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  • Writer's picturekatjagschulz

The fear of my own birthday

It's that time again this Friday. It's my birthday and I dread this day. At least to a certain degree.

Maybe I'm more melancholic than anxious – I don't really know.

As a kid, I was always just excited to have birthdays. Who isn’t/wasn't! Of course, the excitement has waned over the years. I now have no more sleep problems on the night of January 20th to 21st. 😉

But there is a kind of dark mood in the air – it hovers over me like a cloud all day long. Or maybe not all day, it depends:

Will a friend contact me on my birthday? Or maybe a sister-in-law? If not, then… yes, then the dark cloud will linger.

I've cried countless times on my birthdays over the past few years. It really started in 2014. It was the very first time that I didn't talk to my mother on the phone on my birthday because the summer before, I completely cut off the phone contact I had with her. (If it is of interest why this is so, reading my novel would elucidate it.) I haven't spoken to my father for even longer than that.

When I was a child and teenager (and young adult), my parents were basically the main people who made my birthdays feel good. And my grandma when she was still alive!

I didn’t talk to my parents on my last eight birthdays. I assume that they still remember me well and therefore also think of me on my birthday. My mother at least, because the day is certainly something to remember for her. Well, that doesn't help me these days, though. I'm so estranged from my parents by now, I might not even notice that I don't get congratulations from them anymore. Or maybe I do. Maybe it still hurts not to hear "Happy Birthday" over the phone.

Last year – on my first birthday during this pandemic – I cried the worst I'd done on a birthday in a long time. While my parents don't even have the opportunity to call me or write me an email any more, since they have neither my phone number nor my email address, some friends and acquaintances do have the possibility. And yet my phone stayed silent all day last year and my email inbox empty!

Well, if you, dear reader, just had your birthday or if your birthday is still half a year away, then you might think: "Oh, that's not so bad after all". And after all, I still have my husband, right? Yes, that's right. And yet I felt terribly lonely last January when no one (except my husband) thought of me on my birthday. No one.

It was amazing how much I was broken by that feeling. It might even have surprised me a bit myself, because unless you're right there, on the actual day of your birthday, you might not think about how it really feels when no one is thinking of you.

When else in the year would you hope that others think of you, if not on your birthday?

Fifteen minutes before my birthday was over, I took to Twitter last year. In a sad mood, I announced that it was my birthday and that I didn't seem to have any real friends. (I do think, often enough, that I don't have true friends, but that's mostly because my OCD has made me move around so much—even regularly from one country to another, which I've also written about in my book.)

Replies poured in on Twitter. Congratulations and kind words. So, did I save my own day? Fifteen minutes before it was up? Did I save myself?

Did I get something I wanted so badly? Attention? Too much attention maybe?

My father would immediately accuse me of this. He long ago called me ‘the glow worm’ who was in too much need of attention. Really??

Maybe I've internalized my father's voice so much that I even feel guilty for writing this blog post. Because it is clear that by doing so, I am drawing attention to myself and it seems as if I am already trying to save my own birthday, because I fear the day. I fear that my phone will remain silent and my email inbox empty; Or that nobody on social media will remember my birthday (which of course is likely). I fear that I’ll have to face the truth again: even on my birthday I don't really matter.

And I have another fear: that no one will stand by my grave on the day of my funeral. This idea is one of the worst ever.

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