Category Archives: Personal

Meeting Other Polyamorous Families

For children in minority families, nothing can be so powerful as meeting others like them. As an adoptee, I remember the first time I met other kids who were adopted. For the first time, there were other people who understood, really understood, what it was like. The questions and uncertainties of having other parents out there…somewhere.

I’ve heard similar experiences from mixed race children, children of LGBT parents, children living with chronic illness, and others. Not being alone is a very powerful thing, and especially powerful for a child, who has very little power over their own lives.

Meeting other polyamorous families can go a long way towards helping your child deal with any discrimination they face, to not feeling alone and misunderstood by all the other kids they know and more. It can give them their own community and peer group. They can talk together about the problems and challenges and joys of growing up in a non-traditional family.

So… meeting other polyamorous families is pretty awesome—but how do you do it? Most of us don’t exactly take out ads in the yellow pages! Actually, it may be easier than you think. Here are a few places you can connect with other poly families.

OKCupid

Yup, the dating site. If you’ve never been on OKCupid, you may not know that they have a search setting for “just friends”–that is, you can use the dating site as a way to connect with people locally for no other reason than to make a friend. OKCupid is also (as of this writing, and I don’t expect it to change soon) the go-to dating site for poly folk.

You can hop on OKC, do a search for folks with “poly” or “polyamory” in their profiles who are looking for friends. And see if anyone mentioned having kids in their profiles. If they do, send a quick message:

Hey, I see you are polyamorous and interested in making friends. We are looking to connect with other poly families in the area. We’d really like for our kids to have a chance to meet other kids growing up in poly families. Would you be interested in getting together sometime? I noticed you like Italian food, I make a mean manicotti.

If you live in a small town or rural region, you may need to search pretty far out. But kids today are real social media savvy. Even if you can’t meet in person, your kids can still connect through Skype, G-chat, or other online platform.

Local Polyamory Groups

There are two ways of meeting other polyamorous families through a local poly group. The first is to go to group meetings and connect with people directly. Some local groups having Family Nights and other kid-friendly gatherings. If your local group doesn’t, you can always suggest they start one or volunteer to host or organize one.

If you can’t make it to the group meetings, you can join the local groups mailing list and connect with other families that way. Let folks know that you can’t make the meetings for whatever reason, but would love to meet other polyamorous families. Would anyone in the group w/ kids who’d be interested in meeting send you a message?

MeetUp and Facebook are both good places to find local poly groups.

Polyamory Conferences

Cons are always a great place to meet people. Some poly cons have activities specifically for kids. When I want to APW a few years ago they had a kids and family room set up. Parents took turns helping out, and volunteers ran kid-friendly activities. Other cons set up informal networks for parents to trade kid-sitting while attending adult-only parts of the con. Parents can also arrange activities together and generally let the kids hang out. You can find a list of poly cons for the next year on Alan’s List of Poly Events.

Be aware—some cons and poly events are 18+ (or local equivalent) ONLY. If you aren’t certain, make sure you check with the con organizers before bringing your kids.

 

My family will be attending Loving Move’s Poly Living 2016 in Philadelphia. We’d love to meet you and your family. If you plan on attending, please get in touch!

 

This post is part of  the Raising Children in Polyamorous Families blog series.

Fucked Up Parts of Mental Illness: Punishing Myself for Having Fun

Okay, once again not the post I was planning on writing. This time I could probably push through and write about home care for mental illness, but I think what’s going on today is kinda relevant to a lot of folks with mental illness.

This week has been awesome for me. Depression has been largely not a thing. Anxiety has been mild. I not only got caught up on all the shit I haven’t been able to do, but I got far enough ahead that I started sorting out the shit I’m going to need to do in the near future. Those of you with moderate to severe mental illness will now how freaking awesome this is.

I found a schedule that worked for me, ways to accommodate my mental hang ups that kept me from getting triggered, and actually had a fucking clean home for the first time in I don’t know how long. I made the goddamn beds, even.

I was feeling positive about myself and the future, I still didn’t have a buffer for my blogs and shit (obviously) and catching up on my book writing was going to take a while, but still…

I got caught out in the rain running errands yesterday. A mile walk in the rain is not most peope’s idea of a good time, but I used to got out in the first rainstorm of the summer and dance in the puddles. In my then-frame of mind, the rain wasn’t a bad thing, but a chance to revel in just being alive and able to enjoy it.

