It is such a pleasure to introduce Molly Caro May - author of the book 'Body Full Of Stars: Female Rage and My Passage Into Motherhood' - coming out later this month. In her personal story, she covers the important topic of post-partum emotions like anger and rage - an under-supported (and under-discussed) experience for many women.
As a mother of three (pumping milk as I write this intro) and in my work with women of all ages, I am passionate about the topic of female emotional health - to find effective ways to use our strong emotions as a tool for growth and move through them.
Molly does so beautifully in her book, and has gifted us a bit of that journey below, and consider grabbing a copy of her book for an even deeper, more spellbinding look. Enjoy her prose and practical tips for navigating the uncertain waters of female rage. Whether you are a mother or not, this information is deeply vital.
How I Deal With My Rage
By, Molly Caro May
As pregnant women or new moms, we know that some sadness could be around the corner. Maybe even some anxiety. Those hormones go wild, after all. But we are rarely told that anger could be part of the picture.
That’s what happened to me after the birth of my first daughter. My rage took the form of verbal lashings of my loved ones and hot-headed stomping around and/or fleeing the scene. I threw laundry at my husband once, stopped our car fast in the middle of an empty country road, and threw stones at trees. By some grace, I was never physically violent. I spent over two years trying to sort out whether my rage was physiological, mental, historical, ancestral, chemical, or situational? It was and is some combination of all of the above. I learned that, like all energy, rage doesn’t evaporate. Anger is a normal human emotion and it comes and goes. I now have a much better approach to my relationship with it.
Here are the steps I go through (ideally) when the tornado starts to brew.
1) Ask myself one question. Have I watered, fed, rested and moved my body well today? If not, then I become a detective. Do I need to eat some protein: salmon bites, almond butter? Am I dehydrated? Would it help to go on a walk or stretch, even though I would rather, in that moment, just mope? Maybe I should go to bed at 8pm. This gives me an opportunity for “the pause” and places ownership on me. I am in charge of my own rage. I am in charge of setting myself up for success by taking care of myself. This is both obvious and hard to do, especially if you are sleep deprived.
2) Notice where I am directing it. Rage usually wants to ground itself somewhere. Because we are social animals, it often makes a beeline for another person. The people I felt safest with—my husband and mother—got the brunt and if they weren’t there, it turned its arrow on me. I have to ask whether what I am feeling is healthy or unhealthy anger. I use Byron Katie’s first question, “Is it true?” or “Is my thought true?” But being in my head only goes so far. Rage is an energy I must move through my body, one I must redirect so as not to hurt the hearts of those I love. I find privacy (again, as a mother of young kids, this is challenging) and hit pillows or go into the forest and beat my fists into the earth. Or I put on music and “act out” a tornado, in a safe and non-scary way, for my kids.
3) Use my menstrual cycle. It is a masterfully engineered system to help us process and transmute emotion. Women have known this for millennia, but have forgotten it in our modern rush. I use my menses for timing: when to be internal, when to bring a grievance to my husband or a friend, when to howl at the moon, when to amp up the self-care and slow down. This last one is big. For me, so much of my rage comes on the flip side of overwhelm and not caring for myself.
4) Don’t banish it, befriend it. You can and should set the boundary that rage can’t get all agro on you or your people. But rage also wants to be told that you hear its message. I can’t excommunicate it from me; that desire would only make it grow strong and bigger. I’ve accepted it as my teacher. If I accept it as both part of me and also separate from me, then it has less power.
5) Be kind to myself. I often fail at steps 1-4 and then I have to start over and try again. Re-patterning happens in circles, not in a line. It’s about positive reinforcement. We all have constitutions that lean in one direction when we are out of balance. I get irritable. I know this about myself. I know I will always be in a dance with that feeling. It’s my lifelong job to fine-tune solid moves and learn new ones.
Molly Caro May is the author of Body Full of Stars: Female Rage and My Passage Into Motherhood. You can read more about her work at mollycaromay.com
Book Tour Events
Jan 24: Brooklyn, NY, reading at Books Are Magic @ 7:30pm
Jan 25: New York, NY, Moms + Moods: Opening the Conversation on Postpartum Rage, reading followed by panel with Dr. Kelly Brogan, Latham Thomas, Lindsey Vestal and Dr. Venus Mahmoodi of the Seleni Institute, Info here
Feb 6: Missoula, MT, reading at Shakespeare & Co @ 7pm
Feb 11: Bozeman, MT, Who Are We Now: Couples During the Postpartum Period storytelling with her husband at Beall Center @ 6pm
Feb 21: San Francisco, CA, reading at Books, Inc @ 7 pm
Mar 1: Chicago, IL, reading at Women and Children First @ 7:30pm