My close friends and family know that I grew up in a pretty non-traditional household. When I was nine, my mom came out. Within a year my mom partnered with a woman, and I, in my mind, became the kid with the weirdest family of all. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I did all I could to avoid that awkward conversation with friends. “This is my mom’s friend,” I would tell them. “She lives with you?” they’d ask. “Yes,” I’d answer, and quickly change the subject: “Wanna see my new nail polish that changes colour in the sun?”
As a pre-teen, I often flipped through the copies of Ms. magazine that floated around the house–not really understanding what the words inside meant, but for some reason knowing they were important. Once I hit my teen years, however, I forgot all about Ms., wrapped up in new love and all the questions that a teen girl in North America faces. Am I pretty enough? Am I skinny enough? Am I desirable enough? These questions consumed me.
After my first love ended, I was still asking myself those questions. I sought the answers via sex, drugs, and–at the risk of sounding cliché–rock and roll. I slept around, not because I was reclaiming my sexuality, but because that’s the only way I knew myself to be valuable to men. I smoked a lot of marijuana, not because it helped me reach a higher state of consciousness, but because I believed that people only enjoyed my company when I was high. I listened to heavy metal, not because it was a musical genre I really connected with, but because liking it made me the “cool girl”, the one who could just be one of the guys, but who would also drop her clothes if you stuck around long enough.
After several years searching like this, in a dark, damp pit of depressions, I found–or so I thought I found–the answers to my questions. I am not pretty enough. I am not skinny enough. I am not desirable enough. And to top it off, I found the answers to questions I hadn’t even thought I cared about: I’m not smart enough; I’m not funny enough; I’m not good enough.
Fortunately, thanks to endless support from my mom and dad, my friends, paid professionals, and my own true grit, I clawed my way out of that pit. Not one day of that journey was easy. Not even the good days–because I knew they were fleeting. On a particularly bad day, when all I could do was sit on the couch and watch TV, I had to remind myself of those good days, remind myself that this feeling, too, would pass, because when you’re depressed, you believe that it’s forever.
But little by little, inch by inch, I experienced more frequent moments of happiness. I had fewer mood swings. And though I did not consider myself to be happy, I had learned mechanisms for coping, mechanisms that allowed me to function as a “normal” human being. And for several years, that was enough.
But lately, it hasn’t been enough. With these coping mechanisms secured in my emotional tool belt, I had patched up the holes, I’d reinforced the structure, I’d ensured I was working with a solid foundation. But now, this tool belt that once was so crucial to my everyday living is weighing me down. Slowly, I’m laying down these tools, confident that they’ll be there for me if I need them again. And as I lay each one down, I feel lighter, I feel freer, and I feel more myself. Perhaps not surprisingly, what I’m also starting to feel is a need to contribute, to use my talents for a greater good.
Not to toot my own horn, but I know that I have the ability to connect with people through words. I’ve written hundreds of blog posts and articles, both for my own sites and for others’, and I have to say, the posts I am most pleased with are not the ones with the carefully edited photos nor the ones with multiple study citations; they are the ones where I bare my soul, where I show my vulnerability. As such, these are types of pieces I hope to write more of. They may be more politically charged; they may use words that some people look down upon, such as feminist; they may draw from that feeling of importance I got when I flipped through Ms. magazine so many years ago; and yes, they may totally ruffle some feathers. But I encourage you to read them with an open mind, and also to comment and share your perspective, because I’m just beginning to understand what it means to be human, and I can’t do it without your help.