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What My 23rd Birthday Was Like After a Year of Suicidal Thoughts

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Yesterday was my 23rd birthday. I didn’t expected anything from it because my last two or three birthdays have been very stressful and somehow depressing. They were in moments of loss, fights and change. Of reconstruction and separation. And I’m not good with those.

And this birthday didn’t seem different. In addition to family issues, I was dealing with the pain and meds from a kidney stone that refused to get out. My grandpa was also in the hospital because the inevitable symptoms of several horrible cancer episodes were dragging him away, and my grandma had a memory that resided more in the 1980s than in today. In addition to that, I had my own demons crawling into my ears, reminding me of all the psychological pain that I’ve experienced throughout the year, questioning me about why I deserved a birthday celebration when the year I was ending had so many suicidal thoughts and events, tears and times of thinking about giving up.

For that same reason, my psychiatrist and psychologist told me I deserved to celebrate life, because I had made a hell of an effort to be here. It made sense, but it somehow didn’t feel right. Still, I went into the day with an open heart.

And it was truly a very nice day. It’s funny because everyone who’s seen the pictures of yesterday has told me I haven’t looked that happy in forever. I decided to enjoy, in a nonjudgmental way, every event of that day. Of course, there are things that are still a struggle. I’m still adjusting to the whole “child of separated parents” thing, but yesterday it meant that I had twice as much of cake and two breakfasts in order to be with both of them. My brother invited a bunch of my friends out for a lunch, and my God, I didn’t realize I was so loved. I wasn’t aware that so many people wanted to celebrate my life. I felt lucky, and filled with so much love in ways I can’t seem to put into words.

I was in awe of how I didn’t had to hide or fake my feelings. In the last year I decided to “come out of the mental illness closet” and become a mental health awareness advocate and writer. That way, people were in touch with the real me, asked me about how I truly felt, how I’ve been and about the things that are most painful, like my grandparent’s condition or my kidney stone. My friends got me the things they know are part of my “happy things list,” such as flowers, tea, colorful clothing, tons of chocolates and cakes and a couple of notebooks so I can write “my first book” in them.

I was with my 3-year-old godson who told me that “our house felt too crowded for him and he wanted people gone.” I couldn’t help but feel lucky that he felt like my house was his own. I kept telling myself, “God, I’m so lucky to be alive for today. Thank you for keeping me here even when I wanted a way out.”

I saw my grandma too. While we were singing “Happy Birthday,” she understood that it was me who was turning 23 that year, and she sang to me. Even though I couldn’t spend the day with my grandfather, he was alive and told me he loved me that day. That was enough, because the past few months my biggest fear was that they wouldn’t be here for my birthday.

I received a lot of congratulations. Most of them included messages of admiration for being brave enough to tell my story — people telling me they were glad I didn’t give up — and that they were as happy for me having one more year, as if I lived their own stories. People cheered for me and my story and encouraged me to keep writing it.

Of course, it isn’t the fairytale I wished for as a kid. But it was good, it was great, and dare I say that; yesterday I was happy almost all day, which hasn’t happened in so long. I now understand that it does get better, and it’s worth sticking around to see how much better it gets.

Because even if I woke up today fatigued with my arthritis and fibromyalgia flaring up, it was so worth it. And I don’t care anymore; now I am willing to wait as many days as I need to feel as happy and as loved as I did yesterday. To be able to feel that way, showing you true self — it’s priceless. Therefore I can say I had the best birthday I’ve had in years. Because it was imperfectly perfect, and I was alive to live it.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Unsplash photo via Sergei Solovev

Originally published: September 26, 2017
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