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Fighting it off September 23, 2014

Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
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With the Summer now really over, the days getting cooler (I’m already cold. I don’t want think about January), and the days getting shorter and shorter, I’m on the edge of the seasonal changes to mood that happens to me every Fall.

That, compounded by a recent loss of a relationship that was important to me means that I am on the verge of a depressive period which I am going to have to deal with. It’s like I’m feeling the first signs of the flu coming on, and while I know I’ll get through it (you know, probably) I know that for a little while I’m not going to be OK.

And I don’t know what to think about that. It all seemed so easy and clear when I was feeling great just a month (or so) ago. I was feeling confident, I had strong relationships, and the Summer was my playground. I was Ingressing all over the city, enjoying the warmth, and I was busy most nights with friends, lovers, and partners.

And now my motivation to be social is diminishing. I can feel it seeping from me like blood from a cut, slowly draining away my ability to stay attentive, engaged, and feeling fully alive. Yesterday, for the first time in many months, I spent an entire evening playing a video game. After the first half hour, I felt satisfied with gaming for the day. But rather than get up to do something else, I just sat there and played more. And then 3 hours went by, just like that.

Last Fall it was Skyrim. Soooo much Skyrim. What a great game, but there is definitely a point at which one is over-doing it.

And then I think about last Fall. Man, so much has changed in a year. I remembered how awful it was for me a year ago. With the exception of someone I had just started seeing then, I was mostly not doing well at all. I was in a long, arduous, unhappy funk all of last Fall. Everyone around me saw it. I was moody, non-communicative, and it led to things going badly between me and someone I deeply cared for, then. There were bright spots in there, but it was awful. And so I find myself thinking a lot about what to do about this. I cannot avoid it completely, but I can mitigate it, can’t I?

I know this gets better. I don’t know exactly when, but it will. You know, probably.

So, if you see me this Fall and I seem a bit more quiet and subdued than usual, then it’s probably because I’m feeling shitty. If you are inclined, come and give me a hug. Hugs always help.

But the most obvious piece of evidence that I’m not doing well? I have not even reached 500 words and I’m done writing.

Something is wrong here…..

 

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Instability Multiplied May 18, 2014

Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
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This will be, without a doubt, one of the hardest posts I will ever write.

The reasons for this are complicated, and I will not dwell on those complications.  I will simply say that to write about this puts on full display all of my deepest fears, my largest failures, and my greatest hope for improvement. And while I value intimacy and appreciate human vulnerability, I recognize how hard those things can be to show to the world.  This is me at my most vulnerable.

Why would a person who has a disorder which makes relationships turbulent, often unstable, and who can bounce between fears of intimacy and personal envelopment willingly enter into an arrangement where they will have multiple relationships? If relationships can be so difficult, then why would a borderline be polyamorous?

Why might borderlines become polyamorous?

Well, there are the actual reasons, and there may be a plethora of reasons people might give which would act as criticisms.  I cannot predict what those accusations and guesses might be, but here are a couple which come to mind when I think about this.

Some might postulate that borderlines might be attracted to polyamory because the fear of intimacy would push a person towards a relationship structure where the “true intimacy” of monogamy is absent.  One can achieve validation, from multiple sources, while not being subject to too much intimacy, due to having to divide up your time.

This, of course, implies that true intimacy is not possible within polyamory, or is at least disadvantaged by it by spreading around the intimacy in a way that is detrimental to any specific relationship.  This assumption is unwarranted, and thus the previous argument would be a red herring, if used.  The truth is that in many ways polyamory can be a gateway to increased intimacy, honesty, and vulnerability for partners.

Some might argue that it is because of the impulsiveness of borderlines that polyamory looks inviting.  Since, some may say, we borderlines often yearn for validation, intimacy, and often try to fill in the holes of emptiness with things like drugs, gambling, or promiscuity, polyamory might be seen as a more acceptable alternative to those extremes; as a way of compromising with our impulsiveness and finding a more acceptable outlet for our desire to get our rocks off. I say more acceptable, because to some people, cheating is considered more acceptable than non-monogamy.

And I cannot deny that this might be a factor for some people who are both borderlines and polyamorous.  This is a question I have wrestled with for a long time, and I am confident that my motivations for being polyamorous are (at least mostly) about what makes polyamory great, rather than what makes me impulsive.  But if I said that I never pursued any relationship out of at least some impulsiveness, I’d be lying.

