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It’s my 23rd birthday today. Hurrah! Last year I turned 22 on the 22nd, and that was pretty cool, but this year I feel HAPPY on my HAPPY BIRTHDAY and that is even more exciting, because it hasn’t happened for a long time.
For years (like, over a decade), I have approached birthdays with trepidation because they signalled that yet another year had passed and I still wasn’t ‘enough’. I wasn’t thin enough, good enough, happy enough, smart enough. And I’d have to pretend to be happy, but I really wasn’t, and the Negative Voice would be turned up to 11, shouting things like, ‘You suck! Why are you still here? You don’t deserve to live!’ and people would be taking photos and I was supposed to be smiling and URGH. It sucked.
In 2009, I was so strung out by the depression and constantly pretending to be happy that, about two weeks prior to my 20th birthday, I attempted suicide. I was in a coma for about a week and when I woke up I was completely freaked out. This wasn’t the plan! I was supposed to be dead! Except I wasn’t. I was alive and none of the problems had gone away, in fact a lot of things got worse during that time. I had to hand over independence and control to CATT teams, psychs, my parents. I had to live in a body that was retching from the assault of a serious chemical overdose. I had to be vulnerable to people who had previously only seen my ‘happy mask’. And I had to face facts: something in me wanted to live, something in me had reached out for help. I was going to be in this life for the long haul.
So I decided to embrace that idea. Yes, I would struggle. Yes, my body is never going to be at my ideal weight (a hard thing to achieve when ‘ideal weight’ translates to ‘dead’). Yup, I would probably never measure up to the Negative Voice’s expectations. But I would live, and I would try my best at it, and that would be enough. I would be enough.
The three years since have been…hard. Like trying to reprogram myself. Learning how to live in and with my body, rather than trying to destroy it. Learning to ask for help, and then accept that help. The whole time, I have been impatient, constantly thinking, ‘When will I feel better? When will I wake up each day and not feel suicidal?’. The answer seems to be- Some days. Not always, but some days will be wonderful, and those ones will help you live through the others. If somebody had told me that three years ago, I don’t think I would have been strong enough to cope with the idea of life being a complicated/ wonderful/ awful mix. It was all or nothing back then. I’ve had to live through it to realise it’s possible to live in shades of grey (with the occasional rainbow), and that it’s worth it.
So this year, instead of looking back over twelve months and seeing all the things I haven’t done, I can reflect on all that I have. And that feels ABSOLUTELY FUCKING WONDERFUL. To the point where I am smiling. Happy to eat out in public with my family (!). Humbled by all the well-wishing messages from my friends. And so, so glad that I didn’t give in that day three years ago. It feels good to be alive.