Zero Budget Birthday Ideas Under Dismal Circumstances
October 21, 2017 10:59 PM   Subscribe

I have no money to celebrate my late thirties birthday this year and my life circumstances are dismal. How could I make my birthday enjoyable despite everything instead of weeping through the day?

Due to a series of unfortunate events beyond my control such as a "famine period" (self-employed) and a bad ongoing flareup of a chronic illness that has resulted in huge medical bills, I have no spare cash at all to celebrate my birthday this year. In fact, I was scheduled to have an expensive followup specialist appointment on my birthday but I rescheduled it because I just couldn't bear the thought of spending my birthday in the doctor's office.

I am single, childless and on bad terms with my abusive family. I also have no friends so I expect to be spending this birthday alone and to celebrate alone. I suffer from several chronic illnesses, one of which is physically disfiguring (which of course has a wonderful effect on my self-esteem), has damaged my body permanently, puts me at a higher risk of skin cancer (it is a non-contagious skin disease) and requires me to be on scarily-strong steroid creams for the rest of my life.

On top of this, my condition has been deteriorating slowly over the years despite the steroids and I may be looking at expensive laser surgery (which will only treat the symptoms, the disease is incurable). When my condition is out of control, I suffer from pain and itching so severe I cannot sleep or concentrate on anything. The wikipedia article and medical literature for this disease mentions the distressing social/psychological/sexual/physical effects it has on patients' lives so I assure you I am not overreacting. Although it has been many years since my diagnosis, I am still unable to come to terms with accepting it emotionally. I sometimes break down when I have to apply my medication and when I'm reminded that I have a upcoming medical checkup (because of the skin cancer risk and the heavy steroid use I have to go back regularly for monitoring. I absolutely hate the appointments and they cost money).

Due to the chronic illnesses, I have trouble working a normal job so money is a real issue.

Yes, I know I am depressed and have been on anti-depressant meds before. They didn't help and I believe firmly that my depression is situational and due to life circumstances. I have tried exercising like everyone suggested but it just increased my fatigue and I already have limited "spoons" on a daily basis. I have tried B vitamins, fish oil etc. I will be ordering Natural Calm soon as a last ditch effort.

In the past, I have bought myself cheap gifts (not an option this year financially) or gone downtown for cheap events like art exhibitions but I am in no mood for going downtown to trawl for free events this year. I also normally write an introspective letter to my future self but this year I feel like the last thing I need is to think about the state of my life.

How do you spend your birthday when honestly you feel that being born was a bad mistake, no one cares if you're alive and you wonder what's the point of living on when you are aging, broke and suffering from chronic illnesses?

I would especially like to hear from anyone similarly suffering from a disfiguring chronic skin disease how you manage to live a good life or find an understanding life partner which is able to look past the damaged body despite being physically repulsive and suffering from chronic pain/itching etc. I hide the worst damaged parts under my clothes which makes me feel I am cheating people by appearing normal but the game is up once my clothes are off.

It is all very well to say that people are more than the aging meat bags they inhabit but honestly most people are shallow and judge women's worth by their looks. I am not just old but also physically damaged. I had a particularly obnoxious grad school classmate express open disgust at my legs (I was wearing bermuda shorts that day) and ask me if I have leprosy. (for the record I do not have leprosy and my disease is not contagious).
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (80 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a great answer, but would you memail me your address? I'd like to send you a birthday card. Thinking of you. I care that you're alive.
posted by arnicae at 11:05 PM on October 21, 2017 [41 favorites]

I will do the same as arnicae if you send me your address.
posted by janell at 11:12 PM on October 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

i'd like to send you a birthday card, too.

do you enjoy video games at all? or creative writing? it strikes me that a little bit of escapism in a free-to-play online game or in a roleplaying/fanfiction-writing community might be a nice way of stepping away from your stress for just a bit. obviously, it's not a substitute for IRL relationships, but it can be a great supplement, and it sounds like you could really do with some low-stakes socialization where you don't have to worry at all about being judged for your appearance. depending on your tastes, i imagine you could find a supportive online community somewhere to plug into just for distraction's sake. if that sounds appealing but you don't know where to jump in, memail me for specific suggestions.

you're very brave! keep on keeping on as best you can.
posted by zeee at 11:23 PM on October 21, 2017 [9 favorites]

I'm sorry you're going through this. Not a skin condition, but I have a syndrome (from birth) that very obviously affects how I look. It's pretty common for kids to stare at me and I've been rejected romantically because of it.

You know what, fuck them. I'm awesome. Every birthday, I reflect on the fact that my (beautiful) body survived another year when no one thought I would. The haters can go eat a bucket of bees. My birth was a mistake only if I choose it to be. People care about me because I care about other people.

Look, you could be spending your time writing racist YouTube comments but instead you're asking how to make life enjoyable. Society's standards of beauty are stupid and narrow. Society is stupid and narrow. Fuck them. You are not beholden to them.