 

Degrees, intimacy, and timing

barbed-heartPersonality disorders do not merely bring in sets of foreign behaviors which no neuro-typical people could display and which cause havoc on the normal world blind-sided.  Things like feelings of emptiness, fear of abandonment, and complications with intimacy in relationships are fairly common among most people.  What makes someone a borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, or anti-social (staying within the realm of dramatic/emotional personality disorders) is the degree to which normal human behaviors begin to have more influence over someone’s behavior.  It’s about proportions, degrees, and manageability. Many of the struggles I talk about here will sound familiar to most people, although the degree may be different.

Many people have issues with intimacy.  These issues play themselves out as (in some cases) different needs and wants which effect different people in a variety of ways.  For example, a person may need attention while another does not want to give it just now, or at least in that way. This may either cause an argument, cold distance, or a conversation which brings understanding and increased intimacy.

As we navigate the world, we meet people we want differing levels of intimacy from, and sometimes we might meet 2, 3 or more people who fit us in ways which make us want to develop intimacy (of varying kinds) with all of them.  Our cultural expectations (as they are now) generally lean towards choosing one of these people to be our sexual, romantic, and potentially marital partner.  The reasons for this are complicated, and well beyond the scope of this post.

The point is that we all have complicated needs and wants around intimacy, and we all have differing levels of ability to manage those needs.  A borderline has an issue with management of feelings, fears, etc in a way that those who are neuro-typical do not.  But borderlines also can genuinely love, and love many times over! It may mean we have to work harder at communicating our difficulties, we may have more exposed complications with triggers, and we may be more likely to have turbulence within relationships, but the underlying impulses, needs, and potential for multiplied love is the same as anyone else.

From my own experience, I can say that communicating fears, needs, and desires is hard.  I mean hard.  No, I mean really fucking HARD. It’s easier when intimacy has been established, sure, but it feels nearly impossible when any dislike or emotional coldness is present in the person we have needs from.  This inability has landed me in situations where I have seriously fucked up a relationship by getting myself in a situation where I’m so frustrated, so stressed out, and so anxious that nearly anything becomes a trigger and my partner feels the behavioral effects of that stress.  This has happened many times over my life, and while it happens in slightly different ways each time, it’s the same fundamental problem; fear of intimacy and the complications which derive from that fear.

This fear of intimacy can come in all shapes and sizes and is especially rife in a poly context because it’s not always just about my partners where intimacy becomes a problem. That’s because the issues around intimacy are not limited to people we want romantic and/or sexual connections with.

Speaking for myself, I often desire some level of intimacy with all sorts of people, even people I have no sexual or romantic interest in. I want to be considered, loved, and validated by people in my life. Of course, this does not always happen, which is painful for me day-to-day, especially if the person not giving those things is around all the time. How well a person treats me can have a major effect on my mood, feelings of self-worth, and potential for sustained happiness.

Often, it’s an issue with a metamour (partner of a partner) or close friend of a partner.  I’ve had wonderful metamours who I felt distant from despite their awesomeness, often because my issues arose at bad times and in bad ways which created embarrassment, distance, etc. I’ve had terrible metamours who I’ve been OK with, because our interactions happened when I was managing well.  I’ve had what could have been good metamours who ended up as bad metamours because of terrible communication and incompatible issues.  I’ve seen all sorts of complications with partners of partners, and how we relate is a mixture of how well we are both managing our respective issues.

And, of course, sometimes the issue is with the partner themselves. I’ve had partners who were no good for me, but I didn’t see it because the blinders were on (whether because the sex was amazing, issues hadn’t been exposed, etc).  I’ve had wonderful partners who were good for me, but it didn’t work out simply because I simply fucked up.  I’ve had partners who could have been great only if we had both been at better places, including mental health wise, when we were together.  Ginny and I were talking about how badly matched we would have been if we had met a few years earlier.

How silly it is that this fact is true. If only I had met some partners later (or earlier, depending), perhaps things could have worked out. Timing can be crucial, in such cases. A few years, a few months, etc might make all the difference between a relationship that works or becomes nothing.

 

So, then why?

