Tomorrow is my birthday, a day that should be a happy day, a day to look forward to and enjoy. For me however, my birthday is the most depressing day of the year, a day I prefer to skip, stay in bed, hide underneath my sheets with multiple cakes and some ice cream, hiding from all expectations that are related to this day.
I think my problems with my birthday started when I was really young. I always expected to enjoy my birthday, to have a day in which my family would like me and accept me, or at least pretend to do so. I expected nice birthday presents, I expected a day without any abuse, I expected one day on which I was allowed to be myself, a rare day when I would be accepted by my friends and family.
Every year I woke up excited, excited to have my one special, or actually normal day, however, every year this excitement disappeared more quickly than any other good emotion. Usually my parents and sister would wake me up, early in the morning, and there would be singing and presents while I would be still half asleep. So far so good, however, while unwrapping my presents, I would find out that again I did not get what I wanted, something that I would actually enjoy.
I was a little girl that never like a doll, barbie, tea party or any other kind of girly toy. I liked climbing trees and building things with wood, I liked tools, lego, K’nex, basically every boyish toy that require some amount of creativity. For my parents, my birthday was the perfect moment to remind me I should be a girl, so every year I hoped for something fun, something I truly liked and asked for, but never got. Instead, I got the toy’s store no.1 present for girls my age, and although my parents knew I would never enjoy my presents, they kept trying every single birthday.
What this means, is that for me, my birthday is a yearly reminder of how misunderstood I was, or am actually, my parents still never buy me what I ask for but instead buy me lady stuff I store in a closet straight after I unwrapped it and only see again once I move, just before they end up in the trash.
But besides the being misunderstood by present choice, it also comes with a lot of disappointment, on a day that should not have any. My parents ask me all every year what it is I want to have, they ask what they should buy m and this makes me expect to get what I want. I usually give them a list of 3 or 4 things I would really enjoy, and whenever I see the present, I try to figure out which of these things is inside, I hope for something I asked for, something I need or would truly enjoy and then I get something completely different! Something I truly don’t want and would never enjoy and even though they know this, they force me to be happy, to use it, to thank them, to be grateful.
And this is where the bad part of my birthday starts, me having to pretend to be happy, not being allowed to show my disappointment and tell friends and family about the amazing gift I just got. I remember that my parents would get angry if I wouldn’t tell my aunts and uncles about their gift, the whole day they would force me to tell everyone how happy I was while I was actually far from happy.
Before I build my shields, this is what made my birthday always end up in disaster, in the most harsh treatment of my father and the most hurtful words of my mother, simply because I did not express the non-existing happiness they believed I was supposed to have but actually knew I did not have. In a way, my birthdays are a way of my parents controlling me, showing me that they are stronger and forcing me into doing what they want me to do, even more than they did on a regular day. When I think back now it was actually a very cruel thing, getting my hopes up, disappoint me and then force me to be happy. It always was a terrible day.
Another complication with my birthday was, that my sister was, and still is, very demanding. This means that whenever I would get a present, she would have to get one as well or she would be angry. Whenever I was allowed to choose dinner on my birthday, I had to consider my sister’s wishes or else I would get some hits from my father, because I would upset her. My sister had as much control over my birthday as my parents, since she was in control over my parent’s abuse. So one more person to please.
The highlight of my childhood birthdays was always the visit from my grandparents. They would usually come in the afternoon, carrying the present I truly wanted. From them I got my first bunny, my first TV and my first lego, things I truly enjoyed but where not all accepted by my parents and often had to be taken home with them or would have been taken form me otherwise. But despite the fear of loosing my amazing present, the moment with my grandparents on my birthday was the best part, the part that was truly about me and in which I felt worthy and loved. My only happy birthday memories are with them.
So, why am I writing about this? Well, tomorrow is my birthday, and even though my parents are far away on their holiday and I won’t be receiving my useless gift any time soon, I am still not able to enjoy this day, I still feel the fear of being hurt tomorrow. I know this fear or anxiousness is completely irrational, I know that nothing will hurt me, I know that I will only get a gift from my boyfriend and I have trust that he will come up with a nice gift for me.
But still every year I’m reminded of the bad memories, to be honest, in my adult life I never actually celebrated my birthday because of this, I never threw a party or invited friends, I just eat cake by myself or with other, but I don’t want anything big, anything that involves presents from someone else, afraid of the disappointment that I associate with gifts, something that actually makes me unhappy.
It’s too late to change my birthday plans now, too late to throw a party and try to have a real birthday but I hope that one day, hopefully next year, I will be able to. I think this is also what makes me sad about my birthdays, that my memories prevent me from trying, prevent me from celebrating something I should. Sometimes it surprises even me how much my childhood memories can damage my adult life without me even understanding. One more for my list.. Let’s hope a nice present tomorrow will be the first step towards a happy birthday!