Yesterday I celebrated my birthday – an occasion for merriment and joy, but there is a slightly darker undertone to my birthday as it is immediately followed by a somewhat less pleasant anniversary. Six years ago today (20th July 2007) my mental health finally fell apart, and I had a very severe panic attack / fit at work. Today the memories of those first three weeks of a wet July are mostly just unpleasant memories. Fortunately. For that I can thank my wife, my daughter, and also other friends and family.
Ten years ago I was a little concerned about growing older, as I think most people are in their early twenties. I remember twenty-three sounding so very much older than twenty-two, for example, but while it was a concern it was never as big an issue as it genuinely is for many people. These days however the matter is rather turned on its head.
The other way I celebrate my birthday is simple: hooray for still being alive. Having come closer to ending my own life than anyone should ever have to experience now I can celebrate each birthday by being grateful for the simple fact I am still alive to have birthdays. In some respects this is one of the most profound (and I think positive) developments in my worldview to have occurred. Unfortunately I also think it is a worldview that probably only resonates strongly with those who have, for whatever reason, come very close to not being alive – and I would not wish my experiences (or anything similar) on my own worst enemy.
I tentatively suggest however that it is still a worthwhile thought around birthday-time – being alive is generally a great thing. A birthday marks another year of life – not another year older but another year richer, with all the ups and downs; triumphs and failures; challenges and surprises that comprise life. It is a precious thing, worth celebrating.