Celebrating My Birthday with Depression

January 15, 2015 Erin Schulthies

It's exceptionally hard to celebrate when you have depression. I just turned 30 this week and I'm proud to have survived my birthday because I was so scared up until its arrival. As it turned out, it was easier than ever for me to celebrate my birthday this year because I figured out the secret to surviving my birthday (or any holiday) with depression.

Celebrating with Depression

Every holiday, birthday, and anniversary have one thing in common: warning. We know when they're going to arrive and through experience, we often know what to expect for each occasion.

My birthday has always made me sad. I think it has something to do with the high expectations that come along with birthdays.

I try not to use the word "should" because it rarely ever makes me feel anything but guilty. That said, if there's a day any of us feels we "should" be happy is our birthday.

This Year's Birthday with Depression

So, this year, I knew that my birthday might make me sad, because it usually does. Then I realized that the only person who really matters on my birthday is me. I asked myself what I needed to survive my birthday in one piece.

Here's what I did: I spent most of the day alone. Why? I like being alone. I'm an introvert who prefers to do quiet activities in her apartment.

I slept in, I ate breakfast while looking at Instagram, and then I watched a favourite television show while half sitting half-pedaling on my exercise bike. Then I took a long shower and did everything I needed to do that day at my own pace.

I did everything I could to make my birthday the most normal day as possible except I gave myself the gift of living a day without the word "should."

My symptoms of depression tend to worsen as the day continues, so even though I'd decided to spend most of my birthday alone, I knew that being alone into the evening on my birthday might lead me into thoughts of self-harm like self-injury or suicidal wishes. So I went out with a friend that night, for dinner and bubble tea. It wasn't a birthday party, just dinner out with one friend, at a favourite restaurant.

This friend knew it was my birthday but she didn't make a big deal about it. She followed my lead and we had a relaxing and delicious dinner.

Celebrating a birthday with depression can be unpleasant but this year, I discovered how to survive celebrating my birthday even while depressed. Find out how.

For your next holiday, special occasion, anniversary, or other date that tends to come with a giant "should" attached to it, preparing yourself ahead of time is key to making it through the day. Think about what you like and what you need to feel safe and make plans with your depression in mind. As we all know, depression doesn't care what the calendar says.

If you have trouble taking care of yourself or treating yourself well, try to think about yourself as you would a friend. How could you help a friend survive a holiday with depression? If you treat yourself as you would a friend, you have a much higher chance of getting through your special occasion without turmoil.

Once you have that figured out, you can maybe make your way into a little celebrating. I found that listening to some of my favourite music on while celebrating my birthday with depression helped me to celebrate unintentionally.

In other words, I listened to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and ended up trying to mimic the twist contest with my dog, who ends up trying to dance with me if I dance around him. Best birthday ever!

You can also find Erin Schulthies on Twitter, Google+, Facebook and her blog, Daisies and Bruises: The Art of Living with Depression.

APA Reference
Schulthies, E. (2015, January 15). Celebrating My Birthday with Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Erin Schulthies

August, 17 2022 at 6:49 pm

My daughter's birthday is tomorrow. I know she's not into parties or making big plans. We've planned a day at the art museum and lunch. Personally, I enjoy my birthday but that's not for her and I want to respect that. If you know of other options or thoughts for those who don't live with depression, but absolutely love someone who does, please share. Thanks!

October, 7 2019 at 5:35 am

I struggle around birthdays although when I was younger they were one of the highlights of the year. But having a criminal record and being unable because of that to make friends/get a job/volunteer/be a part of the community and having no family, birthdays are merely a reminder of my social isolation and the happiness I had when I was married or when I was a child. None of the standard solutions is possible for me: if I tried to help others, for example, they'd reject me and I could be arrested. Even the Salvation Army excluded me. Still, I know other people have lives that are far more difficult than mine, so I count my blessings.