I find my solace in nature. Can you go to a park and walk around or just sit? Especially if it's by a lake or river, or in a forest. Do you have a camera or smartphone? I like to take pictures of flowers, plants or bugs. It reminds me of the diversity of life and the fact that I am but one small facet of this wonderful wide world. If the night is clear, can you go somewhere really dark where you can see the night sky? That helps me put things in perspective.

If you happen to be in Milwaukee or Madison I'd be happy to take you out. If not, I'd love to send you a card!
posted by AFABulous at 11:42 PM on October 21, 2017 [57 favorites]

I nth: send me your address if you feel comfortable! I know that's not why you asked but honestly this kind of thing is exactly what I'd recommend: look to your actual communities for support! In this case it happens to be us!
posted by corb at 11:59 PM on October 21, 2017 [12 favorites]

I've had a few birthdays like that, though not involving a medical condition. Personally, I treated it like just another day and found the usual time sinks to be helpful in keeping my mind off it.

More than anything to me the bad part is other people's expectations of birthday awesomeness or whatever making me feel like having a birthday that's just any old day is some kind of failure. It's not. It wasn't that long ago in human history when most people didn't know what day they were born anyway.

No pressure. You have my permission to have any kind of day it ends up happening to be. No matter what, it's good day if you make it to the next. If you're in the area MeMail me and I'll bring you some beer (or whatever you prefer).
posted by wierdo at 12:04 AM on October 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

I have had some really rough birthdays. If you're in or near Portland, OR, me and my partner (also a metafilter person) would love to take you out for a beer or a baked good! If not, message your address if you like. My hobby is correspondence and I would love to add you to my penpals. Take care.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 12:31 AM on October 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

Are there any support groups for people with this condition? Maybe you could join one? Or volunteering in some way might help. Eg visiting old people at home or doing some part time work for a charity?
And add me to the list of people who would love to send you a card if you memail me.
posted by KateViolet at 12:42 AM on October 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

Came to say two things. One, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Two, late thirties is not old at all. Not even half way home.

One year, I spent the weeks leading up to my birthday searching for all the local offers of things like, free donut on your birthday. I ended up with a very eclectic sugary caloric intake that day and didn't pay a dime for any of it. I still get emails from some of the online clubs I had to join.
posted by AugustWest at 1:06 AM on October 22, 2017 [17 favorites]

Happy birthday in advance. Echoing people above to please send address if you want to, I'll send a card. Bonus:it'll be international mail! :)
Sending virtual hugs.
posted by Nieshka at 2:32 AM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Someone does care if you're alive -- MeFites. And we want you to have a happy birthday. I would also love to send a card.

As for what to do -- do you have a hobby with the materials already on hand, or a particular favorite tv show or something? Maybe a good gift to yourself would be to spend the day guilt-free saying "haha nope" to real responsibilities and shamelessly engaging only in hobby or bingeing tv. (Like, I'm very much looking forward to my annual-ish "do sweet FA for a day except sit on the couch and watch all the Lord of the Rings movies back to back and pet my cats" day, roughly scheduled for Christmas since solo holidays are kind of the name of the game for me.) Or sometimes I use those times for reorganizing things in the house that get on my nerves but not enough to sort them out under normal circumstances, like taking everything out of the bathroom cabinets and cleaning the dust and then putting everything back all neat. Who cares if it's work and not having some celebration with cake or whatever, it makes me happy and content when it's done.
posted by sldownard at 3:00 AM on October 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

Add me to the list of people to memail your address to, I love sending little presents in the mail to internet people! Let me know your favorite animal and I will crochet for you a tiny cuddly version thereof. :)

I think that you can kind of go two ways about this and stay mentally healthy.

One, you can wholesale ignore your birthday, and treat it like any other day. In your case your days sound really difficult on a normal basis but you're doing your best all told, so heaping birthday expectations on that is untenable - and you can treat yourself when next you're able in honor of both a belated birthday and the simple fact that you deserve it.

Two, you can attempt to compartmentalize your difficulties for part of the day in order to derive pleasure from small things. Like, if you have a favorite smell, make that smell happen (orange peels, wood fire, frying onions in butter, coffee, pine needles, etc), and try to let yourself enjoy the smelling of it, divorced from all your other current concerns. Or if you have a favorite famous person who you dig staring at, watch things they star in and be unrepentant in your ogling while eating snacks you find pleasurable and wearing the comfiest clothes you have. That kind of deliberate hedonism can be hard to justify when you're sitting there thinking about not being alive, but a birthday can be a great excuse for it to get your stupid depression to shut up for a minute and let you enjoy things, you know?

I don't have the kind of skin condition you do but I do have one that's related to my mental health and I've been working through a lifetime of shame and disgust at my own body. The way you described that feeling of "cheating people" struck a particular cord with me. One thing that's helping me lately is to reject the bullshit falsehood of having to love yourself before others can love you. That's just tripe! It's isolating and cruel. You can love others and they can love you and you can still be working hard to love yourself. It's not like polarity or something. You aren't cheating people by obscuring parts of your body that make you uncomfortable - and feeling like you have to be entirely comfortable eventually being naked in front of someone to indicate interest in them in the first place is the same kind of isolating and cruel nonsense. It's denying yourself the possibility of community and support.

