Course of Treatment: The Treatment Roller Coaster

polyamory and mental illness

Here’s the way psych treatment goes in the movies. You’re suffering through some serious shit when you get taken in hand by a quirky doctor with a love of life and some magic pills. Under the doctor’s tutelage you embrace life again, and the magic pills restore you to healthy mental state, where you live happily ever after with the love of your life. The end.

Ask anyone whose been in treatment for mental illness their opinion of this baloney. I dare you.

Let’s imagine just for a minute that you do find a quirky doctor who shakes you out of the hopelessness and self hatred that often come from years of living with mental illness. Let’s further imagine that this doctor manages, on the first try, to prescribe the perfect pill to cure your symptoms. Here’s what happens next:

  1. You and your doctor gradually experiment with dosage levels (weekly or monthly blood tests being very much a thing) while you find the right amount of medication to give you the maximum help without too many side effects
  2. You need to relearn to live life as a mentally functional human being.
  3. You need to rebuild relationships that were damaged by your mental illness and learn/re-learn how to have healthy relationships
  4. You need to watch out for and learn how to live with whatever side effects your new medication gives you.
  5. In 6 months or 2 years or 10 years, the medication stops being effective. You need to repeat steps 1 and 4, or find maybe find a completely new medication. (Here’s hoping your doctor can get a hole in one twice)

Now, keep in mind that even the best psych treatments on average a 30% success rate (success meaning “creates significant improvement”). All psych treatments (with the exception of as needed meds for panic attacks and the like) require time to take effect and establish whether they work or not. This applies to psych meds, talk therapy and he vast majority of alternative medicine approaches. You’re usually looking at about a month to figure out if a treatment is working at all.

I tapped someone with better math than I have to find out that given a 30% success rate, you are looking at two attempts, on average, to find a treatment that works. This means that even the most effective treatments it will take an average of two months to find a treatment that works. First off, that’s an average. Some people will get lucky and find something on the first try, some will take three or four or six tries.

Second, and more importantly, if the more effective treatments don’t work, you are looking at the less effective treatments, at trying combinations of treatments, at finding treatments that work, but come with side effects that are nearly as bad as the disease they treat, so you need to decide do you stay with what you know works, or try to find something else, that might not work as well, but won’t destroy your liver in the next ten years.

Some people spend over a decade trying one treatment after another, searching for something that works.

Polyamory and the Treatment Roller Coaster

Unsurprisingly the treatment roller coaster is stressful on relationships. The stress can be short term–the treatment you’ve been using stops working, you go to your doctor, up the dosage (either increased therapy sessions or larger pills or both), maybe trying a new treatment, get back under control, adjust to new side effects and schedule changes, and you are good to go.

Or the stress can be long term, trying a new medication every few months, and dealing with first withdrawal symptoms from the old med, then the adjustment period for the new med, then side effects of the new med, then finding the new med doesn’t work, and start over. Over and over again. One therapist or style of therapy isn’t helping, you seek out a new therapist, find one that is promising, but doesn’t click or you can’t build a rapport, or they do something that damages your trust, or their approach to therapy just doesn’t work for you, and you seek out a new therapist.

The stress ans strain on the person trying to get help will definitely reverberate through the polycule, but stress also lands directly on poly partners. The first psych med I tried left me feeling numb. I had energy. I wasn’t depressed or sad anymore. I just didn’t feel anything anymore. If I’d been dating anyone at the time, they probably would have thought I completely lost interest in them. I was more myself in the depths of depression than i was on this medication. One of the first anxiety meds I tried made me extremely irritable, snapping people’s heads off over nothing. These kinds of adverse affects are really hard on poly partners.

It’s even harder on a new relationship. You’re just starting to get to know one another, and suddenly your poly partner changes completely. Are they showing a side of themselves they’ve kept hidden until now? Is it a reaction to a new medication? Are they just stressed about that thing at work? How do you tell? And are you willing and able to stick around and find out?

A common side effect of some psych meds is reduced libido. This means the treatment roller coaster can also be the sexual roller coaster.

Speaking for myself, my hormones are whack jobs so I’m on a sexual roller coaster already, but (thank god) my roller coaster is pretty damn predictable. the effect of psych meds on libido…not so much. Having your (or your partner’s) libido drop through the floor when they start a new med, then skyrocket when they get off it, stay level for the next med, but drop again when the dosage increases….