October, 12 2019 at 10:10 am

Hello, SRH. Thank you for your comment. First of all, I want you to know that your struggles are just as real and just as painful as anyone else's. Don't compare yourself and minimize what you're feeling. Your feelings are valid. You are valid. I am so sorry that you are going through this. Birthdays can be difficult reminders of what once was, but what if you shift your thoughts to what is? Do something for yourself on your birthday -- something that celebrates you. I've gone out alone on my birthday and eaten at my favorite restaurant, spent hours in a bookstore, shopped in vintage markets and antique shops, and then had coffee. Take the day to discover who you are. Also, if you are unable to volunteer, donate to a charitable organization that means something to you. Sometimes we have to find new ways to celebrate old traditions. As you learn to embrace the new person you're becoming, I believe you'll find some friends along the way, too.

September, 7 2017 at 9:31 am

My birthday has always been disappointing but since one of my best friends committed suicide 9 years ago it has been even worse. Mainly, because she and I had the same birthday, so every year when September 7th comes up, I always get a little down because I miss her so much and I miss celebrating with her. Because she and I both knew how birthdays can be a letdown so she and I always ALWAYS made sure each other felt so incredibly special on this day... but now... I don't have that, and my sisters don't try to reach out on my birthday to make me feel special (I kind of get with my older sister, because my nephew's birthday is today as well) my husband always does anything last minute so it just feels so unemotional, my parents (well ya... let's just skip that), so it's not like anyone aside from her ever really tried to make a point to celebrate the day I was born. I vakue birthdays, I think those are so incredibly important because that is the day someone is born, and if you really love them and are thankful for them you are so happy they were born, so I always make sure to make those I love and care for feel that from me every year on their birthday. But with me, I don't have that and haven't for years...instead I just have a hole where it used to be filled by her sharing this day with me... over 8 years I've tried to figure out how to fill this but have not found a way... so today on my 29th birthday I have decided I don't want to even acknowledge my "birthday" any longer. I wish there was a way to remedy this but I don't think there is, it hurts because I feel like I need to to save myself from being heartbroken more and more each year and it hurts because by ignoring this day every year from now on, I am also ignoring the day one of my best friends was born.... if anyone could come up with some magical solution, I would be elated but I'm sure it is a lost cause... I hope and wish more people would start to love others and care for them and make sure that no doubt in their mind that they care for them and love them was also a no doubt thought in that person's mind that they supposedly care for...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Heather Ninneman
April, 25 2018 at 2:50 pm

This is how I feel every year. I'm glad there is someone out there that shares the pain I have cause sometimes it feels like no one understands what it it's like. I have suicidal thoughts near my birthday too. If no one else cares if i'm alive or not, why should I? I have no one. No family or significant other who cares about me and this makes it harder on my birthday because usually it is their job to be the one to pull a celebration together for you. I honestly wish it didn't exist but I guess that would mean I wish i didn't exist either...

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 20 2021 at 3:21 am

Hey there Beverly. This is extremely sad and yes, maybe only a magical solution can help you. But this is what I feel you could try...every birthday, place a picture of your friend or anything that reminds you of her next to you when you celebrate. That would symbolise your best friend's presence on the special day. But don't feel bad about your loss.
Imagine that you are the one treating her just the way she made you feel special. Think that she is in a happier place. She too would be feeling bad for having left you all and not being here. Surely, she wouldn't want you being sad on your special day(well, both of yours:)). So cheer up, put on a broad smile and a cute giggle when you cut your cake and I'm sure your friend will be right next to you.
Also, try to have more people who knew you both and also people who don't at your celebration. That would give you a secure feeling and also help you get off the mood of loss. Remember that you both are extremely lucky to have shared your birthdays. Not many people are that lucky. If you don't want to celebrate your birthday, celebrate it for her! I hope it helps.

June, 10 2016 at 1:45 pm

10 JUNE is my day and I was looking for how to celebrate birthday alone and then I found this article. I'll follow your birthday routine if I get a chance to live more :)

December, 7 2015 at 12:38 am

This was really, really helpful. I've been going through a really hard time lately and had to take a week of school off because of my depression. I return to school today, which also happens to be my 17th birthday and wasn't sure how to cope with the feelings I was going to be grappling with this birthday. This article really touched me!

December, 5 2015 at 3:23 am

Thank you very much for this article. My 30th is coming up and I'm feeling a lot of pressure from people to turn it into something that I really can't cope with. I'll try my best to have a day that helps my condition rather than a day that exacerbates it.

