** TW: mention of mental health and suicidal ideation
*un: opposite of the original
PSA for all: I don’t celebrate my legal birthday. No, I didn’t want you to remember, so don’t feel bad for not knowing. It’s actually just preferred that it’s just like any other day. Of course when I was a child, there were many things I loved about my birthday: presents, cake, attention. I was someone in love with being loved. But through the years, I’ve noted a disdain that I can’t seem to shake.
Today I received a message from my mother that said, “happy unbirthday. I love you and can’t wait to see you soon.” Something about that made me feel content; a name for the day I’ve been completely dodging for the past few years. Truthfully, it’s not my birthday. It’s a legal date to be recognized as my date of birth but it’s completely made-up. I believe the adoption papers say, “she is estimated to be about 7 months old.” Estimated. It’s just a guess. Most of my life this didn’t bother me, but now it does. Perhaps it’s about time I share why I cancelled my birthday & how I’m reversing my untruth.
Would you celebrate grief?
Perspective of a Ghost
Hear me out. Imagine you’re a ghost, floating around the ghost world knowing you had a life before being a ghost, but not fully remembering it. Imagine it’s one of those things where you left the living world suddenly, just to be placed in the ghost world with no memories. Now imagine that on the day of your death anniversary, you were reminded and celebrated in the ghost world. Other ghosts saying, “Happy Ghostversary! Today’s the day you became a ghost. Here’s some ghost cake. We’re so happy you’re here” All the while, you’re mourning life. You’re missing the living world and can’t even fully remember why you’re hurting, it just does. This is how I feel when I hear the words happy and birthday in the same sentence directed towards me on this day.
Does truth matter?
If you were to read my journals prior to the age of 26, you’d see carefully crafted testaments to life and my joy for being given a life despite the confusion of having an incomplete and fractured beginning story. With lots of stuff happening between ages 25-28, I started to feel more pain about life. That story I told myself about being grateful for having a life broke down because of an inauthenticity I felt at a deeper level. I felt I wasn’t being truthful because to be honest, I wasn’t feeling happy about the life I was given. For multiple reasons, I was having suicidal ideations & finding it hard to feel like things were as good as I had told myself. With these emerging intense emotions, I believe 27 was the last year I actually celebrated my birthday formally.
By 28, my visceral reaction to the day fully emerged and I felt a wave of disassociation most of the day. I was actually really wanting to feel celebratory but wound up feeling stomach pain and sadness throughout the day. I believe that’s the first year I verbally stated that I no longer have a birthday and it was hard. I didn’t even really know why I was feeling what I was feeling.
It didn’t help that I still very much felt like I shouldn’t be feeling sadness. I also felt that others around me were more bothered by my distaste towards my birthday. They tried to comfort me and tell me all the reasons why I’m still special for them. I’d have multiple people tell me ways in which I could resolve my bitter feelings. These are all things I already knew & had already been doing for years. I was ready for a change. A truth.
The truth is, I am a foundling. This means that I do not have a birth story. They say that life is a book without an ending. For adoptees, life is a book without a beginning and an ending. For me, that beginning period before 7 months old is completely unknown so it’s traumatic to be reminded about. At times, I’ve had friends and family members attempt to ‘help’ me feel better by telling me how much they love me and want to recognize it. (the birthday) The truth is, this wasn’t helping. Unfortunately, this was invalidating what I was feeling and how I was processing my story. The truth is, I have no birthday and I’m happier without one since that’s the truth.
And truth matters. And it’s taken me basically four years to actually have the courage to articulate my qualms with a day everyone considers to be joyful. I’m aware that other adoptees also struggle and process in their own way. We are allowed to feel how we want individually. I’ve tried just “celebrating life.” But I don’t need the day that was pulled out of the air solely for legal purposes to do that.
Today, I’m able to celebrate life everyday. I do not have suicidal ideations because I’m living more authentically overall. And I’ve even thought that perhaps I was being dramatic and could “celebrate” my birthday again. But I actually can’t. The topic of BIRTH is connected to trauma so I’m okay with a world where no such day exists. Nothing is required of me, and I don’t ask anything of it. (Yes, that means I gave up cake! 😫 However, This means I can have cake on any day I want 😆)
For now, May 15th is just another day of the week. And if ever I’d want to change that and celebrate, that’d just be part of me reprocessing my story.
Honoring my truth has been incredibly freeing and healing. Thank you for being here. It means so much to me. 😘
P.S. – Studies show adoptees are four times more likely to commit suicide. These don’t include those who battle with depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations or attempt suicide. I am thriving now, but for years I was not okay. Please don’t make assumptions about adoptees as the experience is unique and often very much an internal journey.