I recently downloaded this app called Timehop. It allows you to see what you posted on social media anywhere from a year to six years ago today. It’s pretty cool to see your posts from the past, but lately, I haven’t gotten much pleasure from it.
As most of you know, I had my worst bout of depression this time a year ago. At first when I got Timehop in November, my statuses were still pretty cheerful, or funny. My depression had already started getting worse by November 2013, but I was still hanging on. As December came by I posted less and less. If I did post something, it usually had nothing to do with my day to day life. I didn’t know what was going on with me, and I was ashamed of asking for help or trying to tell someone, even people as insignificant as facebook friends, that something was wrong.
This isn’t to say that the consistency of Facebook statuses one posts directly relate to how one is doing mental health-wise, but I know myself pretty well. I know the reasons I wasn’t posting anything. I was too busy with self loathing, having uncontrollable crying spells, constantly having suicidal thoughts and constantly drinking to avoid my problems. Problems that were in my past and couldn’t even hurt me anymore.
Tonight, I got a notification on timehop. On January 10th, I posted nothing a year ago, and nothing two years ago. But three years ago I posted three different fun statuses about my friends that I was hanging out with that day. four years ago I posted about a Netflix night with my friends back home. Six years ago I posted pictures of myself at Show choir rehearsal.
In that moment I just thought to myself how uninvolved in my own life I was last year at this time. It was hard to remember day to day things because most of it was a blur. The only things that stand out are really terrible moments that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
Like my 21st birthday.
My birthday is coming up. I’ll be 22 in 19 days. Honestly, I’m usually not too excited about my birthdays because for some reason they are notorious for being really bad or just uneventful.
On my fourth birthday (The first one I can remember) the family party was just fine. No problems, until everyone left and my dad beat up my older brother who was 11 at the time. Right in front of us. He did it every night, but that’s the first time I remember it happening.
On my 12th birthday I had a small sleepover with four of my friends. These girls were vicious. My own version of mean girls’ “plastics”. They picked on me the whole time and I had to pretend like nothing was wrong in front of my parents.
On my 15th birthday (My Quinceañera) My mom invited most of my family, and I was allowed to invite 20 or so of my school friends. The whole night my family and friends were arguing over music. My white friends wanted the cha cha slide, my hispanic family wanted Salsa, and guess who got all the complaints? Me. That night wasn’t even about me at that point.
On my 16th birthday, my family was acting super weird. As if they had a secret or something. I was convinced I was going to be thrown a surprise birthday party. I just knew it. My brother and mom picked me up from school and they started yelling at me for one reason or another, typical day in my family at the time. I thought it was all part of the ruse though. Maybe they were trying to lead me off the track. There was no party. We got home to an empty, dark house. And I went to bed.
On my 19th birthday Roxy had a surprise party for me at her dorm. Most of my new freshman friends were there, except Joseph, who’s excuse was that he had to study. At first we had a blast. Roxy had spent so much money on liquor it was insane. Only problem was that one of her roommates was so extremely unhappy in her own life, that she didn’t want anyone else to be happy. She was homesick, mopey, and never wanted to be around people. So even though Roxy had cleared the party with her, at around 12am she came out of her room, left the dorm, and went straight to the RA’s, who knocked on our door and busted all of us. We got banned from the dorm for the rest of the semester.
On my 20th birthday, I was feuding with this girl from my school. Jeanette. We had similar positions of power in our Latino group at school and she did whatever possible to alienate me from my friends. It worked. Joseph tried to throw me a birthday party, and only invited the people that weren’t involved in the mess. When we got to the party, there were three people there. one of them was a stranger. A girlfriend of one of my friends. And one of them was a friend that was already wasted, so I spent a lot of time taking care of her.
Now for my 21st.
I was in an extremely bad place on my 21st birthday. I was ready to get wasted and forget about my problems. I cleaned the whole apartment, showered, put makeup on, got my outfit on. I probably did more that day than I had done in months. It was technically the 31st of January, one day after my birthday, but I was okay with it. I was excited to be in a room full of people that loved me and wanted me to have a good time.
