Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hit by pre-birthday depression

Every year without fail, around about mid-May, the air around me becomes distorted, unbalanced, distasteful. Things are not themselves. My life feels up for grabs. It’s a strange feeling, as if the future had been concertina-d and was being thrown at me.

The reason? My birthday looms.

The feeling lingers and hardens on the actual day, continuing into the evening, regardless of how I choose to spend the day. The following morning, I wake up and the horror has fled. Life feels normal, even a bit dulled and numb in a comfortable, comforting way.

I’ve spoken to other, more functional people about this feeling. No one owns up to experiencing the kind of pre-birthday depression I do.

It was so bad this year that I half-jokingly wondered to myself if I was re-experiencing some kind of birth trauma – as if every other person on this earth didn’t come into the world accompanied by various degrees of trauma.

Certainly it’s grown worse in recent years, and I think I know why it’s so powerful. On this one day, and leading up to it, I confront the difference between what I thought my life was going to be and what it is. Or rather, it confronts me.

Now that I’ve come to expect this feeling and grown familiar with its rise and fall, I’m better able to deal with it. I get stressed planning my birthday and then I experience some relief when the day actually arrives. But a grim shadow follows me around all day.

Melbourne’s been experiencing a spell of weather disconcertingly warm for this time of year. On Saturday night, the night before my birthday, there was a humid, windless, outdoor feel to the air although the winter darkness fell hurriedly. The warmth continued into Sunday, my birthday.

The first half of the day was spent as positively as possible. With a friend I saw a cheery film that was quirky without trying too hard. It didn’t matter that throughout the film I was comparing myself unfavourably with the main character (why don’t I own my flat? why don’t I have dinner parties?).

Afterwards I drove the friend and me to Elwood. We went to a tiny, familiar cafĂ© and had the overpriced food you’d expect from somewhere so close to the beach. Again, no major problem. My eggplant parmigiana was an undersized runt served in a small round china baking dish, but rich enough to just satisfy me and tasty enough to evince a determination to find a restaurant that serves a parmigiana of decent proportions (I mainly keep off dairy but will gladly make the odd exception).

We strolled along a prosperous residential street to the beach. When we got there the air was still, the water hardly moved. It was a grey-silver, a beautiful corollary to the neatly patterned cloud flurry that lay low over the water and seemed to tilt upwards in the direction of the horizon. The light behind the clouds placed everything into relief; every grey-bone grain of sand and the densely layered chinks of shell-bits.

A patch of blue sky close to distant shoreline looked cinematic, almost green-tinged. There were a few people around, but the atmosphere was pretty quiet – I wondered if people had taken advantage of the weather and gone away for the weekend.

We lingered and walked and threw the problems of the world at the calm water. I was dark, but it was manageable. We drove back to East Malvern and I had a nap before going to my parents’ place for a family dinner.

This started fine, although later there was an ‘incident’ (unfortunately family gatherings are prone to these) that caused a feeling of being sabotaged. I don’t want to go into it; the truth is, I was feeling bad anyway, so it didn’t really have much of a long-term effect.

The next morning I woke up in a calm daze, apart from an initial downer as soon as I remembered the incident. But really I was feeling so much better than the day before. My birthday was over. Normality had returned. I got up and put the kettle on.

One year on, I've written an update on pre-birthday and birthday depression and my experience on the birthday that followed the one described here. The update includes some suggestions (not advice) about dealing with birthday depression. Click here if you'd like to read it.

Please note: birthday depression is another term for birthday sadness. If you are having suicidal thoughts or think you may have clinical depression, please speak to your doctor or a family member, or ring one of the numbers listed here. Please reach out and seek help if you need to.

Want some more insights into birthday depression? I've written an ebook about it

Do you have a story of birthday depression you'd like to share?  Head over to the Birthday Depression website and share your story with others experiencing the same thing.

For a short time I'm offering a free mobi file of the book if you share your story on the website. 


  1. Hello Catherine,

    I am extremely pleased to have found your blog. I admire your writing style, and many of your subjects and musings have either touched my life, or serve to broaden my thinking.

    I can relate well to your birthday dilemma - not a one-off experience, but a seemingly unavoidable annual building of dread, unease, and loss.