Anyway, back to birthdays. If I were in your shoes I'd do what I could to interact with animals on my birthday. In my town there are often cats in used bookstores - I in fact have spent a birthday at one of these petting their cats. I know you said you have no friends but do you have any acquaintances with friendly dogs? Or if you have a local dog park you can go there and read a book and pet friendly dogs who come to say hi. Or you could go to an adoption location or event and spend time with animals that way, although that can be a gamble in terms of emotions. For me, animals really help because I know they don't give a damn about my skin or my bad hair or how i'm dressed - they just care that I'm happy to see them.
posted by Mizu at 3:33 AM on October 22, 2017 [16 favorites]

If you told us where you are I have no doubt that several of us would take you out. If you were here I would.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:42 AM on October 22, 2017 [10 favorites]

Yes yes, I’d love to send you a card!

And also yes to AFABulous’ suggestion of a park or nature. And then at home, perhaps try a guided meditation recording? If you search for UCLA and meditation you’ll find their page with recordings. I really like meditating when I’m feeling overwhelmed; perhaps you would too.

Do you have a library card? If not, could you get one? I like to go to the library and read magazines and then take home a book or a movie or a CD or all three. As an alternative, I like PBS’ free online streaming options for their shows. And NPR’s tiny desk concerts.

And happy birthday!
posted by umwhat at 4:44 AM on October 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'd also love to send you a card! How many people can boast multiple international cards?!
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:45 AM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I just had my birthday and before seeing your ask me was reflecting on past birthdays, which over the last several decades have ranged from spectacular happy fun times to shutting myself away to collapse on my bed in a sobbing ball of despair and self loathing.

I, too, want to send you a something via mail if you are willing to share an address via memail. I would also enjoy taking you out for a zero-pressure birthday acknowledgement outing if you are in the SF bay area. (I am female and just turned fifty-five, if that helps frame the safety level.)

I have a chronic condition (not skin), so I live with managing energy and brain capacity, and have had it ground into me from childhood that I am between plain and ugly, so I understand not being one of the lucky “pretty” ones in the eyes of society and the constant reinforcement that I am unworthy (which, by the way, is a lie; your outer wrapping is not YOU). All of this to say, even when you feel isolated and outcast, by reaching out a hand, you are letting us stretch out our own hands to make a connection.

So, please memail me and/or the others. And happy birthday! Birthdays are anniversaries of another year of survival, and this internet stranger is happy you are here to share your wisdom and perspective.
posted by Dogged Persistence at 5:23 AM on October 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry you're struggling in life right now. It won't always be this way. I echo AFABulous's suggestion of observing nature. Being outside and appreciating what you see around you can be therapeutic. Being born is not a mistake. You're part of the universe and you matter. The older I get the more I appreciate being here at all. I too would love to send you a small birthday gift if you'll share your address.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:21 AM on October 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Birthday greetings from Colorado!

Going outside for a bit is great advice. Spending a little time outside always cheers me up on my birthday. That's the best.

My own illness has caused some changes to my body and I never feel quite normal. But I still want and like to feel beautiful. So I picked a few personal and physical traits that I like about myself and it helps me to focus on them when I feel blue. I have pretty hair! And I'm a good listener! And I make good coffee! It's been weirdly helpful.

If you're in Colorado, say hello and we'll make a plan. Or let me know if I can send you a card. Birthdays are special.
posted by mochapickle at 6:54 AM on October 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

I, too, would really like to send you a birthday card, if you'd be willing to share your address via memail.

On her website, Tara Brach offers a whole pile of free guided meditations and talks from a somewhat Buddhist perspective. Your mileage will surely vary on whether these talks or Brach's perspective (or voice!) are at all interesting or potentially useful to you, but I've found her discussions of suffering (and her approach to meditation in general) to be helpful in dealing with a chronic pain condition. Here's a talk on the importance of self-compassion. Here's a short guided meditation on approaching pain.

I care that you're alive.
posted by Hellgirl at 7:00 AM on October 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

I would love to send you a card too.

I also recommend spending some time outside on your birthday for at least a few minutes - even if it appears to be a miserable day outside. Take this time to feel, to know you are alive. Focus on the way the sun/wind/rain/chill feel and honor yourself and honor that you can feel these things.

Do some research on who does free treats/meals on your birthday. Where I live I think you could get breakfast lunch and dinner taken care of as well as a plethora of dessert options.

Happy birthday! You are most certainly loved and so worth knowing. If you’re in the Arizona area, I’d enjoy meeting you!
posted by Sassyfras at 7:04 AM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'll be your memail sender if you don't want to memail each person who's asked for your address. Just send it to me, and I'll send it along to all the others so far, and will check later to catch later replies, too.
posted by daisyace at 7:15 AM on October 22, 2017 [25 favorites]

You can add me to your memail birthday card list!

