Adult Time-Outs: Lessons From Postpartum Rage

As part of my recovery from PPD, I learned through lots of expensive therapy that I also experienced what’s called postpartum rage. What could be a simple annoyance to a regular person could send me flying off the handle. My rage manifested itself in yelling, lots and lots of yelling. Occasionally there were slammed doors and a desire to hit wIMG_1612alls-nearly all of it was directed toward my husband, but upon my return to work (pre-diagnosis) I reacted poorly to stressors and would find myself crying in my office, angry that I hadn’t been able to contain my frustrations or explain myself without becoming a blubbering idiot. My emotions during that time cost me a lot of professional respect that I’m still trying to gain back.

The birth of my twin girls brought a whole new set of stressors, but I didn’t experience the PPD/A to the extent I did with my son because I was prepared and so was my doctor.

Now that my son is older and he can read and understand my tone and body language, I have to work extra hard to contain my urges to express my gigantic frustrated feelings with loud words, slammed cabinet doors, or throwing a toy outside on the porch, aka “toy time out” when he accidentally-on-purpose tries to hit his sisters or nearly breaks the TV with said toy seven times. He’s my mini-me: a big-hearted fixer who wants to make and keep everyone happy, but he has just enough mischief behind those big blue eyes and smart-alec in his mouth to push every single one of my buttons. We butt heads a lot because we are so alike. Lately, I’m finding that he’s picking up on my yelling and it breaks my heart that he’s learned that from me. As a result, I’m trying to be extra aware of my triggers and follow through. Sometimes I walk away, but walking away isn’t always possible with the ten-month-old mobile twins in the mix. Sometimes I try to distract or deflect our attention from the stressor, even if that means TV, candy, or something I might find more annoying or would normally deny. Going outside always seems to help us both. Still, there are plenty of times when I lose my composure and I yell. When that happens, I try my best to walk away for just a minute to pull myself together, and then I explain my “big feelings” and talk about why I yelled. I also apologize and remind him that I always, always love him, even if I get mad or frustrated. We attempt special one-on-one time when we can, and I do my best to use positive reinforcement.

I need time-outs from more than just my son. The other night my husband tried to express his frustration with my addiction to screen time. I understood his underlying point, but his delivery frustrated me and I worked myself into anger (this happens a lot with us-he’s a man of few words and I expect lengthy discussions and explanations.) As I lay in bed trying to go to sleep, I felt the heat burning a hole in my tongue, and in order to resist saying things that were unnecessary and downright mean, I put myself in time out by exiting the room and laying on the couch in the dark. Twenty minutes later, he found me asleep and when I awoke, apologetic. He didn’t deserve my outburst.

I try to think of myself as s toddler when I’m frustrated. What are the roots of my rage? It’s usually the big three: fatigue, hunger, or feeling like I’m tapped out. If I can stop myself just before the yelling starts, or even in the midst of it, I address these things first. Snacks, snuggles with my three kiddos, sneaking off to take a rare Saturday afternoon nap, and trying to use my words to explain why I acted out and ask what we can do together to fix it all help. Communication is key with my husband. Venting to friends and patient coworkers helps me survive when I’m at the office.

I’m far from being the perfect parent, but I know that I still fall into the realm of normal. My son is not old enough to understand this, but I remember my mom saying “I love you, I will always love you, but I do not like you very much right now.” We all have those moments. All of us—and that’s okay.

Some of us just have to work a little bit harder to make sure they’re fewer and farther between.

 

About Lindsay Maloan

Lindsay became a serendipitous advocate after being diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in 2011, six months after the birth of her son. She lives and breathes New Orleans with her patient husband, spirited son, identical twin daughters, and critters. She blogs at www.withalittleloveandluck.com and you can find her over-sharing on Twitter @lilloveandluck.