And all of this doesn’t begin to take into account the hell of watching someone you love struggle to find something–anything!–that works while feeling helpless to make a difference. (Reminder: you’re not)

Raising Children in Poly Families

A few years ago I started writing about raising children in poly families. I was never able to finish the series, because my custody case made it a very painful topic for me. Time, while it doesn’t actually heal anything, does give us a chance to heal. So I’m going back to that old series and going to finish it now.

If you missed my original polyamory and children posts, here they are:

Random Babble Post – For the Children

Polyamory and Children: Where is the Research At?

Polyamory and Children: It’s a complicated subject

Polyamory and Children: Opening up?

Telling Your Children about Polyamory

Polyamory and Children: Introducing New SOs

Polyamory and Children: Research Update

Polyamory and Children: Legal Stuff

Polyamory and Children: What do I call Mom’s Boyfriend?

Polyamory and Children Guest Blog: Marmoset, Metamour and Ice Cream

Bonus Post: Custody Update and Important Legal Precedent

Review of: The Polyamorists Next Door, by Dr. Eli Sheff

Book Review: Raf and the Robots

Polyamory Hurts Kids? Not in the Real World

 

Mental Illness Treatment Intensity and the Impact on Polyamory

FYI, depression is once again trying to kick my ass. Posts may be delayed while I’m getting it back under control. Thankfully, so far I seem to be winning.

Last week I talked about the range of treatment from hospitalization to home care–ie the different levels of intensity of care that is available to people struggling with mental illness. This week we’re going to look at how those treatment options affect polyamorous relationships.

polyamory and mental illnessHospitalization and Polyamory

Let’s start with the obvious: it doesn’t matter why a member of your polycule ends up in the hospital. This is one area where mental illness or heart attack or emergency C-section doesn’t matter. If one of your polycule is in the hospital, you may need to deal with disruptions of your normal routine, financial challenges from loss of income, fears for their health and well-being, limitations on when and how long you can see them (visiting hours suck!) and other issues.

Shorter hospital stays have less of an impact than longer hospital stays.

The one way I am aware of that mental illness makes a difference, is for caregivers. Caregivers for your loved one during their mental illness can deal with everything from making sure they take care of their meds to helping them shower to cooking their meals, in addition to helping them through panic attacks and differentiate delusion from reality. For a caregiver, having your loved one enter the hospital can be a huge weight off your shoulders (their life is no longer literally in your hands). It can also be a source guilt (if only you’d done enough, been good enough, helped enough, etc…). If there has been friction between a caregiver and another member of the polycule, there may also be blame–in either direction.

Don’t go there. No the caregiver(s) blaming the rest of the polycule for not giving more support and help. No other members of the polycule blaming he caregiver for not doing enough. Just don’t fucking go there.

Partial Hospitalization and Polyamory

From a practical perspective, entering a partial hospitalization program is much like starting a new 9-5 job. Loss of income may be a problem if the person entering the program had a job. Otherwise, you are dealing with the same schedule changes etc that come with any commitment to be out of the house from morning til evening.

However, partial hospitalization can be mentally and emotionally draining far more so than most jobs. You are literally spending all day every day in various types of therapy. Someone in partial hospitalization will come home drained and needing significant self-care some days. Other days they’ll be hyped with plenty of energy and excitement. And this may have nothing to do with how good or bad the day was!

In some ways, this can strain relationships more than hospitalization. Your loved one is RIGHT THERE but doesn’t have the energy or focus to give to their poly partners. Patience and some adjustments are needed. It sucks if the one evening a week you have to spend together your poly partner wants to do nothing but watch YouTube and recover from the stress of their day. But sometimes that’s what they need. Try to be understanding–it really isn’t personal. If it happens every week, you might want to ask about their schedule, and what is happening on that day every week that is leaving them so drained. If art therapy, or that one group activity, or program outings to this or that local thing are hitting them particularly hard, you might want to reschedule your regular time to a day when that activity isn’t on their schedules.

Partial hospitalization is a mixed blessing for caregivers, on the one hand, you have time during the day that can actually be for you. Heavenly! On the other hand, you need to help your loved one get ready and out the door, when they may barely be able to get out of bed.

Outpatient Therapy and Polyamory

Outpatient therapy will not usually affect regular schedules, family incomes, or other “major” issues. For caregivers–as opposed to supportive friends and family–outpatient therapy has a lot of the same challenges as partial hospitalization. “I know you feel like shit, love. But you can’t afford to miss another appointment. Come on, I have your clothes here…” without the benefit of several hours a day you can take for yourself and your priorities without fear of interruption. On the plus side, outpatient therapy is usually once a week, at most 2 or 3 times a week, so it’s not an everyday struggle.

