Considering Suicide At 3:30AM

I’ve only seen 3:30 A.M. a handful of times: at the end of a long night of hair holding and tear wiping; on the first day of fishing season, when my father, brother and I would head out early to secure a prime spot along the Susquehanna — only after stopping at Dunkin Donuts for a large coffee and two strawberry-frosted donuts — and in the early months of motherhood, which were defined by diaper changes, “baby burrito” breakouts, and painful let downs.

Fishing fun aside, nothing good happens at 3:30 A.M. It is a time of day when bad decisions are made, strange and unfortunate trips to the bathroom occur, and impulsive words are spoken.

It was the time of day I most frequently questioned my own life.

I didn’t know it at first. The early days of motherhood were a blur; I would fall asleep sitting up and stare at the ceiling, wide-awake, when laying down. I would go hours without food, days without a shower, and — in some cases — more than a week without stepping foot outside.

At first, I wrote it off. I thought short temper was the result of sleep deprivation. I thought my inability to “get it together” was just par for the “new parenting” course. And I attributed my pathetic eating habits to breastfeeding. (If Amelia fell asleep at my breast I certainly couldn’t get up for a TV dinner or piece of toast. I mean, I would wake her. I couldn’t wake her.)

I thought the guilt and confusion was normal. I thought the tears were normal.

I thought I was just adjusting my new mommy role.

I thought and rationalized, thought and rationalized, but before long I noticed a pattern: I was crying everyday, sobbing and unable to catch my breath. My eyes were perpetually puffy and when I did manage to take a sip of my coffee I could taste the salinity in my mouth — like I stirred salt in instead of sugar. I realized I was angry and resentful. I realized I was miserable. I realized I wanted to die.

And I had many chances, so many chances; in fact, the opportunity presented itself everyday between 3 A.M. and 4 A.M. and the fact that I am still here is nothing short of a miracle. My daughter would wake for a feeding just as Jim Crammer came on TV. (I never turned the TV off; I was scared of the dark, scared of the silence, and scared to be alone with her, and with myself.) After changing her diaper I would pull her into bed, slip one of my swollen and already leaky breasts out of my top and into her mouth and nurse her; she lying on her left side and I on my right.

During our Mad Money hour I could have slid my nipple from her mouth — after she fell asleep of course — and left our dark room, led only by the light of our 27-inch television screen. With Mr. Crammer’s face and crappy graphics still flashing before my eyes, and thoughts of financial security (or, in my case, insecurity) racing through my mind, I could have easily headed to our bathroom down the hall and carved open my wrists. I could have swallowed a handful of over-the-counter Ambien or washed down painkillers with a large glass of whiskey. (We kept both in the kitchen nearby.) I could have slipped on my black and white flip-flops, left our four-floor walkup in Brooklyn, and walked right into traffic.

considering suicide

I could have killed myself before the credits rolled.

But I didn’t. And whether it was luck, perseverance, or apathy that kept me in that bed I cannot be sure. Somehow I stayed put; somehow I survived.

Postpartum depression is — simply put — a type of depression which affects women after childbirth. While symptoms include anger, anxiety, sadness, low energy, changes in sleeping and eating habits, and a reduced sex drive symptoms alone cannot explain the gravity of PPD, to you or those around you.

You see depression is impossible to explain. It is an indiscriminate, isolating and numbing illness. While you may still scream and cry, attempting to find the cause of those tears is absurd. (They are instinctual, like a cough or sneeze, and completely beyond your control.) While you know what you “should” feel you cannot do a damn thing to change your feelings, and while you will still be alive — you physically have the ability to move, eat, and breath — you may not have the desire.

You may lose control of your mind, your feelings, and yourself. You may lose control of your life.

Day after day I woke that winter with no desire. Day after day I woke that spring with no hope. Yet hope comes in strange places, and while I never was able to snap out of it (and Jim Crammer still dominates in the 3 A.M. time slot), I did began to see a shift, first when my daughter slept until 4 A.M. and then when she slept until 5.

It seems strange to put so much weight on morning television — to allow the likes of Lori Stokes, Ken Rosato, and Al Roker to much influence my mood — because it is. It is absurd to think they had anything to do with my recovery. But they were there the morning I opened the blinds while feeding my daughter instead of laying in the dark. They were there when I felt her body next to mine for the first time, not laying there like a hairless cat or strange stuffed animal but when I truly felt the weight of her — when I felt her little hands and paper fine nails clinging to my breast and tracing circles along my stomach, when I felt her life, when I felt my daughter.

They were there when I opened my eyes. They were there when I came alive.

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This essay originally appeared on Mamalode.

Woman Shares Domestic Violence Struggle & Sends A Powerful Message

Last week, Higher Perspective — a website which “seeks to bring together like-minded individuals [who are] focused on personal growth and expanding their consciousness” — shared a painfully powerful video on their Facebook page: A video about physical abuse. A video about domestic violence. And while the video made me shudder and cringe and cry, I refused to turn away because Emma Murphy deserved my attention.

