Thursday, August 25, 2011

Red Cloud Confession

A friend of mine on Facebook just linked this blog post about dealing with postpartum depression: Postpartum Rage.  After reading it, I decided I have a story to share too... except it feels more like a confession.  We'll get to that later.

When I first found out that my friend had been dealing with postpartum depression, my reaction was, "Oh, that's too bad."  Sophia was three months old and amazing; she was happy or sleeping.  Emma, at 21 months, was a bit more challenging, but we were having fun.  Friends and acquaintances had marveled at how together my life was and how well I was managing the transition to being a mother of two.

And then I started taking birth control pills.  Almost immediately my outlook on life changed.  Five days after starting the progesterone-only pills, I was a wreck.  I couldn't handle my children, I couldn't speak up for myself, and I was angry and sad and - depressed.  Just like that.  In five days I went from "Life is perfect!" to "I may as well kill myself."  Honestly.

At one point I locked myself in the bathroom with the lights out, ran a bath, and put my head underwater, chanting "no, no, no."  I couldn't handle life at all.  Every little thing set me off.  Luckily, Matt & I made the connection with the birth control and I went off it (after discussing with my midwife, who said that, yes, the pills could have started this).  Within a week I was feeling better.  I no longer wanted to kill myself.  Within two weeks life was wonderful again.  I was fine.

Except I wasn't.  Everything came back full force soon.  Full force and more.  I dipped into a depression again.  It was scary and a lot like the depression I'd experienced as a teenager.  That was a dark cloud that sometimes turned black.  That was cutting myself and trying to figure out how to kill myself and hiding in my room and pretending life was ok while at school and with friends and family.  This time, I had some of those same feelings.  I hid at home with my girls for a week or two, using naptime as an excuse to stay home.  As I walked past my kitchen knives, I remembered that cutting was a great way to make the inward pain have an outward expression.  I even picked up a knife and held it to my wrist for a bit.  I thought regularly about the razor blades in the basement.  I looked for a way out of the dark cloud - could I kill myself? (No, the girls wouldn't have a mom...) Could I kill them?  (Never - although it's scary that it even crossed my mind.) Could I run away and leave Matt? (How would that fix things - I'd have to bring the girls with me, and they were the problem...)  Could I leave the girls? (No - Fia's nursing and needs me.)

So I started talking with Matt about it, seeing my therapist twice a month, contemplating taking meds...

But the thing is, I wasn't being honest with everyone.  Yes, there was the black cloud of depression, but I could (mostly) hold that at bay.  The scary part, the part I still don't want to tell anyone, is the red cloud of rage.  Postpartum rage.  Red stabbing rage, uncontrollable, sneaking into my life.  I could no longer contain my impulses.  I yelled at Emma.  Correction, I stood towering over her, pointing my finger down at her while she cried in her bed, yelling for her to "SHUT UP AND GO TO SLEEP!" I channeled my father in his worst alcohol-and-depression-fueled rage.  I worked hard not to hit, because I didn't want to be someone who hits (spanks) her children.  So I held tight.  Squeezed so hard Emma would cry.  Wondered later if the bruises on her body were from being a little girl or from me.  Maybe they were from me.  And then I would cry and apologize and try to be better.  Once I bit her.  Ohmygod, I bit her.  I cannot believe it.  And I pulled her hair another time.  So juvenile, but my primal impulses reigned.

The thing is, no one knows about this.  About me in particular, but about postpartum rage in general.  Moms will NEVER admit that they are hurting their children.  We love our children, and we want them in our lives.  Admitting this - what I've just said up there - is so scary because what if someone reads this, reports me, and takes the girls away from me??? There are moments in the day when it would be better if someone else were taking care of them, but they are fleeting.  They don't even add up to an hour.  And I'm with them 24 hours a day.

These days, my life is getting better.  I'm working out five days a week - at least - and the endorphins are just as good (if not better) than any prescription.  I'm still seeing my therapist.  I'm honest with her, with Matt, and with my family and friends.  But I've come to realize that PPD and PPD rage need to be discussed more openly.  We need to get rid of the stigma, so that women will know that postpartum depression is possible, that it can present months after having the baby, and that there are others dealing with the same thing.  Probably more of us than you know.  And it's probably worse than they let on.

Next time, I'm seriously looking into ingesting my placenta.  (Serious ick factor, I know... but it's supposed to help with PPD.)  I don't know that I could actually swallow it - whether in a smoothie, cooked, or a pill.  But if it could prevent me from feeling this way.... maybe.


  1. Huge standing O and many, many hugs to you for sharing this. It's so, so hard to live through, never mind admit to. Good for you. We do need to talk about this more. It's so common and people need to realize they shouldn't be horrified, they should be helping.

    I'm so glad you spoke up and are working on getting better. That's really all we can do.

  2. Thank you for expressing what the rage is like. I know it well. It is not a part of my daily life, but I am intimately familiar with this emotion. Im so grateful that you found the courage to post this, and to advocate on behalf of yourself and other women who have experienced these feelings. The isolation, the not being honest, for me it came from being a little bit honest about it and having no one care enough to hear what I was really saying. I tried to reach out but closed up. Im so glad your husband listens and supports you. I hope you find support and validation from commenters and those you get to know through telling your story. You can find me on twitter as @frelle and my blog is

    Its good to meet you, Sarah.

  3. Seriously, you are so not alone. I've been there too with the rage. It's scary and sad and uncontrollable. But you're doing what you can do to get better and that is what makes you a very good mom. By the way, birth control pills do a number on me too.

  4. Good for you for having the courage to share! You are definitely not alone in those thoughts and actions. I think that thought alone is what makes the healing a little easier.

  5. You are not alone. What a brave post! I too have struggled with postpartum rage. Thank you so much for sharing this.


  6. Thank you for your post and for being so brave. I, too, have suffered from post-partum rage. It wasn't until I started acknowledging my ppd and started being honest with people about it that I started getting better. It is SO important to talk about it. Thanks for facing the scary darkness and sharing openly with us. The stigma of ppd needs to be banished.

  7. Thank you all. Went to a therapist appointment today and was appalled to learn that clinically I do not have postpartum depression, because it presented more than two weeks after the baby was born. Ridiculous. Anyway, it's amazing to know I'm not alone.

  8. Sarah, that's ridiculous. More than two weeks after the baby was born? No one is normal two weeks after their baby is born. ;) It's usually considered to be within a year of the baby's birth - for me it was a few months after and it was definitely PPD. Have a look at info on - lots of good resources and definitions there.

  9. Thank you for sharing. You are brave for admitting this and I'm so glad you are getting the help you need. I know you want to be a good mom for your children and admitting this is a great start. I hope your journey gets easier and brighter.

  10. Thank you, thank you... My friend Amy gave me the link to your blog. I've been struggling so badly with post-partum rage since my 6.5 month old son was born. Luckily he isn't affected by it--- but I feel horrible for my 2.5 yr old son who gets the brunt of it :(. The screaming, the meanness of the way I treat him--- It's so scary to feel like that (It's like there's nothing normal about it--- you wonder where that gentle mother instinct is??!?!!). You feel like a horrible mother. And YES that fear that if you tell anyone, they'll take your children away--- but yet you know need help! :( I'm going to be making an appt. with a therapist. And I need to figure out what to do about my birth control. I'm on Loestrin... I'm so scared about having another baby while I feel like this :(.