For all poly partners, the rest of the day after a therapy session can be the same emotional rollercoaster as evenings after partial hospitalization. You never know what state your partner will be in when they come out of a session. They may be happy and relaxed, stunned with a new realization, broken and weeping…. it can definitely be rough on all concerned.

Whenever possible, don’t schedule important shit–whether it’s a family discussion about a recurring problems, or a special date, or your kid’s birthday party–after a therapy session. No one–not the person in therapy and not their poly partners–needs the stress that can bring with it.

Medication Only and Polyamory

For someone who has found their equilibrium and just needs a bit of help to keep their mental illness under control, medication only therapy can be just what is needed. Medication only might mean medication that needs to be taken every day, like lithium for mood stabilization. Or it might mean medication that is only taken as needed–such as many anti-anxiety pills.

Medication only therapy should not have a direct impact on polyamory. However, it is generally a good idea to know your more entwined partner’s medications and possible side effects. If only so on the day they have the flu and are on doctor ordered bed rest, you know what you are doing when they ask you to get the Haldol for them.

Sometimes people miss their regular medication. They might be caught out of town unexpectedly, lose their meds and need to wait for a refill, or just forget. If your poly partner isn’t able to take their medication as scheduled, you may see some personality changes, mood swings, or withdrawal symptoms. Try to be patient and remember that this time is even harder on them than it is on you.

Home Care and Polyamory

Whether in combination with medication and/or outpatient therapy or on it’s own, home care is critical for most people with mental illness. Ideally, whatever home care is necessary–be it meditation, some time in the sun, or a cup of chamomile tea before bed–is just a part of your normal routine. Much like taking a shower or combing your hair when you get up in the morning. Sometimes, especially when mental illness is acting up, home care can be disruptive. For instance, needing to cancel a regular activity because of a bad anxiety day.

When home care is part of a routine, it usually won’t impact polyamory directly. It can be helpful for poly partners to take part in or at least support, parts of the routine. Join in the meditation, have a cup of tea together etc.

When home care needs to disrupt routines and expected activities it can definitely have an impact. Someone going through a bad patch may need to cancel dates, ask for additional support, ask for additional space, and a great deal more. These disruptions can range from a loved one calling you up randomly “I’m having obsessive thoughts about X, help distract me please.” to “I’m having a panic attack, I need to cancel our date. Can you just come over and spend time with me instead?” to “No, I can’t go on our planned weekend outing my mental health is too shakey, and I don’t want to risk being away from my support system,” right up to “the suicidal thoughts are back, can you please give me a ride to the hospital/clinic/therapists? I don’t trust myself to drive right now.”

That last is, thankfully, rare.

Mental illness tends to run in cycles. Depression is a mildly annoying problem until it swamps you out of nowhere. After a few weeks you manage to get back on your feet and depression is a mildly annoying problem again. Until the next wave. During a bad part of the cycle, home care will have more of an impact on polyamory, and your poly partner may need more help and support. During a good part of the cycle, you may not even be aware of the steps they take each day to take care of themselves.

How often and how extreme these cycles are vary, and some people find the cycle takes them from home care to hospitalization and back. For others, they can rely on home care as their primary treatment throughout the cycle, but some months they won’t take a single as-needed pill while other months they are taking the maximum allowed every day.

Standard disclaimer

Legal Challenges to Polyamory Wrap Up

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At this point I’ve covered legal challenges to polyamory. Topics ranged from anti-bigamy/polygamy laws, to the lack of protection against discrimination in the work place.

In the wake of the US Supreme Court decision in support of same sex marriage, US news coverage has had a lot of interest in poly marriage.

There are LGBT people in the US who got married and immediately lost their jobs.

Nepal has issued its first 3rd gender ID while in the US trans folk struggle to get their id changed from one binary gender to another.

In a country where polygyny is legal, a polyamorous person is currently fighting a custody case. Polyamory may cost them their children. (Details withheld for privacy of the affected family.)

Whatever your opinion on poly marriage, whatever the legal status of polyamory in the country you live in, we need to remember the big picture. Poly marriage would be great–but before we can practice our relationships freely, all of these legal challenges need be addressed, in every part of the world.

Course of Treatment: Treatment Options–Treatment Intensity

polyamory and mental illness

In Western medicine, there are varying levels of treatment for mental illness. In theory, the more you are able to take care of and manage your own mental health care, the lower the level of treatment you receive.