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  1. I had one of those last week for the first time which really showed me there was a problem. My first child, my son, is only 8 weeks old and very advanced and grows impatient and fussy easily because he seems to get bored. He hasn’t been napping much at all during the day when he should be out every couple hours so I don’t get many breaks. In addition to that, he becomes frustrated that my boobs don’t give him milk fast enough so I have to pump every 3 ho7rs with the very low amount I produce (from the 12 hour bout of pitocin I had to receive because my water broke first and contactions stalled) which makes me feel like a huge failure. Lasr week I felt the rage welling up inside, I didn’t know how to contain it any longer so I ran into the bathroom, slammed the door, turned on the fan, anda screamed and yelled until there was no more air left in my lungs. I’m upset that the questionaire they give you about PPD doesn’t account for PPA, which I didn’t even know existed until a couple days ago because my symptoms were so similar to the PMDD symptoms I experienced for probably 10 years of my life at the hormonal shift of puberty and seemed to heal as I changed my life style and diet) and even at my 6 week follow up was only asked if I wanted to harm myself or the baby like that was the only PPD medical indicator. So I was left to walk this hormonal imbalance out on my own, with my husband struggling with signs of PTSD from watching me for 25 hours of pitocin induced agony which I was told would only need a small dose to get me started and let my body naturally do the rest so I could have my all natural birth…by the grace of God, and the help of my husband and mom, I delivered my son without am epidural. So needless to say, I am thoroughly thankful for women like you speaking up about this. We need support from those who understand what each of us are facing so we don’t feel alone in this. My faith in Christ is my anchor but women like you are the chain links helping me not drift or sink. Thank you for your honesty. Bless you! -Emily

    • hi lindsay, emily and ladies. .
      it’s the same in new Zealand. .nothing about anger in the std questionnaire. . but we know something has gone wrong with us as we’re definitely not the person we usually are so we soldier on, trying to find what helps us.

      after having rage for 7-8 years and coming off antidepressants (which I had to ask dr for, out of desperation and to save a breaking marriage & relationship with oldest son), I tried vitamin B12 sublingual tablets (or drops). it has to be the more bio available form which starts with C. after a week (I was told it can take effect within a few days plus no side effects) I noticed how much calmer i was..no more sudden angry outbursts! I think b vitamins in general are gd to take (mine come in a multi vitamin) as they get depleted with stress.

      if im tired I still get angry easily, which is kinda normal anyway.

      Also, find a dr who can test yr hormone levels and prescribe bio identical hormones. Emily, if you had pmdd related hormone issues this should help you. I know in the u.s. You can get progesterone otc and many women use it as it’s a calming hormone. (when the placenta comes out so does a huge amount of progesterone). I know I need to take/apply!! if I stop progesterone I rage at total strangers! if I stop testosterone I get depressed-slowed movements, lack motivation, feel blah.

      also look into a natural adaptogenic herb called rhodiola. Readily available anywhere and sounds absolutely amazing. better than meds!

      Take care. . Hope that helps and God bless
      Julia

    • You’ve definitely been through a lot. I’m glad you’re getting the support you need from people around you. We are hoping, eventually, to make changes that will impact the surveys to cover the spectrum of symptoms and issues women have after birth so more women get the proper diagnosis at the proper time.

  2. Hi Lindsay

    Thank you so much for sharing your struggles with rage. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has experienced these feelings.

    I remember feeling absolutely exhausted and over-stimulated; all it took was one-too-many cries from my baby and I would absolutely lose it…
    yelling….screaming….slamming doors…throwing things….absolute blinding rage….often directed at my poor husband….

    Thank you for offering suggestions about taking a time out and reminding our children and husbands that we really do love them.

    You are so brave to write about your experience. I’m sure you have helped countless women with this article.

    My PPD baby turns 13 on Saturday.
    I found a note that he wrote when he was 5 that said “I hate my mom”. My heart broke. So I asked him why. The reason? I gave him too many hugs.
    We made a deal: I would hug him once in the morning and once before bedtime.
    Today he is a beautiful, caring, sensitive, smart, freckle-faced, tinsel-teethed, gangly almost-teenager who still hugs me every morning and every night.

    All the best,
    Adrienne

  3. I feel the rage! I’m working on reining it in. The idea of thinking of yourself like a toddler really helps because I have one!

  4. This is me to a T. I could have written this myself. Thanks for making me feel better about myself and feel normal. Sometimes I think I’m such a terrible mom and wife because I can’t control my outbursts and I’m too emotional. I take time outs too but I do need to get better at recognising my triggers and staying ahead of the game.