We're only getting older, baby...
For the past few years, I have struggled to stay positive around the time of my birthday. I am 22 next Sunday, and I've been worrying about it for a while.
Anyone who has struggled with an illness or had a difficult time for one reason or another during their teenage years will relate to the feeling of living your life in a slow motion bubble. Other people around you experience time at a normal speed. They live, they laugh and they grow. They do everything you dream of doing. A year can feel like nothing to them, but you remember the length of every second of every day. Because every second is more time you spend in pain.
When my birthday comes round, I am reminded of the emotions I push away for the rest of the year. The fact that I have been ill for over ten years now, and that I imagined being cured long before now. The fact the doctors now don't know if i've got M.E. or some random other thing, and all of the varying mental illnesses they've told me i've got too. How it's changed the course of my life and taken away simple opportunities I took for granted. How I feel i'm always catching up with everyone else, and my fear that i'll never get to live alone. How I feel like time is just passing me by in the cruelest of ways.
I get upset, and I try and make it better by attempting to organise the most exciting day ever. Then I realise i'm setting my standards too high, and I get more upset.
The other day though, I gave myself a good talking to. Do I not see the progress i've made? Do I not appreciate my relentless efforts to better myself, or the dedication I have to my craft? What about the love I give to others in my life or the time I devote to making people smile? The bad times, as difficult as they have been, have not ruined me and they never will. Just because I can't always walk far, there isn't a part of my body that doesn't hurt and sometimes my OCD gets so overwhelming that I truly fear everyone hates me, people are after me or i'm going to die, it isn't a curse or a reason not to live my life to the full.
I don't know how things will pan out, or if I will ever get to experience life as a healthy young person. One of the many reasons I took up meditation and yoga was to learn to accept this. To become comfortable with who I am and the path my life has taken, rather than constantly fighting to be someone else - this mythical idea of who i'm probably supposed to be. When you really look around, you realise that everyone has a different story. There's not one person my age who's got it all figured out. And those group pictures where all the 'girls' are together having a great night out? They were probably preceded and followed by awkward silences.
Sure, I wish I could have a million parties with millions of friends to make up for all of them that I missed. But I've realised that next weekend I want to spend my birthday with my family. They've been there the whole time, looking after me and making me feel a little less scared in a world of uncertainty. They love me, and i'm so lucky to have that support network. There are always people more unfortunate, and although no one ever wants to hear that, it is true.
Even after being diagnosed with god-knows-what and leaving school at 14, i'm pretty sure i've achieved more than my younger self ever thought I would. I've made a bloody album! I can sing "Listen" by Beyonce! I have a job and a website and a mini studio. I've been played on the radio five times. Maybe it's true what my mum says - i'm doing really well, but i'm the only person who can't see it.
If you are in a similar position, think about how other people would view you from the outside who don't share your mindset or aren't emotionally close to your situation. Think of how much you have been through and how brave you have been. How much have you achieved despite everything? How hard have you tried? And what good things have you been blessed with?
Next weekend I won't worry about how good my birthday has been, what i've done or who i've spent it with. I won't even worry about how well I was on the day. From now on, I'll just chill out and have fun with the people I love on my birthday. I'm another year stronger, with another year's worth of silly anecdotes and sitcom ideas. If that's not a reason to celebrate - I don't know what is!