Tag Archives: birthday

25

I’m turning 25 next Monday (the 28th). I’ve always loved my birthday. I love gifts. I love ripping open presents and finding out what’s inside. I don’t really care if it’s something from the dollar bin at target or something expensive from my Amazon wishlist I just love the feeling of tearing back the paper and seeing something I know I’ll cherish. I’m a stuff girl. I like my things and you can say that my apartment (soon to be house!) is more than a little cluttered. I keep what people give me.

Having said that –  this birthday is not one I’m particularly looking forward to. Twenty-five sounds old to me. A quarter of a decade. An age where it is assumed most people are through college, moving through graduate school, married, looking towards children, working on a career or doing a dozen other “adult’ like things. And me? I’m just not there yet.

Perhaps more unsettling is that I just can’t seem to add up the number of birthdays to 25. There was 16 spent on the field at Thursday band practice where the entire band sang to me, there was 17 at the Neeowallh marching band competition where my cousin tried hard to make it special but let’s be honest that whole school year just totally sucked, 18 was pretty lame also lost among band things but I did buy a lottery ticket, 19 was spent at college with the JACKASS, 20 was spent at college as well on a pretty sad day (but I wore a nice outfit I remember) and oh yeah 21 and 22. Those were the treatment birthdays.

Those are the two years I get hung up on. Where I loose the two years. Honestly, it seems to me like I should be turning 23 instead of 25. It’s not that those two birthday’s weren’t special. They were oh so special. My friends and family ensure that they were. My 21st birthday at Laureate was so unlike any other 21st birthday but was what I needed then. I spent it in a safe environment making flubber with other treatment friends, visiting with family who made a special trip to see me and even included a beautiful “cake” (see picture below – the nurse about had a heart-attack). I was very ill but I was happy. Happier than I had been for the past several birthdays. I had nutrition in my body, I felt safe and I had a future to look forward to. But the fact of the matter was – I was locked away from the world. Literally.

And then 22. That was at The Center for Change. Again, this birthday was special and unique. A memory I’ll probably cherish forever. I started the day on caution (basically isolation) but the girls made signs and hung them everywhere, sang “My Favorite Things” to me and passed me secret message throughout the day. My family left phone messages and I got off isolation late in the day and opened tons of well thought out perfect presents.

So the birthdays? They were great but nothing can erase the fact of the matter that I wasn’t living. I was existing and somedays fighting with the very people who were trying to keep me alive. And more days than not of those two years I either wanted to be dead or were making choices that were getting me one step closer to death. So you see I feel like I lost two years. I had two great birthdays but I really didn’t get to live into 21 and 22. And so when people ask me my age I often forget and do have to pause and think “oh yeah…I’m 24 almost 25”.

I could say that I’ll pretend that this is my 23rd birthday and forget that I’m turning 25 but I don’t think I’ll do that. I think it dishonors my past but more importantly I think it forces me to minimize the deadly consequences of my eating disorder. I’ve been too close to stepping back over that ledge into anorexia lately and I need to remember that the reality is that an eating disorder takes away life. Years of life because it wasn’t only those two years I lost. I really lost all the way from 16 on up. I just was coexisting with an eating disorder and the world instead of being hospitalized.

So I’ll blow out my candles and remember that I’m 25. I’m 25 not 23 because I lost some years to an eating disorder. But I’m also 25 because I survived. Because I found my way OUT of an eating disorder. Otherwise I wouldn’t be celebrating this birthday at all. I wouldn’t be celebrating any birthday. So there is a two edged sword to this birthday – both a celebration of life and a stark reminder of time lost. And I need both.

 

See…told you I’ve always loved my birthday

 

Sometime around one of my high-school birthdays - looking hot in the marching band uniform (Chris you can thank me later)

Sometime around one of my high-school birthdays – looking hot in the marching band uniform (Chris you can thank me later)

Blowing Candles

My sad (but nice outfit) college birthday

This was my 21st birthday "cake" at treatment. It's covered in notecards from  family with sweet messages, quotes and stickers. I still have the cards. One of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

This was my 21st birthday “cake” at treatment. It’s covered in notecards from family with sweet messages, quotes and stickers. I still have the cards. One of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

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Filed under body image, eating disorder, eating disorders, family, friends, Hope, Identity, life events, Life Story, New Life, Recovery, survivor, the past

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

i am 23

 

I am 23. It sounds old to me. Don’t worry I know it’s not but it honestly does sound old. I still feel, oh somewhere around nineteen. I suppose that’s because that is the age when I got really sick. My life has taken many different turns that a ‘normal’ twenty-three year old’s has but I believed I have ended up where I needed to be.