    I've been there, and I doubt if I have left it behind yet, but I have newfound strength to attempt to ward off the flattness that I always feel when my birthday approaches and arrives. This has come from encouragement and insight from a special friend.

    I used to let my birthday go unnoticed at work. It was easier for me to pretend it wasn't happening - I didn't want to draw attention to myself, but worse, I feared that nobody would make a fuss anyhow, even if they knew.

    My friend has helped me realise that my birthday is a special occasion, as it celebrates my being here in this world - and I am a person worthy of this recogition. On my last birthday, I took myself off for the day on my own and wandered around a public garden, and then had lunch in a restaurant on my own. I would have preferred not to be on my own, but as I was, I made the most of my own company.

    While it was a pleasant day out, it was not what I imagined a birthday should be. But I have trouble getting past reflection and self-retribution on my birthday, much the same as you have indicated - why am I here, and not there? Why am I this, and not that? The mistakes, the wrong paths, the repetition, the excuses - and all the while, another year passes. Christmas does the same to me.

    I look forward to reading about more of your life and mind.


  2. Hi Gaye,

    Thanks so much for reading and commenting on my post -- it's great to get feedback and I'm really chuffed that you're enjoying reading my blog.

    I agree with you about the reasons for birthday depression - it does have something to do with self-worth as well as the questions about how life has turned out.

    Christmas is even more confusing, at this time I often compare my life unfavourably with other people's!


  3. Incredible, the exact same feeling I have right at this very moment and have been overwhelmed with all day. Birthday tomorrow and right now I am dreading it, I think it's because I am to hard on myself and always have been, anything I do is never totally satisfactory and so I seem for the last 2 birthdays to have experienced the same thought process of lossness, a complete loss of clarity on anything I am doing.

    Strange but we must soldier on!

  4. Hi Anonymous,

    sorry to hear you're experiencing this feeling. The only comfort I can offer is that while I'm helpless to dispel the feeling before and during my birthday, it seems to effortlessly disappear afterwards. Hope the same goes for you.

    The feeling for me is so powerful and 'unreachable' that I think it comes from a very deep place, perhaps stemming from early feelings of unworthiness and loss, as well as judgements about my present life.

    I'm amazed at how many people have found this blog entry by using search terms like 'birthday depression'. It seems to be an incredibly common experience.

  5. Don't get me wrong I wasn't fearing today, just angst at what is to come and contemplation and reflection of the past year.

    Today is another day and the issue with not arise again for another 364 days.

  6. Hi Catherine,

    My birthday is tomorrow.Felt a depression settle on me like a fog...couldn't work out what it was and then why until early like everyone else I googled 'birthday depression' and went to your blog.
    Loved your really helped me....feel a bit better....cheers!
    Oh yeah....and Happy Birthday to me!

  7. Hi Anonymous,

    I think someone should write a book on this topic! I've found this kind of depression something I just can't fight -- and as you've suggested it comes on quickly, seemingly from nowhere. Luckily it seems to disappear just as quickly. Some years it's actually only been around before my birthday, disappearing on the actual day.

    Happy Birthday!


  8. I, too, have issues with my birthday... and interestingly enough, Christmas, too. I appreciate your insight on its cause stemming from where you are in life... I've always enjoyed planning for my birthday, but even as a child things would simply fall around my ears - many times my own doing - and I would end up miserable.

    I am a mother now (and a writer as well) and am putting my thoughts and ideas together in hopes of writing a hopefully semi-cathartic column entry. I'd like to change the experience of my birthday to a one for the sake of my daughter. She should grow up knowing how to celebrate her life. She deserves that . . ., and I have to remember, so do I.

    You do as well, and I wish you the best this year (and this coming May) and for years to come.

  9. Hi Danielle,

    thanks heaps for commenting. You're right, Christmas is another time when those feelings tend to arise. And like you I can remember early birthday disappointments, especially at my own birthday parties!

    Having a child, as you say, makes birthday depression an extra challenge because you naturally want to 'model' a truly happy birthday experience. Thanks for your good wishes, and I hope the same for you and your daughter!


