On This Day

AngelBirthdays are often triggering affairs for me, and, from what I’ve read on others’ blogs, I’m not alone.

My life is littered with many unfortunate birthdays. When I was a child, I had the obligatory sorts of parties. There were play places. A skating rink, even though I could barely skate (and I can’t skate now), so I hugged the wall.

These were awkward affairs. None of the people there were really my friends–just classmates. They brought gifts I’m sure their parents picked out to go along with the routine. We gathered around when it was time for cake, party favors, and presents. But I was mostly left alone.

During high school, I spent my birthdays thinking about what perfect days they were for attempting suicide.

When I turned 16, I got nothing for my birthday. (To be fair, I was supposed to get a joint birthday-Christmas present.) No one even bought me a cake. I was upset by that, mostly for sentimental reasons. My family acted like I’d wanted the cake just so I could eat it; they ridiculed how devastated I felt.

The day I turned 17, I was again alone. It was a Friday, and I volunteered somewhere after school. Again, the other people in the club didn’t really talk to me. I remember that, when I was done, my mom and her husband took me out to get pizza. That was the most celebratory activity that day. While we were on the way there, my dad called and yelled at me because I hadn’t gone home. I don’t remember why he wanted me to go home.

My 21st birthday was lackluster. I was in my senior year in college, and I had only two friends, one of whom didn’t drink. The other one did, though, so we went and bought some liquor and drank while we played board games. Quite the exciting 21st birthday experience. (It pains me to think of this friend now, because at the end of my senior year, we had a big fight that effectively ended our friendship. I’d begun sliding downhill fast that year, and I’d confided so much in her. But still, there was no forgiveness. Is it a wonder I don’t trust people?)

My 23rd birthday was the worst one in recent memory. My 22nd birthday was fabulous, and the loneliness, the despair of this one contrasted sharply with what life had been like only a year ago. It was a Saturday, and all I did was sit at home. Only about five people told me happy birthday on Facebook. Yes, I did count, and maybe that was a silly matter to put stock in. But it was as if I’d been completely forgotten. I was deeply caught in the throes of the big break, and only a heartfelt letter from my brother kept me from attempting the suicide I’d been planning.

On my 25th birthday, more people sent me birthday wishes on Facebook, which I found surprising since I didn’t live near any of my Facebook friends anymore. But no one at work remembered it was my birthday. They always remember people’s birthdays. Again, I felt like no one there must’ve liked me. I gave a huge hint at the end of the day shortly before I left, an action that made me feel pathetic.

**********

But there have also been a smattering of good birthdays.

The 22nd birthday I mentioned, for one. It happened during my first year in grad school. Someone threw me a surprise birthday party, and I was very surprised. Perhaps it was because everyone loves a good party, but it was still nice. Everyone seemed to enjoy my company. I finally felt like I had friends, that I belonged somewhere. Like I had a home. I got properly drunk for one of the few times in my life. But it wasn’t like a frat boy type of drinking atmosphere. It was all very chill, relaxed, and I loved that.

My 24th birthday was on 10/10/10. I admit it–I’d been looking forward to that birthday for at least 2 years, mostly because of the exciting date. But I’d moved back in with my family, and I didn’t have any friends around. Most of the few acquaintances I had in high school had long moved away from my hometown. But my dad, his wife, my brother, and I went out to a nice dinner, and I was content with that.

Then there was my last birthday, 5 days ago. When I became closer to 30 than to 20. People at work actually remembered my birthday this time! There was a cookie cake, and I was given a large portion to take home. I don’t have any friends where I live, so I didn’t expect much in the way of Facebook activity, but I received a few wishes there. People in the blogosphere who knew about my birthday also sent me wishes. My mom sent me a touching note that surprised me. My dad wrote a nice message in my birthday card.

So, despite the fact that it was a Wednesday, it was a good day.

**********

Birthdays can be triggering for many different reasons. They trigger me because they provoke feelings related to my deepest insecurities. I’m always afraid that I’m not well-liked, that I will be rejected and forgotten. So even though I shy away from attention, I want my birthday to be acknowledged.

This year, I wasn’t doing too well in the days that led up to my birthday. I don’t think it had anything to do with the approaching date, but who knows?

