After much hesitation I have decided to try taking St John's Wort. Admittedly I don't have a lot of knowledge about it, but from what I understand it is a sort of herbal Prozac. St John's Wort is supposed to regulate Seratonin levels in the brain. I think this is supposed to level out my moods so I don't feel like I am surrounded by darkness and hopelessness. I have heard that St John's Wort takes about six weeks to kick in. I guess the idea of taking something for six weeks before I feel any effects is kind of unappealing. One of the first times I was looking into taking St John's I noticed there was a book about it at the store. It mentioned this thing about taking six weeks and at that point I decided I wasn't going to feel like shit in six weeks time so I wouldn't bother. Here I am months later taking the stuff.

I am still not sure what to make of this all and every time I take those pills I can't help but be reminded about my mental state. I never really thought of myself as mentally ill, unstable or anything like that. In fact, I think my definition of sanity and insanity is quite loose. I don't really even think these terms are relevant to me. People have such varied experiences and emotions and body chemistry that the idea of being "insane" kind of seems like a misnomer. Are the people in the streetcars who sing to themselves fucked up? Are they unstable? Or are they simply enjoying themselves and not giving a shit about what other people around them might think? I tend to think that mental illness is about self-definition. I mean who am I to tell anyone that they are mentally ill? That decision is not mine. I think definitions of sanity and insanity are as much about our ideas of what it means to be "normal" and what is or isn't commonly accepted by society. I hate to label anyone as crazy based on my perception of things. It seems unfair.

Having said all of this I have never felt "normal." I have always felt that I'm the outsider. That I'm not from this place and I have to do my best to make space for myself. I guess somewhat related to being an "outsider" is that I spend a lot of my time feeling miserable. I even hesitate to write those words because it feels like by doing so I am reinforcing that belief. It feels like I am unintentionally ensuring my unhappiness. Like maybe if I say that I am happy it will somehow be true.

For years I have gone through these ups and downs. For a time it seemed like every time I would get depressed it would be worse. I have always been afraid that one day I will fall into this darkness never to leave again. It scares me to think that it might be possible for me to slip into permanent depression. Maybe having that knowledge or fear keeps it from happening. Over the years these bouts seems to have kind of levelled out and formed into a pattern of sorts. As my boyfriend pointed out I seem to go through a high on Friday night where I'm all giddy and noisy and hyper, then the rest of the weekend is spent in a black hole. This has nothing to do with being hung over as I don't drink. I also don't think it is about being tired because I don't usually even do all that much on Friday nights. "Friday's just another night for me."

I used to be convinced that my moods were directly related to living with my parents and putting up with all of their bullshit. We would fight continuously. It was incredibly draining for everyone. If we all had the time and energy we could have argued non-stop. We see eye to eye on almost nothing. We would constantly get into fights about they way I eat, my sexuality, they way I dress, about making my bed (?), religion and so on. You name it we have likely fought about it. On several occasions my mom has told me that I'm an idiot, that I'm an asshole, that fags are evil and so on. After hearing all of this bullshit for so long much of it has become internalized. I am constantly fighting with this inner critic. This is the voice of self-doubt and self-hatred. I want that voice to be crushed. I am tired of feeling miserable about myself and am proud to say that I have made a lot of progress in that department over the last year or so. I haven't lived with my parents for more than four months and I still get depressed. I get depressed even when they are not around to contribute to it. I no longer believe that getting away from them is the key to my happiness.

A lot of times I cause my own depression. I hold things back. I don't say what is on my mind, I don't speak out, I don't ask for or demand the things I want and need. When things don't go the way I want or feel my needs are not being met I get depressed. This is no one's fault but my own. I seem to expect other people to be able to read my mind or something. Somehow I have been convinced that asking for what I want is bad, that I will come off as demanding. I worry that I might coerce people into doing things they don't want to. I worry about burdening people with my demands. I am selectively shy. I say selectively because I end up doing things (like marching naked in front of 600,000 people) which very few people would do, yet I have trouble telling people when something upsets me or making small talk with a stranger.

"When in doubt blame your parents." And I do. I guess it seems a little too typical to be entirely comfortable, but I attribute this not speaking up for myself largely to my parents. It's a lot easier to blame my history for my behaviour than it is to just own up to the fact that I am excessively and stupidly shy for no real reason. When I was in grade school I was very rambunctious. I was the class clown; I was loud, playful and apparently really annoying. One year at parent-teacher interviews, in about grade five, my parents were told about how much I disrupt the class by making noises and generally being hyper. My parents thought that I should know by then when to make noises and when not too. They though I should know that the noises were "useless" and only bugged other people. I can't even begin to count how many times I have been told "If you have something to say, say it and it's done."

