Dear Is This Normal,
I’m a new mom to a 4-week old baby, and ever since my son was born, I’ve struggled with my anger. I feel angry all the time, at everything and everyone! I just can’t seem to control my emotions, and sometimes my anger spirals into a full-blown rage for no particular reason. Is this normal? And how can I make it stop?
The first thing I want to say is you are not alone. I know it feels incredibly isolating right now, when everyone is telling you how you should be feeling and you are feeling basically the exact opposite. I know it can be a lonesome, alienating experience when the first weeks and months of motherhood are not the life-changing bond you were expecting. I know how scary (yes, scary) it can be to feel like you are not in control of your own emotions and sometimes, even your actions and reactions. I know all of this, because I lived through it, too. You are DEFINITELY not alone, and I hope this letter is the catalyst to you finding your way out of this.
Anger is an absolutely normal and necessary emotion that we all experience. Even rage, under some circumstances, is totally normal! But what you’ve described to me here doesn’t sound like a regular spat of anger. What you’ve described—the constant anger, the uncontrollable emotions, the occasional rage—that sounds like a postpartum mood disorder. Specifically, it sounds like you may be suffering from postpartum depression. “But I’m not sad, ITN! I’m not tired all the time, I don’t feel helpless or hopeless, I’m not withdrawing from my friends and family and baby, how can I be depressed?!” Mama, just like all pregnancies and child births and babies are different, so is every mother’s postpartum experience. And I’m here to tell you that postpartum anger, like the anger you’ve described, can be a symptom of PMADS. It’s just one that we don’t talk about very much.
Have you noticed that you have certain triggers for your postpartum anger? Maybe the way your partner does the dishes? Or how the dog barks at the exact moment the baby falls asleep? Maybe it’s everything, and none of it particularly consequential. It’s most likely stuff that would have rolled right off your back before you had your baby, which makes it even more frustrating now. And I’m sure it’s also frightening to feel out of control and like you’re bubbling with rage over stuff that normally wouldn’t phase you. But you shouldn’t minimize the anger you’re feeling, or disregard the triggers in your life that seem to set you off. These are emotions you are feeling which makes them 100% valid and necessary to address.
I urge you to call your doctor, as soon as you can, and ask for a referral to a therapist, specifically one that is trained in dealing with postpartum mood disorders. Tell your doc how you’ve been feeling. Ask for help. It’s the hardest thing we can do sometimes, but it’s the first step in NOT feeling like this anymore.
If postpartum anger is the only postpartum mood disorder symptom you’re experiencing, there’s a good chance you would benefit greatly from talk therapy and incorporating some new techniques and exercises into your daily routine. Many people find it helpful to use a journal to document their triggers—writing them down and then walking away from them can help to release the tension and emotional buildup without an outward explosion. There are also breathing and meditative exercises you can do that can help you regulate your emotions and help calm your mental and emotional state. In the heat of the moment, feel empowered enough to walk away. If something has set off your anger, remove yourself from the situation. Go into another room and do some deep breathing, splash some water on your face, or just sit and give yourself a chance to get your emotions under control. You don’t have to give into the anger, as hard as it can be to control sometimes, and sometimes walking away gives us the best shot at letting the situation pass without reacting to it.
I know this is hard, mama. And it’s stressful and frustrating when you don’t understand why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling, and can’t control your own emotions. But you don’t have to do this alone. There is help available, and there is absolutely no shame in recognizing that you need it. In fact, in my humble opinion, asking for help when you need it makes you an amazingly strong person. I’ll be thinking of you, mama.
Sending You Strength and Peace,
Is This Normal