The subject of abuse and violence and domestic violence deserves not only my attention, but also international awareness.

In the video, Murphy — a 26-year-old mother of two, now 27 — spoke directly to the camera while her son could be seen playing in the background. But itwasn’t her words that drew me in, at least not initially. No. It was a visual, i.e. it was the bruise on her face and the swelling both above and beneath her eye. But as I continued to watch and listen, it was her words which captivated me. It was her words which touched me, and it was her words which stuck with me.

Which still stick with me, almost an entire week later.

You see, in the video, it is clear that Murphy is speaking from her heart. Her pain is palpable, her tears are real and fresh, and she is clearly distraught and hurt and confused. But instead of shutting down — instead of shutting the world out — Murphy decided to publicize one of her darkest moments of her life. Murphy chose to turn on the camera.

“I’ve been thinking long and hard and contemplating whether to post this video. And I was, and I wasn’t. And I was, and I wasn’t. I finally decided after a lot of thinking that, yeah, I need to do this for me and my children. I need to raise awareness for other women out there.”

Murphy then went on to explain her story.

Murphy had been in a relationship for three-and-a-half years. A relationship with the father of her children, the man of her dreams, and a man who “was the love of [her] life.” But things changed when, two years into their relationship, this man cheated on Murphy.

“I found out he cheated on me with one of his clients…my world was turned upside down as you can imagine…I tried to forgive him and I gave him another chance. I took him back. And unfortunately I found out that he did it again…so I went to the gym and confronted him. And he denied it, of course, and when I threw his phone he punched me in the face.”

This wasn’t the first time Murphy’s ex-boyfriend had struck her.

“Last year he split my head open, [and] at an event prior to that as well he punched me and I had a black eye.”

But it was the last.

And while these details may be particular to Murphy and her situation, Murphy’s story is not unique. Unfortunately, the same story happens all over the world countless times each and every day. In fact, according to Safe Horizon — a non-profit agency which aids children, adults, and families affected by crime and abuse — “1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.” That is both a horrifying statistic and one we should not – and cannot — accept. “No man has any right to put his hand on a woman,” Murphy explains. “No man at all…even once it’s unacceptable.”

Murphy’s advice to other women who are in a similar position as she was is simple.

“If anyone out there has gone through something similar to what I’ve gone through, you need to find the courage and get away from anything that’s as unhealthy as violence. Go to your friends and family, people who love you, people who care about you, and talk to them…you have to walk away because more often than not, if it happens once, it’ll happen again.”

And she is absolutely right, but leaving is easier said than done and, for many women, walking away is hard.

Walking away feels impossible.

So if you are or have been the victim of abuse and need help getting help, download the ASPIRE news app. (ASPIRE is  a free app from Robin McGraw which is disguised as a typical news site, features actual stories from Yahoo! News, but has a hidden “Help” section with domestic violence resources and a “Go” feature, which allows the user to send a pre-recorded message to authorities and previously designated contacts.) And be sure to check out Safe Horizon’s “Get Help” page.

© 2016 Kimberly Zapata, as first published on Sammiches & Psych Meds

I Know I’m Not A Perfect Parent, I Just Want To Be ‘Enough’

Dearest Daughter,

Today, you woke up at 5 a.m.

You spilled milk on the carpet and dumped a carton of raisins on the kitchen floor. You colored on your bedroom wall, and you screamed in my face — your whole body shook with anger and rage — when I tried to discipline you. When I tried to tell you what you were doing was not acceptable. When I tried to explain why your behaviors were not OK.

Did I mention this was all before 7?

And, if I’m being honest with you, I was furious. I felt angry and broken. I wanted to cry and yell back. I wanted to throw my hands up and walk away. (Heck, part of me wanted to give you a swift pat on the butt.) But I didn’t. Instead, I paused and swallowed hard. Instead, I bent down and leaned forward. Instead, I spoke to you softly and calmly.

(I mean, how could I possibly tell you screaming is unacceptable if I was doing same?)

And, through tears, you listened. You acknowledged your mistakes. You hugged me, and you said “I sowwy.”

“I sowwy, Mommy.”

We quickly went back to playing — you made me a plate of muffins and a cup of tea — and, just like that, the “incident” was behind us. Just like that, things were back to “normal.”

not a perfect parent
I wish I could say things always go this smoothly. I wish I could say I always react with a level-head, and I wish I could say you are always that receptive, but that would be a lie. Sometimes, you scream more. You cry more. Sometimes you kick and hit and even try to bite. And sometimes I do the same — not with biting or hitting — but with my words. With the volume and tone of my voice.

Because I don’t always react the way I want to. I don’t always react the way I need to, and sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I mess up.

So what was different about today? Nothing. I mean, maybe the stars were aligned or I had JUST enough coffee in my system to function, but I think I just got lucky.

Today, I took a breath and got lucky.

Parenting is hard, and I am far from perfect. (So, SO far.) But I don’t aspire to be perfect. I don’t aspire to be great, and I don’t even aspire to be good. I just aspire to be enough: enough for myself. Enough for you, my dearest daughter. And enough in each and every moment.

