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At fifty-years-old I have daily aches and pains. My lower back hurts, my shoulder hurts, and I have things happening with my body that I wouldn’t discuss in public. Getting older is tough on the body, but for me, there is something else that is happening – I am more comfortable with myself. I thought that the comfort that I am experiencing was universal for women over fifty. But it isn’t because many of the women my age are now scheduling Botox injections, touching up every picture they post to social media and spending money and time on treatments, tucks, creams, clothing, diets, gyms, etc.

I can understand the desire to be healthy and I can understand the desire to look good, but does looking good have to mean a youthful appearance?

I haven’t lived a very healthy life. I smoked for over twenty years. I have battled depression and schizophrenia. There was a time when I drank to excess. There was a time when I used drugs. All of these things have left their imprint on my face. I have dips, cracks and crevasses that tell a story of a turbulent adolescence and young adult life.

Okay, so I don’t look thirty anymore. I don’t even look forty. It is possible that I look older than I am, but I am happy. In fact, I have never been happier with myself, husband, creative work, my whole life.

I don’t want to be the kind of person that acts like mental illness isn’t tough. It is tough, and not every day is a happy, shiny, positive-feeling-type day.

But when I look at the facts and my face, I can’t help but feel gratitude and a sense of celebration. I have lived to be fifty-years-old. I have been fortunate enough to be alive for a half of a century. I have never been a victim of famine or war. I have enough money to pay my bills. My husband has a job. We both have had the opportunity to go to school. I can sit at my computer (I have a computer!) every day and write, and that is what I love to do.

On the good days, I can see past my illness and my aging body to the far off horizon. On the good days, the landscape is large, and I can see that so many people in the world have more struggles than me. There are people who don’t know where they will get their next meal. There are places where bombs and terrorism are everyday occurrences. There are people living without medical treatment, people living in fear, desperation, and in the cold.

I don’t want to deny people the struggles of a mental illness, but I don’t want to go to a pity party either. Yes, I have social anxiety. Yes, I have panic attacks. Yes, I often suffer from paranoia. Yes, I frequently am bed ridden by fatigue. Yes, I am no longer young. Yes, I look like a middle-aged woman.

All I can say is that I am thankful I am a middle-aged woman because the alternative means I didn’t make it, and the reality is that I did make it. I made it to fifty, and if you don’t think that is beautiful, then you don’t see the battles and demons I had to fight.

Fifty is cause for celebration, not Photoshop. I’m so much more than the folds, wrinkles and the beginning of a double chin.