Friday, February 21, 2014

The dirt about anger

I've been struggling with something ever since my miscarriage. I've hesitated talking about it, and I'm not sure why. I've come clean about all the details, so what's so different about this?

For starters, there's a lot of shame in it for me. And guilt. Immediate guilt. There's also sadness for my babies. And embarrassment, that I'm not the mom I want to be, or should be.

The deal is that hormones, or grief, or who knows what, is causing me to have a very short temper. Which means I am angry a lot. You know how there's usually a build-up to that boiling point where you explode? Mine is bubbling below the surface all the time. It just takes one thing - a small thing - to set me off. And even though I know I have a problem and desperately want to deal with it, it's hard. Really hard.

Two days ago it was particularly bad. I yelled at Clara and Luke all day. And I cried all night. How could I do this to them?

I vowed to get better. I would stop myself before I yelled. I would resist the urge, walk away. That was my plan.

And then, the next day, this happened.


Funny, God. Really funny.

You have to understand, the things that were setting me off in the weeks and days prior were things like Luke not looking at me when I spoke to him. Or Clara not picking up toys fast enough. I battled with Luke for 12 hours one day about taking a single bite of macaroni and cheese. We're not talking big things here.

So both of my kids, covered in mud, methodically plastering it on our swing set, was more than enough reason for me to yell.

And, I hate dirt.


But the thing is, I wasn't even that mad. I clearly thought it was funny enough to run and grab my camera, and climb the playground equipment to take all sorts of shots (it's "shooting from above" week in my photography group, in case you're wondering why every shot looks like I'm oddly hovering over top of them. And, yes, I am dumping them all here because a post about anger needs some levity).

But did that stop me from yelling? Of course not. They dirtied their clothes, they wiped mud all over their toys, they made SUCH A MESS FOR ME TO CLEAN UP. And I made sure they knew it.


And you know what I yelled most about? That they wouldn't look at my darn camera.


As it was happening, I even saw myself from the outside looking in. Or, rather, heard myself. I sounded like a crazy woman. Or, at least a very mean woman. I looked around at the neighboring yards, afraid someone might be witnessing this.

I did not want to be this person. She was ugly and out of control.

The guilt hit me like the mud that Clara had flung at me (accidentally?) a few minutes before. I knew I was wrong. I needed to reign it in. I had promised myself I'd work on it, fight whatever hormones were making me mad, not let the way I was reacting to grief negatively affect my children. And yet here I was, yelling once again. This was my chance to change things.

I went inside, put Essie down for a nap, and took a deep breath. They are kids. I technically never told them not to make mud and play in it. They weren't fighting. They were actually having the time of their lives.


In fact, it could even count as the day's homeschooling. They were out in nature, they created mud from water and dirt...that's science! And they were working together, and it was so cute. And they were playing, doing what kids do best and should be doing the most.

They were creating life-long memories.


There was no need for me to yell. I decided to not even calmly discipline them. And I apologized for losing my temper. I've been doing that a lot lately, apologizing. And losing my temper.

And the clean up? Ridiculously easy. I might even let them do it again.


I'm hoping things will get better. My hcg hadn't yet hit zero when I last had it checked two weeks ago (but it was really close), so that may be affecting things.

And grief. I've heard a lot lately about how grief can lead to anger. But it's not like I'm angry at God, or angry that I'm no longer pregnant, or angry that my baby died. I am just angry. And, I've started to notice, it seems to pop up a few hours after I happen upon reminders of what I lost, like pregnancy announcements from women due around the same time as I was. But instead of getting angry right then, it's like a little sneak attack, hitting me later and about seemingly nothing at all. It's just woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. I'm just mean.

But that's what gets me - I'm not mean. I'm not perfect, but I usually require the normal amount of provocation to lose it. And I can't help but think about the future, and how I don't want to look back and regret wasting a second of my kids' childhood. It really is an amazing time and I'm so, so incredibly happy...which makes me feel all the worse about my temper.

And I know that, in the grand scheme of things, this likely won't be that big of a deal. I'll reflect on it as an understandable - even normal - reaction to a traumatic event, a reaction that hopefully lasted only a month or two. But I still well up with tears when I think about my babies and how my anger outbursts are affecting them, no matter how short-lived it may be.

The other night, after that long day of battling over a bite of food, Luke looked up at me from his sippy cup and asked if I still loved him. Wow. Really? Safe to say my heart broke right in two.

