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7 Ways to Commemorate Your Birthday When You Wish You Didn't Exist

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. If you need support right now, you can call, text, or chat the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988, or text HOME to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line if you are in the U.S. A list of crisis centers around the world can be found here.

I love birthdays, but not everyone does, and it’s every harder to celebrate making it another year when you’re experiencing suicidal ideation.

The point of birthdays is to be happy that you’re alive and to be celebrated by the people who love you, but when you’re upset that you still exist, “celebrating” may not feel right. 

As a lover of birthdays, even when the odds are stacked against me, I’ve had them all. Great ones, magical ones, horrible ones that left me crying and jaded for years to come… I have a lot of experience with birthdays, and that includes birthdays where I’ve been suicidal. 

You may not be happy to be here, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t worth celebrating. Hell, I think it’s almost most important to celebrate suicidal birthdays because it shows you’re still standing and you’re still here, and that means something. Unsure of how to do that? Here’s some of the ways I’ve learned how to celebrate birthdays when you aren’t actually happy you made it to the next year.

1. Go dark.

Turn your phone off. Delete your social media for the day. Just shut it all down. Why?

Sometimes it’s nice to have everyone tell you how much they love you, but when it’s your birthday and you aren’t really happy to be there, seeing everyone else so overjoyed that you are can be overwhelming and have the opposite effect. It’s your day to be selfish, and that means it’s OK to turn off your phone. Sometimes silence is what’s needed over giant outpours of love and affection, and I don’t think people quite understand that.

2. Find a way to feed your soul.

That sounds so zen, but really what I’m trying to say is find an activity that brings you peace. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top or loud; rather, maybe something quiet. If you like nature, go on a hike or to the beach if it’s available. Maybe it’s a bookstore or library. A lot of people have giant birthday dinners and celebrations. It’s OK to do something small, peaceful, and quiet.

3. Don’t force any emotions you aren’t feeling.

Don’t feel as if you have to be grateful you made it to the next year. If you’re living with suicidal ideation, you may feel resentment or sadness if anything. Maybe you’re thinking of all the things you wish you’d done by now and yet you haven’t. It’s OK to just feel what you’re feeling instead of forcing what you’re not.

4. Schedule a therapy appointment.

Today is an ideal day to focus on some therapy. If you struggle with suicidality, your birthday could be immensely triggering, so having some form of therapy or counseling scheduled could do you well. 

5. Get yourself a very small treat.

The goal is to not overwhelm yourself. So maybe don’t buy yourself a whole cake (unless that’s what you want) and instead go for a smaller treat. Some chicken nuggets, a cupcake. Just something small and for you to at least acknowledge the day without making it a super big deal.

6. Write a letter (cliche, we know).

Yes, write a letter. You’re upset that you’re seeing another year? Get it out your system. Write a letter. Maybe put the reasons as to why you’re depressed, or put the things you’d like to have happen by your next birthday. Burn it. Mail it to yourself a year later. Do what you feel called to do as long as you get the emotions on paper. 

7. Know that your feelings are valid, and that means it’s OK to cry or hate the day itself.

Be honest and true to yourself the entire day, even if that means that you have a more emotional time. Notice I didn’t talk about how to make this day “good.” If anything, suicidal birthdays are rarely “good.” Honor your emotions, and know that your feelings are valid. Don’t force yourself to enjoy the day or do anything that isn’t feeling right, and if you notice things getting a little too dark, reach out for support. Whether that’s the suicide hotline, the Trevor Project hotlines, or calling a friend, just know that you aren’t alone.

Your birthday is yours and no one else’s. If it’s bittersweet, that’s OK. Commemorate it in a way that matters to you, or don’t. At the end of the day it is your choice.

Getty image by Zinkevych

Originally published: September 21, 2022
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