something called postpartum rage.
My husband was in the dark, feeling anxiety and frustration, because I couldn’t express to him what was going on when I would have a panic attack or need to be carried to bed to tremble and sob myself to sleep under a weighted blanket because I couldn’t shake the red from my vision. His wife was nowhere to be found.
I was terrified to tell him how I felt. I knew I would scare him, but what I was more afraid of was admitting to someone how I was feeling. Once I said it, it would be true. It would be branded into me for the rest of my life. What would he think? Would he leave me? Would be take my children from me?
I reached a day where I was so horrified of myself that the idea of scaring him didn’t matter. Thoughts that are still too hard to talk about would enter my mind at rapid-fire speed, and though I never acted on them, I was wearing thin—I couldn’t live like that anymore. It was life or death. He needed to understand the magnitude of the situation. It was no longer about our relationship. (You can read about this in my “battle cry” post)
I sent my husband the following email. Writing the words seemed easier than speaking them, and I knew once I hit send, I was bound to honesty. He was no longer in the dark.
Everything hurts. It hurts so bad and so loud that I feel numb.
My head feels full. Full of fear. Full of rage. Full of static. Full of fire.
Every step away from my bed each morning is a step further away from the woman I was. I am not their mother—not now. I am a monster.
I look around me and can only see every inanimate object shattering around me. I imagine the coffee mugs flying out of the cabinet and exploding in the air, spewing ceramic shards like shrapnel. I clutch to everything I hold, fighting myself not to throw it across the room or crush it in my hands.
I have two children. They are filled with so much joy. Why can’t I be filled with joy?
I love my children more than life itself. They deserve a great mom. I was a great mom.
But in the middle of the night someone stole that part of me. I was robbed. Left with just a shell of myself.
I have become a woman who smiles only to hide the monster inside. I keep smiling and talking and laughing and talking and smiling and laughing and talking…nervously because I am petrified that it will come out and I won’t be able to stifle it into hiding again. I used to be strong. I used to be happy.
I have good days. And we all pretend that we’re a happy family and everything is fine. But I know what’s lingering under the surface. And I know it’s only a matter of time.
So I stare at the people around me—living, feeling, breathing, moving. And I sink into myself. Because they don’t know that every fiber of my being is bouncing off every wall in this room. They don’t know the agony I am experiencing trying to hold in this chaos. Trying not to scream until my lungs have used every bit of oxygen around me. They don’t know the wreckage I have caused.
At night, I pray that my family will not suffer, and I wonder what that means for me.
No one told me about postpartum rage. I genuinely thought I was losing my mind. I was scared for myself, for my children, for my husband, for anyone who came near me. It ruled my life for longer than I’d like to admit. The only way that I was able to break through the rage was to tell my story. As I confessed, the anger seemed to weep from my pores like sweat. I was still angry and quick to ignite for a while after, and still struggle with it, but the monster—she is gone.
I was not able to speak about my rage to anyone other than a certified therapist. Confidentiality, a totally new physical space, a separation from my life—this all brought me comfort in releasing the ugly that was lodged inside of me. I was mourning what was taken from me—the opportunity to enjoy my little baby girl while she was still small, the expectation of a “normal” motherhood, the expectation that I would be cared for if I needed help. Therapy brought me through the grieving process. I couldn’t recommend this with more enthusiasm.
I’ll speak more about therapy at a later time, but what is most important for me to communicate now is that postpartum rage is a very real condition. We don’t talk about it, but it exists and it is brutal. Know the signs, have a plan, and share this information with those closest to you. We read so much about childbirth and parenting strategies…surely you can spare some time for your mental health.