Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my 57th birthday and I don’t quite know how to express how I feel. I think I’ll go with “grateful” because I never thought I’d be in the okay place I am today. I’m closer to “meh” than I ever thought possible, and I don’t regard “meh” as a lesser place than being great. I actually prefer the realistic and dependable meh because life will always be full of surprises and meh is the best to be prepared for any eventuality. And frankly, if down and depressed is what you’ve known pretty much forever, than meh actually feels really great.

Yes, I could be depressed tomorrow, of course I’ll be depressed, but it will pass, I know that now.

To say that it was inconceivable even three or four months ago to believe I’d be in this place is an understatement. And the bottom line, I feel, is that if I can do this, after a lifetime of giving in to my depression with countless suicide attempts and hospital stays, (and four marriages!) anyone can. Truly.

And perhaps I need to give myself credit for making that decision to better myself. It was clear to me eight months ago that I was right on the fence of being physically disabled due to complications from my weight. I felt much older than my years. I was about to give in to it.

I didn’t know I had this fight in me, and yet somehow I did. I never acknowledged before that I am competitive and it’s quite freeing to realize that.

I mention the Chump Lady website often and can say without reservation that it’s brought my recovery forward by months. There are men at the site, but the overwhelming majority of commenters are women who for the most part put the usual forum bickering aside and truly support one another. I have never known sisterhood like this in my life.

Chump Lady has helped me to see that my situation is as painful as I thought it was and not just magnified by me and all my “issues.” Being betrayed by your significant other truly is one of the worst things a person can go through.

I have been telling myself since day one of this journey that I can rise above this experience of betrayal, but Chump Lady has cemented that belief for me.

One of the regular commenters on CL is retired from the world of psychology. A few times she has “heard” me when I posted meaning she got me, she understood how difficult this is for me after living through 20+ years of diagnoses, pharmaceutical drugs, and even, I’m ashamed to say, a few sessions of electro shock therapy.

To know that a perfect stranger has taken the time to understand what I’ve tried to convey and praised me for my actions is so special I can barely put it to words.

In the comment section of a post from yesterday’s Chump Lady website the topic segued to the use of psychiatric drugs which can be a pretty divisive issue. The woman I referred to above added this to the bottom of her comment:

“I hope this won’t embarrass her, but there is a contributor here who is doing just that in the face of some pretty strong diagnoses, having taken some pretty hard knocks due to her own personal problems in conjunction with a previously poor “picker.” She continues to push ahead and through her pain by making her behavioral interventions a consistent part of her life. She has completely owned her shit and is determined to eliminate it. Swimming is her game; progress is the name. She will be more than just a survivor, she will have achieved the damn near impossible. And she ain’t backing off of it one bit.”

I read that and immediately began to cry. And they were not tears of joy or of sorrow, really, but an indescribable sense of gratitude for being understood and acknowledged. I’m in this war, this battle, and I’m not backing down and someone has witnessed it and praised me for it. That’s not something I’m used to in my life. Worst still, I don’t often acknowledged it myself.

When she writes that I will be more than a survivor but will have achieved the damn near impossible, I agree (on my good days). I struggle with the knowledge that I am the one who put myself in this situation and so often don’t feel I can rightly praise myself for getting myself out of it, but the truth is, this is not a 10 or 20 year struggle. This has been a struggle and a war since I was born prematurely into a volatile and largely unhappy family.

Okay there’s a little bit of regret that life has gone so fast and I still feel like I have incredible amount of living to do (time to make up for), but I’m okay with that too. And I am more or less comfortable in my own skin these days, which is in itself sort of a miracle. And even underneath my self doubt and lifetime of low self esteem and bad decisions, I somehow feel that I am still an interesting person and that if another man comes into my life, he will be lucky to have me.

There was such shame in the early days following d-day and one of the biggest areas of shame was that I was 56 and not married. It took me months just to stop wearing my wedding band. I felt as though there was a spotlight on the ringless finger. I thought there was shame in not having a lover. It took a long time, but that shame is lifting and there is such relief in that. If I had ever given myself time to purposefully be alone and get to know myself, I might have discovered some of this earlier. It’s okay to not have a partner constantly — there is no shame in that.

Six or eight months ago I would have sold my soul for the devil to stave off this birthday but today, I’m just fine with it. I can cry again just writing that because I did not think I’d ever be happy again. This morning when I swim I am just going to feel gratitude for my life, my family, and the tribe of people from my GP and counselor, to the people who read this blog, to Chump Lady and the commenters there who have come together to try to get me to a better place.

Thank you, all of you, from the bottom of my heart.

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4 responses to “Happy Birthday to Me

  1. Happy belated.
    (fellow chump)

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