I have placed this in the Recovery category rather than the Personal category because this is about my recovery. I have not spoken about my issues that led to the creation of this blog in a long time. I think today is the day to break that streak.
Why do we enthusiastically celebrate a child's birthday? Why the swats, with "one to grow on" and the extra candle? Because as late as the 1950's, a significant number of children died young. They died from diseases we have either eliminated totally (Smallpox) or rendered irrelevant through general medical science and vaccines specifically. Diseases like Whooping Cough, Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Polio ravaged children back then. Today they are almost unheard of because of vaccines. I am one of the last to be vaccinated against Smallpox. They don't vaccinate against that anymore since it has been eliminated.
Because a child's' next birthday was never guaranteed, we held out hope that the child would live to next year by placing next years candle on this years birthday cake. The same basic concept goes for the "birthday spankings."
Once I reached adulthood, my birthdays never really mattered to me. I was amazed that one day I was considered a child and under the law a non-entity and property of my parents, yet the next morning I was magically an adult, able to enter into contracts, serve my country and be ultimately responsible for myself.
I continue that tradition today, and I'll tell you why.
When Robin Williams died in 2014, a lot of people said, "It is a tragedy he died so young [at age 63]." I regard that he lived until 63 as a miracle. In the 1970's and early 80's (up until his friend John Belushi died), Robin was self-medicating his depression with cocaine and alcohol. If he had completed suicide or overdosed on something like a speedball that took Belushi's life in say, 1981 at the height of Mork & Mindy, that would have been the true tragedy, because we would have lost him 34 years earlier when he was 29. Think of everything he had done after Mork & Mindy, then think those roles would have been performed by other actors or maybe not at all.
During my dark days of 1999-2002, I stood toe-to-toe with Death and got into a staring match with him several times. Each time, I made Death blink first. I could have missed out of all the experiences I have had with my wife and son between then and now or will have with them in the days yet to come. People with a mental illness die on average twenty years sooner than a person who never experiences depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or any of the other mental illnesses.
I don't celebrate the anniversary of my birth anymore, because I celebrate every day that I wake up. I thank my God that I am alive and able to get out of bed and move forward each and every day. At this point of my life, because of what I have been through, every day is my birthday.