  10. Hey,
    Im turning 21 in a about a week, I never enjoy my birthdays :s I also came across this by googling "birthday depression" after "birthday blues" (there is precious little material of decent quality about this on the internet, it would seem... there's generic self-help *shudders* and a couple of good blogs). Because that is what I'm feeling right now.
    I was also surprised to find this a fairly common phenomenon. I think it's probably due to us having unreasonable expectations for our birthdays, partly from overwhelming emotional experiences as children, but then also from social influences that say, we should be sociable/grateful/joyful on our birthdays, in exchange for all the love that all the people around us should rightly be giving us.
    Then we feel unloved and undeserving of love.
    I think it's the same with Christmas.

  11. So glad I found this!
    Birthday yesterday, very close to Christmas, so I don't really shake the feeling till Boxing day.
    My family are all very loving and I am never alone so really I have no excuse. Many phone calls, a lovely well thought out gift and always taken out for dinner with the kids and Grandkids but still down :( Very annoying.

  12. I'm with you guys too... Googled b-day depression and found this blog. It is somewhat comforting to know I'm not alone... My b-day is in less than a week and I'm already feeling the blues~ I find that I am taking stock of where and who I am and what I've done with my life so far. I guess that I'm just not the person that I want to be yet. Hope that someday I get there...

  13. Hi thanks for posting this have felt depressed around birthday the last 4 or 5 birthdays my mood sinks really low this one just been is really bad(janurary 20 )
    i suffer from depression but i no around birthdays are bad.
    I used to go to a homeopathic lady who is very spirtual and has told me it is normal to feel low around your birthday and it is something to do with the day you were born not so much getting older or worrying about what you didnt acheive. A lot of elderly people die around their birthday your body is at its lowest.
    Anyways thanks for this its helped me a little
    im 35yrs oldby the way .Glenn from New Zealand.

  14. I don't have much to add that hasn't been said already by the above, I experience the same feelings on every birthday. I have suffered from depression for almost my whole life, and while I manage it well now it always comes back around my birthday.

    Just wanted to add another post in support of all those feeling isolated on their birthday - there are many of us feeling the same.

    AS, just turned 28, Australia

  15. Hi,
    My birthday in a few days. Its comforting to read about other people finding birthdays difficult, to know I'm not the only one. I get depressed leading up to mine every year and this is made worse by the fact that my girlfriend thinks they are wonderful and exciting and get upset that I am depressed by birthdays and see them not as a time to celebrate but a reminder that another year has gone and I am running out of time before I die! My family never made a big deal of birthdays - no parties or celebrations, but as children we always had presents. Like several other comments here I also find Christmas hard - in the case of Christmas I think it is that I see myself as the one who 'has' to make it special for others and its never quite good enough. Thanks for sharing....... gonna be 59, but I guess that's better than the option of dying at 58.

  16. Hi Indigo woman,

    Thanks for commenting, and thanks to all the other commenters. I've been amazed at the response to this blog entry, it's easily my most popular post. It seems like this kind of depression is extremely common. And I'd agree that it's similar in many ways to Christmas depression.

    Expecting it to arrive has helped me a bit. It hasn't lessened the feeling -- but just knowing that it's time limited, and seems to go away pretty quickly afterwards, has been a help.

    Hope it all goes okay.


  17. My admiration goes out to you, I really appreciate that you put this together. As I was reading this, I kept thinking this is EXACTLY how I feel. How did I not think of looking this up earlier in life?!?!?! Thank you for starting a revolution!

    I am so glad that I am not alone! I've been dealing with birthday depression for the past 14 years. I don't know why but suddenly 7 days before my birthday, I become inconsolable and depressed for the week to my birthday (May 20th). By May 21st, I'm completely nothing happened.

    I thought I was the only one in the world that had this feeling. I sit at home and just cry. I don't want to do anything, I don't want to go anywhere, and I don't want to talk to anyone. I'm just sad. I know that I should leave the house, but I want to wait until the red puffiness from my eyes go away and by time that happens, I seem to start crying again.

    I found this blog like many other posters, goggling Birthday depression. Some of the other sites try telling you that you should be happy because think of what the alternative is. That isn't what this is about, I'm not sad that my age is one number bigger...I'm sad because I don't think I deserve to have the attention that I want for my birthday.

    I've had quite a few years to sit and think why this comes on, why do I feel this way, why can't I stop crying. I think, just want to be special, and the more I want it...the more I beat myself up thinking that I am so selfish to even want that.

    My only consolation is that May 21st is less than a week away. I hope it gets here fast!