Strangely enough, my birthday brought me out of my spell. I’d been feeling disconnected, and having the right people recognize my birthday showed me that I might’ve overestimated the disconnect.

I suspect that’s why birthdays can be triggering for many of us. When they go right, we feel valued. But when they go wrong, we feel wretched; we feel worthless.

© Angel Fractured and A Canvas Of The Minds 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Angel Fractured and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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20 thoughts on “On This Day

  1. Birthdays seem to be triggering events for a lot of people. I’m not sure if it’s a Dx thing, or if it’s for everyone. I noticed that my husband had a trigger for his birthday this year, because it was a landmark birthday in his life. There were a lot of things that happened prior to, during, and after. It was really quite the deal. I don’t quite understand the landmark birthday frenzy, but I do understand the birthday trigger.

    My birthdays have been nothing but disaster. Every good thing turned out to be a horrible thing. I had my first big party after my son was born. It was really the first one in my entire life. And it turned to disaster fast. I ended up entirely too drunk and under a table. I sat on the stairs and cried while another friend held me. And my husband was gone half of the night because he ended up getting lost in the snow, on foot, on the way to the store. (Because he was entirely too drunk too).

    That wasn’t the worst of them. The dog I got for my birthday one year ended up getting parvo and almost dying. She wrecked the living room with her excretions and ended up being a major burden to my husband. Less than three months later, we rehomed her, mostly against my sentiment. I knew it was best for her, but I cared about her. She made me happy.

    Last year, I decided that I was done with birthdays, once and for all. But, I can’t seem to shake that little wish that people would remember. My own mother forgot, and my mother-in-law actually called in the morning for a change. I cried. Not a birthday passes where I don’t cry.

    I’m determined this year. I’m ready for it. My birthday falls on a Monday, which is the worst day of the week for it to possibly fall on. No matter what I’m doing, no matter where I am, January 14th will not be another day. It will be my special day of reflection. My day to get in touch with me. Not a day for others to celebrate my life, but for me to celebrate my own.

    • That’s a nice way to acknowledge your birthday. I feel like Wednesdays are often worse than Mondays, lol. I get the milestone, but it’s not something that triggers me that much. Your story about the dog reminded me of one of my childhood birthdays.

      My mom got me a puppy, and it was one of the few dog breeds that I actually liked. She was so cute! But my brother’s German shepherd didn’t get along with her, and it might’ve eventually been dangerous for her, so my mom gave her away. I was very upset by that.

      Since I am insecure, and my worst triggers are being forgotten or rejected, I know I want people to remember, but they often don’t. That’s what usually makes my birthdays unpleasant–I don’t know many people, so few people remember, often even the ones I do know.

      • I’m so sorry to hear you had a similar experience. It’s hearbreaking, and it feels like someone took something away from you. I really felt that way.

        I have the same trigger. I know it stems from this need for approval as a way to support my failing self-esteem. I’ve had to defuse it, and in a more healthy way than I used to. I tell myself constantly, “Your self-worth does not hinge on the opinions of others.” It doesn’t. I have to be a self-sustaining person. That’s all there is to it. Because if I don’t take the time to nurture myself, who will? I can’t depend on others for it. I have to find ways to assure myself.

        That’s why the birthday thing is so important to me. I have to find ways to celebrate myself and my life. I can’t put it up against something or someone else. I used to feel pangs of jealousy when I’d think about all of the wonderful birthday parties my husband has had. We always arrange something where almost everyone comes out. It’s always the event of the year.

        I realized that it has nothing to do with my birthday, although it feels like it. His birthday falls in the spring, whereas mine falls in the dead of winter. No one wants to come out in Pennsylvania winter. I realized that no one calls my husband on his birthday either. They just come out for the rocking party on Saturday following or prior. It’s not me after all.

        People are clueless and mindless. They aren’t mindful of others, because they are too interested in their own wants and needs. As well we should be, but not to the extremes that they are. And that’s how people like us have such difficulty with birthdays, and plenty of other things too.

