Tag Archives: anger

Coping Strategies When I’ve Forgotten to Take My Antidepressant

I woke up grumpy, irritable, and inexplicably angry. It took me a few minutes, but then I remembered that I had forgotten to take my antidepressant yesterday morning. I didn’t realize until last night around dinner time. I took it then, but that was a whole 12 hours without it.

My four-year-old daughter was whining a lot at breakfast, and just the sound of her voice grated on me. I had no patience for her or her brother. My face felt permanently set in a scowl. My husband seemed to notice the change in me right away but didn’t say anything. It’s likely I would have snapped at him no matter what he said.

My only saving grace was that I was aware that I was being unreasonably angry and impatient. I focused on breathing more slowly and deeply. When I asked my daughter to get dressed, I watched as she futzed around and noticed my urge to yell at her to hurry up. Instead I asked her to “please focus.”

When focusing on my breathing stopped helping, I noticed how my toes felt touching the carpet, or later, the inside of my shoes. I noticed what my knees felt like touching the fabric of my pants.

All of this noticing is a form of mindfulness. We can only pay attention to one thing at a time. We think we’re multitasking, but what we’re really doing is task-switching very quickly. Paying complete attention to one thing in my body helps anchor me in the present moment and briefly pause the rage going on in my head.

There’s usually some story I’m telling myself that I don’t even realize. I feel like my kids are misbehaving just to piss me off. I feel like everything is going to go wrong, and I’m powerless to change it.

I need to be somewhat calm to do this, but I try to come up with another narrative. I look at my daughter screaming at me and think, “She must be tired. She’s struggling to find words to express what she’s trying to say, and she’s frustrated.” My son is making loud noises and being hyper because he wants some attention, not attention for its own sake, but to feel connected to us. Coming up with another story gives me understanding, and that understanding helps me develop patience. I feel powerless at times, but so do they.

I used to feel so guilty for losing my temper in front of my kids, like I was failing them somehow. It took a long time, but I realize now how important it is, how valuable, for my kids to see me not only lose my cool, but then work really hard to regain my composure. I can explain coping strategies to them until I’m blue in the face, but nothing will be as compelling as modeling it for them.

Calming down requires forgiveness

Calming down requires forgiveness. I have to forgive myself for getting irrationally angry in the first place, and I have to forgive my kids and myself for not being perfect.

I’m still going to have to practice calming myself after the kids get home from school. It doesn’t help that it’s going to rain all day, but while they’re in school, I’m going to try to “fill my bucket” with positive experiences so I can start from a more fulfilled place than if I just run errands and “get stuff done” like a workhorse.

A friend is coming over to hang out while her house is being cleaned. I’m going to ask her if we can watch the latest episode of “Castle” on Hulu, which is my weekly Tuesday gift to myself. I’m going to take my dog Maggie for a walk in her new doggie raincoat. The thing that best alleviates my depression is reconnecting: with people, with my dog, and with nature.

I will yell at my kids again, if not today, then tomorrow, and/or the day after that. I will never be “cured” from my depression. It’s a constant, ongoing process. But I’m not powerless or alone in this. That’s what gets me through it every time.

How do you get through times when you’ve just had it but don’t have the luxury of getting away from your triggers?

Getting Someone on Your Side Sometimes Means Meeting Them Halfway

Last night, I had an actual “good parenting” moment. They come so rarely, I simply had to document it in case it never happens again.

At dinner, my husband and I were trying to talk to each other about our days. He was trying to get Kaylee to eat her dinner, which she would only do while sitting in his lap. Zach was sitting next to them and kept distracting her. We repeatedly told him to stop and just sit facing the table. After a few warnings, we told him he had to sit next to me at the table. He kept being disruptive, and I yelled at him again to stop. He put his head on his arms on the table and started to cry so I sent him to his room.

Now, to be fair, I had nearly run myself into the ground all day doing errands and walking over 17,000 steps (Thank you Fitbit for being such a slave driver!). I was trying to eat my dinner, listen to my husband talk about his day, get credit for the dozens of things I got done, and get Kaylee to eat her dinner. And I absolutely can’t stand having to repeat myself. I realize that’s my issue, but it’s really true that if my kids did what I asked the first, second, or even third time, I wouldn’t have to lose my “shit.”

