I have worked within mental health for the past 15 years I have had the honor to observe how the courage to share about post-partum mental health has shifted the narrative around motherhood (parenthood). The de-stigmatization has allowed for the development of new services, apps and communities to form, and perhaps most importantly allowing parents who struggle to seek help and support rather than being shackled by shame. Even if that support just involves re-assurance that you’re on the right track.
There is one thing that we don’t speak nearly enough about. A phenomenon that carries so much shame around it, that the topic appears to remain unspoken pretty much around the world – and across cultures.
I’m talking about the phenomenon of Post-partum Rage.
I want us to talk about it.
1. It is Not About You ‘Being an Angry Person’
In the psychological community we used to describe the experience using the word anger but realised that the word didn’t make justice to the experience. It is not about feeling “a little bit frustrated” or “a bit annoyed”. It’s not even about “feeling” angry. No, this state is a whole bodily experience, an almost overarching, overwhelming kind of anger that makes you see red. That one that sneaks up on you and makes you suddenly explode and takes over every single fiber of your being. Until that second when it is no longer there. It’s the one you push down. Push down. Push down. Deep down. For no one to see or hear. And then – boom, almost as if it came out of nowhere.
2. It Comes Out of Nowhere and Overpowers You
It can be when you hit a red-light on your way home from in the car with a crying baby in the backseat. It can be triggered when you hear your partner sigh in the middle of the night when the baby cries for the fifth time. It the one that shows its face when you see the unloaded dishwasher that someone promised to fill, but didn’t. It can be that spoon of food that was swished around and landed on the floor that you had just wiped, that brings it out. Or when someone tells you to make sure to “enjoy the precious moments” not knowing that the past three months has been more traumatic then you ever experienced before.
3. It’s the That Rage Makes You Question Whether You are ‘Cut Out For This’
It’s the one rage that when the silence comes makes you question whether you made the right choice in becoming a parent. It’s the one that makes you question if you’re even fit to be a one. It’s the one that during dark times whispers that perhaps they would be better off without you. It’s the one that triggers off the inner critic so loudly that leads you to tears of deep, deep sadness and for some: into a deep yawning chasm shame.
4. Buried Parts of Yourself Seeking to be Heard
Typically, what I have observed in the clinic is that this rage, it’s a desperate plea from the neglected parts of yourself seeking care. For some, it’s a plea from the part that feels exhaustion. For others, it’s the part that is caving under the pressure of the mental load. Or from the parts that feel that they never get a break. A few finds that it comes from the parts that are sick and tired of everyone’s needs being prioritised ahead of your own. It can be from the ones that feel the pressure of all that parenthood is and grieves over what it isn’t. Others have reported it coming from the parts that are bored. Bored with the baby talk and the potty training. A few from the part that feels so sick and tired of being unseen for who you are. Or the rage may come from the part that grieves the loss of the roles you had before you became a parent. For most, it’s a mixture or combination of above.
5. It does not make you a ‘bad parent’
If you take away one thing from this article, then I would like it to be this: The rage is not a sign that you are a bad parent. In fact, that rage that you feel might be trying to help you. To alert you that something needs to change. I realise that this may sound odd and exploring this, may be part of the work we do in therapy. What I learned, again and again, is that we need to allow the grief to be there and be felt, rather than push it down with shame and criticism. Once we do a tipping point tend to occur.
I am an accredited Psychological Therapist working out of my office in the City of London, on Bell Yard, just off Fleet Street. I specialise in anxiety disorders, adjustment issues and high shame-prone individuals.
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