He's just an innocent little boy. Who doesn't always want to eat his dinner. And who likes to play in the dirt.



So I'm working on this anger thing. I know I can't walk around whispering like Michelle Duggar all day, but I also can't do nothing. I need to be myself, do my best every day, and use my children as inspiration - remembering how much I love these three babies and how they need a mommy who is calm, gentle and loving.

They don't deserve this, and if it means that I have to work twice as hard to overcome whatever it is that's causing me to behave this way, I'll do it. 

So there it is. I think you know everything now. And please, feel free to shower me with all your tips for dealing with grief, anger, and remaining calm with little ones. And I can share advice on cleaning up kids caked in mud, because I'm an expert now.

24 comments:

  1. Hi. Did you feel any better after writing all of that? I know keeping a journal or in this case, blogging, helps to get some "stuff" out. While I haven't ever experienced a miscarriage, I have struggled with grief for the last decade plus after losing my first husband. The way you described the bubbling under the surface is exactly how I operated for WAY too long. Often I couldn't pinpoint what exactly it was causing my explosions but eventually realized it is just having so much either bottled up or feeling overwhelmed or incapable of handling what life was handing me right then. Talking with people, having very dark humor and laughing a lot helped me in the moment BUT there were few people who could say they understood what I was going through (being a young widow at 25). Those reminders and not even knowing how to handle having to figure out how to respond to other people's happy events when you are so bogged down with thoughts/feelings is a very tough thing! I would strongly encourage you to look into seeing a grief therapist or even joining a support group for miscarriage/loss. Also, as a mom to two small kids myself, I realize how taxing it is to do the things we do as moms. I don't know how much time you get to yourself but making sure you are getting time away would be a very important step. I am a social worker and we speak a lot about self care, in the form of whatever makes you feel some peace. Also, being so caught up in everyday life makes it hard to carve out time to really grieve. There is so much work to be done- thinking of your loss, the loss as it relates to your other children and then of course the future you had already started dreaming of- and coming to grips with all of that. I hope you and your husband are able to talk about your feelings. Grieving is difficult because sometimes we can't understand why others don't grieve the way we do or the way we think they should. I am sorry I don't have all the answers. I will be praying for you.

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    1. I do feel better after posting, Liza. I always do. That's part of why I'm trying to do it more often. It was a huge help back in my infertility days for that very reason. And I totally get that about getting caught up in daily life - at first it was a Godsend, but now it makes it hard. Thanks for the prayers.

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  2. Love and hope! I'm this way too, even without the miscarriage. I don't win "patient mother of the year." For me, the easiest path out of this is to just except that I'm not the person that I want to be right now. St. Francis de Sales has some great stuff about gently working on our faults. Expecting myself to be perfect just adds to the shame and then that leads to more anger problems later. In my 12 step recovery program one of my slogans is "Chose Again." If I find myself angry or impatient --then I make another choice. I " chose again." I also baby myself. If I'm yelling, it a sign that I'm stressed. What I really need to is drink some hot tea and self-soothe. I can't tell you how much grief is hard. It's exhausting. If you were 8 1/2 months pregnant with Catherine, would you be this hard on yourself? That's a kind question to ask yourself. If you are overstepping the line, ask for help. If this would be a normal thing to be short-tempered two weeks before a C-section--then back off the self judgment. Something harder than pregnancy happened here. You're not "ruining' your kids childhood by taking a while to heal after a hard miscarriage. Love always!

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    1. Great points, Abigail! I would be giving myself a lot more leeway if I were pregnant. And that is just not fair.

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  3. I have no advice. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone. Praying for you. Oh, and thanks for being honest!!

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  4. That mud makes me laugh! Oh kids.

    Oy, anger. My friend E has a great series on her blog, Blessed and Broken. Good stuff.

    I have struggled with anger for years and years. I know now for me that it was really just the defenses of thinking I was owed something different than what I had and also a deep, deep sorrow. Praying through the 7 Sorrows of Mary chaplet really helped. And the graces of the sacraments (and good old fashioned exercise). Prayers for your healing!

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    1. Oh, I have that chaplet! I hadn't seen it in years, but it turned up in Clara's room one day recently, under her pillow. A sign?? Oh, and exercise. I was working out 6 days a week until I got pregnant. And now I feel like I "deserve" to rest and not go to the gym. That's probably a bit backwards. I almost forgot it could actually help.

