Twenty-Six: Celebrating the Flyover Birthday

Trigger warning: depression, suicidal ideation

I’m 26 today. As far as I know, 26 isn’t usually considered a “milestone” birthday. It’s not like 18, when we become adults; 21, when we can legally drink in the States; 25, which is the quarter-century mark.

Upon my 25th birthday, last year.

Upon my 25th birthday, last year.

It’s a flyover birthday, you’d think.

Not this year. Twenty-six is a birthday I have earned. I scraped and clawed and fought to get here today. To make it to this point. 

It has been less than a year since I started seeing my current doctor, about six months that I’ve been seeing my therapist on a weekly basis. There are days I still feel like nothing has changed, like I’m still struggling the way I was all the way back in the fall of 2008 when my small group leader at Black Forest Academy took me to see a counselor for the first time.

There are also days when I feel on top of the world. Days when I recognize I am doing what I can do get healthy, doing what I can to take care of myself and stay alive.

There have been so many times between birthdays 25 and 26 that I didn’t know if I would make it to this day. 

Let me count the people who would be better off if I were dead: 7.7 billion — and mostly the ones who see me every day - so I wish I was dead so I could stop hurting them and hating that I hurt them.

— Dec. 7, 9:15 pm 

A snake thought told me everyone would be better if I died and I let it wrap its hissing tongue around me, let it speak those words to me until I couldn't hear anything else. I just kept picturing myself wading into the water and letting it drown me. I wish I was dead.

— Feb. 12, 6:30 am 

They don't love me, need me, want me...they don't even like me. I'm just here cause they need the numbers. At this point it's not that it'd be better for them if I died. It would be better for me. Give me peace. 

Give me death.

— March 18, 11:15 pm 

I called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on March 25th at 2 in the morning. My mind was racing, hands were shaking, I felt nauseous, and through it all I knew, positively and ultimately and with every fiber of my being: I needed help. Immediately.

By the grace of God, by the generosity in time and love of my friends and coworkers, by sheer will and force and stubbornness, I made it to today. I made it to 26.

I don’t expect this year (or the next, or the next) to be any much easier than the past year has been — than the past 10+ years have been.

That’s the thing about living with mental illness. It doesn’t vanish when we want it to. I can’t pop a pill and be better. I’m not in therapy, I don’t see my doctor because I expect them to cure me.

I do that so I can survive the day-to-day.

I’ve made it so far. So much farther than, in my worst moments, I ever thought I would.

Today I’m celebrating because I’m alive. 

I’ve always been someone who loved birthdays. I’ll be upfront and say that so much of that adoration came from the fact that I liked the attention, I liked being celebrated. 

These days, though, part of it is that I’m celebrating life in general. Each birthday is another milestone that I’ve past. Each passing year represents another victory against the forces inside my brain trying to destroy me.

Yes, a hard copy would be a bette picture, but we work with what we’ve got!

Yes, a hard copy would be a bette picture, but we work with what we’ve got!

Here’s the thing: there’s always something to stay alive for. 

I posted once on Twitter about how depressed I was, and someone asked me what I looked forward to. The honest answer in that moment was: new books my favorite authors were releasing (author plug moment! Sandhya Menon releases There’s Something About Sweetie on Tuesday, I’m reading through it and absolutely adore everything about it!).

The other part of the answer was that I knew if I died in that moment I would never know how Brooklyn Nine-Nine ends. 

Today, some things that I want to live for: to go back to Trieste in the summer; to see Rebeca star in a play again; to fall in love in the city; to see my name on the front cover of a book; to go back to Mexico City and visit all the sites this time; to meet all the beautiful people in the world I haven’t met yet and would never meet if I died.

What are you looking forward to?