I survived it: the weekend of allllll the birthdays, and all of the challenges that came with.
Like many of the things I say, to someone who’s never suffered an eating disorder, that sounds ridiculous. Challenges? What are you talking about, birthdays are great!?
This year I would agree – yes, birthdays are great. For the years and years when my eating disorder ruled my life, however, birthdays were nothing but stress and avoidance. Toooooo much food and socialization for Ed, that’s for sure. Family dinners were never fun, and birthday cake was not even up for consideration. When mom insisted that I choose a birthday dessert, it was always angel food cake – the only thing Ed considered safe. (I had angel food cake somewhat recently, after being re-introduced to actual desserts, and oh my god – it’s the most boring cake in the world.)
Last year, soon after starting my recovery journey, I had my first piece of birthday cake in over ten years. It was a huge accomplishment for me at the time, and a pretty exciting “new” thing. Looking back on it, I’m still proud of that baby step, but I’m even more proud of how far I’ve come since then.
I spent my twenty-second birthday in Montreal with a friend, at a weekend-long music festival. Eating that weekend was pretty unstructured and messy, but birthday cake was a priority. It ended up being a slice of chocolatey mousse cake, at breakfast time, followed by a day of eating definitely-less-than-I-should-have. Like I said, baby steps, I guess. Any cake was a pretty big deal after ten+ years of none.
This year, birthday number twenty-three, involved a whole lot more cake. A whole lot more everything.
My mom’s, my cousin’s, and my birthday are all within a four-day period, and this year that resulted in a full weekend of birthday festivities. Between Friday and Monday, our fridge calendar was blocked solid with celebrations, and leading up to it, I have to admit I was pretty nervous and anxious about all the food that would be involved. A single piece of cake is one thing – a weekend full of food-related events is just slightly more stressful. If I didn’t explode from either all the calories or all the anxiety, it’d be a miracle.
Well, it’s Tuesday, and here I am. And let me tell you – I had a fabulous weekend. I fully enjoyed it, because I didn’t listen to Ed’s BS. This year, I didn’t miss out on anything.
The past few days were wonderful. I shared a drink (or two..) with my baby cousin to celebrate her turning nineteen. I enjoyed a backyard barbecue with all my friends and family (and maybe more drinks). I went out for a lovely birthday dinner with my also lovely boyfriend. I ate homemade ice cream cake, and good old-fashioned vanilla birthday cake, and fancy gourmet (birthday) cupcakes, and it was all DELICIOUS. And best of all, I talked and joked and laughed and enjoyed a relaxed, carefree, pretty-much-normal weekend with my favorite humans in the world.
This was not a weekend I could have enjoyed a year ago, and most definitely not before that. I’m so glad I’ve come far enough in recovery to be able to celebrate with my loved ones, and not have food be such a stressful thing, or something that prevents me from having a good time. I can’t lie – I did have a few moments when Ed tried to take over, and tell me “you don’t need to eat that, you don’t need those extra calories”. But I had to remind myself – one weekend of more-than-usual consumption is not going to matter in the long term. Turning down the birthday treats, and being awkward at the various events, and spending my time obsessing would have had a much more negative impact on my weekend, and memories of it.
I have such amazing people in my life, and I am so thankful I got to spend my birthday (and Mom’s and Sammie’s) with them this year. Birthdays are pretty cool, when you let them be.