twenty seven, birthday depression, and gratitude

You may have noticed it’s been nothing but silence around here lately. I turned twenty seven this week and the weeks leading up to it really threw me for a loop. Have you ever heard of birthday depression? It’s a real thing and it happens to me every year.

For most of my adult life now, my birthday has served as a time to reflect on my life. Inward reflection can be an amazing tool, but when I am already feeling depressed it can be terribly destructive. This year, my negative thoughts erupted and left me feeling empty, hopeless, and dreading 27. 

Late twenties feels so strange at times. It’s not prescribed like life has been up to this point. Before, I had someone telling me what I should be doing; my parents, teachers, mentors, counselors, bosses. School, college, graduate school, get a job, and now what? Anything! And that’s so overwhelming at times. I know 27-year-old mothers and I know 27-year-old globetrotters and 27-year-olds making six figures. Anything goes at this age. The possibilities can be a bit dizzying and leave me with intense feelings of inadequacy.

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I mean, I’m not doing any of that! I’m nowhere near ready for children (I think.. I don’t know!). The most exotic place I’m going this year is Rhode Island. Aaand, I am not even remotely close to making six figures. “So what AM I doing?”, I kept asking myself. I haven’t been so sure. I didn’t feel like I was doing enough, making enough, being enough.

The comparison game will always leave me (and most anyone for that matter) feeling that way.  Scrolling through Instagram can be the worst catalyst into my self-loathing. Everyone's lives seem so beautiful and put together in those little squares.  Sometimes I can't help but feel like I should be doing more, wearing better clothes, writing more, doing more projects, all while having flawless makeup.  That comparison game really sucks and it's not fair to compare myself to anyone else and yet, I still do it ALL THE TIME. It's completely draining.

Fortunately, I have learned a thing or two in my years of struggling with/learning about mental health. You know that cliche saying “gratitude turns what we have into enough?” It’s true. As an added bonus, it can help lessen depression and reduce anxiety. Yes, really! I’ve read about this phenomenon several times through my mental health journey, but I truly experienced it once I put it into practice. If you want the science behind it, this article does a great job of explaining.

After being so down for several weeks, I am ready to feel like myself again. So, this week, I started journaling about what I’m grateful for. (I’ve done this on and off before but I am really striving to be consistent.) Between that, spending time and celebrating with friends, and all the fantastic birthday food this week, I am starting to feel alive again. My annoying optimism is coming back strong and I feel hopeful about all the things 27 has in store.

I may not be wealthy or a mother or know how to contour my face, but I have it damn good in this life. I’m excited to recognize that and enjoy the journey again.

What are you grateful for today. Write it down or let me know in the comments below. 

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