For most of a mile, I laughed and grinned as the rain soaked through my clothing to the point I had to hold my skirt up to keep it from falling off. Even walking in slippery leather sandals couldn’t steal my fun. I jut took my sandals off and walked barefoot through the puddles.

Eventually the rain tapered off. And a dagger slammed into my side. Pain. Pain pain painpainpainpainpain. I gasped for breath. I blinked back tears. I bit back a scream.

When I was younger, I would have thought I was sick. Something was wrong. Maybe I had appendicitis. No. For whatever reason, for me, emotional pain manifests as this feeling of being stabbed right in the viscera. I sure actually being stabbed hurts worse, but the mind-body connection is real enough to send people to the hospital thinking they were having a hear attack. I know this main. I walk through it, the rest of the way home.

I try to review what might have set me off. My mind diverts me into thoughts about my children. The aftershocks of my custody case (I STILL don’t even have regular phone calls)  are always guaranteed to be painful to think on. But there is nothing new there. Nothing to cause this sudden pain, nothing but old and familiar aches.

My mind was tricking me, but I let it.

The rest of the day did not go well. It wasn’t a complete loss, but the smooth productively I had been enjoying was gone. Doing anything was a struggle. I blamed the way my computer was stuck in unending updates, the date who canceled dinner b/c he decided to try getting back together with his ex. I tried not to think about that stabbing pain, which had quickly faded anyway as my mind successfully diverted me from thinking about whatever had caused it.

 

Then I woke up this morning and couldn’t think. It took me an hour to get breakfast for my kid, because I couldn’t get up off of the couch. I couldn’t begin to try to stuck to my schedule. Trying to finish my half-completed blog post that was already late wasn’t even a possibility.

And I didn’t know what happened. Nothing that happened yesterday was bad enough to explain this crash. After the way the afternoon went, I might have expected a rough day, some trouble focusing, not this complete break down to the point I could manage the most basic tasks.

I finally got myself moving, and with momentum, came a small amount of clear headedness. “Why?” I asked myself. I probed my head using everything I learned in 2 decades of working to explore and understand my mind and my mental illnesses. My mind tried to divert me again, but this time I wasn’t willing to let it. Painful or not, I HAD to know what was going on.

And I remembered that walk in the rain. I remembered the fun. And I finally “heard” the evil thought that had been attacking me from my subconscious. I had enjoyed myself yesterday. not just enjoyed myself, not just taken pleasure in getting stuff done. I had had FUN. Simple, joyous, fun unshadowed by any fears or worries or self recrimination. I’m not allowed to have fun. I’m broken, pathetic, mentally ill. I’m  healthy or normal or capable. I don’t deserve anything as pure and simple as enjoying a walk in the rain.

My mind was punishing me, attacking me, destroying me, because as a mentally ill, broken, shattered, pathetic wreck of a person, I don’t deserve to have fun.

God, the mind is a fucked up thing sometimes.

If you grew up in the US in the 80s or eary 90s you probably remember the old GI Joe cartoons that ended with a ittle moral sermon. The kid would say “Now I know.” And Sgt. Slaughter always replied with “And knowing is half the battle.”

It’s surprisingly true in dealing with mental illness. Once I identified this vicious thought pattern, it became a lot easier to function. Not easy. This is still going to be a fucked up painful day. But fucked up and painful is a huge improvement over shut down and broken to pieces. I can pick up my schedule now. Go back o getting my work done. I’ll slide a bit. but I’ll be able to keep going. Just pacing myself, like always, while this knew and strange psychic wound heals. Because I know those thoughts are lies. And now I can deal with them like any attacks from someone I love. Does it hurt when someone I love attacks me? Yes, but as long as I know what they say isn’t true, it doesn’t destroy me.

That’s what 20 years of healing has given me. The ability to recognize that these destructive thoughts are lies. That I completely and totally deserve my awesome walk in the rain, and many more like it. But it wasn’t always that way.

I used to believe those destructive thoughts, and then I helped my illness destroy me, adding my own actually self hatred to the fake hatred of my sickness. If I was still in that place now, I would be in desperate need of professional help right now. Because it is that kind of destructive thought, backed by the power of true belief, that can lead people to pick up a knife, a gun, a rope.

 

I don’t know how common it is to believe we don’t deserve the good things in life. I do know that when we internalize the idea that being mentally ill makes us less deserving, less worthy, less HUMAN, than the people around us, we are on course for our own destruction.

