Celebrating birthdays with a chronic illness can feel bittersweet. Click to read why or pin for later
Photography source: Unsplash

Today is my 30th birthday. And as much as I want this post to be upbeat and positive, the truth is I’ve had a hard time getting my head around how I’m feeling about this milestone birthday. I’ll be completely honest with you, it’s not a day I’ve been looking forward to. In fact, part of me would have been happy to completely bypass my birthday this year. And it’s nothing to do with age.

Birthdays feel bittersweet

Since falling ill, I’ve struggled with birthdays. It’s a day for celebration but there’s always a part of me that feels tinged with sadness. I can’t help but be reminded that a whole year has passed and I’m still here fighting an invisible battle and missing out on so much along the way. It feels bittersweet.

Thirty has hit me that little bit harder because it has made me reflect back on my twenties. And while I could tell you about all of the amazing things I’ve done and achieved, I feel that would only be sharing part of the story. It would be cherry picking the best bits while ignoring all of the struggles along the way.

This isn’t the life I thought I would live

The honest truth is I’m living a life I never imagined myself living. And part of me feels robbed of the life I wanted. While I still try to live life to the full, part of me can’t help but feel restricted and boxed in. Most of the time I’m looking in and enjoying things from the sidelines. While there is undoubtedly a lot of joy to be found, I still long for the life I once had from time to time.

It goes without saying that there are times where I find things difficult; it’s sadly part of the challenge of living with chronic illness. Unfortunately for me, my birthday happens to be one of those times. I guess it’s a reminder that puts everything into the spotlight.

I find a way to work through it

Having said all of that, I know that I will find a way to pick myself up again. I always do. Birthday cake certainly helps! I know I will make a conscious decision to move forward again and put my focus back into my recovery.  I’m a very resilient person and I’m also surrounded by amazing and supportive people who thankfully help me along every step of the way (which I am incredibly grateful for).

I want to finish this post on a positive by saying that one thing I’ve learned about myself over the past few years is that I’m forever hopeful, plus pretty stubborn and determined to boot. I know I will continue to tell myself that one day I will feel better. That my thirties will be even better than what I imagined for my twenties. Hope keeps me going. And it’s something I’ll always hold onto…

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Why birthdays can feel bittersweet when you have a chronic illness


Hello, I'm Donna. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013 and started this blog shortly after. After my health declined significantly the following year, I decided to become my own advocate and searched for answers. It took two years but, in 2016, I finally discovered I had Lyme Disease. On February Stars, I share my personal journey back to better health; discussing what has helped me and the mistakes I've made along the way. I also cover topics on self-improvement, managing symptoms and living life to the fullest with chronic illness.


  1. Julie Shenk Reply

    Happy Birthday to you! Thank you so much for this honest yet non-self-pity essay. My pain and fatigue were there in my 30s and I ignored (four children and home schooling). Perhaps I should not of but I did. That was the genetic stuff. Then in my early 40s a car accident whiplash gave me full-blown, boom, boom, boom of FM, OA, Hashimoto’s and wonky autoimmune hasn’t stopped since. I continued somehow until I couldn’t. But got them all through. Now the 50s-60s (my time to begin something new) have been compromised greatly. I’m so sorry for both of us. But we still have a purpose, promise, and hope. God loves us tenderly. Things could change for us on a dime. May God continue to give you His peace, wisdom, and grace for your journey. Enjoy your birthday cake, too!!!!

    • Thank you Julie. I’m sorry that you have been through all that you have. I can relate to the keeping on going until you no longer can. That’s definitely what I did too. I love your outlook and I will continue to live in the hope of change 🙂

  2. HI, wishing u a delicious Birthday. You have that naturally young looking face-so I would not have guessed, really! I live w/Chronic Lyme and I get it. good days bad days….Yes, no pity-we all just want people to understand.Fatigue is a constant-testing for Chronic F Syndrome, after all these yrs..My best-
    Happy Day, spend some time alone, do something for self!D

    • Thank you so much Debra. Good luck with the testing. I recently had an ATP profile test (looking at your mitochondria) and it was very insightful.

  3. Hi Donna, I’m 30 this year and it marks a whole decade of struggling with my health, technically it started with glandular fever at 16 but I managed to work for a bit. I completely relate to this post, milestones always are bittersweet, seeing my friends settle down and have children etc is lovely to see them happy but hard when you know how out of reach it is yourself. Just wanted to say I’ve recently discovered your blog and I love it, so much useful information and good to know you’re not alone. Hope your 2017 is happy and healthy xxx

    • Thank you so much Erin. Although I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, it’s good to know that you can relate to my thoughts. I hope 2017 brings you some improvements with your health.

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