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  5. Your post sounds way too familiar! I have been there too many times. When it happens, I try to recognize the real source (the Devil) and that makes me want to fight Him instead of my kids (or husband). But when I do fail (often), I try to apologize and do something special and fun with the family later. It doesn't have to be much, maybe just a little picnic and some time at a (hopefully mud-free) playground. It always makes them feel better, and me too. Hang in there and thanks for sharing this.

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  6. Thanks for posting this, I struggle with this also. (I had a m/c on 1-12-14.) For me, it's my sweet 4 year old son. I feel my anger and I want to yell or may have just yelled and internally I say a Hail Mary, as many as I need to and it calms me down. How can it not? Everything our mother endured.. It helps me a lot. I have also been teaching my son the Guardian Angel prayer and we pray this every day before we homeschool. (It serves as a good reminder for me also that I do have help!) For me, I know this anger is part of my sadness. Some days are better than others, and I pray for you that it is the same. God bless you.

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    1. Oh, Laura.. I remember you. I'm so sorry. I say a Hail Mary when I have the patience. More often it's me yelling, "God help me, please!!" I'm going to look up the Guardian Angel prayer. Thank you, and I hope you feel better soon too. (and yes, some days are definitely better than others!)

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  7. Don't underestimate your Hellmones! My body totally broke down a few months ago due to some stresses in my life that were out of my control and I turned into the Worst Mother Ever! No matter what you have said or done, I have done much worse. I can't even write it here!
    Get the labs and supplements you need. Hope it helps!

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  8. Oh Karey! I haven't experienced a miscarriage, but I feel like some days when pms hormones converge with bad pain in my hip, I can't seem to hold my temper even about the smallest things. It's particularly hard for me to hear myself yell, because I have such horrible memories of all the yelling and hitting when I was a kid, but it does help me remember that it's not really fair to Isaac (even though he might have just chucked an entire bowl of food across the living room, spreading it over rug, walls, and tv) to react in the exact way that I'm expecting him not to act. I don't hit him when I'm angry, and I tell him he's not allowed to hit when he's angry either. Lately, when it gets really bad, I will yell just to the room, not at him, "Oh no, I think I'm getting angry!" It sounds silly, but it allows him to see that I'm trying to handle my emotions, and it gives me a second to blow off some initial steam so I don't completely lose it. It really does help, naming the emotion. He's started doing it himself now, instead of hitting he'll tell me "I'm getting upset!". And then, I usually just grab him, through some boots and a coat on him, and send him outside. Really, sending him outside is magic.
    I think you could probably use some time to yourself. Or at least just you and Essie. Any chance you could enlist some help for a week or two to get the other kids some play dates or something like that and you could get a break? Time to sit and write, or pray, or go for a jog.
    Oh, and take a look at Bach's Flower Remedies - they have a questionnaire on their site to help you find the right remedy for the situation. I remember taking them when I was struggling with grief from infertility and stress from my job, etc and they were very helpful! Just a couple drops in your water bottle. http://feelbach.com/qti.asp
    I'll pray that you find some time to work through your grief, and that God will give you peace in your heart and at home. ((hugs))

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    1. Oh, I get that.. about your hip pain. I often say that I can handle one big thing, maybe even two.. but there comes a limit where I just can't juggle the stressors any more. My cup overflows, and not in a good way :) I wonder if that's what this is for me.. the underlying crap with the mc is there and then add other every day stressors in and - boom - it's too much. I LOVE what you say when you are angry. I'm definitely going to use that. And thanks for letting me know you deal with it sometimes too. I'm sure it's easy for us all to think we are the only ones.

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  9. I've tried to hold it together under bad hormones. I'm not saying they give us an excuse to go hog wild. But it's damn near impossible to hold it together.

    That's when I turn on the tv and let it roll and try to ride it out when those days hit.

    We just can not underestimate their power. I'm sure you are dealing with a combination of it all. :(.

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  10. Such an honest post, karey! ANd love all the from above shots. :) Cracked up a bit at your admission to yelling to LOOK at the CAMERA! Haha! Faced that temptation many a time! I really really struggled with anger and last summer read the book "Love and logic"- the early childhood versions. It. Changed. My. Life. Can't tell you how it breathed new life into our family and peace in our hearts. When I find myself with anger bubbling near the surface I can recall the book and think, "What am I doing wrong here???" and 9 times out of 10 it helps me get back on track. I hate to oversell something- but I just can't speak highly enough of this book. Loved Happiest Toddler on the Block- that did a lot for us, too, but Love and Logic was total life changing.

