Depression is a pretty debilitating thing. I don’t remember when it started; I just know it’s an old companion.
In 2005, 118 million antidepressants were prescribed in the United States, where they’re given out like candy these days. When I was in university, the first thing the counselor at the on-campus clinic suggested was an antidepressant. I started popping those pills every day in November 2006, and I haven’t stopped since. Luckily, that university counselor suggested therapy as well.
Over the years I’ve seen a few different therapists, including my current one since October of last year. She’s awesome. Instead of me talking at her, she has a conversation with me. She makes useful suggestions, and she never judges me for anything I say (yes, I’ve had this happen with therapists in the past).
One of her suggestions -- one of the best ones -- was that I start reading xoJane.
It was on a day when we were discussing polyamory, a lifestyle I’d been considering for quite a while, despite my insecurities and self-esteem issues (shocker, I know, for a girl-then-woman in North America). For those of you who don’t know, polyamory involves “openness to multiple loving relationships, with honesty, openness, and consent among all partners. It’s not better or easier than maintaining entirely monogamous relationships, but can be the ‘right’ way for some people.”
I was unraveling my thoughts around this decision, letting the confusion and the exploration flood out of my mouth while my therapist listened patiently, interjecting when appropriate. Then she said, “You know, there’s this website called xoJane, where women write about their personal experiences with all sorts of things. One of them writes about polyamory; I just read an article of hers about dating a couple. There could really be some good insights for you there.”
As soon as I got home, I sat down in front of the computer and pulled up the website. Immediately I found myself drawn into a world of gritty honesty, sarcasm, humor, uplifting words and heartwrenching stories, always with the positive ending of women emerging from the shitty circumstances that shaped them into the stronger people they are today. I saw right away this was a place where words have power, where we can learn and inspire others by sharing stories of our struggles.
The article my therapist mentioned, “It Happened to Me: I’m Dating A Couple” by Kate Conway was eye-opening to me. It affirmed my belief that there is more than one way to have a relationship and that every way is good. While I don’t know if I would date a couple, I have become comfortable with the idea of dating more than one person and keeping my options open. I felt validated and excited.
From there, I searched for more and found at least one article to echo each of my challenging experiences: cheating, being cheated on, having a crappy body image, being sexually abused or taken advantage of -- not to mention the unconventional treatment of certain topics, such as Kate’s article “People With Down’s Syndrome Can Be Jerks, Too.” This site opened a cornucopia of varying viewpoints and refreshing ideas.
Not only was I validated, I was also inspired to start a blog, which I update almost every day. I decided it would be a place for me to talk about whatever I wanted, however I wanted. Screw the status quo and screw political correctness: this blog would be all about me, me, me, things around me, me, me, and what I thought about the state of the world. Yeah, it sounds selfish, but so what?
Now xoJane has become a daily stop in my Internet world. If I happen to remember a jerk from my past, I search xoJane for articles about douchebags and how women have overcome them. If I feel bad about my body, I search xoJane for some body acceptance goodness. If I’m bored, xoJane always has something interesting to read.
I’d like to say that xoJane could replace my therapist, but of course that is one thing it cannot do. Instead, I often bring up the articles I’ve read on xoJane in our sessions and how they have re-shaped my thoughts on various subjects. From the beginning, my therapist has been trying to make me see that it is OK to be who I am, and taking her suggestion to read xoJane was one of the best choices I could have made. I realized a very long time ago that it’s OK to be different, but the articles on xoJane have affirmed this idea for me. I've been able to come into my own, comfortable with my uniqueness and my rejection of the mainstream.
XoJane is like a textbook to complement my therapy sessions. I hope the site is around for a long time, always ready for reading on my phone on the bus; at work when I don’t feel like doing what I’m supposed to; and at home when I need something entertaining to read while eating breakfast. A solid, unwavering, textual partner.