Is there a Starbucks near your home? They do free birthday drinks if you are a member of their rewards club, it’s free to sign up. I spent a birthday drinking a giant ridiculous drink while reading a library book I was excited about. Doing something that indulgent was such a break from my day to day life that it felt special, it’s a gold tinged memory for me now.
posted by lepus at 7:19 AM on October 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

Happy Birthday! Seconding the advice to get out in nature if you can, or, if you can't, at least get outside. Halloween is coming up, and, in my area, lots of people decorate their yards. Can you walk around (or drive somewhere) and check out all the Halloween decorations? Like going to see the Christmas lights, only spookier!

Add me to the memail birthday card list! I'd love to send you one!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:38 AM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing memail me your address.

Meditation and gentle yoga have helped me during difficult times. Afterward I find myself facing the same problems but feeling calmer and more grounded. I liked the shorter videos from Yoga with Adrienne during the last really rough patch, and I see she's added some new ones, some as short as 5 minutes.

If trying something different is something you like (and yoga is new for you, or you haven't done it in a while), then planning a short yoga routine on your birthday might be something to add to your list.

You could also get a DVD, book or CD from your library if there's something you really love or have been wanting to check out.

But it's okay to have a birthday where you don't do a whole lot and don't feel great. You can defer your birthday, if you want. Use the actual day to scope out and bookmark some ideas, and then when you feel better, pick some things and go do them.

I like this when I feel kicked in the ass by life.
posted by bunderful at 7:38 AM on October 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

I also want to send a card.

I don't really have any other constructive ideas except if you had the energy, maybe if you were up to it, you could go around to businesses that offer free stuff on your birthday and see how many you could fit in.

The card thing is the best answer, though, by far. There are lots of people on your side, who want to do something to let you know that. It's a win-win. And daisyace's idea is great. Let them or some other trusted person be your birthday card point person if you don't want to make your username public.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:40 AM on October 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

I am so sorry to hear about all this, particularly jerkwads being jerks! Might you have the energy to volunteer a few hours at a nursing home? Surely some lonely folks there would be thrilled by a visitor and maybe you could lift someone else's spirits for a while? Maybe encourage that person to talk about their life and get out of your own head a little?

Also I pick good cards, send me your address too!
posted by Glinn at 7:46 AM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm in for a birthday card. If you'd like one, Memail me your address!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:07 AM on October 22, 2017

Add me to the card list! I'd be honored to send you!
posted by Ftsqg at 8:09 AM on October 22, 2017

Another person saying I'd love to send a card if you are comfortable sharing your address, and you should take daisyace's offer of managing the process so the whole thing feels like a gift and not a bunch of work on your part. If you're willing to share some likes/dislikes along with your address, I really enjoy making care packages and would send some goodies with the card, too. And if you happen to be in Chicago and want to go out, I'll take you out for dinner.
posted by jessypie at 8:14 AM on October 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

My hobby is making cards, so please add me to the list of MeFites who want to send a card. Also, if you're near Austin, we can get together and do birthday or non-birthday things.

Nthing spending time in nature, with animals, or just binge-watching favorite movies/shows.
posted by MuChao at 8:22 AM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

The other day I came across a YouTube channel that interviewed people with different chronic conditions. They touched on a lot of the questions you are asking. Maybe it would make you feel better to watch some of those and see that you aren't alone. (Sorry after much searching I can't find the exact channel.)

And add me to the list of people who would love to send you a card or celebrate your birthday with you if you live in my area!
posted by ilovewinter at 8:23 AM on October 22, 2017

posted by The otter lady at 8:43 AM on October 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

I'd love to send you something. Really, take people up on this, because I can't even convey how fun it is to get tons of awesome mail all at once. It is so special. It's way more exciting than you're thinking.
posted by potrzebie at 8:49 AM on October 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Add me to the card list as well. Also, have you considered participating in secret quonsar? Gifts don't have to be expensive, and another fun way to give and receive.
posted by lharmon at 9:16 AM on October 22, 2017

Me too, add me to the card list! If you are in the Portland, OR area my husband and I (he's also a mefite) would love to take you out if you're up for it. I also second the nature idea and also the free stuff idea. My husband and I just did this for his birthday- we got him a free birthday waffle and free dinner! Thinking of you, and, happy birthday!
posted by FireFountain at 9:18 AM on October 22, 2017

There is so much pain in the way that you asked this question, and I'm so glad Mefites are offering to send you cards and take you out. Just one more thing, my ex has psoriasis all over his body so I know a little bit about the steroids and the itching and the biologics. Medicaid will make you start with the cheapest option but they will pay for biologics if you hound them. His skin is now 100% clear, but yes the biologics make him ill and compromise his immune system. I want you to know that I loved him anyway and had a child with him even though dealing with the skin flakes and his other symptoms was overwhelming at times. You are not a mistake!!
posted by polly_dactyl at 9:29 AM on October 22, 2017 [13 favorites]

I would also like to send you a card if you'd be happy to receive one from Scotland.

