Birthdays are often associated with happiness, but for some women, it’s not all about the cake, cards, and confetti. When we feel down about our birthday, we often feel ungrateful and somewhat broken.
How can we feel sad on such a joyous occasion?
We’re surrounded by family and friends, celebrating our accomplishments and having a good time. Their happiness should be contagious, but it isn’t.
That’s because birthday blues, or birthday depression, is a real condition – and if you’re feeling it, you’re not alone.
The terms birthday blues and birthday depression have been used interchangeably and, in essence, refer to the same thing.
The condition is associated with fears of growing old and being unsure about the future. This description can downplay the true extent of this difficulty and its impact on the person who’s suffering from the condition.
In some cases, this experience is limited to your specific birth date, while others have these feelings on an ongoing basis. The long-term feeling is often associated with chronic depression, which can increase negative emotions, sadness, and hopelessness.
The seriousness of birthday blues cannot be understated, and it’s something that needs to be treated with sensitivity and kindness.
Feeling blue about your birthday may seem like a strange thing, and it’s often assumed to be a result of high expectations of what the celebration should entail.
While this can play a role, this type of feeling doesn’t relate to birthday experiences or expectations. There also don’t need to be any pre-existing medical conditions for it to occur.
People who most commonly experience this phenomenon include:
The most obvious cause of birthday blues is panicking about your age and battling to come to terms with the physical changes that occur as a result. This leads to comparing ourselves to what we used to look like, as well as what those around us look like, especially if they’re the same age.
Society plays a part in this, too, with milestones and accomplishments expected to be achieved by a certain point.
The pressure to reach a certain point in your career, have kids and grandchildren, and the need to have enough money saved for the future all puts pressure on us. This pressure increases around our birthdays as it acts as a reminder of what we have “failed” to achieve.
There’s also a familial expectation that comes with your birthday. Spending time with family and friends is often non-negotiable, and with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, this has been tricky. Plus, you may feel let down by the people who haven’t made an effort to see you or who haven’t wished you a happy birthday either.
Something that often plays a part in birthday expectations not being met is dysfunctional family dynamics. Not everyone gets along, especially in a social setting. This can make you feel unimportant or unloved by people’s inability to put their differences aside for one special day.
The presence of friends may counteract a dysfunctional family dynamic. However, not all of us have big groups of friends. A birthday celebration can make a lack of friends obvious and contribute to feelings of loneliness.
The birthday blues struggle is real, but there are coping mechanisms you can put in place.
If you know that you don’t deal well with your birthday, plan ahead. You may want to speak to a professional about what you’re experiencing, ideally a few months before the date rolls around. This will assist you in identifying your triggers and alleviating stress.
Your family and friends can’t support you if they don’t know what you’re going through. They’re the ones who will want to spoil you with fabulous gifts, so it’s a good idea to tell them why you’re feeling the way you do, so they don’t feel they’ve let you down.
If you are a bit short on family or friends, spend the day spoiling yourself and do things you enjoy to mark the occasion. Whether it’s a day at a spa, a new outfit, or a weekend away, make sure you celebrate YOU!
Focusing on what you have achieved and accomplished in the last year can give you a better sense of self-worth and remind yourself of all the good things in life. While you may have experienced some not-so-great things, the good should outweigh the bad.
Above all, take it easy and be gentle with yourself. You can’t force yourself to feel a certain way, and you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to do so.
If the thought of your birthday leaves you cold, you don’t have to suffer through a depressive bout every year. There are things that you can do to manage the onset of birthday blues symptoms:
Everyone experiences things differently, and it’s okay not to be overly enthusiastic about your birthday. However, it’s not okay to ignore the fact that you are not happy, and you need to take action!
Whatever that action is, it’s up to you, but don’t let the birthday blues stop you from celebrating yourself – and not just on one day of the year!
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