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    1. That book has been all over my radar lately! Maybe it's a sign.

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  11. Hi there! This may sound nuts, but all I could think as I was reading your post - was go to confession. I'm a HUGE believer in the grace and healing that comes from it. As a new convert (coming up on my first anniversary) I know I'm new to it, but wow is it a blessing!!!

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    1. I went today! Couldn't wait actually :) You're right.. definitely a blessing!

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    2. I'm so glad! Praying it has brought you some peace.

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  12. So tough. You have reason to be angry... and never underestimate the power of hormones. Consider the community generations before us had.. more community that allowed room for grief as your body processes the hormones. We don't have that as much today.

    I recently did the "Orange Rhino" challenge to rid myself of yelling at my children. What I learned--- I need girlfriends that hold me accountable and know what I am striving for-- a community. Perhaps just sharing this on your blog will help you feel in control and accountable.

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  13. thank you for this post. i have nothing to offer that hasn't already been beautifully said by other commenters. i was struggling with losing my temper this weekend with my kids-constantly having to remind myself to be patient, to relax and have fun, not to be this stressed mean unfun mom; and i don't have the stressors you do right now with the mc loss. i love the confession and prayer ideas-i always can find calm and grace in saying the Rosary. I may start with clenched teeth, or not even pay good attention the first couple of decades...but it's amazing how much peace and hope i feel by the end.

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  14. My Creighton OB/GYN has been great with treating hormonal anger issues. Ask about Naltrexone. I know you said you aren't angry about the loss, but perhaps your grief is coming out as anger right now. As much as you desire children, I can't imagine you aren't grieving heavily, even if you aren't able to realize it right now. We are often protected when we need to be. Blessings.

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  15. I hear you! I had the same thing when I was pregnant, it was horrible! I would fly off the handle and feel total rage well up inside me. I had the same thing post partum too, and it finally subsidded after 4 months. After my miscarriage a few years prior, I would cry randomly on and off for a few months. I'm not sure if it was stress or hormones, but you just have to accept them and say, this is a part of my life right now and I'm going to roll with it. After I had my baby I would sob all the time and would scare my kids. I tried to stiffle it and the anger that would well up for no good reason. Then I decided to talk with my kids and tell them what I felt was the truth. I said, I am so sorry if I am scaring you by crying or yelling alot but when you have a baby there are chemicals in your body you have to get rid of and when I cry it is just my body getting rid of things to get back to normal. I would tell them I am so sorry I yelled at you. I didn't mean to, sometimes I get so frusterated and I'm so sorry. Granted my kids are 9 and 12 so they understand a little bettter, but maybe you could relate it to one of the characters on their favorite movie or show. I found that kids are really understanding. Don't beat yourself up and think you have some sort of "problem". You don't. It is hormones and the stress of 3 little ones. Just say to yourself, "This too shall pass" and let the anger or sadness wash over you, embrace it and don't fight it... and then let it go. Each day it will slowly get better. Don't make it into any bigger deal than it is. Love yourself and give yourself a break. I say, Jesus I trust in you when I am overwhelmed and I accept the moment of weakness and keep moving forward. Hang in there!!!!

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  16. Hi,
    I haven't ever commented here before but I enjoy your blog. I have 4 children: 20, 15,13, and 8 so I am a bit farther down the parenting line than you but I want to let you know that I had that irrational, out of proportion anger towards my children when they were much younger and it was discovered that I suffered from anxiety and depression. After I began anti depressant medication, that irrational, out of proportion anger disappeared completely! It took about 2 months after beginning the medicine that I realized that had not raised my voice to my little ones in weeks! I have tried over the years to go off the medicine but now realize that I need it, like a diabetic needs insulin- it is a physical problem. All those years ago, I just had to get to a point where I decided that the stigma of the medicine was not as bad as the way I was treating my children. And truthfully, I wished that I would have done it sooner.
    So I would suggest that you talk with your husband and make an appointment for you and he to see your doctor and share your concerns and behavior with him/her to see if medication might in fact be what you need. God bless you; I will be praying for you!
    Cathy

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