many birthdays, many lessons

It’s weird. It’s my birthday eve so to say. I’ve had a great day. My parents, Ben and I headed over to pick up my bed (fondly named the cloud because of it’s incredible comfyness), shop for Christmas CD’s, pick out a pumpkin and eat at PF Changs. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the time. It was a low key way to celebrate but just right.

However, now that I’m home I’m feeling a tad bit…sad? melcholoy? odd? weird? I don’t have the word for it. When we arrived back home I could hear the band playing the half time show. Memories of past birthdays came back. For four years I spent every birthday with the band in some capacity – rehearsals, games, competitions. Since going to band everyday meant facing my tormentors and enduring abuse I didn’t enjoy those birthdays – at least not the way I should have. I would have loved to have had a sweet sixteen. Instead, I shudder to remember how I spent the day.

There were some birthdays in between and then came treatments. I turned twenty-one at Laureate. And I ashamed to say but that birthday was one of the best ones I had in years. I was beginning to thaw and come back to life. I was happy. I was in a safe environment. It makes me sad now to look back and see that at twenty-one instead of having a drink with friends I was crawling around on the floor with a tube in my nose making flubber but at the time I was having a blast. I’ve regretted that birthday many times. And felt like that perhaps I missed out. And maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t have the ‘normal’ twenty-first birthday. But I was happy and safe. And that counts for a lot. That birthday I learned about safety and happiness.

And then twenty-two came. Once again I was in treatment. CFC this time and on caution to boot (caution is basically isolation and twenty-four hour watch) but if I learned about happiness on my twenty-first, this was the birthday I learned about love and relationships. The girls on the IP unit decorated the entire IP unit with signs for my birthday. They weren’t allowed to talk to me but when I got up they were everywhere. They came to the dining hall singing “My Favorite Things”. Again, not allowed to interact with me but they made sure I got the message I was loved. They knew that song was my favorite and they took the time to sing to me. Throughout the day there were smiles, secret messages and hand squeezes. The techs mostly looked the other way and that night I got off caution and was greeted with hugs, smiles and cards. I truly felt surrounded by love. A love I did nothing to earn. That was the birthday I learned about the beauty of relationships.

And twenty-three – my entire family came together to celebrate this first birthday home and in recovery. They came to celebrate me. To let me know they were proud of me and I was loved. They each brought me a magnet which I proudly hung up in my little yellow apartment and will once again when I move next month. I opened my gifts and cherished the simple fact that I was home. I was in between crisis so to say. That fall was hard for me and I spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital but my birthday was a bright spot. A day to celebrate. This birthday I learned that it was okay to acknowledge my progress.

This birthday? Twenty-four. What will I learn? I don’t know. Ben sits by me on the couch. I am comforted by him and was reminded again tonight at the restaurant how much he helps me. My anxiety rose there and simply having his weight on my foot calmed and steadied me. I remained present and enjoyed my meal. Tomorrow will be a quiet day ending with a celebration with a few family members and I’m looking forward to it. I’m sure I will take something away from this birthday (more than my depressed feeling that 24 is becoming old) but like previous birthdays I might not know what that is until later. So I’ll write again next year and let you know what I’ve figured out.

And now – I’m off to spend my last few hours as a twenty-three year old hanging out with my dog.

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2 Comments

Filed under coping skills, family, friends, Hope, Identity, life events, New Life, Recovery, the past, trauma

2 responses to “many birthdays, many lessons

  1. Pamela Alida

    I love this. I too have spent the last three birthdays in treatment or the hospital. My 21st last year was definitely not at all the “normal” 21 year old birthday. I also have the pleasure of having my birthday fall on exam week every year (not that I have been really doing any studying during it haha)

    I remember your birthday snack- Pumpkin Smoothies! I remember being so pissed a the time (but hey… it was only my third day there and I hadn’t even gotten the chance to talk to you yet and find out how awesome you are! (Although from the rest of the unit, it was pretty clear that everyone loved you!)

    Anyways my dear, I hope this birthday is super amazing. Expect a birthday text from me in approximately 38 minutes because it will be your birthday here in good ol’ CT!

    Love you lots ❤

  2. I hope this birthday is the best yet. Don’t regret the birthdays in treatment – like you said, you learned something. I turned twenty seven in treatment this year (at CFC) and like you said, I learned a lot about love and relationships. Each birthday offers something new and each year is another chance to look back and see the progress you’ve made and everything you’ve learned.

    You have taught me a lot. I know you will look back on your twenty third year and see lots of growth and insight.

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