Hospitalization

Hospitalization for mental illness has a bad reputation. A reputation that is historically valid but far less of a problem today. At least in the US and Europe, the vast majority of people in the hospital or mental illness are their voluntarily. They recognized a need for more help than they could get at home. Most hospitalization is short term. Intensive care and/or 24 hour supervision is available for someone who lost control to depression, bi polar, or other mental illness. These people need time in a safe place to regain their balance with the help of trained professionals. They may spend a few days or a few weeks in the hospital. When they leave, they switch to partial hospitalization or out patient therapy and resume their normal life.

In the US, anyone experiencing problems with mental illness can go to the nearest hospital and request admittance for 72 hours. This observation period allows doctors and the patient to work together to determine if hospitalization is needed. Often the patient just needs their medication tweaked, or referral to an out patient program.

Last December my partner went into the hospital for an observation period. He ended up staying 4 days because the doctors wanted to make sure he was adjusting well to the medications they put him on. He left the hospital with a referral to a partial hospitalization program, medication he had needed for over six months and the hope that comes from finally having help with a problem that has been overwhelming you.

Long term hospitalization is an option for people who just can’t function on their own. In the US, long term hospitalization can only be mandated if you are a threat to yourself or others. But people with severe mental illness who need help eating, taking their medications, getting dressed in the morning, etc, may admit themselves for long term care.

Hospitalization often mixes group therapy, individual talk therapy, art and/or music therapy, and plenty of down time to relax without the stresses of daily life constantly triggering a mental illness. Some hospitals also offer alternative medicine, meditation classes, and other programs.

Partial Hospitalization/Partial Day Program

Partial hospitalization probably has other names in other parts of the world–god knows it goes by enough different names in the US! Whatever they are called, these are intensive treatment programs. Patients spend 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, participating in various forms of therapy. At the end of the day they go home and tend to their own needs.

Partial hospitalization is available for people who need intense and ongoing access to mental health care, but are still able to take care of their own day-to-day needs. Unlike being in the hospital, someone in a partial hospitalization program takes care of their own meals, hygiene, clothing, etc while they are at home in the evening. They are able to go out and socialize with friends if they so choose, and can spend time with family in the morning and evening. Partial hospitalization programs offer many of the same therapy approaches and options as hospitalization.

In my experience, someone with mental illness cannot check themselves into a partial program. A referral is usually needed from a hospital or therapist.

Mental Health Rehab

Mental health rehab programs vary widely. From what I have seen and what my research has found there is no clearly defined idea of what mental health rehab should be or should consist of. Most rehab programs I have seen focus less on traditional therapy and more on helping someone with mental illness re-integrate into society. This may involve a back-to-work program, classes in community action and involvement, and a great deal more. However these programs are largely unique and each one will be different.

In terms of intensity and time commitment, rehab seems to fall somewhere between partial hospitalization and outpatient therapy. Participants may spend several days a week in various classes and activities, but will rarely spend a full day in rehab.

Out Patient Therapy

Out patient therapy is what most people think of when they think of mental health therapy. You spend an hour or so with a therapist and go home. Depending on your needs, you may see a therapist three times a week or once a month. Out patient therapy covers every form of therapy. Talk therapy is far and away the most common out patient therapy, followed by group therapy.

Out patient therapy is ideal for people who are managing to keep up with daily life, but have difficulty managing their mental illness. It is also a good safety net for people who are starting medication.

If your therapist is a psychiatrist, they will often offer medication in combination with therapy. This can be a very good option for people who are still trying to find the right treatment combination for managing their mental illness.

Medication Only

It is becoming increasingly common for psychiatrists to offer medication without any therapy or much in the way of support. You see them for 15 minutes month, tell them about any changes you’ve noticed, and they give a prescription for your next bottle of pills. For people who have been living with their mental illness for years and are on an established medication schedule that works for them, this approach can be effective.

However, I have seen psychs who did not know me at all, knew that I was not currently on any medication and did not know what medication would work for me. They spent 20 minutes getting to know me and y history, wrote out a script for psych meds, and told me to come see them again in a month. Given some of the possible side effects that psych meds have, I don’t have words for how fucked up this is.

Thankfully, most of these psychs will tell you the same thing I will: you need to get counseling as well. Until you have an established med plan in place, it is very important to combine medication with out patient therapy. You need someone to help you manage the effects of the medication and to help you catch signs of side effects early, before they become dangerous.

(You might notice I have strong feelings on this topic)

For some people, mediation only can be a great low stress approach. You need to have your mental illness largely under control with home care and medication. You also need to know exactly what medication you need. If you can do this, than seeing a psych once a month for medication work. But if you are still juggling medications, dosages, and treatment options, please also see a therapist.

