Are You Able to Create a Birthday You Actually Enjoy?

39 Years Old, 5.5 years sober, 1.5 years Actually Autistic, and I finally nailed it.

Chelsey Flood


Author illustration

Enjoying a birthday sounds simple, but historically I’ve found it hard. There have been years where I’ve worried about ageing, years where I haven’t wanted to ‘make a fuss’, years where I’ve been flat out depressed (without realising). There have been years I organised things that weren’t to my own tastes. Years I got too drunk. Years I fought with my boyfriend.

It strikes me that to organise a successful birthday for yourself and enjoy it you need to have learned some difficult lessons. (Well, I did anyway.) And there’s one crucial thing in particular, that you need, something not easy to come by. Can you guess what I’m talking about?

My last birthday as a drinker in 2016 was, for me, a disaster (though my friends had fun, apparently, so that’s nice). I got upset with my partner because he hadn’t bought me a present (he took me shopping for one instead) and the flat was a mess, and we had no nice food in. I was so peeved by lunchtime that I started drinking to try and shift into a better vibe, though I knew by now that was a bad idea for us.

Later on, my friends came over, and we headed out for dinner, and the food wasn’t good, and that made me so anxious and upset, like the quality of the menu was my fault. We went out dancing, though I was ready for bed because I still believed nights out had to be lively that way (and looong) to be successful. We tried different bars and then walked for ages into a whole different neighbourhood.

My beloved drank so much he needed help to walk home, and I felt embarrassed and stressed. I was nearing my mid-thirties, and somehow still having the same nights out as my early-twenties, and I felt trapped.

Walking home with my lovely friends, I wondered how I could possibly improve my life, when even the good times didn’t feel good to me anymore. And yet, if you saw photos of that night — if anyone took any — I bet I was beaming. Because I loved my friends, and there were some laughs along the way, I was doing the very best I could to have a good time.