The Most Unexpected and Scary Symptom of My Postpartum Depression
With a history of depression, I was prepared for the possibility I might develop postpartum depression (PPD) after the birth of my child. During my pregnancy I felt great, and therefore declined my OB’s offer to start an antidepressant before my daughter arrived.
Then my daughter was born. From the minute she arrived, a switch was flipped. I no longer felt great. I was sad all the time which manifested as crying fits. Several times a day, I would find myself curled up in the bedroom closet crying into a towel. I was exhausted all the time, but couldn’t sleep. I was so tired I did not eat. I grieved the loss of the pre-baby freedom. I was overwhelmed all the time with this change in my life, and felt hopeless about ever feeling better.
My husband took several weeks of FLMA time off from work because I could not stand to be alone with the baby. I didn’t feel I could take care of her properly, and I became anxious anytime she cried. Having a history of self-harm, I feared I would hurt myself. Though I never had thoughts of hurting my baby, I was indifferent to her existence. If she had disappeared, I’m not sure I would have cared.
These symptoms felt awful, but the most surprising and worst symptom I experienced was rage. This rage was an all-consuming, powerful, deep rage that filled every bit of my body. I consider myself a calm, docile and quiet individual. Even in my worst depression when I was younger, I mostly withdrew, remained quiet and apathetic. With PPD, the rage consumed and scared me. It was highly uncharacteristic of me. I felt like a caged animal having to care for this new, needy baby. I wanted to scream at everyone and everything for no reason at all other than they were existing. I found myself not only crying in the closet, but using the space to muffle my screams in any clothing I could find to muffle the noise. I’d scream until my throat was sore. Some days, my daughter’s piercing cries coupled with the constant neediness drove me to seek refuge in the garage where I proceeded to engage in my “rage ritual.”
With my daughter safe in her crib and her cries muffled through the walls, I would calm my rage by throwing shoes at the mental garage door. After wearing myself out, I’d fall to my knees and scream for help. I was hoping whatever higher power existed could intervene and fix this. Sometimes the rage was so bad I contemplated in engaging in self-harm again to calm the chaos inside.
My fear of this unexpected rage finally prompted me to seek help. Through the support of a counselor and PPD support group, I found I was not alone. Others helped to normalize my feelings. I wasn’t a bad mother. I learned how to control the rage and take steps to control it before it got to be too much. I had to learn how to ask for help, take a break and get out of the house. I had to learn how to release myself from the cage. Medication also helped – a lot.
Rage is a very real symptom of PPD that can be frightening and unexpected, but a parent should never be ashamed or scared to ask for help. Support is out there. Talk to your doctor, find a counselor or support group – just reach out. No one should ever feel trapped or alone in fighting PPD.
If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
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Thinkstock photo via Marjan_Apostolovic