 

This post is already pretty damn long, so next week we’ll take a look at how these different treatment options impact polyamory.

Book Review: The Game Changer by Franklin Veaux

the game changer by franklin veauxI had hoped to post a joint review here, as monogamous friend volunteered to read The Game Changer with me and share their thoughts and reactions. Unfortunately that didn’t work out so without further ado, here is my take on The Game Changer.

You that “watching a train wreck in slow motion” feeling? I lost count of how often I got that reading this book. As someone whose been (more or less) involved in poly for over a decade now, I’ve made most of the easy mistakes. Franklin would start a new section with something like “and we decided this, and had no idea how we were setting ourselves up for disaster.” And I would already be mentally tracing the lines of disaster, shaking my head and thinking “Yup, I remember being that (naive/foolish/culturally brainwashed/oblivious).”

This is why I wanted a monogamous (or at least inexperienced poly person’s) take on The Game Changer. it must be a completely different read for those of us who haven’t been around the block long enough to see those disasters coming a mile away.

I won’t go into the details of Franklin’s story here. I will say that the title is fitting. There is a Game Changer in the story, and after the change hits, the game is no longer recognizable as what it once was.

In spite of the almost complete lack of surprise in any of the major “plot twists,” I had trouble putting the book down. As usual, Franklin has an engaging writing style, a way of working humor, self awareness, and bulls-eye insight into his narrative that makes for an engrossing read.

It seems that we, as a culture, understand that if we leave kids to teach themselves math or history or literature, few people will end up being good at those things. So we have developed formal systems of education to teach people, to help them become productive members of society. But we don’t teach them communication, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, or many other skills we need to become fully formed human beings. We leave kids to figure that stuff out on their own. The results are about what we might expect if we left them, say, to deduce the laws of algebra by themselves. The difference is that most of us need interpersonal skills a lot more than we need algebra.

If Franklin’s writing suffers from any flaw, it is a tendency to take a US-centric view, which has occasionally been criticized in his advice on polyamory. However in a memoir, that kind of cultural focus is not just expected, it is required.

Perhaps the most important thing I took away from The Game Changer is a new perspective on the poly approach to honesty and communication:

Self awareness is a prerequisite for open and honest communication. We can’t tell others the truth of our feelings and needs if we refuse to face them and admit them to ourselves.

The Game Changer by Franklin Veaux will be available on September 23, 2015, from Thorntree Press.

Polyamory: Laws and legal practices impacting our health

600px-Betty_Ford's_gavel

As always legal practices vary widely around the world, and I am not a legal expert. This post is for informational purposes only. Please contact a legal professional for advice and expert information.

Insurance Law

People living in countries with single payer and universal health care systems probably don’t have to worry about losing access to health care based on their relationships. Other systems have the potential to cause problems for poly folk. In employer-sponsored health care systems you only have insurance if you are employed with benefits or are legally married to someone who is employed with benefits. These systems have the potential to leave poly folk in group relationships and triads out in the cold. The US had an employer sponsored health care system before the passage of the ACA. The current mix of public and private health care under the ACA still privileges legally married couples. Married couples pay lower premiums on health insurance plans from the public market than unmarried couples–or the unmarried member of a triad.

Privacy Laws

I’m having a bitch of a time finding information on medical privacy laws regarding what medical professionals around the world can and can’t share with family members. Most of the easily available information focuses on how privacy laws are being re-designed to protect electronically stored information. In the US, doctors used to be able to share info with legal spouses freely. Today under HIPPA doctors can’t share information with anyone (including other doctors) without a signed form telling them exactly who they can talk to, and how much much they are allowed to share.

Any countries which have laws similar to the older US system will give an advantage to folks who are legally married–an option not available to many poly folk. France and other countries with a mix of private and public health care may or may not offer similar advantages to married couples (and similar disadvantages to many poly folk).

Hospital Rules and Regulations

Hospitals and health clinics often have rules about who is allowed to visit, be present during a procedure and more. When my former metamour Lauren had an emergency c-section, only one person could be in the room with her during surgery. When I went for an ultrasound recently, the clinic allowed one person in the room with me. In other situations only family members are admitted.

These rules will vary between hospitals and clinics. I won’t even attempt to review world wide approaches because within jurisdictions. the way things are handled varies so widely there is no way I could give an idea of rules in the US versus, say, Brazil.

