Birthdays can be hard for anyone. When you’re young, turning older is exciting, but as you become an adult, getting older seems scary. With another year comes another year to dread. The body begins to age, aches begin to surface, health problems rise, energy levels decrease, and bumps, bulges and sags develop. Many dread their birthdays. It’s easy to get depressed about becoming another year older. For people with mental illness, it’s another day to remind them of their life of darkness; another year they’re living at the bottom of the whole; another year they’re reminded of what a mistake their life is.
I grew up in a big family. My grandma had eight children and twenty-seven grand kids. My grandparents made a big deal out of every holiday and especially birthdays. To them there was no such thing as being too old to celebrate your special day. The family, who lived close by, all gathered together to celebrate. It was like one person’s birthday was a holiday. As a child I couldn’t count on friends showing up to my party, but I always knew my family would be there.
In college when I became depressed, I wanted to cancel my special day. To me it was another reminder that God made a mistake putting me on earth. I couldn’t find joy in moving forward into another year of mental anguish, deep sadness, and endless hopelessness. Why was I even born, anyway? Did God put me on earth to suffer? Why celebrate another year at the bottom of my hole?
My parents refused to let me stop celebrating. We no longer celebrated with my aunts and uncles, but my grandparents still came. My older sister, who was married, came and there were my parents and younger siblings. It was still a big thing to my family. I put on a fake smile while they sang to me, I blew out my candles and made a silent wish and I opened my gift pretending to be excited. Nothing made me feel good inside. Not even the laughter of my family or the love that went into their gifts.
It wasn’t until I reached recovery that I realized why my family made birthdays so special. Birthdays to them were more than just becoming another year older. It was and is a celebration of life, the life God gave us and the blessing of each year we are still on this earth reaching out and touching others’ lives and creating memories. It’s also a way your family can show you how you filled their lives with happiness and how much they love you. It’s celebrating with the friends whose lives you have impacted.
Now that I am in recovery, my birthday is even more special. Why? When I was depressed, I made several attempts on my life. I could have died, yet I never succeeded. I may have never made it another year, but God kept me alive. He wouldn’t give up on me. Now each year is a celebration of being alive and making it another year while still in recovery. It’s a celebration of overcoming the hardest battle of my life and for the chance to live in the light.
Celebrating with family and friends means the world to me. I’m celebrating the life God gave me with the people who mean the most to me. Knowing that people love me and support me despite my flaws is special to me. I’m alive because I fought hard, I’m alive because of my friends and families support and I am alive because I have a purpose to fulfill. God didn’t allow me to die for a reason.
Don’t look at your birthday as another year you’re getting older. Look at it as a celebration of life given to you by God, the life you keep living, and the road to recovery or life within recovery. Even if your soul is dark and the world seems hopeless, think of your birthday as a chance to keep fighting for the light, for a new beginning, and for recovery. Celebrate your birthday with the people you love the most. It doesn’t have to be a big celebration, but celebrate and know there is a reason you’re alive for another year.
Thursday I celebrated my birthday with friends and family. Seventeen people showed up. It was more than a birthday. It was a celebration of my life, a celebration of my recovery, a celebration of all God allowed me to accomplish, and a celebration of the love of friends and family. I may have turned another year older, but I also lived another year in happiness. I thank God for giving me life and keeping me alive even when I didn’t want to live. This year I celebrated not another year older, but another year that I am standing strong and tall within the light.