A Late Birthday Reflection: How True Strength is Developed in Admitting You're Lost
“Just one more candle and a trip around the sun” sings Jimmy Buffett & Martina McBride.
I’ve always been a big fan of birthdays.
Maybe it’s because I was taught at a young age that they aren’t always guaranteed.
Maybe it’s also because I love being the center of attention for a hot sec.
I usually use the time leading up to my birthday as a time of reflection on the past year and where I want to go in the next, but this year has been different.
As my birthday got closer, I sat down numerous times throughout September to write something but could never find the words.
I am still processing this past year.
I am still accepting what it is.
I’m grieving the loss of a relationship; I’m realizing the importance of quality friendships; I’m embracing what it feels like to have a living creature depend on you.
& honestly, I’m fucking exhausted.
For the past few weeks? months?, my brain & body have been in survival mode.
Waiting for the days to be over.
Searching for a reason to get out of bed.
Praying for someone to make it all better.
Hoping for things to work out.
Asking for it all to make sense.
I’ve been doing everything but living, and it hasn’t been fun.
Time to BeReal
I feel like so much of the self help that exists today is posted from the other side, where it all makes sense. Not many people are writing while they’re in the thick of it. Probably because they’re just trying to survive it, which totally makes sense. I haven’t thought in complete sentences in weeks, nevertheless put them down on paper. The only reason I’m writing this now is because I’m literally forcing myself to do some sort of birthday reflection (that I didn’t even finish by the self-inflicted deadline of my bday).
But this is the real and raw side of life, and that’s what I’ve always wanted to share.
The dark days. The depression.
Not to make you sad or ask for your sympathy or to portray myself as a victim of anything other than life; but to shine a light on what trying to live with a mental illness really looks like.
It looks like family parties and trips to LA and doggie play dates.
It also looks like a lot of laying in bed, a lot of crying, and a LOT of microwave mac & cheese.
I have been struggling with this disease for over 10 years now, and I still don’t understand it. But what I do understand is that as awful as things get, they eventually get twice as good. And then twice as bad. And then good again, and the cycle continues. So I just have to hold out through the shitty times and trust there’s something beautiful waiting on the other side.
“You have your whole life ahead of you”
I used to get SO pissed at this comment. Sometimes I still do, but I’m working to change that.
It is usually accompanied with some snide remark about my age.
How I haven’t lived any life.
How I still have so much yet to experience.
How my accomplishments could never compare to that of someone twice my age.
Or at least that’s how I always heard it.
Until recently, I was driving and said to myself those exact words.
“You have your whole life ahead of you”
Suddenly, hearing it from my own lips, I was filled with so. damn. much. gratitude.
Although I’ve lived through traumatic experiences, I do still have a lot of life left to live.
Although I’ve had amazing experiences, I do still have a lot left to experience.
Although I’ve done a lot personally, professionally, romantically and geographically, there is still so much out there that I can be and see and do and learn and absorb.
All I want in this life is to just be successful and kind and fun and desirable.
I want to keep living, with all it’s ups and downs.
Although right now I’m struggling to find the words, I can truly feel myself getting lighter with each day. Something about having my whole life ahead of me (with some amazing pieces behind me) makes me feel like I can take on anything. Even my dog being a dick head right now.
Waking Up to a New Version of You
It feels like I just woke up one day and didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror. It’s such a cliche statement and an even more cliche feeling. I thought people only said that in books and movies.
I looked around and realized I had put everything—my efforts, intentions, & processes— towards someone else’s dream. A dream I tried so very hard to make my own, because I didn’t want to accept the reality that it wasn’t. It was a predetermined dream that I could’ve shrunk myself to fit into, but that’s just something I’m not really willing to do.
I pride myself on being a strong woman. In fact, I hashtag every photo with it on instagram. Yet when I took a step back to truly reflect, I realized I was being the weakest of them all.
But that simple realization is what makes me so strong.
Realizing that I was not living a life that aligned with my true desires and dreams.
Realizing that I wasn’t being treated the way I know I deserve to be.
Realizing I was following someone else’s path instead of carving my own.
To me, the strongest thing you can do is admit you’re lost.
As the days go on, I am nowhere near healed— because I don’t think that final destination exists. I do know am I constantly growing in the direction meant for me. Sometimes my path may deter or run askew, but it is all in divine timing and reason.
I just know I have to learn to love myself again. I don’t really like the person I’ve become, but I won’t hold it against her. She did what she needed to survive, now it’s time for her to come home to who she really is: me.
A strong woman.
An open-minded individual.
A passionate human being.
I have a feeling 26 is going to be a year full of intense growth for me, and I know that’s going to be painful. It always is. But I’ve always made it through and have come out with some amazing stories to share.
I don’t expect this to be my year. I don’t expect fortune and fame. I just expect (& plan!) to get down to the realest and rawest parts of myself. I plan to relearn every part of me better than I ever knew it before. I want to turn myself inside out on my own, instead of waiting for life to do it for me.
I am ready for the discomfort that comes with change because I know it will be worth it. Talk to you from the other side 🙂
Disclaimer: This has been written over the span of a month. I hope it portrays just how much thoughts fluctuate when battling depression. At some points life is very dismal and bleak, at others I am ready to take on the world. It’s a strange thing, yeah? Depression, mental illness & the healing journey is not linear by any means. Being able to write, edit, and share this today is a huge feat considering where I was a month ago. I appreciate your support in reading this post and hope some of it resonated with where you are in your timeline.