However, these rules have obvious issues for polycules where many people want to be present and give their support but only some are allowed.

Medical Power of Attorney

Power of attorney is the legal right to act on behalf of someone else. This means you can spend their money, manage their property, and make decisions regarding their medial care. Power of attorney goes by different names in different countries (in Italy it’s called procura). I’ve been told that power of attorney exists in most countries of the world. My (admittedly brief) internet search has confirmed power of attorney exists in Italy, Ukraine, Russia, Ireland, Parts of the UK, and the US.

Medical power of attorney is the US term for a restricted type of power of attorney. Medical power of attorney allows a person access to your medical information and the ability to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated. A similar form of power of attorney exists in England and Wales, and (I have been told) most countries that allow for power of attorney.

Medical power of attorney is a way around laws and regulations restricting access to your medical records and defining who gets a say in your medical care. In the US, if you are unable to make decisions for yourself, unless you have medical power of attorney your next of kin will make decisions for you. Your next of kin is your legal spouse, or if you don’t have one your children, or if you don’t have any your parents.

Medical power of attorney can grant members of a polycule who are not legally married access to their loved ones in the hospital and a say in their loved one’s care. More than one poly partner has been blocked from their loved one’s bedside by parents (next-of-kin) who don’t approve of polyamory.

 

Next Sunday will be the last post in the Polyamory Legal Challenges blog series. If you have a topic you’d like to see covered, contact me and let me know!

It’s Time to Grow Polyamory on Purpose

Polyamory on Purpose

Support Polyamory on Purpose

Video Transcript:

Before anything else, I want to say a massive “Thank you” to my current and previous Patrons. You guys rock, and your support has been a huge help both in my personal life, and in keeping the blog going.

What is Polyamory on Purpose?

Polyamory on Purpose is a website dedicated to exploring the practical side of polyamory. The side that has very little to do with jealousy and polycule configurations, and a lot to do with planning meals for 3 different diets and a couple of allergies.

So for Polyamory on Purpose has covered:

•Pregnancy in poly relationships

•Legal challenges facing poly folk

•Safe sex and STIs

•Moving in together

•The intersection of mental health and polyamory

•and much more

Why a Patreon Campaign?

When I first started this Patreon campaign, my family was in a really bad place and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could keep the website going. With the support Polyamory on Purpose has already received, the website can continue indefinitely. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to everyone who has made this possible.

My family situation has changed a great deal in the last six months. I now no longer need to worry about survival, which means I can start looking to the future.

Polyamory on Purpose has already helped a lot of people. I get emails, comments, and messages almost weekly from poly folks across the world. But the site is still only a fraction of what it could be.

Imagine a Place

Imagine a place you can go with information on all the practical issues facing poly folk. Everything from health, to housing, to legal challenges. Whether you are moving in together for the first time or figuring out how to divide common property as your relationships transition, you can find ideas and advice for smoothing the process.

A community forum or chatrooms where people come together to share their experience with child custody, finding poly-friendly professionals, or navigating bureaucracy. Where if you have a question about zoning laws or paternity laws, there are other poly people who have dealt with them before. A place where we can share our experiences and make our lives easier.

Now what if this place also had a resource library. Tools for creating your own wills, finding a place for inexpensive STI testing, and more.

All openly available to everyone in the poly community.

That’s what I want Polyamory on Purpose to be.

Let’s Make It Real

The same changes that allowed my family to get our feet under us are also making it impossible for me to continue my day job. So I’m dedicating the next year or two to Polyamory on Purpose. I can turn the site into everything I described earlier and more. With your support, when those two years are over, I won’t need to go back to my day job. Instead I can keep growing Polyamory on Purpose.

When I first started writing the Polyamory on Purpose bog, I knew I had things I wanted to say. Now it’s not just about the things I want to say. It’s about the things I have heard, from so many people, the poly community needs.

Where to Next?

The next major goal of the Patreon campaign is starting a resource library for the poly community. One place where you can find resources for navigating all kinds of challenges from setting up medical power of attorney, experts who can help you in a custody battle, and much more.

As of this recording we are $14 away from meeting this goal and getting the resource library up and running. Once the library is up, Patrons will get early access to new resources before they go public on the website. Resources suggested or requested by Patrons will get first consideration

Thank you!

Polyamory: Laws impacting our finances

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Usual disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, everything here is for information purposes only. Consult a legal professional for legal advice.

Financial law is one of the most complex areas of legal systems. In addition to varying widely from one jurisdiction to another, financial law is also a wide-ranging area that affects just about every part of society. Which is another way of saying “I can only touch on the highlights. Here there be monsters.”

