I am a 36 year old married mother of two: I’m not sure what to say or how to begin this. I have periods of rage and depression where I can tell from the moment I wake up that it is going to be a “bad” day. I get overly angry at little things, and pick fights w/my spouse. I have suicidal thoughts (several times a month) but will not act one them because of my children – although I do not think I am a great mother my son adores me (and I love him as much) and I cannot imagine what it would do to him if I was gone. My husband is wonderful and very patient and we’ve worked through a lot of things over the years but lately I just get so tired, and frustrated, and I act out and just generally become disagreeable, angry and violent. I push and push and push until he reacts – the weird thing is once he is angry I feel very calm and together – and my own “anger” dissipates – but until he reacts I just get more and more agitated.

I often feel I am not a good mother, or a good person in general, though I have many friends and family that would most likely say different. My father died when I was 2 and my mother remarried when I was 6 – I grew up in a home where my mother chose my father over me (so I think/thought) and my step-father was abusive both verbally (majority) and physically. I suffered low self esteem and spent years as an adult coming to terms with my childhood.

I’d like to get better but I don’t know what’s my problem. I hate the rage feelings – I hate yelling, throwing things and generally being out of control – especially in front of my children. I don’t expect medical advice per se but does this seem like a problem or just a case of “occasional blues” or mood swings? I’ve truly suffered from moodiness my entire life but really thought I had better control on myself in recent history – however – the bi-monthly “depression days” are really starting to affect my marriage. Please advise if you can…thank you.

A. I do believe that you have more than the “occasional blues.” Everyone has mood swings but generally it’s not considered a problem until they are compromising your life. From your letter it seems that you have been living a very compromised life. You are suffering daily, to the point where it is affecting your marriage and your overall wellbeing. It is also likely affecting your children. This is the very definition of when one should seek help.

It is important to learn the cause of your anger and unhappiness. If I could interview you in person I would want to know if something has changed lately. Did some event occur? What prompted you to notice the increase in your unhappiness? Knowing this information could help to uncover the reason for your unhappiness.

In my experience as a therapist, I’ve seen anger issues like yours among my clients. It is not unusual for individuals exhibiting similar symptoms to act out in a manner that you have described with your husband. They push and push until they get a reaction from their significant other, friend or family member. It was at that point (i.e. invoking a reaction) that they also too described their anger diminishing. In most cases, it was because they wanted their spouse, friend or loved one to recognize their suffering. It was their way of forcing an emotional confrontation. They had been stoically suffering. They did not want to complain and often felt they didn’t have the right to complain.

I would strongly suggest that you consider counseling. It could greatly benefit you. If not for yourself then do it for the sake of your marriage and your children. Studies show that children whose parents are suffering from mental health disorders may be more likely themselves to develop mental health disorders. Children who have a parent with depression are especially at risk. Depressed mothers in particular tend to be more isolative, withdrawn and less able to respond to the child’s emotional needs, compared to mothers without depression. For these reasons and many others it is very important that you seek help. Please click on the find help tab at the top of this page to search for a clinician in your community.

I wish you well. Please take care.