Tomorrow is my birthday, the big twenty-one (and no, I won’t be celebrating with a drink). In the past, birthdays and similar celebratory events were stress-inducing occasions for me. I’d spend the days and hours leading up to them worrying about what food would be offered, where that food would be from, how much I’d have to eat, if I’d be expected to indulge in dessert or if partaking in the main course would suffice—the list goes on. In fact, from age thirteen to eighteen, there was no such thing as a “happy” birthday for me.
Fortunately, that changed in my recovery. I was able to recognize the obvious logic flaws in my assumption that I’d put on pounds if I splurged on one occasion. I was also able to allow myself to enjoy food, whereas in the past, I merely tolerated it and ate out of necessity, not pleasure. On this blog, I’ve continually stressed the importance of repeated exposure, and this played a large role in my ability to overcome my fear of celebratory events. With each thick slice of cake or heavily-frosted cupcake I conquered, I challenged my irrational fears, defied my disorder-driven thoughts, and taught myself that I could eat and enjoy food without going up a clothing size.
At the end of the day, celebrations are supposed to be fun and carefree. People don’t plan parties with the intent to stress their guests out but instead to connect with friends and family, observe a special occasion, and have a good time. After years of dreading any and all food-centric festivities, I can’t begin to express how incredibly wonderful and freeing it feels to look forward to them again.
Tomorrow, I plan to enjoy a delicious vegan lemon cake without thoughts and worries flooding my mind. I plan to not stress out if my slice is larger than other people’s or wonder whether I’ll hate myself later if I take seconds. I plan to embrace this new year of my life and honor how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown in the past twelve months alone. Most of all, I plan to put the “happy” back in “happy birthday.”