In recent years, depression has been a big part of my birthday.
To call it a birthday celebration would be wrong. From my perspective, there was no celebration involved. It was just a day to get through. And I did it by pulling together my high-functioning depression skills. I have honed this skill over many decades and can turn it on now, at will.
But using my high-functioning depression abilities comes at a cost.
I expend tremendous amounts of energy projecting a normal façade. And I can keep it up for as long as the situation requires. But the effort involved is huge and the time needed to recharge often exceeds what alone time I am granted, or more correctly, it outstrips the time I give myself to recharge.
In the end, controlling my attitude towards events, even my birthday, is complicated.
My birthday falls around Thanksgiving. Large get-togethers were the norm as I was growing up. We often drove 4 to 7 hours to be with family on Thanksgiving Day. It is probable that I had some sort of depression going on even as I turned into a teenager. But if I did, I hid it so well no family member or friend, or doctor ever mentioned it. And depression wasn’t something talked about in my family. If it was hinted at, it was called “nerves.”
50 years later, I am so practiced at hiding my depression, I found myself needing to insist that I be admitted.
Advocating for myself was a new skill when I almost demanded that the ER doctor expend some of his resources to find me a place on 5 East. As frightening as that was, the two alternatives I faced were even more frightening.
After 40+ years, doing the same thing and expecting a different result, was not working.
And choosing to end my life was way too scary. I’m sure there will come a day when my attitude, or acceptance of the certainty of death, will make my attitude towards it different. But right now, death scares the heck out of me.
This year, my birthday was near Thanksgiving again.
14 family and friends surrounded the table filled with turkey, ham, and all of the trimmings. We provided the turkey and ham, everyone else brought side dishes. The afternoon was filled with conversation, great food, and fireworks after dark.
A pumpkin pie loaded with birthday candles was brought to the table just before dark.
I stayed in the moment and enjoyed my family’s rendition of happy birthday to you. There were several presents as well as whipped cream for the pie. The celebration was gratifying, and I was very thankful.
My depression did not show up for my birthday.
From preparing the house for company to cleaning up after everyone was gone, my depression did not show up. I went into the day focused on being present and enjoying each moment. And I did not invite depression. In fact, all of depression’s unhelpful thinking took the day off.
The day was one big self-care event for me.
I shared thoughts and feeling with those around me. But I did not engage with depression and all of its unhelpful associates. They were not invited, and I wasn’t aware of my excluding them. But my own self-care helped guide me towards enjoying each moment. I built no time into my day for depression.
Once again, I find myself thankful for my life and the people in it.
Having a depression-free birthday was marvelous. But I know depression is still around. I am never free of my depression, but I am getting better at understanding how it acts. Having the tools to live a balanced life with depression has been life-changing. Thank you for a wonderful birthday party and for all the wonderful conversation.