  18. Hi Alicia,

    Thanks heaps for your post and kind words.

    Sorry to hear about your experience. Please don't beat yourself up about it -- it's not selfish to want to feel special.

    I do sympathise with your dread - my birthday's on the 24th and already that low feeling is approaching.

    Keep up the slog and I hope once you're over the difficult part there is some blue sky and sunshine!


  19. its my birthday on 9th....i m hit by this feeling...pre-birthday depression...getting angry for small small reasons...shouting at loved ones....shit....gonna be my worst birthday ever... :(

  20. Coming to the end of my birthday day. Just a horrible day where everything has been blue. Daft thing is a week ago I was just peachy... And I know next week I will be peachy (well, as peachy as life is in a recession!). But, the past 24 hours have been tough. I just wish that people around me would respect it and not force me into drinks, lunches etc etc.

    59 mins to go till the other side!!!!

  21. Like many others here, I found this blog by googling birthday depression as well. I have had less than stellar birthdays the past 2 years and this year is no different.

    I have been struggling with depression on and off for quite some time now. I'm usually able to keep it at bay though it always seems to come around my birthday. I'm nearing 30 and in no way satisfied with my life. I have a good family, great bf and friends yet I cannot come to terms with the unhappiness I feel. I feel quite dejected with the way my life has unfolded with not having what people my age achieve by this time. I feel I have not made any progress in my life in the past few years. It's enough that I feel a crushing weight on my shoulders and chest, so heavy I well up in tears. As I type this at work, I feel curiously numb and defeated.

    It is true that maybe I should not look to others' actions to make myself happy. Usually I just push the disappointment way down and pretend to be be ok with whatever. This year I think I have shut down that emotional side of me. I have cancelled all birthday plans and am planning to spend the day by myself. Not to sulk or sob, but to take stock of what it is I'm feeling and to make sure I do not feel the same way next year.

    Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts on your blog. I wish you the best.

  22. Lazybum, hope the birthday was bearable.

    Anonymous - sorry you felt that way. Is there any way you could put your foot down about social events you're not in the mood for? I know it's hard sometimes.

    Anonymous - sorry to hear that you're feeling low. Just wondering if you might consider talking to someone about it - from what you've said, it sounds possible that you might have depression.

    Good on you for taking stock. But there's nothing wrong with a good sulk or sob every now and again, if that's what you feel like doing!

  23. Oh thank you for this post...and thank you everyone who shares this feel like my kindered spirits...glad to not be alone but not glad that you are all suffering...i guess you know what I mean.

  24. Hi Anonymous,

    thanks for your comment. I think this feeling is incredibly common - yet it's still taboo to feel sad on this day (and leading up to it). I'm grateful for the comments too as they make me realise there's nothing wrong with me for feeling this way.


  25. Wow. I could have written half these comments. As it is right now, my birthday is about a month away...within a few days of Christmas. As a child this was fine, my mom always made sure my birthday was "separate" from Christmas...and it was. As an adult, it's been a problem.

    This year is a "mature milestone" birthday for me, and I have had people asking me for months what I want to do to celebrate. However, it being so close to Christmas, whatever I suggest turns out to be "inconvenient" for them. I feel so selfish for wanting people to actually make a fuss for my birthday, because I realize it's a busy time of year. And then I end up feeling that it's so unfair that it is during such an inconvenient time of year. But I didn't ask for this, and I shouldn't have to plan around Christmas -- such as celebrating in January or a "half-birthday", for people to have time for me. I'm as important as anyone else, and they don't have to change their birthday by weeks or months to make it more convenient for people, why should I?

    I hate feeling this an adult so often my birthday has been completely forgotten by friends and family...and then they think it's ok to say "sorry I forgot your birthday, I was sooo busy" sometime in January when they get around to it.

    Usually this feeling doesn't start until the week of my birthday; this year with everyone talking about it, I have had too much time to think about it, and have had too many people tell me that they want to celebrate with me, but not until it's more convenient. I'm depressed and hurt already.

    There are not enough resources for dealing with this, and I appreciate the place to vent. I have been beating myself up for years thinking that I'm just immature and need to grow up...that everyone has expectations for their birthday that aren't met. This post makes me know that it's not just me. So thank you.


