It was the rage that frightened me. I had expected to feel down, sad, and grumpy, and I did. But rage? That was not something anyone had ever told me to expect from postpartum depression. And the rage is what drove me to get help.
About five weeks after my second daughter, Grace, was born, my husband could tell I was not doing well. So he surprised me with a half-day at a local spa. I was thrilled. Nails, facial, massage, and, for a few blissful hours, no baby or toddler attached to me. Heaven.
But when I came home, I could hear Grace crying the minute I walked in the house. My body tensed immediately and the relaxed feeling was gone. Hubs told me that Grace didn’t eat the entire time I was out. She took a little milk from a bottle but then wouldn’t accept it after that. (Worse, she never accepted a bottle again.)
The rage began that day. I felt trapped by my colicky, non-sleeping, no-bottle-taking baby. I was frustrated with my toddler, Anne, who was throwing tantrums constantly. And I was seriously questioning my decision to leave my full-time writing job to stay at home and take on the occasional freelance gig. I felt overwhelmed, sad, anxious, and angry. Every. Single. Day.
Then one night I really lost it on Anne when she was having a tantrum. I couldn’t control the words flying out of my mouth. I wanted to smack her and make her stop (which thankfully, I didn’t). I wanted to be anywhere else but in that house with those kids.
The rage coming out of me was otherworldly. Thankfully my husband was there and able to intervene. He convinced me to remove myself from the situation and walk away while he took over. I still feel physically ill when I think about how I acted and what could have happened. It was the most terrifying feeling I have ever experienced.
The next day I called both my primary care doctor and my OB. They prescribed Zoloft and got me into therapy right away. I felt better within days. The sadness, the lack of interest in life, the anxiety all got better with the medication.
But the rage took more work to get under control. The Zoloft helped, but the therapy was what made it much, much better. My therapist taught me some coping mechanisms to help me get through the times when rage threatened to take over. And thanks to her tips and the Zoloft, I can willingly walk away from a difficult situation, refocus, and calm down.
Four years later, I am still managing my depression. The postpartum depression improved but then morphed into another kind of depression when my dad died suddenly. Who knows what it technically is now? Whatever it is, I’m still dealing with it. And the rage is still there. It’s the most difficult part to manage and, from my experience, the least talked about symptom of depression.
That’s why I wrote this essay. I want all you moms out there who are dealing with depression and the rage that can accompany it to know that you are not alone. You are not a bad mom. It can and will get better – if you get help.
Being a mom means doing hard things. And sometimes the hardest thing is asking for the help you need. I know that first phone call was incredibly hard for me to make.
But now I understand that depression happens to regular people. These scary feelings do not make me a bad mother. And with medication, therapy, and healthier life choices, I feel more like me again.
Yes, I’m still fighting the depression, sadness, and rage. But I finally feel like I’m winning.
If you think you may have postpartum depression, answer these simple screening questions.
A version of this article originally ran on scarymommy.com and is reprinted here with permission.