Not So Happy Birthdays

Birthday depression is not always as obvious as seen in this photo of Aura Shakhar. It’s our job to reach out and check on our loved ones during their special day (Photo by Orion Ware).

From doing some Googling and self-reflection, I noticed that it is a common thing to get this feeling of anxiousness and sadness a couple of days before their birthday or even during their birthday. I call it the “Birthday Depression.” Birthday Depression, to my knowledge, is not a clinical term used by psychologists, but it is a real thing and it needs more attention.

When I turned 18 years old, I started experiencing Birthday Depression for the first time. I started to lose the friends I had in high school. I was beginning a new chapter of my life, and I often didn’t know the “adult way” to celebrate a birthday that didn’t involve alcohol and the club. I felt like because I didn’t have glamorous pictures to show on Instagram that my birthday would be a failure. I felt since I didn’t have many friends to shower me with praise and love that my birthday didn’t matter to anyone, so why should it matter to me?

It’s been brought to my attention in conversation about Birthday Depression that birthdays are perceived as having a lot of significance and that could play a major role in the mental health effects that come with an upcoming birthday. There is a lot of social pressure around when, how, and why you should celebrate your birthday. It is expected that you celebrate your birthday on your actual day or the weekend before or after. It is expected that you have some kind of celebration that includes your friends and family, so they can give you gifts and praise. It is expected that you celebrate your birthday because it’s a social holiday whether you feel like it or not. Putting this kind of pressure on people who are very much so loners by choice, have social anxiety, and/or are alone by force puts them in a very awkward and uncomfortable position.

There are social pressures around how many people should acknowledge your birthday. A lot of those expectations include parties, social activities with multiple friends, etc. When we were younger, a lot of us associated the importance of our day of life with how many “Happy Birthday” texts we got. What about those who don’t have many friends? What about those who are bad at planning things but really would like to host a party for their birthday? Oftentimes when people say, “I just want to stay at home” or “it’s not that big of a deal it’s just a day” they either are introverts or they are tired of dealing with having to impress other people by celebrating their own birthday in some kind of spontaneous way. Let them be.

All of this is not to say that birthdays are not worth celebrating. I just want to bring some awareness to those who find birthdays a time of gloom and encourage us to check up on our friends during their special day. Instead of asking them what they are doing for their birthday, maybe we should ask them how they are feeling and if there is anything we can do to make sure they feel seen on their celebration of life. Instead of ignoring someone’s happy birthday post because they are a stranger, maybe we should take a few seconds to wish them a happy birthday. Instead of expecting someone else to throw a party on their birthday so we can get out of the house, maybe we should offer to throw them one instead.

Everyone deserves to feel good on their day of life, not just those who have glamorous parties and large social circles. Today, I challenge you to check on the mental health of someone who is celebrating a birthday soon. I challenge you to wish someone you don’t know a happy birthday. Today I challenge those who have suffered from birthday depression to reach out to someone that makes you happy and ask them to spend the day with you. I challenge you to do something that makes you feel like royalty no matter how flamboyant it is or isn’t. You deserve it.

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