  26. Hi Erin,

    thanks for commenting. All these comments help validate what so many of us end up feeling on and around our birthdays. Having a birthday near Christmas must be particularly frustrating, especially if it's a milestone birthday, and you've got every right to want it to be celebrated around the date you were actually born!

    Don't normally give advice, but I had an idea for future birthdays. One way of asking for recognition from others would be to prepare a very specific type of celebration well in advance, send out the invites, again well in advance, and then talk it up around people, so that they can't say they 'forgot'! I know this is more easily said than done - anyway, just an idea.

    Hope it all goes okay.


  27. Echoing other comments, this blog was so helpful to read. As I get closer to the date, I get more and more depressed with it all. I get all sorts of berating from my mother - suggesting I am living in the past and should find some sort of anti-depressants to start taking.
    This year I seemed to compound my upcoming birthday blues by going to our family cemetary - which just made me miss the way life used to be when the people I cared about so much were still here.
    For years I was filled with expectations of fabulous birthdays - all about me. Every year seemed to be more of a let down. Now, I am that point where the mid-30s birthday is just a reminder of everything I thought I would have in my life by now and don't. My birthdays have become a reminder of how life doesn't turn out how I planned or hoped it would.
    I cancelled the family birthday dinner tonight and have 2 more days to go until the 'big day'. I'm hoping the day after I will return to my day to day life and let it all go.
    Thank you so much for letting me know I'm not alone.

  28. My birthday is in two days. I, too, Googled "birthday depression". This blog and the comments after are both alarming and comforting at the same time. I've been in tears all evening, for no reason, really. Nearly uncontrollable at times. A general feeling of failure and loneliness. I have plans, I have friends and I am happy with either staying home or going out and celebrating... at least that was until this afternoon where everything caught up to me and the moment I got home and started walking up my steps, I started bawling, for no apparent reason. Ugh. I'm only 35... I really hope this isn't going to be a reoccurring experience. I feel so miserable.
    Cheers to you all.

  29. Thank you so much for this post. I, too, googled birthday depression as my birthday is tomorrow. I wish there were better resources addressing this issue. I have been feeling incredibly blue this year - more so than any other for some reason. I am happy and proud of my life most of the time but right now I feel like a failure. Logically, I know that's not true but I can't shake it. I even spent last night wide awake, in between bouts of tears. I have decided that I'm going to spend the next year trying taking note of the things I'm proud of and the things I'm grateful for(in a journal). That way, if I get the birthday blues next year, I'll have concrete evidence that it's unfounded. I'm only 24 - I can't keep doing this for the rest of my birthdays!

    Thanks again for writing this,


  30. Like Meg I'm 24 and in a great job which I feel I'm not good enough for and a fantastic family. So why when my birthday is tomorrow am I so stressed out and cribbing to my ever so supportive boyfriend (who is 39 and must surely find me getting depressed about my 24th very amusing at some level!)

    I don't know what to do. I only hope I'll be ok on June 11 once it has passed.

    Love tO you all..
    Ash from melbourne

  31. Hi Anonymous,

    Sorry to hear that you're going through this. Hope the day goes okay. There are some tips for dealing with birthday depression at

    All the best.


  32. Today is my birthday, so I can relate to your experience. I had as good a birthday as I could hope for - a joint birthday party with a close friend of mine and a birthday brunch with my girlfriends today - but it never seems to be enough. I've taken my birthday off my Facebook page and deleted the birthday posts - it's like I'm embarrassed about my birthday, like it's never going to be as grand or as festive as it should be. It's never felt like "my day" and I've always felt like no matter what people do to try to make it special, I never feel special. I think facebook has had a big impact on that, reducing my birthday worth to how many happy birthday posts I get, and it never felt like enough. I've managed to hide my birthday from most of my faceebook friends and yet am still paranoid about what my friends who did celebrate my birthday think of my sad facebook page...

    I'm 29 this year and am still worried about this stupid stuff like facebook. I have to count my text messages and bbms to feel grateful for what I have, and it's ridiculous.

    Here's to better birthdays for you from now was really comforting to read this on a day like today. thank you


    1. I know exactly how you feel. I am turning 29 in a few days and I too am taking my birthday off of facebook. Don't want to wade through a bunch of birthday wishes from people who, without an alert of some sort, would not remember it anyway. However, I know I am setting myself up for sadness because, I will get very few FB birthday wishes, if any at all, which may make me feel worse. Want to climb under a rock until this while thing is over.