I spent my birthday alone this year too, for some very different and some very similar reasons, so perhaps I can empathise on what that feels like. I also didn't have the funds to buy myself a gift or the emotional energy to face a crowd during an outing. So what did I do? I stayed inside and watched some of my all time favourite films. I threw together a minimal batch of cupcakes and spent some time decorating them as if they were for a good friend. I lit a candle on one, made a wish, blew it out. I didn't feel great on the day, but I'm glad I took some time to acknowledge the passing of another year.

If you're not comfortable giving out your address to so many people, please memail me and perhaps we could set up a call on Skype or something (video optional if you wish) on your birthday, or whenever. You are definitely not a bad mistake and I'd love to hear your story. Or even just chat casually if you want.

I'm sending you such good thoughts. Thank you for posting this question.
posted by Vrai at 9:43 AM on October 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Lifelong (well, since age 9) Psoriasis haver here-- here are a few thoughts I finally came to believe as true about my Lizard Skin.
  • Everyone has something wrong with them; yours is just more visible than others. This is a handy way of weeding out the assholes from your life. "Those that care don't matter, and those that matter won't care".
  • We aren't alone. Many other people out there will have your condition but it's just not visible to you at that moment. I think we all need a secret sign or high five for our wacky skin teammates. I will occasionally give a big smile and "up nod" when I spot another flaker.
  • It's kind of awesome to have skin that changes over time-- instead of tattoos we have patterns that appear, flow and fade away. Like clouds.
Mefi hugs from Chicago! MeMail me if you like.
posted by travertina at 9:48 AM on October 22, 2017 [9 favorites]

please also send me your address? I love sending snail mail.

Is there a video or tv show that you could watch? Something that's available online and would be silly or engaging enough to be distracting?
posted by the twistinside at 9:51 AM on October 22, 2017

I have scars on my face and, especially when they were new, can totally relate to being stared at by young children and not-looked-at by adults. It's weird and demoralizing. But don't let other people's reactions shape your self worth. You write beautifully and are clearly an intelligent, empathetic human. You 100% deserve to be alive, feel good, do good, and find love if you want it. You're going through a low point right now, but your life is going to get better.

I highly recommend trying anti-depressants again. You also need to build up a friend/acquaintance group. Do you like animals? Shelters always need volunteers, and that's a good way to meet kind-hearted people. Can you adopt a pet?

Some free/cheap ideas for self-love on your birthday: a hot shower or bath with soothing products, a mug of your favorite tea, checking out a beautiful cookbook from the library and making a dish from it, walking through your closest neighborhood green space and focusing on the birds and plants, sitting in the sunshine with your eyes closed, painting your toenails, watching a free/cheap movie on the internet, and listening to uplifting music.

Please add me to the card list. *hug*
posted by scrubjay at 9:58 AM on October 22, 2017 [7 favorites]

Forgot to mention-- I'm female and totally get the hardship of dating & getting naked with skin stuff. I have positive stories for you but don't want to post publicly-- do memail if you want to hear them.
posted by travertina at 9:59 AM on October 22, 2017

I would like to send you a card!

Another couple of things that might make the day better:
* A nice bath.
* Massage your legs and arms.
* Listen to an audiobook.
posted by maurreen at 10:05 AM on October 22, 2017

Add me to the card list - another international sender here :).

I'm so sorry you're feeling crappy, everyone above has given good advice but the only other thing I was wondering is whether you might have access to any animals, even temporarily? A cuddle with a wriggly dog can be enormously healing.
posted by freya_lamb at 10:34 AM on October 22, 2017

Please add me to the list as well. :) I would love to send you something!
posted by poppunkcat at 10:36 AM on October 22, 2017

I will send you a card as well! Everyone should have a mailbox of joy on their birthday.
posted by danielle the bee at 10:39 AM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would like to send you a card as well! Please add me to the list if you like.
posted by river99 at 10:42 AM on October 22, 2017

Would you please MeMail your email address to me? Also, 🎉🎂🍨💃🏽🎶🛀🏻😻
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:03 AM on October 22, 2017

Happy birthday! I also would like to send you a card. I saw this earlier, and hesitated because I didn’t want you to have to send your address to a bunch of people, because that seems like work and you shouldn’t have to do work for your birthday, but it looks like you have an official memailer, so count me in! Also, if you’re in Phoenix, let me know and I’d love to take you out for coffee/drinks/whatever.

Otherwise, I’ve had some lousy birthdays in the past. What helps me is to declare my birthday to be A Day of No Guilt. If I want to eat cookies for breakfast, great! It’s my birthday, no guilt. If I want to nap away the afternoon on my couch, no guilt! If I want to binge watch trashy TV shows? Perfect! No guilt! You don’t have to plan anything in advance if that’s too stressful; just do what you want, when you want to do it, without feeling guilty about it.
posted by Weeping_angel at 11:26 AM on October 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

Happy birthday, anonymous. Sending you heartfelt best wishes. I wish I were a care bear sending rainbows from my stomach. Middle age and chronic illness is a shitshow, but am happy you are alive and think your birthday is worth celebrating. May next year be better than the last.
posted by charlielxxv at 12:29 PM on October 22, 2017

It's almost my birthday, too. I don't know if you have food restrictions, but I was planning on baking something simple as a low-cost treat for myself this year. There is something about fresh baked bread that feels really special even if the ingredients add up to less than a dollar.