So, Zach went to his room and proceeded to scream about how angry he was, and how unfair I was being. I started cleaning up the kitchen and putting away the leftovers. I specifically waited a few minutes so that he could vent, and I could calm myself before I went to talk to him. I’m well aware that my usual reaction is to get defensive and angrier, which isn’t particularly effective, as you might expect.

I went to Zach’s room, sat down, and asked him to sit down so that we talk eye-to-eye. Once he sat down, I felt the urge to explain myself, when instead I had the idea to ask him, “So, how do you feel?” He said, “Mad,” of course. I looked him in the eye, and said, “Yeah, I see that you’re really mad.” He looked surprised that I was listening to him and acknowledging him instead of trying to control him. I asked him, “Could you please tell me more about that?”

Mom and son embrace

Sometimes getting someone on your side means meeting them halfway.

Instead of trying to “make him wrong,” I showed him that he did have a reason to be mad, and I empathized with him. I told him that I felt hurt that he was disrupting my conversation with my husband. He admitted it was fair that Daddy and I get to talk to each other sometimes. He said he was acting out because he wanted to tell his dad more about his day, but he couldn’t while we were talking. I told him I hadn’t known that and asked him to say, “Excuse me, may I please share something?” the next time. I promised to ask him next time whether there is something he wants to share, rather than just assume that he’s behaving badly.

I’ve come a long way since I wrote “You Gotta Know When to Walk Away.” It feels really good. I’m still not a great parent, but I’m getting more confident and skilled, mostly by watching my friends parent their kids and picking up their tips.

Do you have any success stories you’d like to share? We’re all so hard on ourselves, we deserve to toot our horns once in a while!

You Gotta Know When to Walk Away

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook about walking the fine line between “nurturing” her child’s sensitivity and teaching her child that she can make choices about which things upset her. I think this is a great example of showing emotional intelligence, which Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer define as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”

Some people are really good at figuring out how other people are feeling and why it makes them act a certain way. I am not one of these people. I used to think that years of reading and empathizing with fictional characters made me more aware of what people might be feeling and thinking, but when it comes to the two people I am closest to, I can be painfully clueless.

My children are three and six years old, and much to my constant surprise, they act like it: throwing tantrums, using language incorrectly (screaming “toast!!!” when in fact they want bacon), refusing to cooperate, and draining every ounce of my attention, my energy, and my soul.

Perhaps from my description you can already tell that a big part of my problem is my attitude. I perceive them as doing things “to me” instead of just being who they are. This is something that is really important to me. I say that I want to teach them the value of being themselves no matter what anyone else says, but in reality, I just want them to do what I say, immediately after I say it, and without complaint.

I really forget what it’s like to be a kid. To not be able to communicate clearly, to feel frustrated about not getting what you want, and being oppressed by rules you didn’t agree to. (Never mind that some of these rules are based on physical laws, like two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time).

My kids are actually really quite well-behaved, which makes it worse when I lose my temper. I really feel like a bad mother getting angry at them when they’re just being normal children, but sometimes when they just keep complaining or keep doing something I’ve repeatedly told them not to do, I just lose it.

It’s scary when I lose my temper. I don’t beat my children or anything, but I do sometimes handle them more roughly than I should. I yell loudly and harshly. There’s a look in their eyes and a tone in their cries that expresses just how scared they are of me in that moment. It’s god-awful, and I hate myself every time.

I tell myself that I’m just tired, hungry, depressed, whatever, but I still want to find a way to “pause” between feeling frustrated and interacting with my kids. I’m trying to remember the video that’s been going around of Patrick Stewart talking about domestic violence. He said, “Violence is never, ever a choice that a man should make.” I change that to “Violence is never a choice a parent should make.” Like I write above, I’m not hitting my kids or throwing things at them, or anything like that, but I do sometimes grab one of their arms to get their attention. The other day I was changing my daughter’s clothes while she was resisting, and I pulled her shirt off kind of roughly.

I’m trying to work on just walking away when I’m angry. That’s what I did after apologizing to my daughter for being rough with her. After I calmed down, I talked to her in a calm voice and explained that I needed her to get dressed for school, and that I “needed her help,” and she cooperated after that.

Sometimes pretending to be someone you’re not is a bad thing, but my trying to be like my friend who understands, accepts, and appreciates her child’s sensitivity is something my children and I could really benefit from.

What do you find most challenging to handle when dealing with difficult people in your life (be they children, co-workers, etc.)? How do you handle it?