  33. Hi there,

    Glad you got something from the post. Your comment reminded me of just how impossible it is not to feel disappointed on our birthdays. It seems that for most of us 'disappointment' is the name of the game. And sometimes that can happen even if what happens on the birthday itself is actually okay.

    In this busy, individualistic world, we all want to feel special and a birthday is the obvious time to need that affirmation. Perhaps it's modern life that's the problem and not us!

  34. Today i am 38. Mom of Three and married for the past 14 years. I just HATE my bday. I am seriously angry and just want to crawl in a hole one second and the next I want to do something! Omg its like I am bi polor for 24 hrs!!!!! I will feel like normal tomorrow. If I have to phsyco analize myself this is what I thinks wrong.... My parents arr selfish addicted gamblers, I have one sister who is distant to me. My mom used to go above and beyond for out bdays when we were little. Then one day it just stopped. My husband just can't get it right. It almost makes me so angry that I just think my birthday is like torture. Like a day that is highlighted to just show me who doesn't care about me. Its anything, vday or mothers day.... They all suck. I spend every moment listening and watching for ways to make my kids and husband feel special. There bday is like a national holiday. Its rediculious. Its my fault. I feel a rush from doing things for others. But wonder why I do that? Why can't people i love do the same? I take it as they don't love me. Like I am a burdon!?

  35. It is the day after my 58th birthday and I was, once again, feeling very depressed. Thus, my google and finding of this and I feel better already knowing I am not alone. I have several reasons for my thinking I do this, though don't necessarily know if it would make a difference. I am widowed, but before I was widowed recall having the same issues. I am always upset that my two boys don't acknowledge me in the way I "think" they should - just a text, or a phone call, requiring minimum effort on their part. And the fact that it is right on the heels of Mother's Day doubles the frustration. I am certain that it is born out of expectation that the day should be a certain way.

    This year, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. I was treated to lunch by my work friends. Another co-worker bought me cookies. I went to dinner with two other friends. I received cards and gifts from friends/other family members. All in all, in was a very nice day. So why my depression?? I have felt like I could cry all day today.

    For some reason, though, expressing this to others that experience the same thing is making me feel better. Thank you for your insightful experience!

  36. Thanks for sharing! And I'm glad that your workmates acknowledged your birthday, but I know sometimes it doesn't help that much. Birthday depression feels quite mysterious to me sometimes. For me at least it can be about not having the life I thought I'd have at this age, or perhaps just being another year older! Feels as if my emotional life is sometimes going on in a part of my mind I don't have access to - and certainly can't control (except to let myself grieve). In my experience it tends to pass pretty quickly after the birthday - hope the same goes for you too.

  37. Wow..i thought it was just me, i hate birthdays..mine is tomorrow. Ive felt miserable for the past few days.
    Even to the point of not wanting to go out with people and spitting it when it was suggested.
    Ive been in my room ignoring my other half because he spoke to me like crap and made stuff worse. Not his fault tho as ive not explained anything to him.
    I totally hate the attention and feel like i dont deserve it. Im not good at recieving things, but im a giver and love to
    Mke others happy. Its so frustrating and so hard to try and explaine to people why im like this. They just get aggitated and think im being a bitch.

  38. Thanks for commenting - hope the feeling passes soon.

  39. I am 4 days away from my birthday and I can't stop crying. All the same reasons that have already been posted. I feel worse though because my boyfriend tries so hard to make me feel happy and special but my sadness makes him feel bad and unappreciated. I don't want to wallow in this feeling but i almost can't help it. Taking my birthday off of facebook this year so I won't have to sift through all of the happy birthday comments from people who wouldn't have remembered it otherwise. It's strange but it it's like I want my birthday to be a big deal and ignored all at the same time.

    Like others I can clearly remember disappointments and unhappiness surrounding other birthdays, even as a child. I am a generally happy person and have no problems during other holidays. I am turning 29 this year and that number makes it worse, like it's the end of my youth or something, even though I know that by no means am I old. I hate feeling like this is a ploy to get attention but even I don't fully understand how I feel. I am glad to know there are others out there, and very sad to know that there are others out there. . .