This can manifest in ways that vary from seeking out destructive and unhealthy relationships, to creating drama in the relationships we have, to, in a similar case to my own, attacking and hating ourselves for daring to take joy in our loved ones. NRE can be a particularly bad time for this, as every burst of joy t losing ourselves in a new partner is countered by a flare of self hatred that we have dared to embrace love and life.

If you or your mentally ill partner often find yourself taking a bad turn after something great happens, whether its as simple as jut being happy walking in the rain, or as big as a commitment ceremony within your polycule, you might want to ask if maybe you might be punishing yourself for the good things that happen to you.

Don’t. You deserve every bit of it.

And poly partners, don’t be afraid to tell your loved one this. As loudly and longly as you need to.

This post is part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness blog series.



Schedule Change

Hey folks. For the time being I’ll be posting on Sunday and Thursday instead of Sunday and Wednesday. I have work due for a client every Wednesday, and thanks to various issues pacing myself is important right now. Thanks for your patience, and I’ll be back with more tomorrow.

A Rant: “I Know I am Being Irrational Right Now”

Some 7 years ago (give or take) I was sitting in a room with three other people in my poly network. My PTSD and anxiety had been severely triggered, I was not thinking clearly, I was feeling jealous and persecuted. Long experience with my own mental illnesses allowed me to recognize that what I was feeling and experiencing in no way matched up with reality.

“I know I am not being rational right now, but this is the way I am feeling…”

I needed their help. I needed their support. Most of all, I needed them to understand what I was going through and why my reactions were so out of sync with reality.

What I got was long lecturing responses about how it was completely unreasonable for me to feel the way I was, how everything I was saying was wrong, how I clearly didn’t know what I was talking about and X, Y, and Z proved it.

I took a deep breath and tried again. “I know that what I am feeling doesn’t make sense, I’m not saying anyone has done anything wrong. I just want to tell you how I am feeling and why I am feeling this way. I feel like…”

Cue more protestations of innocence, how I was completely off base to accuse them of…, how I was being irrational and unreasonable and the reality was that everyone had been going out of their way to be supportive and what can they do to make me understand that the things I am saying are completely wrong and unrealistic.

We went through 2 or 3 more variations on this before I gave up and walked out.

 

Let me state the obvious:

When someone is coming to you in a mental health or emotional crisis to trying to explain how they are feeling and why, telling them all the reasons they are wrong to feel they do doesn’t fucking help.

If you missed it, please check the fifth heading on Facts About Mental Illness for Poly Partners:

Mental Illness Is Out Of Our Control

This actually applies to any strong emotions, whether related to mental illness or not. Emotions are irrational, unreasonable and not under our control.

Exception: Super-human Zen Masters, Buddhas who have achieved Enlightenment and other masters of esoteric traditions may have gained level 20 skills in emotional control. I’ve never met one, but I’ve heard legends.

Not being a legendary uber-human, your mentally ill poly partners will feel things that are completely unreasonable. If they have reached the point of being able to tell when their feelings are irrational and unreasonable while feeling them, that is great! That is 300 level of mental illness management. Recognize this. Celebrate it with them. Help them figure out what they need to find their emotional balance and get past the irrational feelings. Sometimes it will be as simple as “I understand why you feel that why. Can I hold you for a while so you know you are not alone?” Other times it will be a lot more complicated. Sometimes there won’t be anything you can do except let them know you understand and are there for them.

But by all that is fucking holy, if someone in an emotional or mental health crisis comes to you saying “I know my feelings aren’t real, but I need you to know this is what I am feeling” or any variation on that theme do not attack them, do not get defensive, do not waste time and spoons trying to convince them that what they are feeling is irrational. Just listen, and let them tell you what they need/want.

Please, for the love of little green apples.

Next week we’ll start reviewing some common problems in poly relationships and how they can impact (or be impacted by) mental illness.

This post is part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness blog series.

In Memory: Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart 1948-2014

Morning glories have always been my favorite flowers. They spread beauty and asked nothing more than to be allowed their time in the sun. Unlike the tulips or daffodils or roses my father planted, each flower lasted only a short time, fragile and precious. Yet each morning new flowers bloomed.

I never met Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart. Never read her books, saw her speak at a conference, or even exchanged emails with her. But the beauty and love she spread touched my life in many ways.

A single, fragile blossom has left this world. But she left the seeds and buds of many more blossoms behind her.

A pink morning glory in full bloom, purple petals of another blossom peak out from behind it.

Thank you for being part of our world.

Looking Back at APW 2013

Probably should have done this last week, but I came home to a different kind of insanity. Now that things have settled down, I have a chance to take a look back at my weekend in Atlanta.

