Tell Me About It

I think my anger is actually depression

Tell Me About It: ‘I can’t seem to rein it in. I’m angry at work, with my husband and even with my kids’

PROBLEM: I suffered from depression after our first son was born. I was treated through counselling and medication. I have had another son and while I didn’t feel depressed after he was born, I am extremely angry all the time (he’s one now).

I can’t seem to rein it in. I’m angry at work, with my husband and even with my kids – which makes me feel absolutely awful. I snap at my son and act like a petulant child over nothing. I say awful things and I think I can already see an impact on my son, who seems to look for reassurance that I care about him. I always say sorry and explain I’m stressed but it’s not good enough. I urgently want to change this.

My husband tonight told me I’m miserable and awful company and to be honest I can see his point. I’ve pulled back from a lot of my friends too. I’m just so tired from the demands of full-time, full-on work with two small kids that I just want to lie down in my spare time.

I think the anger is actually depression. I can’t really afford counselling again and I can’t take time out of work as we rely on my salary.

Is there anything I can do to get the ball rolling on tackling this?

ADVICE: To your credit, you are very self-aware and know you are not behaving like yourself and that you need help to address what is going on. You also see the effect on everyone around you, from your husband and children to those at work and your friends. Of course, the demands of a full-time job and the care of two small children is daunting, and the present situation, with Covid-19 restrictions, makes it even harder, but I think you know that what is going on for you is more than this and you cannot solve it by yourself. You can treat your husband’s exchange with you recently as a crisis – and this, surprisingly, might offer you an opportunity to halt the current trajectory and seek change.

It is time to seek help from professionals, take the advice offered and begin to ask for help

You know from your previous experience of depression that it can be helped with medication and counselling and I think this is now what is called for again. Anger is your expression of depression and that is tough as it usually makes people defensive and reactive to you instead of seeing that you are in trouble and offering you support.

I’m sure the anger makes people feel that you are blaming them in some way for the way your life is, and while adults should have the capacity to see beyond this, your children are likely to fully absorb this idea of blame. You already feel bad about this but when you are in the throes of depression it can feel impossible to get out of the cycle of self-criticism and “stuckness”.

It is time to seek help from professionals, take the advice offered and begin to ask for help rather than keep going in a pattern that is causing hurt for those you love the most.

Start with your GP and ask for a referral to your local community mental health team – this is a free service and you may then find that you get a team to support you, including a psychiatrist, psychologist and clinical nurse specialist. While waiting for this to get set up, you can do the Aware on-line life-skills course and this will offer you insights and skills for dealing with depression.

Your workplace may have an employee assistance programme – ask your HR department – offering free and confidential counselling sessions, and usually your workplace will give you the time off to attend these sessions. If you take up these offerings, you are committing to your own and your family’s wellbeing and future and it will be a great act of courage and love for them.

The demands of being the perfect employee, perfect mother, loving partner and loyal and caring friend are beyond all of us

Go back to your husband and tell him you have been reflecting on his comments and that you know you are not yourself and that you need his help but not his criticism. Tell him that as a couple you need to put yourselves fully behind your recovery so your family can thrive and say you are willing to seek and use any help that is available.

The demands of being the perfect employee, perfect mother, loving partner and loyal and caring friend are beyond all of us. We can only do our best in the circumstances and you can only give what you have, and at the moment your reserves are used up. Your whole family will benefit if you take the attention and time you need now. it is not an act of selfishness but rather a commitment that the family will get behind whatever the biggest need is and at right now this is you.