My First Birthday in Years

I prefer my cake without your spittle, but thanks.

I don’t know when it started, but I suppose it makes a lot of sense. I have spent most of my life developing a strong sense of self-hate, embarrassed by my existence, judging my lack of “lived” life and goals, and basically despising myself for being alive. So the idea of celebrating my birth and continued existence in this world with a “year to grown on” has always seemed silly and hypocritical.

I don’t really like holidays in general. There’s a part of me that gets so nervous: there’s all this pressure for that day. Like, on New Year’s – this is THE day out of 365 that I’m supposed to reflect on my life goals and make plans for the future? Thanksgiving – ugh. Here’s a day, out of 365, that I was supposed to stop, look at all the people around me, and think of all I had to be grateful for and how lucky I was and how others deserve the same but do not have it? What an IMMENSE amount of pressure for a day. It always seemed to me those days should just sort of happen throughout the year, in random moments rather than set times.

So I have a tendency to avoid those kind of holidays or at least avoid them until the last possible second before everyone arrives and I have to put on my clown costume and smile. The only ones I did like were these “holidays” my mom called “Just Because” days. When we were growing up, she would wake us up and tell us we could sleep in – we didn’t have to go to school. And then we could hang out with her that day – I don’t even remember what we did. But given that she worked quite a bit, it was so special to have the day to spend with her, no matter what we did. And it wasn’t on a specific day – it was just a random day (at least it seemed for us) where we got to make that day special and have fun.

But my birthday – that’s the worst of all. After spending an entire year running from my desires, being lonely, hating my body, my face, my personality, my life. After a year of feeling as if I am missing opportunities to grow, to experience, to find joy. After a year of and wanting, waiting and hoping to die. Well, after all that, the idea of getting together to “celebrate” me just seemed rather depressing. Woohoo – another year wasted; another year of burdening others; another year of pain! Here’s to the next!

In fact, if anything, my birthday has come to serve as a horrible marker in my depression. It was a day were I reflected on where I was, who I was, and how incredibly miserable I was in both of those dimensions. Unemployed, overweight, living at home, miserable, unable to leave the house. Perhaps not the best circumstances to “reflect” on. Also, during my depressive episodes, my birthdays have always served as expiration dates. A month before I turned 30 was the first time I decided I was going to commit suicide. I decided I would not turn 30 being the person I was. I panicked and made the minor (but helpful) “mistake” of telling some people. I began ECT a few weeks after my 30th birthday. About a year and a half ago, I sat my mom down and told her that if I was still in as much pain as I was then when I was 35, I was going to end it. Not because she didn’t do enough, not because I didn’t love her, but because I was tired and that just seemed like an age where it seemed fair to give up. (Needless to say, she disagreed with my “thoughtful and rational” idea.) Sometimes I tell myself that if this medication stops working and I hit rock bottom again, I’m not doing this anymore. I’m just too exhausted to keep trying.

Therefore, I have adamantly protested any “celebration” on the day of my birthday. In the past few years, we have agreed to stop mentioning my birthday on the day of. My family promised not to say anything or send cards. I might get a “gift” in the mail the week earlier or the week after, but with no acknowledgement of the birthday – more of a “love you” gift. My friends are harder to tame but given that I live 3,000 miles away from them, it does make a “surprise” party harder.

So, I am turning 34 in two and a half weeks. I’m not going to have a party. I don’t plan on making the day a romp around town, treating myself all day to elaborate “pleasures” of food and beauty. I’m not going to try and dress up or put on extra makeup or spend the day reflecting (ok, I probably will but I’d rather not.) I am not planning on blowing out candles and will not be making a wish. (I’m still not ready for “optimism” or thoughts of “the future.” Baby steps, people.)

But I think it would be nice to go out to dinner somewhere comfortable where I enjoy the food. Maybe I’ll make a yummy vegan cake and once again laugh at why everyone is so surprised when it tastes good. Maybe I’ll let someone take a picture of me, even if I know I’m not going to like it. I’m going to try and pick up the phone if someone calls to wish me a happy birthday. I’m going to thank people who email me. I will open cards and appreciate the love within them even though it is still a struggle to not protest their thoughts.

I think I kind of hope people wish me a happy birthday this year. Because while my life is still a chaotic mess of confusion, chaos, and clusterfucks – and while maybe next year I won’t want to celebrate – for now, I am grateful for the people around me; for the opportunities of growth I have had this year; for the strength and personal compassion I have found within myself; the decisions I have made; and the way I have handled disappointment and stress.

Happy birthday to me.

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Jealousy: She’s a Bitch, But I Love Her Shoes…

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I would never call myself a jealous person…but I am. When I was a kid, I was jealous of the wealthy people at my school: their ski trips, houses in San Francisco, nice cars. I was jealous of the thin girls, the pretty girls, the smart girls, and the seemingly “happy girls”.

But my jealousy has “evolved” with my disorder. I’m not jealous of your clothes or your money, I’m jealous that you don’t have a mental illness. And let’s get this out of the way: jealousy is illogical, moronic, and unfounded 98% of the time. All humans are fucked up and most things are not as they seem. But that’s not what my irrational, dark, angry, “emotional” mind thinks. (In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy a.k.a. DBT, they call irrational thinking your “emotional” mind. The healthier thoughts are from your “wise” mind. And yes, they fight ALL the time and technically are both true. Don’t worry, more on that later.)

But just because something’s wrong, doesn’t mean we don’t do it. Just because I know someone has shit in their life, doesn’t mean I still can’t think I’d rather have their shit than mine, which is covered with a thick layer of bipolar II to boot. Your car broke down and that sucks; but when my car breaks down, I am too anxious to call the repairman if I’m alone. So, I have to call someone to come before I can even make the call, let alone get it fixed. What’s that? Ah yes, the sound of whining; a common companion to jealousy. It is also moronic, unfounded and childish. But it happens. So let’s continue…

At this point in my life, that’s what my jealousy is all about – why do I have to be the “sick” one? Most of the time, I look at people without a mental illness and I think: if only I didn’t have this voice in the back of my head, I could be like that person. I AM that person, I just can’t BE that person because of this illness. Without this illness, I am an extrovert at heart. When I was a child, I loved being loud, getting attention, and being around people. I wanted to either be an actress, comedian or journalist. But with this illness, I have become an introvert – even exhausted by personal exchanges. For example, if I have coffee with someone, that’s my talking/smiling/engagement quotient for the day. I have days where I literally cannot leave the house. If I can, I can’t go to CVS and buy personal products in public. And if I can get to CVS, I find myself having a full-blown panic attack with profuse sweating, overactive breathing, tunnel vision, and eye-contact avoidance – unless I end up turning around and asking my mom to go inside for me instead. But at that point, I’d rather have a broken down car.

When I’m feeling better, I feel the real me come alive, take ownership: the person that loves talking to her friends, helping people across the street, making eye contact and smiling, talking loudly, and being the center of attention. And I want to just be that person. I mean, I am that person but now I have to monitor how much I allow her to be out and about. I have to ask myself: am I actually having a hypomanic episode? Will this engagement burn me out into a depressive episode? And at that point, fuck jealousy, I’m just pissed that I have to even worry about this at all. (Cue whining violin…again.)

So go ahead and wear uncomfortable heels, show off those kick-ass legs, and brag to me about where you went to college, how amazing your job is, or how hot your boyfriend is. I’m not competitive, I had to let that go long ago. I just wish I could imagine a life where I could have those expectations, and not have my emotional mind laugh in my face and push me down again. And I suppose to rid this jealousy in the long term it will be about accepting my new expectations of myself and my lifestyle. At least that’s what my wise mind tells me.