First off, I want to a major thanks to the APW team for putting that together and having me as a presenter. It was not always an enjoyable weekend (ripping open old wounds rarely is) but it was worthwhile and I am glad I did it.

That said, once I got over the emotional hell that as my presentations, I did enjoy myself. There were some great panels,  lot of interesting discussions and many wonderful people.

I’m hoping to stay in touch with the folks I met, and really hoping to get to know some of the APW crew better. You guys were and are amazing and I can’t thank you enough for how supportive you all were.

Of the panels I participated in, I have to say my favorite was the Real Life Polyamory with Sarah O. and Noel. I think we put a really good talk together and I had a lot of fun doing it. Sarah and Noel were great fun to work with. My solo presentations went well (I think). At least, I’ve had a good response from people who were there. Noel also offered an amazing keynote on STIs. I’m sorry I missed it, but she got a powerful response and from what I heard she said a lot of stuff that has needed to be said for a long time.

We had a humorous (in hindsight) mix up with the book launch. Miscommunications occurred somewhere, and there was nothing in the program about the book being about polyamory and pregnancy, so… a lot of people who showed up were expecting a typical book about polyamory, and a couple people I spoke with around the con would have shown up if they’d known what it was really about!

Such is life.

I spent a fair amount of the weekend in tears – massive emotional overload. Everyone there was understanding and I received some amazing support.

Okay, I’m rambling here, not being as coherent as I’d like, but the whole weekend is kind of a series of snapshots in my memory.

I’m glad I went, and hope to go next year.

Uncharted Love Interview with Dawn Davidson

[Sorry, this post should have gone up yesterday!]

Dawn Davidson of Uncharted Love decided she wanted to interview me about Polyamory and Pregnancy as well as delve into my personal life a bit (What kind of baby gear is my relationship most like? Really Dawn? Where the hell did you come up with that one?!)

You can hear the interview, or read the transcript on Uncharted Love.

Bonus Post: Custody Update and Important Legal Precedent

Hey all

For those of you who have been following my messed up custody situation, the appeal court returned a decision last week returning custody to my children’s father and ruling that polyamory should not have been used as a reason to take the children away because there was no evidence that poly was harming them in any way. (In fact, though the appeal court doesn’t mention it, there was evidence that poly was NOT harming them, since the kids therapist testified that it was not affecting them.)

On a personal level, this is good news – the kids are away from my parents and back with their father, and I will be getting proper visitation over the summers instead of the measly week I got this year.

On a legal level, the court’s decision is being entered in Pennsylvania case law, which means the ruling about poly not being a reason to take the kids is official legal precedent in Pennsylvannia. For a great review of the decision and what it means legally, check out Nancy Polikoff’s write up.

(Originally posted Sept 2012)

Protecting Against STD/STIs: Barrier Method

Person stuff: I want to say thanks again to everyone who donated to help me fund my visit with my kids and to those who sent prayers/good wishes/thoughts our way. A very great time was had by all, including visiting family, hiking trips, museum trips, and catching a carnival.
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Okay, back to our regular programming.

As I mentioned in my last post, the well-known refrain in STD/STI prevention is ‘barrier method’. Barrier method usually means a condom (male or female), which prevents direct contact between the genitals. For all their problems, condoms are the only effective method for actually stopping HIV and several other STD/STIs jumping from one person to another. What many people do not realize is that a cervical cap can also be an effective barrier method against certain STD/STIs. Every other method for preventing STD/STIs is basically about making sure no one you are having sex with has any STD/STIs.

CONDOMS

Condoms do not protect against all STD/STIs. They do not protect 100% against the STD/STIs they are effective against. However, they are probably the best thing going. Male condoms and female condoms off different levels of protection against different STD/STIs. The protection offered by male condoms has been more thorough studied, so consider the information on female condoms incomplete pending further research.

Male Condoms

Male condoms are usually made of latex, though there are non-latex varieties for people with latex allergies. They go on over the penis and trap semen. They also prevent direct contact between the penis and the vagina, anus or mouth during intercourse. (Yes, condoms should be used during oral sex as well if there is any chance one of you has an STD/STI.) Here is a decent step-by-step guide to putting on a male condom.

