It’s Maternal Mental Health Day! Since sharing and supporting women through post-natal and ongoing depression is exactly why I wanted to start a blog in the first place, I figured I should probably write a blog today.
So, today I want to talk about two symptoms of depression… anger and shame.
People think depression is all lying in the dark and thinking about ending it. For this reason, anger is such an insidious symptom because you might not realise that you’re depressed. You might write your anger off as lack of sleep, your baby going through a difficult phase or your partner being a douche.
About 6 months after having Dom, I was angry… ALL THE TIME! Everything that child did made me angry. Particularly trying to get him to eat. I can vividly remember him being in the high chair and I was feeling so full of rage I wanted to smash my head into the wall to stop release that energy in a way that wasn’t harmful to Dom. That’s the day I Googled about my anger and discovered it was a symptom of depression.
“Never shake a baby.” We all know this mantra. If postnatal depression really was just lying in the dark wanting nothing to do with your child, this mantra wouldn’t be something so drummed into all of us. It’s that anger that comes with postnatal depression that leads us to shake our babies. That rage that made me want to hurt myself could just as easily have been directed at Dominic.
And that’s why it’s so important to recognise anger as a symptom of depression… so that you know it’s an actual medical condition that you can see your doctor about.
I’m not talking here about being ashamed that you have depression. I’m talking about the shame that depression makes you feel and ruminate on.
Depression directly causes shame as people stop living in accordance with their own values.
Maybe it’s the walks you’ve stopped taking or the junk food you’ve started eating. Maybe it’s yelling at your kids and nitpicking your husband.
For me, it’s the to-do list that I make each morning that never gets done. I want so badly to be motivated to clean, bake, exercise, work etc. and when the lethargy of depression prevents me, I feel shame. And then, I ruminate on that shame. So, not only do I hate myself for not being the wife, mother, friend, businesswoman and homemaker that I want to be, I can’t stop thinking about how effing useless I am.
Shame is a downward spiral. And a very difficult one to break. But it is possible!
I’m angry and ashamed… now what?
First and foremost, know this:
Depression is a medical condition in which you have thoughts and feelings that are not true!
The way forward is to develop your coping skills by challenging those thoughts and feelings. To help you do this, I’ve put together an overview and worksheet on challenging your thoughts and reactions.
Read the overview and then here’s how to use the worksheet on the final page:
If you have a reaction to something and wished you’d reacted differently, fill in the worksheet. That might be that you felt ashamed after eating that whole block of chocolate or that you felt angry and yelled at your toddler for wetting themselves.
Situation/Trigger and Emotion/Feeling:
Write down the situation and what you felt. Often a lot of emotions are all battling inside us at once.
Take the time to reflect on the thoughts that ran through your head. Write down these unhelpful thoughts. There is a page of unhelpful thinking styles in the overview.
Take the time to think about what some helpful thoughts might have looked like in that situation. This can be difficult and can at times feel a little forced. That’s OK! It will for a time.
Write down how you wish you had reacted in that situation.
Once you’ve done this a few times in retrospect, you’ll find that you’re able to pause and challenge your thinking as it happens!!! Developing coping skills doesn’t happen immediately… like anything you’ll need to practice, but know this… it is possible to learn these skills!