  40. Sorry you're feeling bad - thanks for sharing your experience. Hope things get back to normal soon.

  41. Today is my 28th birthday. This time of year has elicited feelings of sadness and dissatisfaction for most of my adult life. Before googling "birthday depression" and stumbling across your blog, I could not clearly identify why I felt this way about a time of year most people seem to relish. Reading your post and many of the commenters' reflections provided clarity for my "birthday blues."

    First, my birthday highlights how little my life resembles the one that I hoped and still want to lead. Instead of making this an opportunity to recognize my accomplishments, I usually dwell on the milestones not yet achieved. The second, as another commenter accurately wrote, is "feeling like I don't deserve the attention that I want for my birthday." Now, that's heavy.

    Thank you for your post! I don't feel as alone.

    1. Thanks Lucy,

      Dissatisfaction and the question of being deserving sums it up perfectly.

      Hope it passes soon.

  42. Hey strangers! I'm 21, about to turn 22, my birthday is tomorrow and like many of you, I feel like garbage. Last night I went to bed at 2:00 AM (crying of course) woke up at 5:00AM, took a shower, got ready for work and here I am writing this. Last night I kept thinking about my dad a lot, he died 5 years ago and he was my best friend. I live in a 3rd world country and my family had a lot of financial problems, I remember when I turned 15. I know we didn't have any money, I was feeling like crap (like today), my family couldn't afford a cake, a present or a nice meal, my father just said "Happy birthday son" and hugged me. I will always remember that hug, I felt awesome, I could trade everything I own for that hug.

    BRB my eyes are red I'm about to cry, gotta go to the bathroom and get my **** together.

    Ok I'm back, washed my face and now I'm pretending like everything is ok... When it's not. I miss my ex gf so much too, when I was 16, 17 & 18 my birthdays were awesome thanks to her! She used to take me out for dinner, gave me a little present and maybe have a few drinks, after we broke up the depression showed again on my birthdays, right now I have a gf but I don't know, it's not the same. She's so simple, she doesn't make me feel special. I know she loves me a lot but her lack of motivation depresses me too. She's not studying, shes not working, shes just... living with her parents.

    Sigh, my last birthday was so depressing, I was with my current gf but she didn't had any plans, any gifts, NOTHING! Finally she said "I want to be with you", went to a motel and I payed the cab and the room, I'm laughing at myself right now. But anyway, life goes on my brothers and sisters. After all the false "happy birthday wishes" on FB, I will close my account, my twitter account too. I will stay away from everyone. I wish I had some money to buy myself a present but I have to pay my college, well. Tomorrow its going to be a normal day.

    Wake up, work 10 hours and then go to bed. Best wishes everyone.

  43. This was a great entry and I've put it on the Birthday Depression blog. To get your free copy of my book, Birthday Depression: Reclaiming Your Special Day, or if you'd rather not have the story up, let me know by writing to me at

  44. Yep, I have had the same thing. I just had a Bday pass myself and felt quite teary and depressed. I do think it comes from too high expectations which can never be lived up to.

  45. Thank goodness! I'm not alone! I too searched to see if it's normal to be sad on your birthday, and reading about other people having the same feelings has brought me some is normal and surprisingly more common than I thought. For me, at least, I think the feelings stem partly from society's expectations that your birthday is a big to-do and it's YOUR day to shine, but life is "as usual" for everyone else, so there's a disconnect. Worse is if you used to have grand childhood parties that are less feasible as an adult, but you want to hang onto those times for awhile longer. Just my two cents...

  46. My birthday is tomorrow and I am depressed. General sadness of getting older, not having accomplished what I wanted in the past year, loneliness and not looking forward to the future. Having a birthday so close to Christmas is a mixed blessing; in some ways, it gets overlooked as everyone is swept up in Christmas. Yet Christmas brings a lot of stress and also depression for the same reason that birthdays it kind of feeds into the cycle.

  47. I just turned 25 today and this is probably one of the best explanations as to what I've been trying to put into words for the past few years.

    Thank you so much for this it's been a yearly battle of knowing you have your own expectations on where you should be and where you ought to take your life that really just ends up making things take a turn for the worse this post however really helped me.