November, 30 2015 at 4:48 pm

I quit having birthdays. It is just a number. You are as young as you feel.

November, 22 2015 at 4:21 am

I remember when I was a small child growing up, I used to always look forward to having a birthday each & every year. At my age right now, it's become quite the opposite. It's terrible having to spend your birthday feeling extremely depressed & having the urge to cry.

October, 16 2015 at 12:59 pm

I have a milestone birthday coming in a few days and I'm already feeling depressed. I was so hoping for something special this year, I haven't had a birthday party since I was 15. Last year, I had to make my own birthday cake. Every year, it's the same thing, we go out to dinner at my favorite place and then come home, nothing special. I just wanted something special this year and again, it's not going to happen. I'm really trying hard not to feel sorry for myself. I have a lot of blessings and things to be thankful for, but I just can't seem to help myself. I just really wanted a nice birthday party with someone else making the cake. Maybe I'll send myself some flowers.

September, 11 2015 at 9:27 pm

I will give this a birthday is today

May, 22 2015 at 9:27 am

It's my 31st birthday. I feel terrible. My partner of 17 years and two kids doesn't ever bye me a card, and I choose my own present. My family want to make a fuss but I can't stand it. It all started on my 21st birthday when just months before all my friends stopped talking to me and my family organised a surprise
Party, but with no mates. It's been a terrible day and because I can't stop crying I'm going to bed. IM leaving a short note because it's too hard to talk about

April, 12 2015 at 12:59 pm

It has been my birthday today - I will put these tips to good use next time

April, 8 2015 at 6:50 pm

My birthday is in 3 days and as each day approaches, I feel myself sinking further and further into depression. It's not that I'm upset about getting older or getting old...I don't choose to feel this way. It comes on like a brewing thunderstorm, I have no control over the weather. It's just getting cloudier by the day. I found myself crying for no reason last night, today it happened again....just out of the blue, full on sobbing in the shower with no real reason.
My husband is anxious to celebrate my day which is making it so much worse. He wants to organize a dinner with a couple friends. He wants to know what restaurant we should go to...I have been sort of 'meh' on the subject. Then he wants to know if restaurants are out, then let's throw a BBQ and have people over. I'm a shy introvert, having dinner parties are the last thing I like throwing on a normal day.
Honestly I would rather lay under my covers by myself. Just have my husband take our two young children out for the whole day so I can lay in bed and mope. I was just like this 5 years ago on my 30th. The day after my birthday, I felt a sense of relief, I was back to normal.

March, 20 2015 at 3:36 am

I was adopted. My birthday is coming up this weekend. Around my birthday I often wonder what my life would have been like had I not been adopted. When I sought out my biological family I found out that my biological mother had committed suicide. Obviously not what I was hoping for. When I get into these depressed states I think to myself if I can just hang on a little longer the tides will eventually change...
So on my birthday I try to distract myself with something more positive to think about and do

March, 19 2015 at 12:01 pm

It's my 24th today.. I have been traveling and having a wonderful time with my mother and my partner but in the days coming up to it I have been having panic attacks every morning and crying fits...

Helen Craig
February, 15 2015 at 7:57 pm

My 25th birthday fell right in the middle of a crippling depression, and I was able to smile and celebrate with my loved ones (even if it was only for a meal). I took your advice so that I could acknowledge the milestone even though I wanted to ignore it completely. Thanks for sharing your story because it inspired me to find a little light in a dark time.

Nina Morris
February, 14 2015 at 5:50 am

I know exactly where you're coming from. I have my 18th birthday coming up, and everyone around me wants to make a big fuss, but I am dreading it because I will be under pressure to be happy when I will feel anything but. To make it more manageable I have asked for presents instead of an experience. I want to compromise between making it manageable and making it a big fuss, as I think that I would regret it if no fuss was made at all. But I still feel 17 going on 40!

January, 20 2015 at 7:43 pm

Thanks, for this great article, so helpful and my birthday is coming up this week, on Friday, so I will make use of your tips! ☺️

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