Male condoms provide protection against:

  • HIV
  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • trichomoniasis
  • HPV

Depending on where the infection is, male condoms may provide protection against:

  • genital herpes
  • syphilis
  • chancroid

The CDC has the following advise for using condoms:

  • Use a new condom with each sex act (i.e., oral, vaginal, and anal).
  • Carefully handle the condom to avoid damaging it with fingernails, teeth, or other sharp objects.
  • Put the condom on after the penis is erect and before any genital, oral, or anal contact with the partner.
  • Use only water-based lubricants (e.g., K-Y Jelly, Astroglide, AquaLube, and glycerin) with latex condoms. Oil-based lubricants (e.g., petroleum jelly, shortening, mineral oil, massage oils, body lotions, and cooking oil) can weaken latex and should not be used.
  • Ensure adequate lubrication during vaginal and anal sex, which might require the use of exogenous water-based lubricants.
  • To prevent the condom from slipping off, hold the condom firmly against the base of the penis during withdrawal, and withdraw while the penis is still erect.

Note – natural condoms (those made from natural membranes) are not effective in preventing STD/STIs.

Female Condoms

Female condoms are made of nitrile, and are inserted into the vagina. A ring at the base of the condom keeps it in place by the cervix. Female condoms flare at the top, covering part or all of the labia. The best guide I’ve been able to find to using female condoms is here. If you know of a better one, please let me know. Female condoms should be used in the same circumstances as male condoms, but female and male condoms should never be used together – the friction will cause one or both to break.

Female condoms protect against:

  • HIV
  • STD/STIs caused by viruses

Female condoms cover a wider area than male condoms, and so may provide better protection against:

  • genital herpes
  • syphilis
  • chancroid

Except for the bit about removing the condom, the guidelines from the CDC above apply equally to female condoms.

CERVICAL DIAPHRAGMS

Cervical diaphragms are caps that are placed over the cervix, so that semen cannot enter the uterus. Unlike condoms, cervical diaphragms are reusable and can last up to two years. Most information sources will say the diaphragms do not protect against STD/STIs. This is partly true – diaphragms do not protect against the STD/STIs that every one worries about. (Sources: 1, 2)

Cervical Diaphragms do provide some protection against:

  • cervical gonorrhea
  • chlamydia
  • trichomoniasis

Diaphragms may be confused with cervical caps. Cervical caps are smaller than diaphragms, and I have not be able to find information on whether or not they provide similar protection. I would assume they don’t at this time.

It is worth noting that diaphragms definitely do NOT provide protection against HIV.

Do you use a barrier method for STD/STI protection? Please leave a comment on how your polycule uses barrier methods and your thoughts/feelings.

People Are Awesome

There is no real reason to bring this post to the new site, but I want to leave it here as a reminder to myself and everyone who sees it that people are indeed awesome. Thank you again to everyone who helped me see my kids in 2012.

Okay, I thought long and hard about doing this, but I am kind of out of other options.

As some of you who have followed me a while may know, in December I lost custody of my children. The judge ruled that because I am polyamorous and poor, my children were better off living with their grandparents.

Shortly after that ruling, my partner and I moved down to Memphis. We stayed in PA as long as we had only because it was required by the old custody situation. We really couldn’t afford the cost of living in PA, and in Memphis we can manage (barely) on my writing income.

Unfortunately, because I ‘chose’ to move away from where my children are now living, I am responsible for all transport for visitation, or they are not able to see me. This summer, I am allowed one week of visitation. It is the first time my children will be with me since December. The last time they will be with me until next summer. If I can afford the cost of transportation.

My best option right now, is to fly East, rent a car for a week, and drive back to Memphis with the kids, then drive back East and fly home. In total, this is going to cost around $1200.

I’ve been trying for months to get it together, but we are really living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ (except that I don’t get paid anywhere near as regular as that implies) and every time I think we are getting ahead another unexpected expense crops up. I am supposed to pick up the kids in two weeks.

Right now I have about $400. My aunt (the wonderful mensch) bought be a round trip ticket for me to fly East and back home. I need another $500 to cover the cost of a rental car and the gas for the trip. I am not, short of winning the lottery, going to get $500 in two weeks, and still pay the rent, buy food and keep the electricity on.

So… I’m asking for help. Below, you’ll see a PayPal donate button. I know times are tough everywhere, and we are not the only people struggling to get by, but if everyone who has been following me on Twitter were to be able to donate $2, I would have more than enough to be able to pay for my kids’ visit. If you have anything to spare right now, please donate, and help me see my children.

(Donation button removed, thank you to everyone who donated)
Thank you to everyone who donates, and to anyone who wants to, but can’t. I’ll keep everyone updated over the next few weeks.