Polyamory-picSo, why would a borderline want to be polyamorous? I cannot speak for anyone else who deals with symptoms of BPD, and I would actually want to hear from people in a similar boat as me.  The symptoms can vary in proportion and play out in very different ways, so there may be many reasons for and against being polyamorous if one struggles with such symptoms.  Therefore, I can only talk about why I am, and want to remain polyamorous. For the philosophical reasons (which may, in the end, be rationalizations) you can check out the pages about polyamory and skepticism, properly applied. And while I still agree with those essays and find them valuable as resources for understanding intellectual motivations for being polyamorous, they are only part of the story.

Because intimacy is difficult for me, when I meet a person who I am able to be close with I want to allow myself to be unrestrained in how I can relate to them. I already have enough internal fears to maintain distance from people as it is, so I don’t like living in a world where external restrictions add anxiety and unnecessary rules to this set of issues. Our standard social expectations about relationships can be a little confining, promote jealousy (emotional affairs, for example), and cause any potential intimacy to become surreptitious.

Living in a such a way where I don’t need to be anxious about whether I’m crossing some invisible intimacy line with another person with whom I can talk, share physical contact, etc according to what we want to do (because, of course, consent matters) is hugely freeing and comfortable. Worrying about whether sharing emotional vulnerability with another person might be cheating is not comfortable.

And polyamory gives me the freedom to have relationships of all kinds with any number of people.  Of course, I rarely meet someone who I am really interested in getting to know deeply, right? I rarely like people, or something. I could be described as a misanthrope, perhaps. Except none of that is true. Well, maybe the last one, sometimes.  The truth is that I often want to get to know people. I often like people.

But I’m also often terrified of being rejected, dismissed, or attacked. I often run into people who are struggling with their own mental health issues which cause a conflict in behaviors and treatment (usually on both our parts) which cause tension and anxiety (at least for me).  In some cases, my shyness and fear look like disinterest, when inside I desire emotional contact with people.

But when I meet someone with whom I click and share common desires and interests, it feels amazing. It is so hard to get past those fears of intimacy and open up, that when it does happen it’s really rewarding. When I do so, I’m able to pour them into me, and to give all the vulnerability, consideration, and care that I have into them. I’m so happy that I’m able to open up, let them see who I really am, and hope that they like who they see.

Which is all great, until the other side of that coin gets exposed, in time. And that’s where this gets really hard for me.

*deep breath*

Here it goes…

 

Sometimes Dr. Jekyll, this Mister Hydes.

breakupIn an ideal world, reaching a place of trusting someone, loving them, and sharing all of your deepest fears and hopes would create a stable, loving, healthy relationship. And even among neuro-typical people, problems emerge. But there is something that happens inside this borderline’s head which goes beyond normal relationship problems.  Sometimes I feel and act crazy.  The result, with some people, is a loss of trust in me, them being hurt by me, and my feeling powerless against my own fear, loss of self-worth, and desperate levels of guilt and shame.

Which, of course, can lead to the other symptoms of BPD being significantly increased.  My impulsiveness spikes (leading to poor decisions about communication).  My radical mood swings (an issue we’ll get to in a later post) will become unstable and unpredictable, leading to long bouts of severe depression, self-harm, and to acute splitting (of a partner, a metamour, and of myself). My anger may spike and I may throw things, yell, and generally scream (metaphorically) for validation and affection (pretty much any time I lose it, that’s what I’m craving and needing).

It is at these moments where the fear of abandonment, the emptiness, and the desire for intimacy turn into a storm of terrifying rage, sadness, and paralyzing fear. And it is these moments which end relationships. It is these moments when I hurt the people I love, which are memories which will keep me awake at night long after the relationship is gone.  It leads to self-hatred, lack of any self-worth, and to thoughts of (and sometimes actual) self harm.

When I feel the most depressed, I start to internalize many horrible things about myself which are not necessarily  true. When i start to believe these things, I know I’m at my lowest.

How does this happen? How does the person who I want to be–the trusting, caring, gentle man who wants nothing more than to love and be loved–become this raging source of hurt, distrust, and distance? It’s because I hide.

It’s very difficult to communicate my needs, especially when they are emotional in nature and especially from people who respond badly to emotional vulnerability.  And so I hide my vulnerability most of the time.  I appear calm, quiet, and normal rather than the intensely emotional and vulnerable person I feel like inside.  I cannot be the gentle, trusting, and caring person I want to be because I’m afraid. And because I’m afraid, I create distance.  And because I create distance I feel unloved.  And because I feel unloved the stress and anxiety lead to my inability to manage every-day emotions, needs, and wants.  And because of that, I make poor, impulsive, decisions.  I hurt people, lose the trust I wanted to earn, and relationships end.