Can I sign up for the card list, too? Happy birthday!

And, seriously, eff that guy in your grad school class.
posted by Alison at 12:36 PM on October 22, 2017

Happy Birthday! Add me to the card list too please.
posted by tinymegalo at 12:45 PM on October 22, 2017

Add me to the list too! And if you're in North Carolina I would love to take you out too.
posted by guster4lovers at 1:08 PM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have an online friend whose birthday plans fell through on his 30th birthday. He had plans with the woman he was smitten with but she ditched him and she wasn’t interested anyway and he didn‘t have any close friends who had time.

So I offered to watch a movie „with“ him - we put on the same movie simultaneously, ordered in our favourite foods and just hung out online chatting and watching. It was really nice and low key.
So, there are a lot of us online and if that sounds appealing, why not hang out online with us?
posted by Omnomnom at 1:10 PM on October 22, 2017 [6 favorites]

I’d also like to send you a card.

Are there enough MeFites nearby that you could host a meetup? I’ve been to MeFi meetups in many places and the have always had a great time and met fabulous people. In fact, I called a MeFi Meetup for my 33rd birthday and everyone was kind enough to cover my costs for beer and a burger.
posted by bendy at 1:17 PM on October 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

You *want* to celebrate your birthday. That says a lot right there.

Put me on the list too!
posted by DrGail at 2:28 PM on October 22, 2017

Omg please memail me your address so that I, too, can send you something! Happy birthday to you, you matter and I care than you are alive!
posted by little mouth at 3:10 PM on October 22, 2017

I'm in D.C. If you are in the DMV area, I'd love to celebrate with you. And please add me to the list so I can send a card. Echoing happy birthday wishes!
posted by marguerite at 3:22 PM on October 22, 2017

Your post is heartbreaking and I've been thinking of it all day.

The response of the users here is so welcoming and generous, it's kind of a remarkable birthday gift itself, I think.

I would also like to send you a card. :)
posted by fourpotatoes at 3:25 PM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

One other thing, it's ok to feel anger and burn out over having to deal with things that you did not choose and over which you have little control. It sucks that we are judged so harshly on appearance and you are right to be angry about that, but try not to turn that anger on yourself. Would it help at to use this birthday as a time to treat yourself super gently? Like having a long cool bath with a favourite soothing emollient, or having a joyful naked day at home where you get to scamper about celebrating the bits you do like and soothing the bits that are tender? Maybe create a ritual for yourself so that tending your skin is something you choose on that day, in your own way?

On the other comment, a long time ago I had a boyfriend with a chronic skin condition - and the only times it bothered me was when I saw it cause him pain. I'm only saying that to counter a little some of your concerns about being loveable. There is something to be said about wearing our wounds with pride, and not apologising for the work you do to live comfortably in your own skin. Love to you.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:48 PM on October 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Please add me to the list. I'd love to send you a card. I have experienced only a tiny fraction of what you are dealing with. I have the sightest of skin anomalies but I have caught people staring at me. At first I thought they think I'm ugly but I think they are just wondering what is up with my skin discoloration. I don't cover it up because that is not comfortable for me. I decided that it is just skin. I'm lucky that it is not really painful. I try to be as kind as I can and give people the benefit of the doubt.
I know that when you are depressed and not feeling well little is appealing. I hope you can relax and enjoy your day. The day before your birthday wash your sheets so you can wake up in the most comfortable way. Luxuriate in bed while you listen to a guided meditation.
Wear your favorite things, eat some of your favorite foods, enjoy a simple hobby. Look at some beautiful photos and some funny videos or websites. No big expectations, just simple pleasures. Listen to some wonderful music. Nap! Have a nice cup of tea. Smell the aroma of the tea or flowers or fruit. Enjoy the love and support this great community is offering you.

I hope things will improve for you!
posted by goodsearch at 5:14 PM on October 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

First of all, omg late thirties is not old. I'm 38 and I'm not old! Old is 100. And when and if I reach 100, I will declare that 100 is not old either.

I would love to send you a card and a fancy chocolate bar! Please add me to the memail list :)

I've had a couple low birthdays too. When I'm sad, I just want cozy things. Put on my oldest pjs. Wrap myself up on the couch in my softest blanket. Eat something super soothing like tomato soup and grilled cheese. Watch some silly scary movie or disney musical. Light candles. There have been a couple questions on here about how to make an at-home spa day in your bathroom, so I would do something like that. No need for expensive stuff - you can make sugar scrubs and face masks from stuff in your kitchen.

Happy birthday. We care about you :)
posted by silverstatue at 5:47 PM on October 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Add me to the list, too!

And whatever city you're in, hopefully we can organize a MeFi meetup, provided you want one.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 5:55 PM on October 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

It would be my pleasure to also mail you a birthday card, if you memail me an address (or better yet, contact a mod and have them send the address through an "Official Metafilter Channel").

