Birthdays are supposed to be full of joy, celebration, cake, balloons, gifts, family, excitement and pride.
Caring for someone with severe mental illness, with a history of trauma, those are very different birthdays.
Today is someone I love's birthday.
For the first time in 14 years, I am choosing to stay home. I can't do it. Not one moment more.
I've spent most of the last 14 years going to one lock down facility or another.
Small decrepit rooms that smell like a weird mix of urine and sanitizer.
Damaged walls from whoever was mad last that they won't bother to fix.
Strangers paid minimum wage sitting nearby.
Gifts that meet hospital criteria, no strings, nothing sharp, nothing liquid or that could otherwise be cleverly used in the most awful of ways.
The birthday girl excited about things, never the people that come with them.
Long drives home full of tears.
Curling up in a ball and crying for hours because this is never what I imagined life would be like when I chose to be a mom.
So I'm choosing to stay home today.
She will still have all the birthday things, just not me, not that I would be missed. The things are what matter.
There will still be tears, but I get to skip all the in-between awfulness, all the pretending. I simply cannot do it anymore.
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