Special occasions are hard. New Year is a tough one – all those people with friends and loved ones to have fun with. Photos of fireworks, grinning people wrapped up against the northern cold or stripped down and enjoying southern sun, full of optimism for the year to come. Christmas is at least family time and I still have family clinging on in there. The three of us sat round a pulled-out table eating the same meal we’ve eaten for decades, comfortable in each others’ company but still struggling to find things to say.

Then festival season starts and people go off in groups and have more fun in mud and sunshine. Holiday season and everyone goes off with families and friends and partners and kids and it just highlights the isolation that is your fault but which you can’t seem to find a solution for. Sometimes you blame your disease and sometimes you wonder when and how you became the person who doesn’t have any friends.

This year, my birthday was worst. I got messages on Facebook – mostly generic (but appreciated nonetheless), a few more personal ones. I even got a couple of texts and an email or too. I got one card. One down on last year. No presents of course.

But none of that is important. The thing that was hard was just the fact that the day came round and I was here to see it. I didn’t think I would be. I didn’t want to be. On good days (and one day I hope permanently), I can see this as a small triumph of will and hope. On other days, it’s simply a disappointment. Another failure to get things right. On the worst days, it’s painful and frustrating and heavy in my limbs and stomach and brain.

So I cut myself off. I saw no one the weekend before. I told no one at work. I hid in my room with the lights off and headphones in so my flatmate wouldn’t know I was home. So I wouldn’t have to hear “Happy Birthday” and smile and answer the question “What did you do to celebrate?/Are you going out tonight?” So I wouldn’t have to smile and pretend I’m glad I saw out another fucking year.


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