For years the focus in our home was the television set. After school I would get home and watch TV for a couple hours and then we'd have supper. At supper, which was basically the only time our family was together, no one was really allowed to talk. The TV would always be on during supper. This killed any attempt at conversation. I feel ripped off that the television took precedence over actual communication. Every night my mom would say "LITSEN!! The news is on!" Whether or not anyone else had any desire to watch the news was irrelevant. So many times I was told to shut up because the TV was on. I hate that. Now I don't watch TV. It's funny, because I still see a lot of it as a by-product of other people's watching. For the most part I find television incredibly boring and annoying, but that is an entire article by itself.

The point is that over the years many people have told me that I should be quiet, that I should settle down, that I should control myself. After this has been drilled into my head for so long I am often convinced that my words are useless, that no one wants to hear them. I suffer in silence because I convince myself that these words are no good. As a result I make people's decisions for them before I give them an option. An example of this occurred just the other night. David was watching TV and I wanted to go out. I simply left without asking him if he wanted to go even though I wanted nothing more than for him to come with me. Since I didn't invite him he didn't come and I spent the rest of the night being miserable having convinced myself that he was opting for television over spending time with me. In reality he was just waiting for an invitation. At the same time though he could have asked to come with me. Blah blah blah, I suppose that is enough of a sidetrack.

I hate the fact that I am so stifled, so reserved. When I want to ask for something or assert myself I get all nervous and repeat things in my head over and over. I end up thinking about it to death and then not even doing it. As the words are about to fall out of my mouth my heart speeds up and I get sweaty. Do I fear rejection? Do I fear being ignored? Do I fear being happy? The thought that fear is what holds me back is not comforting in any way. I long to be one of those people who always speaks their mind. To be one of those people who can talk to anyone they meet, but I am not. More often than not I play the part of the meek little boy who is being scolded for chirping and singing and running around.

Just thinking about it now I have always associated my making noise and being loud with being happy and care free. I guess it would then follow that if I was continually being scolded for being noisy I was also being scolded for being happy and giddy. I have been rewarded for being "mature" which seems to translate into being quiet and reserved. I long to be able to let myself run and scream, to tell people what I am thinking, to ask for what I want, what I need. I long to get back that kid energy that would let me run and make noise and play and be silly. I know I have this in me. I know that is part of who I am. I need to work to regain my sense of childishness, to make more noise and to stop being shy. All of these things are essential to my happiness and growth. I sometimes surprise myself when I manage to assert my thoughts. I find this exhilarating and exciting and know that I will only get closer to my goals the more I work on it. "No one but yourself can free your mind."

While it is still on people's minds, I would also like to say a few words about Christmas. This year was the first time I have been away from my parents over the holidays. As I'm sure most people reading this aren't all that wild about the whole idea of Christmas and all the consumerism that seems to go hand in hand with it, I won't really bother touching on that aspect of things. I tend to be overly cynical and bitter when it comes to Xmas to the point where I wish it wouldn't happen. This year was different.

Xmas with my parents is usually as much about yelling at each other as it is about celebration of what we have with each other. Xmas is a time when expectations and tensions run high. It is always the same thing, my sister and I are accused of destroying Xmas because we are vegan plus all the other exciting things we always seem to fight about at my parents house. I can remember a couple years ago when I wound up at a friend's house on Xmas day crying my eyes out because things were so unbearable. I am happy to say that this year I got to spend Xmas with my new family here in Toronto. With my boyfriend David and his boyfriend, Peter. For the most part it was quiet.

Strangely enough we all went to a church service on Xmas eve. This was kind of bizarre for me since I had never been to a service for as long as I can remember and since I don't believe in god. We went to the Metropolitan Community Church service in this huge hall. The MCC is one of the queer churches in Toronto. It took place in a huge hall. I am not really sure how many people were there, but we wound up sitting in a balcony so it is pretty safe to say there were probably over a thousand people there. For me none of the religion stuff was important. It rang hollow. The important and moving part of the whole thing was seeing so many queers all come together in celebration. The people at the church were extremely welcoming. In the program they even mentioned that they have a leather group at the church.

On Xmas day we spent time with David's parents who were also much more welcoming to me than my parents. It was a wonderful experience and I thank David and Peter for showing me that Xmas doesn't have to be horrible. Make your own families.

Props out to Felix and Attila.

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