Tax Law

Taxes can be applied to all kinds of things. So can tax breaks. Depending on how the tax codes are written in your area, married folk may get tax breaks unavailable to single people, or single people may get tax breaks unavailable to married people, or both depending on the situation. No matter how the tax breaks fall, “married people” in much of the world applies only to couples, and in most of the rest of the world, only to couples or one man, several women. Both definitions exclude poly folk. The marriage has on finances extends to…

Inheritance Law

In many parts of the world, a spouse is assumed to inherit unless a will establishes other wise. A spouse may also have an advantage in challenging a will.

Property Law

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but in the US there are times and places where one person can own something or two people can own something but three people can’t. A car for instance can be registered as belonging to two people, but not to three or four people. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for a polycule to jointly own something. And no matter how in love you are or how committed you are, for many people it’s hard to completely erase the awareness that your partners OWN the home, but you just live there.

Some jurisdictions have a fun twist on property law where it is assumed that what is owned by one person is automatically jointly owed by their legal spouse. This means that is A is married to B, but A and C jointly own a car, if B leaves B can claim the car as being just as much their property and demand either the car or compensation in the divorce settlement. While I don’t know of this happening, I can easily see joint property laws also have an impact on inheritance law.

Corporate Law

Some polycules have gotten around the various headaches financial laws cause by forming corporations. A corporation can own property, manage money, etc. A corporation cannot be married and is thus not subject to joint property laws (though individual owners of a corporation may be).

Corporate law is a whole ‘nother headache partly within and partly separate from financial law. But it can be a very useful tool in getting around some of the problems financial laws cause poly folk. Just be prepared to talk with lawyers and make sure all your “I”s re dotted and “t”s are crossed.

 

Again, this is just a brief skim of some of the ways financial laws impact polyamory. Do what you can to learn about the way financial laws work in your part of the world, and if in doubt talk with a lawyer!

Course of Treatment: Treatment Options — Home Care

Let me get this out of the way first. Being able to take care of your mental health at home is pretty awesome, but it isn’t for everyone. As a primary treatment, home care works best for people who have experience dealing with their mental illness. You need to be able to recognize a downturn and get professional help when needed. Otherwise, home care should NOT be your only treatment choice.

However, home care is almost always a good support while pursuing more intensive therapy.

Understanding Home Care

Home care for mental health can involve a wide variety of things. What it is, is learning what works to manage your mental illness and taking steps every day to keep your illness under control.

Home care is “maintenance mode.” For some people home care is enough to keep their mental illness under control. Others combine home care with other maintenance treatments; medication is probably the most common.

Everything from diet to exercise to meditation to having a cup of tea before bed can be a part of home care. Everyone’s home care is different, and depends on their needs, experiences, and how their mental illness functions.

Types of Home Care

Meditation

Let me get this one out of the way first. Meditation is one of the first suggestions of a lot of able-minded people. And one a lot of mentally ill folks have learned to hate.

Personally I have often enjoyed and benefited from meditation. But I learned meditation as a personal practice first, and applied it to my treatment much later. For people who do not have practice mediating, using meditate to help mental illness often just makes things worse. I think this is because “clear the mind” styles of meditation are the most talked about and the meditations people are most likely to try first.

Clearing the mind meditations can be some of the worst for many mentally ill folks. When you focus on not thinking and clearing away all your conscious thoughts, it leaves space in your mind. Space that gets filled by all the poison your mental illness creates. So you end up spending 15 minutes or so “meditating” on how you are a worthless pathetic piece of shit who could be a functional human being if you would only try hard enough. Not because that’s what you are trying to meditate on, but because that’s what your mental illness shouts at you when you try to stop thinking.

I have found clearing the mind meditation to be useful for understanding what is going on in my head. But to be useful, and not damaging, (at least for me) it needs to be just a few minutes. Stop, close my eyes, and clear my mind. As soon as I can clearly “hear” the poison my mental illness is spewing, get out of the meditation.

You know those days when you are an absolute wreck, your mental illness is out of control, and you don’t know what triggered it? Those are the days that I use “clearing the mind” meditations. Once I know what is going on, I have at least a chance of addressing the problems.

Breathing meditations are another useful type of mediation. These are where you sit and focus on your breath. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4, repeat. For me, this type of mediation gives my mind a rest. With all my concentration on my breathing, with my body focused on the feel of air rushing in and out of my lungs, my mind stills. My mental illness doesn’t have anything to grab hold of and hurt me with. For a little bit, my mind can rest, and I can relax without my mental illnesses ambushing me with more poison.

