Sorry for the late post today. I thought I had a draft saved for the next poly fiction list, but apparently not. Depression messing with my head, I guess.
So, today I’m finally going to take a look at some of the standard poly advice and how it applies (or more often doesn’t) to those of us struggling with mental illness. Starting with some of the most common “coping with jealousy advice” — take time to be with your emotions.
Take everything here with a large grain of salt. Everyone’s mental illness is different, everyone heals, grows, and learns to manage at a different rate, and what works for one person will be a disaster for another. Nothing that follows is “One size fits all”.
Standard Poly Advice: Be with/Sit with your emotions
We hear this one a lot when it comes to dealing with jealousy or other negative emotions in poly relationships. I think the general point is meant to be “spend some time watching your emotions so you can understand exactly how you feel and what is making you feel this way.” Which isn’t exactly bad advice, in fact it is damn good advice…usually. If I’m not in a major depressive episode or anxiety attack, yeah, I’ll sit with my emotions, spend the time to understand what is going on, then figure out how to deal with them.
When my mental illnesses are out of control?
You want me to sit down with the metastasized monster that is tearing my mind apart and spend time with it while it uses my out of control emotions to pummel me? Are you out of your freaking mind? Uh uh. No way. Go directly to jail, do NOT collect $100 when you pass Go. Unless you want to see me go from depressive funk to unending downward spiral, ain’t fucking happening.
This is the mental health equivalent of seeking out your stalker, handing them a club and saying “Hey, I’m just gonna stand here while you attack me, okay?”
Poly Advice for the Mentally Ill: Use Your Logic
It is damn hard to engage the logic circuits when your mind is messing with you. Combine mental illness with jealousy or other relationship problems and it gets even harder. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying it will help. Sit down and make a “Pro/Con” list, draw a Venn diagram, make a MindMap, assign numbers to things that are happening and try to come up with a mathematical proof to explain what is happening vs how you are feeling. Or do something else entirely. But if you can engage your logic circuits, they can act as a reality check on your out of control emotions. “I feel like Dan is neglecting me, but if I actually write down everything, he does a lot for me. Reality check. I am not being neglected.” Will this make you feel any better? Maybe, maybe not. Logic has limited control over your emotions. But it will give you some truth to hold onto when your mind tries to lie to you and sabotage you. It will help you avoid damaging your relationships by throwing around emotion- and mental illness-driven accusations. It will help you go to your partners and say “So, this is how I feel. Based on x, y and z, I get that my feelings aren’t matching up with reality, but can you work with me to help me not feel this way?”
And you know what? If you manage to engage your logic circuits, and you look through it all, and see Sheila really has been canceling most of your dates to spend time with Paul, you aren’t just imagining things because of jealousy? Having that stuff written out will make it easier to talk about and focus on what matters, without getting side-tracked (or worse, having your concerns dismissed because of your mental illness).
That’s it for today folks. Sorry again for the late post. Sunday, my mental health willing, I’ll follow up on the last post with a more clinical look at depression, its symptoms, effects, and most common treatments.
I’ll get back to the poly fiction series when I’m a little saner. In the meantime, Poly Advice for the Mentally Ill will continue next Wednesday.
This post is part of the Polyamory and Mental Illness Blog Series.
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