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What a Birthday Really Means When You Live With a Mental Illness

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On March 2, 2016, I will be 36 years old. I love my birthday because it’s my day, and my wife always makes a big deal out of it with decorations, a card and gifts.

But lately, when she’s asked me what I want for my birthday this year, my answers have been negative. I said I wish I didn’t have pronounced lines on my forehead, and how I thought I’d be working full-time by now. I’ve told her that turning the big 4-0 in four years makes me a little worried. Now, before you say it, I know that 36 is not old at all, but for someone who’s tried to end her own life six times, getting a year older is a pretty big deal. I’m not vain, I just really never thought I’d make it to 36. I never thought about my future or getting older because for most of my life, I’ve been trying to just survive.

But my wife had the perfect response to my worries. She said both of us should both be glad we’re celebrating birthdays and getting older. She has a heart condition and back in the 80s was told she would never live this long. We both should be celebrating not only my birthday, but that we’re still here — that we’re not only alive, but also well.

And she’s right. I should wear my lines like a badge of honor! I should be proud I work part-time helping others and doing what I love. I’m here. I’m alive. I haven’t just made it through another year, I’m thriving. I’m in recovery. And, most importantly, I am happy and healthy!

So, instead of worrying about getting older, she reminded me that I should be happy to be getting older. I have a whole lot to celebrate, after all!

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

Originally published: February 4, 2016
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