And where I wanted friends, partners, and family, I create enemies. People I wanted to love then hate me, and this hatred reminds me of all the things I’m afraid of and I carry more and more pain to be vulnerable about with people in the future. It’s a kind of vicious cycle which I’m always aware of. And I don’t want any of it.

 

I can do better, but I need help along the way

optimismAs a person struggling with symptoms consistent with BPD, I need an emotionally open environment which allows for honesty, vulnerability, and support.  Polyamory provides an ideal environment to achieve all of these things because it allows me to develop intimacy with many people.  From a variety of loving partners, metamours, friends, and an extended network of people who are more likely to be emotionally open, I have the ability to choose my family or tribe in a way that will be healthy to me which the monogamous world does not as readily supply.

I love all of my partners (three, currently), and they all offer me different, wonderful, beautiful things.  Also, my partners have great partners of their own, which adds to my environment in different ways.  So long as I keep challenging myself to get better through reading, talking, and other therapies then the person I want to be will dominate among these people around me.  And no matter what the depressed, self-hating, and terrified person I can be from time to time might believe, that part of me will not win.

So, back to the initial question: Why would I want to be polyamorous? Simple; I want to love and be loved, without deference to social expectations and norms.  I am not defined by being a borderline. It is a diagnosis of current struggles which I will get past, and all of the voices of demonization about who I am. whether internal or external, will either have to remain silent or look foolish in time, because I have the capability to maintain healthy relationships with people I love.

My mistakes are lessons, and not definitions.

Just like everyone else

Lost and Found February 6, 2014

Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
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A little over 4 years ago, I lost a relationship which was, at the time, important enough to move me away from Philadelphia.  The same day that relationship ended, just a few months later, the origins of my relationship with Ginny started.  And that, ultimately, brought me back to Philadelphia.  More importantly, it brought me back to myself, and possibly a better self due to the struggles I had with depression and other emotional difficulties caused by that loss.  In my opinions, the gains outweighed the losses in that case.  Ginny is my rock.  She always stands besides me and loves me, and I am extraordinarily lucky to have her.

And up until a few days ago, another person was as integral to my life as Ginny is, in many ways.  We lived together, laughed together, and when things were wonderful they were amazingly wonderful.  Gina was a person I intended to spend the rest of my life with, and now that possibility is uncertain.  Now that relationship is gone, at least for now.  And I feel lost again.

So, now I spend a lot of time analyzing what it’s like to struggle through painful times, while looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.  And being the cynic I am, I’m not seeing beds of metaphorical roses.

Pain, struggle, and all the related emotions and circumstances are hard, especially for someone who struggles with emotional stability and proportionality.  The increased introspection brings forth more self-awareness, emotional maturity (at least, hopefully), and forces me to take some more time for re-evaluation.  At least, that’s what I have told myself, before, when I healed from such times.  But right now I’m not sure if I buy that narrative; at least not completely.  It’s true that I think more than usual, but not really that much.  I just think about specific, painful things more.  I just hurt more.  I may not actually be any more introspective at such times (but I’m definitely outside the norm in terms of my normal level of introspection).

I’m starting to think that maybe the narrative of ‘painful times are periods of growth’ is not completely correct. Our brains do their best to maintain the illusions and narratives of a whole self who does not act completely crazy and unpredictable, let alone simply irrationally and unreasonable.  Our memories are altered by a process that maintains this illusory narrative to put together our selves and lives into a sensible story.  As we remember those times of pain and struggle, we have to put them in a context of where we are when we don’t feel that way any longer, and growth is as good a narrative as any other.  In order to maintain some level of consonance with our self image as a stable and grown person, we humans tend to construct a narrative of how the pain we went through made us stronger, better, and more prepared for life.  It never feels that way when in the midst of it, though.  At the time, it just sucks.

I hope I’m a stronger and better person than I was 4 years ago, but the fact is I can’t be sure.  I have painful memories which give me pause when approaching similar mistakes which helped precipitate those painful events, sure, but is that strength? Isn’t that just conditioning, a la Pavlov? Is it not possible that I would actually be stronger today if those painful experiences had never happened? How would I know?  Because if I’m stronger and better today, perhaps that would have happened whether I went through those painful times or not.

