I saw my therapist today for the first time in a few months. I cancelled my last scheduled appointment, and then she ended up having to cancel the one we rescheduled. I think I did a pretty good job of acting like I’m doing really well. She has shown that it’s no use to talk about the sexual abuse with her (she forgot about it after I told her the first time), so we tend to focus on the emotional abuse and my relationship with my father (or lack thereof).

At one point, I told her about the most recent times my father has tried to contact me, and said that I was expecting more attempts soon because my birthday is coming up. I ended up talking about how I hate my birthday, and it seemed like she couldn’t really understand that. Even if I’m doing pretty well in general, my birthday is always marked by sadness and self-loathing. It sounds immature, but I always get that feeling of “I wish I had never been born” on my birthday. I always feel stupid, useless, and guilty on my birthday. I think maybe it’s anger that should be directed towards others being turned inward. In any case, birthdays are not fun for me. Getting gifts is embarrassing and seems crude (but I love giving gifts to others, so this doesn’t make sense). My mother always wants to have a special dinner, but I hate choosing where to go or what to have. I worry that my choices will make someone upset if they don’t like what I choose. I don’t like being the center of attention. But at the same time, I feel selfish because if they were to forget my birthday, I would be very hurt.

Growing up, birthdays were a huge deal for my father. If my brother and I didn’t remember someone’s birthday or purchase an extravagant gift for them (even distant relatives and even when we were far too young to be expected to remember birthdays, let alone give gifts), we would never hear the end of it. My brother is hopeless at remembering dates, so the responsibility always fell on me. Yes, as an elementary school child, I was more worried about getting a suitable gift for an uncle I had never met than about school or friends. And if my father’s own birthday wasn’t special enough? Forget it. The sulking, pouting, complaining, and then outright abuse would be at its worst. One year, he hinted for months that he wanted a Carvel ice cream cake because that had been a special thing when he was a kid. After the birthday celebration, he complained that we hadn’t put any effort into his birthday because we bought a Carvel ice cream cake instead of baking a cake ourselves. Clearly we didn’t value or care about him.

Then there was the issue of our own birthdays. This was always a fight between him and our mother. Technically, he was supposed to get us every other year for our birthdays. But this was kind of impossible because birthdays don’t always fall on a weekend (duh) and he always chose to live at least three hours away from us. It wasn’t realistic for him to have us for our birthdays on “his years” if they didn’t fall on a weekend. Make no mistake, he did not want us for our birthdays because he wanted to show love or celebrate with us. He wanted us as part of a power play against our mother. If he did have us for our birthdays, he would throw parties that were attended by none of our friends (he lived far away, remember) but all of his fancy textile business colleagues, customers, and VIPs. And if we weren’t sufficiently entertaining to his guests, we would have hell to pay later.

So you can see why birthdays are a more stressful than joyful occasion for me. My therapist said that she wants me to try to have a positive script ready for my birthday so that I don’t have the usual “You are worthless, stupid, and a horrible person” running through my head. I told her that I would try, but I’m not sure if it will make any difference. A stupid mental script isn’t going to undo years of that stuff.

I wish people could just accept that I don’t like my birthday and stop trying to make a big deal of it. My partner keeps talking about the gift she got that I am going to love and what kind of cake I want and all that. We are going to a fall festival the weekend before my birthday with a good friend we haven’t seen in awhile, and I think she has this idea of making it some sort of birthday thing. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate her wanting to make it a good experience. But I just know I’m going to be sad and angry anyway, and it would be easier if we just chose to ignore the day altogether because if she puts in all this effort I’m going to feel really awful for not enjoying it.

I feel like a spoiled brat writing this. I just can’t figure out how to deal with my birthday and make it seem like I’m enjoying it to others. I’m usually good at hiding my emotions, but they are so visceral on my birthday that people who know me well can tell I’m not right. Any suggestions?

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