I've had severe lifelong acne, a bad bought of psoriasis*, and now some really bad eczema - all related to "stress" but it's a bit of a chicken/egg thing. My sister got married today and the photog's gonna have to do a lot of photoshop on the pictures that I'm in.

Probably not healthy or doable advice, but the last time I hit a really bad dump I woke up one day said fuckit and pretended to be someone I wanted to be for a day. It helped a little, if just for a time-out, but it all came crashing down again. Not advocating, and maybe not an option for you, but I've also very occasionally used recreational and sub-recreational doses of MDMA as a form of self-medication; being able to acknowledge that it's physiologically possible for me to feel good not terrible again helps in some ways.

I'm in the trough of a long simmering bad stretch (which encompassed my 39th birthday in July) - I'm looking forward to my multi-day Occupational First Aid course this week, out of office, where I'm planning on retreating into my head and pretending that everything that's bothering me just doesn't exist/matter and try to be the person I want to be without being currently affected by my negative history.

*psoriasis; I got over that hump with lots of oral vitamin D, as much sunbathing as I could put in that summer, and quit a shit dead-end job where I was being constantly mentally abused. It's started coming back a few times in the few years since, but 2000IU daily of vitamin D for a month, and another month afterwards keeps it in check for me

TMI, but I also have some minor vitiligo on a "private region" - and geeze does it suck to be rejected for that
posted by porpoise at 8:02 PM on October 22, 2017

I would love to send you a card and goodies if you're interested (probably some sort of baked good).

I do hope you find a way to enjoy your birthday. I highly recommend spending time outside (a walk in the woods can be very peaceful) and/or with animals if that's an option where you live.
posted by cp311 at 8:17 PM on October 22, 2017

Hi there, I have been thinking of you too and would love to be on your card list if you'd like. I think you very much matter and shouldn't let some jerky grad school classmate make you think otherwise.

I'm so sorry you're feeling this way. I agree that getting outside and looking at nature can be a really nice thing, birthday or no. Once when I was going through a really, really hard time, someone told me that if you go outside in the sun and look up at the sky, it's impossible not to smile. I have found this to be true! I also love watching dogs play because they're awesome and will never ever judge you for your age or your skin. Maybe there is a dog park near you? Alternately, can you look on groupon/treatwell/etc for a last-minute bargain? I'm not sure if there is any room in your budget, but I've been able to find cheap massages, haircuts, etc for $10-20. Another idea would be to go to the library and get some good books or spend all day cooking a nice meal/dessert for yourself (if you'd like that sort of thing!)

I also wonder if you're able to find some sliding scale therapy to help come to terms with your skin condition. You said it has been several years since your diagnosis and you are still struggling, which absolutely makes sense as it's a permanent and worsening condition. But it sounds like you think there might be some room to improve your relationship with it, so maybe worth going back. Maybe not on your birthday but maybe soon.

In terms of dating and finding a partner with a condition such as yours, it sounds cheesy but the person who is right for you will look beyond all of that. It may take time for you to trust that person that they don't find your body "repulsive" so that will require time and communication but it can be done. I have a skin condition where my body grows scales (yep) on my legs and I've always been very ashamed of this. I never wore shorts or skirts or dresses and have had to use a lot of steroids to help it. It has actually gotten better over time (partly due to chronic steroid use thinning out the skin, boo) but I have been so embarrassed and ashamed, so much so that I used to stare at other people's luscious smooth skin with such envy I think I creeped them out. I used to be called alligator and snake and told I was really gross. I was so ashamed. And then I met my partner and he kinda commented on it once, like totally off-hand, that he'd noticed it but really didn't care. It was the most refreshing thing and undid years of cruel self-internalizing and pain I'd gone through. And honestly, yes, I'm still self-conscious of it (my legs also turn white and painfully dry and I need to slather them in oil) but I don't care as much anymore. I hope that is not too glib an answer, but I do think it's possible to find an SO who accepts you for your inside and your outside.

Sending you a big hug.
posted by stillmoving at 11:24 PM on October 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's like you gave us the gift of an early pre-Quonsar. And what Mefite doesn't love Quonsar? I would love to be on the Memail list too.
posted by Gotanda at 12:34 AM on October 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

From the OP:
Thank you mefites! I was amazed to log in and find so many kind and caring messages. Unfortunately, I am unable to share my address for privacy-related reasons. There are painful details about my condition that I haven't even mentioned because it is probably TMI, even as anonymous on the internet. I'm not sure if I can even bring myself to talk about it. Or if I should talk about it at all.

However, I assure you I appreciate every reply and every offer of cards/gifts/meet-ups and will continue to monitor this thread. Bless you for caring for this internet stranger, mefites are good folks :)

My mother is in poor health right now too and her medical test results may come out on my birthday. I am frightened but have decided to go downtown for an art exhibition on my birthday instead of staying at home waiting for bad news or brooding about my own problems. Perhaps it's not the most exciting way to spend a birthday ever but the exhibition is in a newly restored historic building I haven't visited. Hopefully the unfamiliar surroundings and the art can take my mind off things. I might get myself a large ice cream cone on the way home.

