Lesley Gore sang it best : “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to”. Except there’s no birthday party & my Sjögren’s has dried up any tears I could possibly cry today anyway.
Yep, you guessed it. 9th August is my birthday. I’m not miffed about ageing – there’s not exactly a whole lot we can do about it – it’s the emotions that come with it when you feel your life has been frozen in time and you can’t help but think of the years lost to illness. But it’s not all bad. At least I still get asked for ID if I buy a scratch card.
Everyone has their own feelings on birthdays, whether you feel like it’s just like another other day, you get excited and absolutely love them, you find they make you miserable, or whether you hate them so much you’d rather put your head in a blender.
You can check out last year’s reflections on birthdays with chronic illness here.
Chronic Illness Birthday Blues
I used to enjoy birthdays. When you lose a lot to illness, birthdays lose a lot of their colour and frivolity. It’s not just because there are no friends and no presents for me to unwrap, it’s because of what birthdays remind me of: what I’ve lost, how fast time is flying by and how far behind in life I am.
I don’t get the chance to get overly maudlin because there are more pressing concerns to deal with, like nerve damage pain that drives me mad, my stoma having a tantrum or these damn bollocking migraines.
I can’t believe I had to Google the spelling for bollocking just then. I always go for a “u”, making it bollucking.
I’m now 33 and my ability to swear is fucking fantastic. My ability to spell such words, eh, not so much.
There’s no denying that chronic illness changes the landscape of birthdays. While it can take much from us, it can also make us painfully aware of what’s truly important in our lives and allow us to really appreciate the small, simple joys in life we may have not been attuned to before.
A Fraying Rope
For some reason, the relentless nature of my migraines is getting the better of me. They’re not typical migraines, as least not as I know them to be, they’re predominantly this severe pain in one eye. Give it long enough and I’ll start throwing up like something from The Exorcist and the pain just keeps on going. I have sinus issues and inflammation from an autoimmune reaction that I don’t think help matters, but I can’t figure out what to do because I’m running out of options.
I’ve now been given a new horrible-sounded epileptic drug to act as a migraine prophylaxis medication. This comes with a long list of contraindications, risks and side-effects. I’m saving starting that for tomorrow. Next time I’m going to the vets.
I’ve just felt exhausted lately, desperately trying to keep up with the long list of things to do but having increasingly dwindling amounts of time where I’m functional enough to do them.
I feel like I’m at the end of my now very frayed rope. I know, I should have bought a better quality one, none of this Poundland malarky. It must be covered in baby oil (or some unidentified bodily fluids more likely) because I slide down it pretty quickly and seem to find myself dangerous dangling off the end of said rope far too often.
I will be happy to get the legal stuff I need to do for my solicitor out of the way as soon as humanly possible as it’s making my teeth itch. At least with that part done I can at least have my bollocking migraines without thinking legalese jargon.
Ideally, I’d just like to shut off from the world for my birthday but I can’t escape my body, and that’s the problem. Realistically, a day to just rest without feeling guilty or resentful of all the things I’m behind on and have yet to do would be lovely.
So yes, a seed of grumpiness was planted in me since getting chronically ill that has continued to grow over the years. Move over Victor Meldrew, both my feet are in and I’m thigh-high in the grave.
Birthday Blues Are Okay
There we have it. A bit grumpy and fed up with
bollucking bollocking migraines, pain and everything else. Birthdays aren’t my friend anymore because they have a tendency to make me realise the loneliness and the things I’ve lost. And yes, there’s a toddler inside me having a tantrum because she used to love unwrapping presents. But there also things to appreciate, and there’s always cake. All will be okay in the world after chocolate.
I just want anyone who might be reading this that may likewise feel a bit crap when their birthday rolls around that it’s okay, you don’t need to ladle more guilt on top for not feeling glittery and joyful. Forget the expectations and the pressures. You do you. Relax, shut your brain off, do something for silly fun or do nothing at all. Whatever you need to get through the day and look after yourself.
Admittedly I do live with depression, albeit being highly functioning as I’m powered along by guilt. Now, when I refer to ‘grumpiness’ one shouldn’t confuse the two, but I didn’t want to get too deep with this post. If you struggle with mental health issues, whether a result of chronic illness or not, the effects of birthdays can be surprisingly hard-hitting. It’s not pathetic to find birthdays hard to swallow and you won’t be alone in that, so please reach out if you need support.
Despite all the grumpiness, I am very, very grateful for many things.
- Like Tramadol, which has kept me going for the past I don’t know how many years living with this ridiculous level of constant pain and fatigue.
- For orthopaedic pillows, my laptop, tea, and my new dressing gown with cat ears on the hood ????
- I’m grateful that my cat allows me to give him a hug every now and then. I approached him with a toy the other day and he still gets this condescending look come over his face, like he’s far too mature and sophisticated to play. Poke him with the stick enough times & he’ll eventually take pity on me and play for a whole minute. Score.
- I’m grateful that a pigeon pooped an inch in front of me last week and not an inch less.
- I’m grateful for my family, for my parents who’ve always been there for me and for my mum’s awful yet awesome sense of humour.
- I’m grateful for – an aww shucks moment here – YOU reading this inane blog post, for all of my online friends and acquaintances, and for a special group of ladies that know who they are.
- And of course a huge thank you goes to whoever invented chocolate. I owe my life to this stuff.
Please don’t feel any need to comment on this post, especially as I’m not sure my chocolate addled brain will be able to reply to all comments, at least not in a timely fashion. I would just like to say a big thank you for reading & supporting InvisiblyMe.
I have plenty of cake to go around so please join me in a piece and have the best week you can everyone. Cheers!