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What It’s Like to Be a Mother Contemplating Suicide

It’s been 14 hours since I last contemplated suicide, but you wouldn’t know it. From the outside looking in, I have a good life. I have a happy life — even a picture-perfect life.

I have two beautiful, bright and amazing children. Children who are smart, funny and kind. I have a great job, and a good marriage. I’ve been with my husband (and high school sweetheart) for more than 20 years. And I own a quaint condo in New York City — a two-bedroom, two-bathroom property complete with laundry and parking. But things aren’t always as they seem, and for me, they are far from ideal. That mom my neighbors just saw lying on the floor through the window — the one acting as a jungle gym for her 7-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son — wasn’t doing so to be a good mom, or an engaged mom. She was lying on the floor because she had to. Because it was too painful to get up.

You see, when you’re a mom contemplating suicide, you don’t get the luxury of resting, of decompressing or breathing. You have to keep going. There are diapers to change and lunches to pack. There is laundry to wash and dishes to do, and every five minutes someone wants your attention; they want to play, or they need a snack.

kim zapata and baby

When you’re a mom contemplating suicide, you don’t quiet time or “down time.” You are at the beck and call of a tiny human 24 hours a day, seven days a week — and that can be grating. There is no “me time,” or alone time. There is no respite or retreat. And no matter how tired you are, mentally or physically, you are expected to function. To prepare cereal and watch cartoons, with bright eyes and a bushy tail.

When you’re a mom contemplating suicide, you don’t get to talk about suicide. You are lucky; things are good. You are #blessed, so you smile constantly and swallow the pain. I, for one, regularly speak in a voice that isn’t my own. The tenor is shrill, and the pitch is too high, but I do it so that my children don’t see my struggle. So that no one sees my struggle.

And when you’re a mom contemplating suicide, you miss out on moments and memories. Little laughs cut through you like daggers. The sounds of childhood — of joy — bring you pain. And you just aren’t present.

I cannot tell you how many days I’ve lost to depression. How many ways I’ve missed out on my children’s lives.

Of course, it’s not all bad. My children give me passion and purpose. They keep me going even when I don’t want to — when I want to give up. I don’t want to die, not necessarily. Not per se. But I’m tired of struggling, of fighting. I need an out. I want an escape.

Kim Zapata and daughter

So what can I do? What do I do? Well, like millions of Americans living with mental illness, I keep going. I keep fighting. I speak to my therapist weekly and see my psychiatrist regularly, and I take my meds — meds that keep me balanced and help keep the suicidal thoughts at bay.

I check in with my friends daily. They keep me strong and accountable. They remind me I deserve a good life and a happy life. I deserve my life. And I have a crisis plan, one that tells me who to contact when I’m struggling. It explicitly says what I need to do and when.

Is my strategy fail-proof? No. I’ve been listening to these voices for so long, they are normal. Natural. There’s a part of me that genuinely believes my family would be better off without me — that my children would be better off without me. But my son deserves better; my daughter deserves better. And I deserve better.

So I will fight: for them. For me. For love. For us.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386, or reach Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. You can also head to your nearest emergency room or call 911.

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