Originally published at
I remember one night, after Atlas was published, she [Ayn Rand] was sitting on the sofa, crying, protesting the state of the world and her place in it, and then she said how much she would hate for John Galt to see her this way, how much she would hate for him to see her miserable or in tears. I said, “Why? Wasn’t this part of the battle? Wasn’t feeling like hell and then picking yourself up and carrying on part of what made the struggle heroic? What was there to be ashamed of? Why did one have to pretend that there were never moments of utter despair? Wasn’t the challenge to experience them, own them, admit them, without denial or pretense ‹ and then go on fighting?” I said we should be proudly willing to let people see us in our darkest moments because in the end it was not going to be our darkest moments that would define us.
— Nathaniel Branden
Don’tcha love my titles.
So, why does it suck to be poly?
Okay, at first I have to come out. Yes, yes, you already know I’m poly, you might know I’m bi.
There’s something else about me I don’t talk about much. I’m not ashamed of it, mind you, but it’s not something I tend to broadcast. At least, until today.
I’m bipolar, and am what is so quaintly called “non-compliant” about medication. (Possibly “stiff-necked pain in the ass” would be a closer description, but I’ve not heard a clinical professional use the expression). Yes, that’s right, you’ve been taking advice from a crazy person. Please, no mental illness advocates lecture me on using negative imagery about mental illness, ‘kay? I know the list of famous and productive bipolars as well as you do. It’s a pain in the ass, but no, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a good life. Hear that, little poly chilluns? You can have overwhelming challenges and have a good life. LOL. Sometimes I even remember that.
But sometimes I don’t.
That’s when the problem comes in. You see, when you’re really down, you need to get help. Sometimes, you let it go too far and you wind up in the emergency room. For the record, no, I didn’t make an attempt to kill myself. I was watching myself rationalize that in the long run it wouldn’t hurt my family as badly as dealing with my fucked up self. I know how dangerous that is. I also know the statistics on suicide risk for children of suicides. I’m a mother. I don’t want to put that kind of burden on my kids, even if I am nuts. I checked myself in rather than do something I was really going to regret if I survived. (My best friend for many years was a critical care nurse. I’ve heard one to many horror stories of failed suicide attempts to want to deal with that).
So here I am in the emergency room. Were the staff kind and understanding? Yes. VERY much so. I was treated kindly and with dignity, and I very much appreciate that. It helped. A lot!
They didn’t know about polyamory. So, here I am trying to explain what’s going on in my life, and without the context of polyamory, it’s going to be impossible to understand! They’re not going to be able to help but so much, nor are they going to have any real perspective.
I’m a poly advocate. I spend a lot of time on polyamory, analyzing family structures, thinking about what works and what doesn’t, writing about it, talking about it. So, I have all this stuff organized in my head. Do you think that a suicidally depressed person who knows she’s not thinking clearly is gonna be a good person to be educating a psychological professional about her lifestyle in the throes of a crisis? (Hollow laugh).
As is my wont, I started thinking about my own experiences in terms of the poly community at large. I know for a fact I’m not the only poly person who has gotten depressed and landed in an emergency room. I tried to imagine not have at least some of a rote speech about the subject memorized. I tried to imagine that I was not an advocate ¨ that polyamory as a theory just didn’t take UP that much of my thought process because I was busy having a life with my loves. (Not that I don’t, mind, but my career is the poly community when it comes down to it). But say I were a waitress or an engineer or a computer programmer or a lawyer? In a crisis situation, would that person be able to explain his life in such a way as to get help that would actually be useful.
Possibly. But maybe not.
Frankly, I think it would be better if a person who needed psychological help did not have to routinely explain her lifestyle (I had to do it five times in the course of about 24 hours). So, do I have a proposal for a solution?
<GRIN> Why yes. (Is anyone surprised?)
I’m putting together a pamphlet with the help of some other poly activists and psychologists — yes, I’ll announce it! When it comes out, it’ll be in PDF format and free for the download to print up and distribute. Me? I think it needs to go to medical schools, departments of psychology in colleges, hospital psychology departments, and therapists’ offices. If you wanna do a little poly activism that will do a lot of good and not take much time, this would be a quick-n-easy thing to do.
Updates as they happen.
In the meantime, you might want to check out “What Psychology Professionals Should Know About Polyamory”. It’s quite good and can be very helpful. It’s not a pamphlet that one can get out there in an emergency, and is much more suited to long term therapy. I like it a lot.
7 thoughts on “God, It Sucks to be Poly!”
Thank you so much for sharing this.
If it sucks to be poly, why don’t you stop? Why do you need this constant excitement, constant attention, constant confirmation that you are lovable? Why don’t you do yourself a favor, and give it a rest?
The fact that you are bipolar–I’m very sympathetic, by the way!–suggests that you may have a limited ability to deal with adverse emotional situations, and you may tend to overreact when they arise. Am I right? Well, your polyamorous lifestyle is almost certainly exposing you to MORE adverse emotional circumstances than you would otherwise encounter. Do you think that’s a good thing for you?
I got rid of the adverse situations and found poly still works out fine.
This is awesome to learn. I am in a poly relationship and someone in our triad is bipolar. While he is very responsible when it comes to meds, his OSO and I have found this to be a very challenging relationship dynamic. Can’t wait for the pamphlet, and any other suggestions you feel moved to post regarding being bipolar and poly would be deeply welcomed. Namaste.
…did anything ever come of said booklet?
Joanna, I’ve got some notes, but I’ve not converted it to a printable PDF yet. The theory was that I was supposed to get this done by the middle of Sept 2009. I’m self-employed, so I work on personal projects during slow periods. Blissfully, my slow periods haven’t happened in the past few months!
Let me know when this comes together, I would be interested.