Tomorrow is my birthday. I’ll be 48.
Last night, I dreamed about being homeless, cast away, and shunned because of my flaws. I woke up several times choking, unsure if it was due to allergies or stress. I’m exhausted and dismayed.
Birthdays in the sense that they are indicators of getting older do not bother me I am glad to be aging out of proximity to my younger days and find that there is a lot to look forward to in adulthood, regardless of creaky knees and gray hair.
But I do feel a deep sadness and despair, almost overwhelming in its frightening grip on my sense of self. Last year, I started to explore the traumatic impact of being separated from my parents on my first birthday. I wrote
I don’t know if having said this aloud, I’ll be able to figure it out by October 2018. I hope so, but I’ve also learned that just when I think I’ve figured out the worst things in my lifestory – something new comes to the surface. That’s what happens when you grow up in chaos with addiction, alcoholism, abuse, and lies. Life is hard and seems to get more difficult as you work through the specifics. There’s no big climatic showdown, no resolution, no clearcut dialectical synthesis.
I feel unmoored, subject to the whimsy and will of everyone else. I want to feel special just for a day, but the growing sense of doom and trauma in my real everyday life makes special seem ephemeral, even useless.
My therapist told me that I may just have to endure my birthday each year, that I may not ever find the peace and comfort I’d like to have. It is too deeply connected to my own experiences of chronic trauma. It is not just depression or anxiety. It is tied to these fundamental developmental moments in my life.
There is a thing called birthday depression and it is real. It is sort of like what I experience, but not quite. I’m experiencing a reaction to the months and months of trauma from these past weeks. I’m living a reality where I wasn’t safe at home, school, or church and I’m losing ground in society. Being a disabled person carries a load of pain when your life has been defined by doing good work to help other people. I’m very self-conscious of being not a full contributor to society and having to depend upon other people. It is frightening.
I feel like I deserve every single nasty comment people have hurled my way via the Chick-fil-A sponsorship issue. I deserve the slights and the several times I wasnt invited to participate in something. I deserve the games smarmy men have tried to play with me, the times I’m overlooked for being a woman. I deserve all of it and the world is more than happy to oblige. I deserve it, I think, because of all that happened in the past that no one tried to prevent.
Typically, I would suggest you resist this by taking control and organzing your own celebration. Do small things that are fun and rewarding. But my trauma reaction makes trying to plan anything impossible. I can’t find anything interesting to watch on tv. I can’t taste foods. I can’t pick up the phone or drive myself somewhere. And I if I do, I am faking it to make someone else happy.
I’m so tired that I decided to skip the First Amendment Conference I had signed up for in July. I really wanted to go, but I simply can’t. It hurts to miss it, but it hurts to think about attending. I’d be faking my way through it all day and feel worse when I got home.
If you know someone who isn’t excited about their birthday, consider asking them about it before telling them how to feel/act. For some of us, just getting through is all that we can do.
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