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35th Birthday Reflections

Today is my 35th birthday, and I really want to mark the occasion with a blog post. It’s not one of the “big birthdays”, but it feels very important to me, and I don’t want to miss this opportunity to reflect upon that and document my thoughts in this moment in time.

The year I came into this third decade of my life was beyond challenging. I honestly thought I had hit rock bottom, and it felt like things couldn’t get any worse. Emotionally I was a wreck, and I was desperately trying to keep my head above water. I felt like I had to fix things, and finding a purpose in my life seemed more important than finding peace. My priorities were all wrong, but I couldn’t see that.

It was at the very end of that year that I first heard the word “surrender” and began to realise the emotional freedom and peace that came with surrendering into the flow of life. But still I had a lot to learn, and the past few years have been one very long journey through some of the scariest places. And I’ve been resisting that call to surrender for far too long.

This morning, for instance, I’m sitting in bed, wondering how I’m going to get through my birthday. I’ve been feeling super nauseated and extremely fatigued for the past week. There have been moments when it has been less pronounced, but on the whole I am feeling truly rotten. And it completely sucks. After all, nobody wants to be ill on their birthday!

When I feel like this, being with others is hard. I struggle to process what is being said to me, and too much noise makes me anxious. All I want to do is close the doors on the world and desperately wish the worst of the symptoms would finally calm down. But whilst that may ease some of the physical symptoms, it makes the emotional ones harder. Guilt, shame, anger, fear, and isolation all rear their ugly heads at times like these. I feel like a burden, I hate missing out, and it pains me to either cancel plans or refuse to even make them in the first place.

I fear what others must think of me, and I swing wildly between feeling like a fraud on my better days (because, hey, I’m not that sick all the time) and frustration on my worst days (because I need people to understand just how sick I truly am). As a result, I tend to only share small snippets of what my life is like, and these usually occur on what I’ll call my “medium days”.

Some of this has happened because of the nature of my illness. On my better days, I’m likely to be enjoying the fact I can actually do things, so talking about how sick I am feels incongruous. Whereas on my worst days I’m so sick I can barely lift my head off the pillow and stringing a coherent sentence together feels impossible. So it’s those inbetween days when I am more likely to share things, because I still feel ill enough to be reminded I’m chronically ill, but I’m not so sick that it keeps me from communicating.

But some of it comes from my own skewed perceptions of the world around me. I have fallen into the trap of needing to find a positive spin for everything, so I look at my illness in what it can teach me rather than what it feels like in the moment. I have assumed that everything I write online needs to add value and be “on brand”, rather than accepting that it’s perfectly okay to simply write from the heart. And I have refused to acknowledge how sick I truly am, focusing on recovery because I feel unworthy as a sick person rather than because I deserve to not feel this rotten.

So today I really want to focus on the idea that my life doesn’t need to have any purpose other than the fact that it is my life and I’m living it. I want to reflect on how far I have come emotionally over the past few years, whilst acknowledging that it’s okay to still feel completely lost in the quagmire of my soul. And I want to start this next year of my life with the understanding that if all I do over the next 12 months is survive then that’s more than enough.

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