My birthday was beyond special. I had my family gathered around me. I felt cherished and loved. I was happy. In many ways this was a milestone for me. A birthday where I’m happy. A birthday where I had a real cake (I had a fake one at Laureate) that I ate  (well actually Oreo Dessert – soooooo good) and enjoyed it and even had seconds. A birthday where I chose how to spend my day and was actual free!

Somethings never change though. Like all my past birthday’s my cousin David was there to ‘help’ me open my gifts. I passed my cards and gifts around as is our family tradition and hid my money from greedy cousin hands. I laughed at my family’s comments. My mother started giving me little gifts five days before my birthday and I chose a place to eat lunch out.

It was comforting to realize that something’s never change. I still am Miss Kate and Kater. My family loves to give me dog things (thanks for my pooper scooper bags Papa :D) and Grandma gives little thoughtful gifts. In many ways I felt that I was experiencing the joy that I had missed from many birthday’s past. And as I enjoyed my day I realized that this is how life is meant to be lived. With an appreciation for a year full of growth and anticipation for the future.

And I ended up not wishing on the candles. I didn’t know what to wish for. I feel as if what I have wished for in years past is slowly coming true. And I can’t ask for anything more.

My "cake" from Laureate for my 21st birthday. My family covered it with cards and well wishes.

My cake this year. A real cake with real candles!

Like I said. Somethings never change. He helped me at four and he helped me at 23.

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Filed under family, friends, Identity, Independence, life events, New Life, Recovery

checked in.

Being sick let’s you check out of life. Getting well means you have to check back in.”  – Portia De Rossi

The quote I have written above is from Unbearable Lightness, a memoir, by Portia De Rossi and her struggle with Anorexia. I don’t normally read autobiographical accounts of eating disorder suffers but I had heard good enough reviews about the book that I was willing to read it. Thankful it was not another Wasted, which is known as the relapse book of the eating disorder world. Portia had surprisingly deep insights into her illness and the way it affects all of it’s suffers. For me I was primarily hit by the quote above.

When I got sick life stopped. It moved on for everyone else but I stood in a time warp where all I did was starve, exercise, count calories repeat. It’s strange but when I tell someone I am twenty-two, almost twenty-three, it feels very wrong. I spent two years very ill and in treatment and to me it still sometimes seems like I should be nineteen. I was checked out of life during those two years. In many ways time did stop for me.

Now as I am home again and filling my life with meaningful activities (not disordered ones) life has come back. I have “checked back in”. I have talked a lot about how exciting this is, how it means I’m growing up and moving forward and how it is a symbol of the recovery I have worked towards but I have left out how hard this has been.

I have been so used to not being fully present in life with a brain numbed by anxiety, depression or starvation that at times being checked into life seems so painful that I wander if it’s worth it. I always answer yes but I struggle with this question a lot. I love my new job. I love the fact I will have an apartment soon. I love that my life is changing. However, I’m still getting used to the other parts of being checked back into life. The parts that aren’t so fun such as emotions.

Being checked into life means I have to feel. I have to feel pain again. I have to feel worry again. Anger. Sadness. Irriation. Insecurity. Doubt and the list goes on. These feelings were by and large gone when I was sick and by living I have to confront them again. I know I get to experience happiness. Joy. Peace. Hope. Love etc. but I also have to feel the hard feelings again. No longer can I just “check out” from them. And that is very new and a very foreign feeling to me. I know it’s right. I know it is huge progress but I cannot deny the struggle I have on a day to day basis to remember that this life is so much better than my old “checked out” one. But I do remind myself and I do go on.

And so, life goes forward. I go forward. I get to have a real birthday. And I’ll be happy as I blow out the candles. But I’ll also feel some sadness as I remember previous birthdays in which I felt nothing at all. The point is is that I’ll be feeling. And that signifies that I’m living. I’m checked in again.

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Filed under depression, eating disorder, eating disorders, Identity, Independence, Job, life events, quotes, Recovery, the past