*trigger warning: self-harm, mention of thoughts of suicide 

 On my twenty-second birthday, this past February twenty-third, almost every single person who was invited canceled or just couldn't make it due to other reasons. I had a mental break down because I hate my birthday and it's always a struggle. On my sweet sixteen, my mom packed all my friends in her minivan and took us downtown. But for the three months leading up to that birthday, I had finally been hit with full blown Anxiety and Social Anxiety. Not only had my aunt died a month earlier, and I was too depressed or anxious to even leave my room to go to her funeral- so I was still grieving over that too by the time February rolled around. Since winter break, I had not really left the corner of my bedroom and had barely talked to any of my friends beside a guy named Cody. He did not come to my sweet sixteen. But on that birthday when I got in my mom's car anxious as Hell, I had already cried because no outfit I wore was good enough and my hair sucked. Yet as soon as I got in my friends all welcomed me with open arms and it was like the three months of self-hatred, isolation, and more had just dropped away. Here were all of my closest girlfriends in the back of my mom's minivan about to go to Clifton and drink coffee like I hadn't ignored their messages or invitations since winter break began.

 This birthday though I spent ten minutes crying in the bathroom, a few minutes in my bedroom, about another ten in the kitchen and then full on broke down in the family room with my then partner and sister. They comforted me and we continued on with my birthday- painting, eating cupcakes, and listening to the playlist I curated after hours of searching all the music I knew and more. I had fun, I started a painting I really liked and spent time with people I love. But sometime during me sobbing silently in the bathroom- crouched on the floor shoving my mouth on to my knee and biting myself so hard so I wouldn't make a sound- I realized I felt miserable. I had for the last few years. Since my sweet sixteen, I have felt miserable. Since even before that- that's just the earliest I can remember really feeling as miserable. At my sweet sixteen I realized for the last three months I had been feeling miserable sitting in my bedroom all alone, hating myself and life, feeling too anxious to leave my bed. I had this same feeling on my twenty-second birthday and since then I have been slowly doing what I could to get better.

 I've been writing and documenting my process in a few ways. I've been spending more of my free time, when not working on one of the million projects I have decided to start, making some kind of art. The urge to relapse with self-harm has been strong but thanks to my last partner taking my razors when he moved out. So I've been knitting (even though it's spring), embroidering things, painting a lot, learning how to do makeup, spring cleaning everything I own so I can downsize in August, doing yoga, meditating for thirty minutes, going places alone, going places with new people, trying a new apple every time I go to the grocery store. I just had my first visit with my new Care Manager which I'll elaborate on further later, so I'll be busy making a lot of mental improvements soon too. The projects I'm talking about are a lot of art related projects too which makes me extremely excited to get out and start working on all of them. I'm forcing myself to go to coffee shops once a week at the very least. Now I can get back out into the world, with the dark grey skies gone.

 I have this deep seeded fear of wasting time, which used to be accompanied by the fear of dying- depression and the fact that one family member has died every year for as long as I can remember made me get pretty close with the idea of death. The thoughts of suicide and the act of trying it is not something I would like to admit has happened- but it has. My friend Jack told me once that if I'm okay with dying and ending my life, then why not do whatever it is I want to do before I go. When my birthday came around this year and I thought of dying my mind went back to July when I went to Cleveland and saw Taylor Swift live, in person, performing an amazing concert. I promised myself when I listened to Taylor Swift by Taylor Swift that I could end my life after I saw her concert, that was how I would be allowed to do it. I saw her in July and was so ecstatic that I had no plans of ending my life any time soon after that. But on my birthday I had already had a few thoughts, it had already re-entered my mind. This time around though I have a lot of things I want to do and none of them actually include suicide. Yes, I have been thinking about it a lot but this time, this birthday- I decided, fuck it. I'll listen to Jack and do all the stuff I want to do before I die, while simultaneously forcing myself to reach out for help. I told my mom the next day before my depression or anxiety could stop me. I told her everything, I told her I needed help, I told her I needed her to help me get help because my illnesses won't let me help myself.

 So now I'm getting help. Like I said, I had my first meeting with my new Care Manager the other day. Before that, I had other meetings with people at my local Behavioral Health Center to even get a Care Manager and a plan. I'm waiting now to see if I can use their doctor to start my medication process, and soon I'll be able to go back to therapy. I've used the same places' services before and specifically remember not really wanting to talk to the therapist but also wanting to. Four years later I'm back and I feel so sorry for the emotional baggage I'm about to launch over my shoulder and unleash there. I have daddy issues I didn't ask for that's causing stress and anxiety, my trigger of navy blue shirts popped back up the other day, I'm freshly single and now alone in my apartment after sharing my home for nine months, I have no fucking clue who I am because I have been an anxious/depressed shell for the last decade with months of happiness sprinkled in between. I am now relearning how to live alone and go to things alone. How to go back out into the world not afraid of men with salt & pepper hair in blue shirts. I'm searching for a regular part-time job that'll get me out of the house and keep myself busy. When I sat alone in the bathroom biting my knee and crying, I decided then that I really did want to die. The miserable me, the depressed me, the version of me who has thought anxiously and negatively for almost two decades.

  My earliest memory (before a recently recovered one) had been an extremely traumatic one at the age of six that caused my PTSD. Your earliest memory is your core, it's how you think, it influences a lot of things. Mine was scary and negative and traumatic. But now I remember sunflowers. I had a sunflower circle in my backyard when I was three in my second home. I remember looking up at the sunflowers from below, the big yellow petals and bright green leaves. The bright blue sky above me and the white wispy clouds slowly moving past. That is my new core memory- this is how I am going to rewire my brain. Doing the same thing I did on my birthday that saved the entire night- painting. Painting sunflowers. A goal of mine for this Fall is to go to a sunflower garden with my camera and in front of everyone, lay on the ground and take a photo that's similar to my memory and repaint it. My memory is hazy and I'm not great at painting from memory- but I want to do this. I want to work this Spring and Summer towards lessening my anxiety so I can do that. So I can plop down on that ground in front of people with my camera and take as many photos as I need until I get it right. I'm too scared to even take photos with my phone in public in front of people as of today and I detest that. But that's the little goal that I want to accomplish by my next birthday. Paint a more realistic version of my memory so not only will I need to put my time and effort towards improving on a skill I love to do, but also squashing my anxiety. All while improving on other simple life skills, personal growth things, mental health improvements, and more. I'm excited though to see how different my next birthday will be- it's my golden birthday, twenty-three on the twenty-third. I hope life is better, my birthday will certainly be an improvement by next year because although I always find a way to have a good night by the end of my birthday- I'm done dreading it.

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