Then I think of all the utterly obtuse and non-self-aware people I know, and I think that maybe I’m just being too pessimistic and cynical.  Why are so many people apparently oblivious to not only their own issues but the cues of others? How have they avoided actual emotional growth for so many years? It seems weird to me to not be introspective, but I guess my introspective nature looks weird to them, too.  I’m getting off track.

What I want to know, essentially, is whether the pain we go through when dealing with loss–whether through death, break-ups, etc–is actually ever good, or whether we create a narrative which makes it seem good in retrospect.  Because when we’re better, things look better.  And so in that case we can weave memories to fit how we feel.  If we are fine after the shit is all over, then the crappy days, weeks, or months we just plowed through must have been worth it, because here we are! Right? But that’s not how the brain works.  Sometimes, we just feel better because we forget the pain (or, at least, most of it), new good stuff happens, or because we ate the right foods that day to help support a healthy mind.  And then we reconstruct the past to fit the present state of mind.

I really am being cynical and pessimistic, aren’t I?

*Sigh*

I’m dealing with loss right now.  I’m hoping that I will run into some ‘finding’ as well.  The fact is that I am on the verge of starting a new relationship, so I may be repeating the pattern of losing and finding simultaneously, but it’s also premature to make any hay out of that.  The happiness I am feeling from that is somewhat mitigated by the pain of that other loss, but it’s still happiness and hopefulness.  But mostly, right now, I’m feeling sad, hurt, and angry (mostly at myself).

And I miss her.  Badly.  I’m trying to make sense of my life without her in it, and it just doesn’t make much sense at all.  I think of things I would usually share with her, and I can’t.  Too painful to talk right now.  And everyone keeps telling me that this might just be temporary, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel that way.  I’m just going to have to wait out the worst of this, and hope that when I feel better things will be different.  The scary thing, however, is I don’t know how they will feel better.  The uncertainty of it is terrifying.  I guess I just need to practice patience, and hopefully all will be better soon.

In the mean time, I can’t stop moving forward, otherwise I will spin my wheels into a rut of listless sadness.  I need to keep moving forward, and hope that maybe that lost relationship might be found when things feel better.

But for now it hurts too much.

On Depression and Reticence April 2, 2013

Posted by shaunphilly in Skepticism and atheism.
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I periodically go through bouts of depression.  It isn’t usually serious, but it has real-life effects on me.  I become less social,  I am much more cynical than usual, and I write a lot less.  It’s why I have not been writing recently, and the shift out of feeling depressed is why I am writing today.

One of the other things it does is causes behavior which causes stress to my relationships.  I become less affectionate, responsive, and it can lead to arguments which would otherwise not happen (because my depression leads to non-ideal behavior).  When I’m feeling depressed, I’m not much fun to be around, especially for my partners.

Another side effect can be a lack of pursuit of my desires.  I’m less likely to ask for what I want, to speak up for myself when I disagree, or to be assertive in any way.  And because live with a few extroverts (although Ginny is certainly an introvert), that can often mean I feel intimidated and shrugged off.  There is no competition, from the depressed introvert’s point of view, with confident extroverts around you, and so I don’t try to participate as much.  Not that anyone is trying to shrug me off or intimidate me ( I don’t think), but that I just feel that way and so I sort of disappear and don’t pursue what I want, and so I don’t get it.

I have thoughts, desires, and feelings during such times, it’s just that in times like the last few days I was not voicing them except where I was compelled to.  And today, feeling more energetic and happy, I am able to reflect on this periodic depression and think what I can do better next time, while still thinking that this is fruitless.  See, I am feeling somewhat confident now; right now I believe that I can continue to grow and improve as a person.  Two days ago, I did not believe that.  All I could bring myself to believe then was that I’m not really worth much, and I’d be doing the world a favor by just shutting up and going away.

And so I was not writing.

It’s anxiety-causing to admit this publicly  but it is also part of the healing process.  I know that sometime in the future I will feel crappy again, and while I’m feeling crappy I will be intellectually aware that I will feel better again soon, but while I feel crappy I am reticent–I am reluctant to speak out, up, or about much at all, and it affects those close to me.  I don’t know what to do about that.

Now that it is Spring (although it’s still too goddamn cold!), I will be starting to get outside more, get more exercise, and this will result in another cause for less writing; enjoying life.  But don’t worry, I’ll still be around disrespecting faith and finding monogamy quaint.  Ain’t much going to stop that completely, just periodically.