If I'm not especially eloquent right now, it's because I'm depressed and tired and I have a lot of work to do this week in between medical appointments and the like. I plan to take birthday off though.

Thank you for restoring my faith in humanity. I have certainly seen the bad side.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:02 AM on October 23, 2017 [10 favorites]

Oh wow - your plan sounds like all my favourite birthday activities! Enjoy the art - and the ice cream. Very best wishes for you and your mum.
posted by freya_lamb at 4:57 AM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I will be in the same boat as you come February. Send me your email, I'll send you a card and tell you why things aren't that bad - they are never as bad as what's in your head.
posted by james33 at 5:03 AM on October 23, 2017

I totally understand not wanting to give out your address. Consider this a virtual happy birthday card from me!

A nice walk sounds great! If any of your local museums has a free day, maybe you could do that as well?
posted by freezer cake at 9:46 AM on October 23, 2017

That sounds like a wonderful plan for your birthday, anon, and I think I speak for lots of us when I say YES OH YES to the large ice cream idea!

Enjoy the art, enjoy the space, and have a wonderful birthday. I'm sending all festive thoughts your way.
posted by Hellgirl at 10:04 AM on October 23, 2017

Add me to the memail list!
posted by dotparker at 10:28 AM on October 23, 2017

The year after I had a miserable, lonely birthday, I decided to skip parties and do nice things for myself - I now buy something new from Good Vibrations on my birthday every year. If your finances are very tight, that's not an option (and sex toys may not be your thing anyway), but if it sounds intriguing, they have some very nice things for under $20 and sometimes under $10, and much of the value was telling myself, "this is for ME so I will ENJOY LIFE MORE; nobody else has to approve of it and nobody gets to judge my reactions."

That's the key part. Find something you enjoy, or something that you think you might enjoy, and put it on your birthday. Don't tell yourself it's stupid or inappropriate or taking time away from important things; don't tell yourself it's supposed to be fancier or more active or have more bells and whistles. You can use your birthday to reconfirm the things you value (a good cup of coffee; a walk in a park that you like), or to explore new things that you might not care for - in which case, try not to feel guilty for "wasting time" but instead, note that you spent your time finding out what your preferences are.

Other than my trip to the store, I tend to spend my birthday reading fanfic at AO3 and drinking too much coffee with cocoa mixed in.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:46 AM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Please consider this a virtual card and a small birthday gift in honor of your (late 30s)th, with sincere wishes for an easier year. I think an art exhibition and an ice cream sounds like a perfect way to spend a birthday. Be kind to yourself however you can!
posted by mrcrow at 2:35 PM on October 23, 2017

OK, no card. :( I was looking forward to making one for you. May I write a poem for you? Maybe post a throwaway email?

Happy Birthday!!
posted by at at 3:34 PM on October 23, 2017

One year on a special day when I was sad and ugly and old and alone, I bought some cheap bottles of bubble-blowing stuff and went and sat in a public garden, blowing bubbles, and anyone who wanted to blow some bubbles too got a bottle. I'd made a post on Craigslist that morning saying what I was gonna do, and a wonderful wacky grandma-type lady in wild clothes showed up, saying, "I saw your ad!" and she'd brought more bubble stuff AND a bubble machine and we blew bubbles and kids came by and blew bubbles and it was just ephemeral and pretty and nice.
posted by The otter lady at 6:09 PM on October 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

Well, we may not be able to send cards out, but uh, I can post a link to something like this.

Have fun at the exhibition!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:47 PM on October 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love your plan for your day. Art and ice cream is great on any day, and it sounds like a lovely quiet day. Wishing you the very best on your birthday, thinking of you.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 9:01 AM on October 24, 2017

From the OP:
Well, here's what happened on my birthday. I did go to the art exhibition and basically spent my birthday with over a hundred beautiful and very expensive paintings, some of them by famous masters. On the way home, I ate some nitrogen ice cream.

I wouldn't describe it as a deliriously happy day obviously, I had my down moods but the art exhibition was certainly well worth the trip downtown and artistically educational.

While dressing for the excursion, I came across a mini-tiara I had bought on a whim years ago to cheer myself up and decided to wear it since it was my birthday. I admit that tears welled up in my eyes (somehow the tears of a middle-aged spinster just seems pathetic and ridiculous) when I thought that I have never and will probably never have a chance to wear a bridal tiara as I've always wanted to.

So endeth the birthday of an anonymous middle-aged spinster with a truckload of problems. I am sad it is over, mainly because I took the day off and now must go back to work and deal with my problems. Thank you for listening and thank you everyone for sharing how your spent your own birthdays. May your birthdays always be joyful.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:23 AM on October 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Thank you for the update! I'm glad that the day was as artistically rewarding as it was, even if it was also complicated on the emotional front. I absolutely love your decision to wear the tiara. I now have a new experience to hunt down and try out - nitrogen ice cream! - so that you for that, too! Sending you all good thoughts through the interwebs.
posted by Hellgirl at 11:27 AM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

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