The party started. People brought some alcohol. Not much. I ended up paying for almost all of the liquor on my birthday. Mostly everyone drank on my dime. Having depression I automatically thought it was because no one cared about me. Everyone in the room was just there to mooch off of me, and really they hated me. Depression does that to you. In reality my birthday is very close to bill paying time. Rent, electricity, almost everything is due the 1st. And my friends were a whole bunch of college students who made minimum wage wherever they worked. The night went on with me crying in my room, drunk as all hell, and a lot of my friends sitting around me trying to reassure me that they were all there for me.
I didn’t care at that point. I didn’t see it that way. Everyone but Roxy and Joseph left, and I got up from my bed and went to the bathroom.
I looked at myself in the mirror. Stared into my reflection for a long time.
Until I couldn’t look anymore.
I grabbed a cleaning solution from the cabinet under the sink, and I drank it.
All of it.
I blacked out for a bit and woke up to Josephs finger down my throat. I threw it all up. Once I was calm and could breath again, We all just sat there, exhausted.
Joseph sat on the toilet, Roxy in the tub, and I was sprawled on the floor with my back against the wall.
“No more drinking. If I’m going to get better I can’t drink anymore.”
They quietly nodded in response to my realization.
So for the first two months of being 21 I didn’t drink. I tried to avoid it so that I could focus on getting better. I started again in march, but I didn’t get nearly as drunk, and I was a lot better at giving myself a limit. It didn’t always pan out, but ever since then I never did anything as crazy as that day on alcohol.
Obviously with these birthdays on my list it could be assumed that I’m not excited for this next one. Well, I wasn’t at first. I figured I shouldn’t do anything at all. I should just make sure not to make a fool of myself in a new town and watch movies or something.
But I have something that I never had for any of those other birthdays. Control.
This will be my first birthday on anti – depressants. I finally have control over my feelings. I also have control over my alcohol intake. I don’t drink to forget anymore. I drink to enhance whatever is happening. To add to the fun.
I control what I can. I invite who I want, I enjoy it as it happens, I accept that it won’t be the perfect day. I accept that things may not go exactly as planned. I realize that if I don’t enjoy it I’ll just look back and wish I had.
Imagine if on my 12th birthday I had invited some of my real friends instead of the popular mean girls?
Imagine if on my 15th birthday I had just told my friends to back off and give my family some dancing time?
Imagine if on my 19th birthday my friends and I decided to ditch the dorms after we got caught and just go have pizza?
Imagine if on my 21st birthday I would’ve stuck to four or five drinks and enjoyed my drunkenness as opposed to trying to black out on all the alcohol I had to buy?
This time is to be different because not only do I have control of the set up, but I also have control over how I react to things that may happen.
So that’s it. On January 31st, the same day that a year ago was my first suicide attempt, I’m going to take back my birthday. I’ve got some amazing roommates who are totally fine with the party and are in fact coming. I’ve invited the new guy I’m seeing, and some great friends I made at karaoke, plus henry who’s already accepted, and I’m going to have a great time.
It’s going to be a potluck booze party. Everyone’s bringing something and we’re all putting it on one table and sharing it.
I’m going to limit myself to five drinks of my choice, and maybe two shots tops. (Hey, it’s my brithday). Not because I’m afraid of doing something stupid, but because I want to remember my birthday party.
So whether 15 people or three people come, I’m going to enjoy it. Because those three people took the time out of their lives to celebrate mine. And now I know this.
And whether I have two drinks or five, I won’t care because I don’t need the alcohol anymore.
And whether the party gets busted or someone gets into a fight, or whatever other stupid party ruining thing happens, I won’t care because I’ll have enjoyed every microsecond up until that point. That’s what matters.
And at the end of the night, when everyone is gone and the party is over, I’ll look at myself in the mirror and I won’t see a sad, broken, hollow 21 year old who drank too much, I’ll see a sassy, beautiful 22 year old who’s smiling right back at me.
So to my 22nd birthday, good luck trying to be a bad one!