  48. Great to hear that this chimed with you - hope it all goes okay today, and all the best for the New Year :)

  49. I felt like shit before reading this but seeing everyone talking about how they have people anywhere near them on their birthday is the most brutal thing I can think of. Oh and knowing that I don't have extra money to buy myself anything, like some of you talk about doing. My birthday is in two weeks and no one will call me or invite me somewhere. They'll maybe say happy birthday on Facebook but they only know it's my birthday because Facebook says so. All I have to look forward to is watching Netflix and waiting for work to start back up.

  50. So, this post was written years ago, but I'd like to say Thank You for sharing it and for how very considerate you are when offering suggestions instead of advice.

    Like many others who commented, I do get some birthday depression, but not quite like some of the others. I get cranky and sad a day or two beforehand. I am 40 now and unable to work due to a disability, and have always had issues with a parent whom I love very dearly and who can be very helpful, we are close, but she is very bossy and tends to 'overrun' my thoughts and any needs or wishes I might have. I've always been a pushover, specially for her and don't know how to fix it... She is nice but will fly off the handle if confronted with the way she treats me and tends to act in ways that kind of 'make' me do what she wants. And she helps with the kids (my kids, one of whom has Autism) and I don't feel I can say anything as she helps in that way. I am actually very grateful about that help and tell her so.

    Buut, she is super bossy, and as I can't drive, she runs my bdays pretty much, telling me where we can and can't go, and saying how this should be about the children (rather than my wishes); we went to the Hunter Valley Gardens in NSW this birthday for my 40th, which is a milestone...and she dictated which paths we would walk, didn't bother dressing up (she always dresses up majorly for outings with her friends), didn't comment on how I had dressed up.... DID make a comment how this should be about the children, not me... I was very angry and sad and didn't know what to say. My poor husband didn't either. he is not so good at talking to people and very quiet.

    So I guess I just wanted to express as others have here - and anonymously say things about a family member, sorry! But that's how it is.
    Next birthday, I am organising. I'm planning a mini bus to take us there, me and my husband, and Mum, and the kids if they are coming, and maybe two close friends. I'm planning well in advance (I'm in May as well) and I will also be asking in a diplomatic and cutesy way that she dress up. That somehow seems to work... LOL, resorting to 'tactics' with Mum isn't great but... it's a way of managing things at least.

    I feel for anyone who have family members or friends who make things hard on special occasions or sabotage or make certain comments. It can bring on birthday sadness for sure and make us feel all sorts of bad things on what 'should' be our special day.

  51. So it was my birthday yesterday and i find myself childishly hoping people will remember. Cos, few do!

    And when i remind a few , it seems pointless! Like in my mind , idealistcally, loved ones remember my birthday because it is my day, All about me. Stupid really! ...but the tears roll down my cheeks as i write! Go figure! ....Confused!

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  54. From one May baby to another, it was haunting to read pretty much the same thoughts that go through my head every year around this time. I'll go read the follow up to this post, thank you.

  55. It's my birthday. I'm crying. Got here by googling "how to be happy on your birthday" but I'm beginning to accept that maybe I just have to ride it out and wait for tomorrow when things will feel much better.

    After a couple of truly disastrous birthdays, I've stopped making plans for the past few years and that has helped. I might not feel better, but at least it's taken the pressure off to try to look happy. I feel like a whiny baby but it upsets me that people just never make much of an effort. Once they've said "happy birthday" they just carry on as normal. I'm in my late 30s and only once in my adult life have I received a gift that's shown any thought or understanding of who I am. I really try for other people's birthdays and it hurts that they don't do the same for me.

    My life is not where I want it to be at all and the feeling that time is ticking away with no solutions in sight is horrible. Because a birthday is 'your day' and there's an expectation you'll enjoy it, I think that can feel very lonely.

    I know I don't help myself. I don't remind anyone it's my birthday close to the day because of the fear they won't bother, but then I feel upset when people forget.

    It's been really reassuring to find other people find their birthday as difficult as I do. Sending lots of love and hugs to everyone who finds this post and is struggling x

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  57. birthday tomorrow. sister forgot, never hear from eldest son. other son says happy birthday and that's it. hubby will go out to eat but sits in silence - no conversation. i make a big deal out of everyone's birthdays - party, cake, personal gift. really hate my birthday. why am i not special to others?

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  59. Depression does not require a particular time, a specific age or neither a specific time to occur.

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