Because I love you. With each and every ounce of my being I love you. Even when I am the one screaming. Even when I am the one saying “I’m sorry.”

I Found The Moon: Coming Out Of A Depressive Episode

“The moon,” my daughter yelled. “Look Mommy, the moon.”

The sky was a faint shade of blue; in fact, since the sun was still rising it was barely colored at all. Instead, brightness swallowed everything. But I followed her gaze — I let my eyes travel the length of her outstretched arms and to the tip of her fingers — and looked up. There, just beneath the power lines but above my neighbor’s rooftop, was the the small circular satellite. (Yes, the moon is considered a satellite — a natural satellite.)

“Aw, you’re right baby! That is the moon.”

My daughter screeched with glee and laughed with delight. She watched the moon as it moved across the sky with our every step, and with every turn. She asked me where it was when it sank behind buildings. When it couldn’t be seen through the trees. And she would clap when it returned. When we could again see the moon. And while we walk to school every day — remarking on things like the weather, the flowers, or the color of cars — there is something different about this day. Because this day was the first time in a long time when I could feel her joy. This day was the first time in a long time I was able to smile, and I was able to laugh.

coming out of a depressive episode moon and tree

This day was the first time in a long time I saw the moon: I really, really saw the moon.

Continue reading…


An Open Letter To My Childless Friends

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for the state of our friendship. I’m sorry for the way things have changed. I’m sorry for the way I have changed.

You see, motherhood has changed me. I don’t need to tell you that. (Just because you aren’t a mom—or dad—doesn’t mean you don’t understand how life works.) Becoming a parent is a monumental, exciting and terrifying event. But we both knew that going in. You knew it would change me, as did I.

We accepted some things as par for the parenting course. We knew we would talk less, see each other less. We knew my once-prompt ass would become chronically late, and we knew there would be parties I simply couldn’t attend, celebrations I wanted to share in but couldn’t thanks to an unplanned illness or a sitter with “a scheduling conflict.”

But what I didn’t know was how much it would change me. Not “Mommy” me, but everyday me (which, at this point, is one-in-the-same).

You still try. You come to visit; you bring gifts for my daughter, and most importantly, you bring yourself. You ask how I am and I you, but we rarely get anywhere; by time you start talking about your date last Friday or what that bitch in the office did, I am running away to pull my daughter off of the dining room table or keep her from coloring on her bedroom walls. I yell back to let you know I am still listening. I apologize when I return and we get back to the topic at hand, but you never get more than a few sentences out before something else comes up, before she wants to use the potty—because she is pants-less and running down the hall—or needs a cup of milk, a glass of juice or an afternoon snack. So I’m sorry for every half-hearted conversation, every good-intentioned moment which takes a backseat to boo-boos” or another round of “Wheels on the Bus.”

Please know that it is not that I don’t care about you, your career, your latest trip to Las Vegas  or the sexy details of your single life. In fact, I do care—very much so—and I would give anything to hear about it for five freakin’ minutes, but between the late nights, early mornings, and Sofia marathons I am barely keeping it together. (Yes, the all-night feedings have stopped and we are approaching the end of Amelia’s “diaper days”—I hope!—but I am no less frazzled than I was 2½ years ago.)

The truth is I’m trying. I know that doesn’t always come through, and for that I’m sorry, but it is hard to express anything when you mind is a ball of mush—of schedules and plans (which aren’t yours) and curveballs, like conjunctivitis or the family flu. Sure, I used to be able to juggle a thousand tasks at once (you used to affectionately/begrudgingly call me “cruise director Kim”). But now everything has gone out the window, and the only structure I hope to maintain is nap time, aka the time of day I eat and shower.

Everything else has fallen to the wayside, and that includes you.

letter to my childless friends

So, I’m sorry that when we talk on the phone it is mainly about me and my daughter. (Actually, it is you listening to me yell at my daughter to get down or get something of her mouth, followed by my apology to you.) I’m sorry that when you email me it takes me days—and, sometimes, weeks—to respond. And I’m sorry I text you so many damn pictures of my daughter. The truth is sometimes that is the only way I know how to start a conversation anymore. It is the only way I know how to break the ice. It is the only way I know how to reconnect to you.

I love you. I love the person you are, and I want to know how you are. And so, for that reason, I beg you to keep trying. I know I have no right to ask that: Our friendship shouldn’t rest on your shoulders, but I need you, and this is the only way I can ask for your help.

So, I’m sorry if I seem distracted. I’m sorry if I seem disinterested. I’m sorry if I am distant. Know that my frantic insanity and constant forgetfulness isn’t a reflection of you or my feelings toward our friendship. It is a reflection of me: a new(ish) mom still trying to find her footing, still trying to figure out her new life.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not listening. And it doesn’t mean I don’t care. Because I do. I really, really do. It just may take me a few minutes (or a few years) to get this parenting thing down.

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© 2016 Kimberly Zapata, as first published on Scary Mommy

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