(I’m so sorry. That was terrible. Take as long as you need to cringe, I’ll just wait here).
Ok, all done? I can’t believe you stayed. Give yourself a round of applause for being so tolerant of my awful humor. You are truly a saint. So anyway, why have I chosen THE worst pun in the history of terrible puns as today’s title? Because the worst day of the year is swiftly approaching, and my dread is gurgling more noisily in my chest with every passing day.
May 28th. My birthday.I can’t even begin to describe the feeling that settles over me every year when I wake up and remember it’s my birthday. For most of the year, my depression and anxiety bubble away inside a little pot in my chest. If I don’t keep a watchful eye on it, the pot boils over, and I’m left with a sloppy, sticky mess of sadness and panic to clean up. It can take days, weeks, even months to scrub the mess away and get the pot back to a gentle simmer, but eventually I get there. My birthday is a different story. After I’ve fallen asleep on the night of the 27th, those fiendish friends Depression and Anxiety turn the temperature up as high as it will go. I wake up on the morning of the 28th to a black, charred, smoking lump, glued to the bottom of the pot, and no amount of chiseling will remove it. I am shrouded in the acrid smoke for the day. Every breath I take tastes of despair.
Last year was the worst birthday so far. You know how in books, they’ll say something like “she heard a wailing noise, and didn’t realise it was coming from her own mouth”? I’ve always scoffed slightly at the idea – how can you possibly not know you’re making a sound? Turns out, it’s totally legit. That day I experienced the most terrifying panic attack of my life. I was choking on my sobs, I couldn’t breathe, and I could hear a low keening in the background which turned out to be coming from me. My distraught mother rushed to the pharmacy and bought a sedative, and I spent the rest of the day away in blissful unconsciousness.
So why do some people dread their birthday so much?
The memory of last year is fresh in my brain, and I can feel the dread growing and growing as the 28th looms. I’m not entirely sure why I hate my birthday so much, but I do know that I’m not the only one who experiences this, and I have a few theories:
- Low Self-Esteem: Since I’m not the greatest fan of myself (I’m trying, promise!), I find it incredibly difficult when the spotlight is placed on me for too long. I feel like I don’t have anything to show for my 23 years on the planet, and it stresses me out when people are focusing on me and my meagre list of achievements for an entire day. I get embarrassed about the attention and end up making an even bigger idiot of myself.
- Social Media: This is a biggie. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc are all platforms where most of us exhibit only the best parts of our lives. I’m certainly guilty of this myself – most of my Facebook friends would be extremely surprised to hear of my struggles with mental health. When I scroll through my newsfeed, often I am presented with a sprinkle of photos from someone’s birthday, showing them surrounded by friends and family, laughing, smiling, enjoying their day. Their page will be full of hundreds of birthday wishes, telling them what a special and wonderful human being they are and how they’ve enriched the lives of everyone they know. It is so, SO easy to compare ourselves to these people on social media, and feel like a worthless nobody when you don’t get as much praise heaped upon you.
- Family Circumstances: The last good birthday I remember having was when I turned twelve. I was living in Iqaluit – in the Canadian Arctic – with my parents, brother and sister. We played Pictionary and ate chocolate cake. I got some polar bear earrings. We laughed a lot. We smiled and danced and sang karaoke. This was the last birthday where my parents were still together, and I think the event of their divorce has contributed to my hatred of my birthday. It doesn’t matter so much now, as an adult, but when I was younger I had to choose which parent I would spend the day with. I had to hurt someone’s feelings no matter what, so I began to view the day as something to get through as quickly as possible.
Do any of these sound familiar to you? I hope to goodness that you enjoy your birthday, but if you don’t, perhaps one or more of these reasons might strike a chord with you. Please let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas about possible causes of birthday blues!
This year, I am determined to make the best of my birthday. If I can get through the day without crying, I will consider it a success… baby steps people! I talked to my psychologist about it, and she suggested that I talk to friends and family and ask that they treat it as a totally normal day. I LOVE celebrating other people’s birthdays, and I know it can be hard to resist making a big deal, but I am just going to tell them that the greatest gift they can give me is normality. I’m still dreading it, and I don’t know if I this will be the year I manage to conquer my hatred, but I’m going to try damn hard.
Does anyone else suffer from the birthday blues? If so, has it always been that way, or did something bring it on? Just putting these words on the page is helping me muddle through my feelings about it, so if anyone wants to chat about it or anything else I am always here for you 🙂 It helps to talk about these things!
All my love and thanks for reading,