Celebrating the birthdays I didn’t want to have.

C/W: Suicidal thoughts / actions.

I have struggled with the concepts of birthdays since I spent my 19th in the doctor’s office, being diagnosed with mental health issues for the first time. It wasn’t because the birthday experience had been ruined by spending the day in the doctors, crying as I admitted that I didn’t see the point of getting out of bed and simultaneously terrifying my family. It was that for the first time, I didn’t care about reaching another annual milestone. Nor did I understand how I had made it through another year, when I desperately didn’t want to exist. To be frankly morbid, I felt I had failed myself by being alive for another year, when my destructive neurons had managed to convinced me that the alternative was much better.

Looking at birthday celebration pictures from 2016, I see myself smiling with my family in a small Italian restaurant in Covent Garden. The story behind that photograph remains untold, as I had sobbed in bed all afternoon and counted out every tablet I owned. Be it painkillers, antidepressants, hay-fever tablets, or decongestants, they were tipped onto my desk and examined to see if I had enough. Somehow I managed to get dressed that afternoon and went to meet my family, plagued by the consistent feeling of being a fraud and wishing that I didn’t have to celebrate what I saw as my failure.

This thought process has extended into other areas of my lifes, specifically planning for the future. Whilst my peers prepare to graduate and make the next step into adulthood, with a flurry of interviews, masters degrees and travel plans, I remain paralysed with uncertainty. I can see until the 17th of April, the day my last essay is due; and I can see myself retiring to the countryside when I’m wrinkled, with a dog (or three), but the large gap of time between these two events is blank. When I was ill, I never had to plan for the more immediate future. I didn’t think I had one or, for that matter, didn’t want one. Now that I am well and raring to experience life with my re found confidence and enthusiasm, the future feels exciting, yet blurry. The blurriness is mine though, and I welcome it.

I turned 23 today, and was ambushed by my mum and sister outside of uni. They were determined to make my birthday, which coincides with deadline week, as enjoyable as possible. We ate vegan sausage rolls outside Somerset House, went to lunch and cherished the stolen moments we had together. The spring sun warmed my skin and I felt truly lucky that I had been given the chance to celebrate getting another year older. I think that I might just start enjoying birthdays again.

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