  2. The most important line in here to me was “I might’ve overestimated the disconnect”. Hubby is always telling me that healthy people don’t need constant connection to feel their own self-worth. If he gets overlooked, he assumes people are busy, not that he is worthless. I’m trying to think that way, but it is foreign to me. Happy Birthday to you!

    • Thanks! Maybe people don’t need constant connection to have self-worth, but surely people need *some* connection to feel valuable? I felt like I had no connection to anyone at all, like we were separated by this infinitely tall wall. I know that oftentimes people overlook others because they’re busy, but if no one else is ever overlooked but you, well, that feels a little more personal.

  3. I honestly can’t remember whether I did or not so I’ll wish you a belated Happy birthday now 🙂 I’m glad this one was one of the good ones! I do not make a fuss about my birthday, it was always during the school holidays and like you I always felt people didn’t want to be there but did because they were obligated to during primary school and during high school I gave up asking.
    I even this year told my siblings that I no longer expected gifts nor was I going to give them any for theirs. To me my Birthday is just another day and the more I think of it as such the easier it is to handle when it comes around. xx

    • Thanks! My brother’s is around a certain holiday, too. I’m sentimental, so I want birthday gifts . . . well, not gifts necessarily, but some wishes at least. I also like to buy people things for their birthday. I feel like it is a special day, coming only once a year, and so should be acknowledged. I think one time I made a bigger deal of my sister’s birthday than she did, lol.

      • I still give them cards and see them (well myparents, brother and sister-in-law at least) but it was just getting silly, we had no idea what to get each other but felt like we had to and I finally said I’d had enough of the fakery (this was mostly due to my sister if it wasn’t for her I’d probably still happily be buying everyone gifts) we’re all getting old and have enough tat in our houses without a birthday adding to it lol. I’m still doing the certain holiday later in the year though I have become rather grinchy 😉

        • We could always just get each other money, lol. Or gift cards. I like getting money from others because then I can use the gifted-ness of it to justify making frivolous purchases.

          • That’s what we ended up doing! It just felt a bit silly to pass a tenner backwards and forwards lol…you’re right though it is nice to have money that you see as ‘free’ to spend on the little things that aren’t needed 😉

  4. Happy belated birthday!!! I wish you only the very best. May all of your dreams and wishes come true! XxXxX

  5. Birthdays are a trigger for me too. I am 57 now, so that alone is a trigger. I don’t really want to celebrate the fact that I am getting older very quickly. It does seems like the older I get, the faster the years go. The days seem to drag with my bipolar disease. I am on new medication which seems to be helping so maybe the endless days may be getting better.

    I have been married for 31 years and my husband still seems to forget my birthday at least every other year. Birthdays were not a big deal in his house – they were in my house, at least when my parents weren’t both drunk and/or passed out. I wish I could say I am an adult about his forgetting, but I am not. It is my one day of the year to celebrate me and the child in me wants to be recognized!! I want cake, cards and presents – usually I don’t get them. Yes, my birthday is a big trigger for me. It is just another day that I feel invisible and ignored, and it hurts.

    • 😦 I get the feeling invisible and ignored. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to have one day when you’re recognized. Cake, presents, etc., are fun because it’s not like you have an excuse to get those things every day.

  6. I find Birthdays triggering too…I think for me though, it’s the fact that you’re expected to be happy, and some years that facade has been harder to manage than others. I never liked the idea of big parties, mainly because I feared they’d highlight how few good friends I really have (as silly as that sounds, because the ones I do have are wonderful). I’ve spent three birthdays in the last six years in psychiatric wards, so I don’t have much in the way of happy birthday memories either.

    Happy Belated Birthday to you also! x

    • Thanks!

      The idea of having parties feels weird because I wouldn’t have much of anyone to invite, either. In fact, even though I want to have a wedding some day, I’m also afraid because I won’t have anyone to invite and I’ll just look pathetic overall. Not that there’s much of a chance of me having a wedding anyway, but that’s going off topic.

      I can see how the expectation to be happy would be troubling. I think that’s bothered me some years, too.

  7. Honestly, I sort of ignore ’em. My dad and stepmom will send something from my Amazon wishlist. I’ll go out for dinner with my hubby. That’s about it – and anything more somehow feels exhausting, so I just take it easy.

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