Different meditations will have different effects for different people. If you want use meditation to manage your mental illness, experiment with several different types of meditation. It can take time to find one that works for you. And immediately stop any meditation that triggers you or makes your illness worse.

Herbs, Dark Chocolate, and Other Home Remedies

When I reviewed alternative medicines, I said you shouldn’t take herbs without professional guidance. A few herbs, however, are mild enough to be the equivalent of over-the-counter medication. Things like lavender, most mints, and chamomile. That doesn’t mean they won’t sometimes have unexpected effects. The first time my mother gave me a lavender sachet to help me relax, I had a panic attack. It took me a long time to realize that the lavender did relax me. It relaxed me enough I was actually able to feel a the anxiety I lived with day in and day out! Which triggered the panic attack.

Herbs for home use can be crushed leaves and flowers in sachets, essential oils in the bath, or herbal teas. I favor teas, but use what works for you. Lavender and chamomile are calmatives. Mint is good for alertness and those awful low energy days. Lemon and lemon grass are cheering and energizing.

Dark Chocolate, according to some preliminary studies, has a similar effect of antidepressants. Dark chocolate may be an alternative treatment for people who don’t have health care coverage. It isn’t cheap, but it is less expensive than paying for antidepressants out of pocket. And if your depression is under control, a bar of the dark stuff can be good to keep on hand for the bad days.

I’m sure there are other home remedies I’m not familiar with. Talk with your doctor first, try in small doses and stop immediately if a remedy makes things worse.

Exercise

Jane Fonda wasn’t making shit up to sell videos, endorphins are real. So is the satisfaction of meeting a goal and the wrung-out relaxed good feeling of working your body. And like tears, sweat can help clear toxins from the body. Exercise can’t address specific symptoms of mental illness, it can be a generalized mood lifter, an outlet for frustration and anxiety, and a great way to boost your self esteem and self confidence.

Exercise doesn’t need to be a big production. A ten minute walk each day is a good start. Bonus if you combine exercise with something you enjoy like hiking, dancing or swimming. Or, you could reward yourself for exercise until it becomes a regular part of your routine. I used to walk down to the corner sore each day, about a half mile round trip and pick up a small treat. Little things like that can help you get up and going.

Stretching

Stretching is separate from exercise. Most experts now recommend you exercise and stretch separately, instead of stretching right before exercise. Stretching is definitely useful for people dealing with anxiety or depressive disorders. These mental illnesses tend to put strain on the muscles: anxiety from the constant tension, depression from the way it makes us curl in on ourselves. Stretching counters the physical effects of mental illness and keeps our blood flowing, bringing more energy to our brains.

Sunlight

A shit ton has been said elsewhere about the benefit of sunlight in treating mental illness. In fact, light bulbs that give of light in the same wavelengths as sun are available to help people battle seasonal affective disorder.

The full effect of sunlight on mental illness isn’t fully understood. However, we do know that getting out in the sun for 10 or 15 minutes a day can help lot. Combine your sunlight time with some exercise for a double boost.

How to Access Home Care

There is a wide variety of information on all forms of home care available online. That said, it’s the internet, with all its awesomeness and flaws. Especially be careful about taking internet advice on meditation, giving the possible complications.

Herbs and dark chocolate are often available somewhere local, and if not can be ordered online. Chocolate tends to be on the expensive side, even more so if you are aware of and prefer to buy Fair Trade chocolate.

Exercise, stretching, and sunlight are there for the taking, but mental illness will usually make it hard to actually get up and take them. Gotta love the way the mind fights to stay broken and miserable.

Impact on Poly Partners

Unless a significant part of the food budget is going to buying dark chocolate, home care is not likely to have a large impact on poly partners. That said, there is a great deal you can do to support your mentally ill partners in home care.

  1. Participate. Join in the exercise, sit on the porch and get sun together while you catch up, have a cup of chamomile tea when you are over, etc
  2. Ask them what you can do to help. If they are homebound, can you pick up lavender at the store? If they have trouble motivating themselves, can you remind them to meditate each day? Ask first. They are in charge of their care, but there are lots of things you can do that will help.
  3. If your partner is managing their mental illness only with home care, be alert for signs they are entering a downswing and may need more help. Someone on the outside can sometimes see problems before we can.

If you haven’t yet, check out the other treatment options for mental illness. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Poly on Purpose newsletter, so you never miss a post.