Anti anxiety medication and poly

I was on Lexapro (an SSRI) for about a year for anxiety (related to body image and the fact that I started having panic attacks while driving and related to death)- coincidentally, the same year I was not posting on here. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, and it’s still not entirely clear to me what I want to say.

During the year I was on Lexapro, J started dating my best friend. I think I surprised everyone when I didn’t have any huge reaction or need for reassurances from J or her. It was relatively easy for me, which at the time I chalked up to the fact that because she is my best friend, I felt highly secure, respected, and heard, and confident in my ability to communicate with both her and J when things came up. I think these things are true, and now I am also wondering if being on meds gave me a boost in managing intrusive and obsessive thoughts related to jealous feelings. I went off of Lexapro in late September, hopeful that my year of medication had perhaps reset some of my brain chemistry. I went back on it a month ago after a really hard weekend of body image anxiety and some ramping up of anxiety related to poly stuff.

My fear is this: do I need to be on medication in order to be a “successful” poly partner? (Which also clearly begs the question- what does “successful” even mean?) It has given me an extra hand in managing my hard feelings- I still have hard feelings, but the thoughts are less intrusive and obsessive and I’m more calm even in the midst of having shit feelings. In the fall when I was off of them, I managed things just fine- I also, however, was in full blown NRE with my boifriend. NRE is like the highest dose of Lexapro I can imagine being on. Things were easy because I was loving the shit out of him and my life. Now that my relationship with him has cooled off a bit, and things have heated up between J and his person/my best friend, I’ve noticed an increase in my shit feelings. 

Now that I’m back on Lexapro, things are starting to feel more even again. I like it. Part of me is fine with the idea of being on it for my whole life (why should my relationships and life be so much harder if they don’t have to be?) and part of me hates that idea. 

I’m curious about the prevalence of anti anxiety mediation use among folks in poly/open relationships. I’d imagine it parallels use in the general population, and I would never suggest that poly people are more anxious. I’ve dealt with anxiety my whole life, and my feelings of jealousy were perhaps more intense when I was in monogamous relationships than they are now, and I’m also highly conscious of the fact that being part of marginalized communities increases one’s sense of otherness. Anxiety can heighten when you need to be more on guard about who is going to include you and exclude you, and if you’re constantly trying to navigate who knows all of you and who doesn’t. 

Calendaring

Can feel incredibly difficult at times. Here’s a little window:

“We have one night off together in the next two weeks? Can we have date night then? Or are your seeing your other person? If you can’t see her another night I’ll come home early a different night. I think I’ll see my other person Tuesday- can you come home early Wednesday? Oh wait, never mind- he has a kink night. Can we switch our night to Wednesday? Are you sure?”

I think we can all feel more irritated trying to schedule time with each other, rather than excited. Eventually, once the dust has settled and time is blocked on the calendar, I feel everyone in my little polycule relax into themselves and each other and time becomes a huge gift. We have space carved out just for us to to do whatever we want- talk, watch TV, exercise, fuck, shower, cuddle, walk the dogs, drink, hot tub, fight, make up, kiss, and love each other. 

Poly folks often joke that Google Calendar must have been created by someone poly, and I’d agree. It’s an invaluable tool (as long as it’s used effectively and well). I love being able to see my various date times scheduled, even if it’s just a day or two ahead of time. I feel secure and relaxed, knowing that spending time with me is important to my partners and that we value spending time together. It goes a ways in preventing scheduling conflict (again, as long as it’s used well) and hurt feelings.

Cheers to time management! And using a calendar! And love!

Unicornland & Other Great Media

Just came across this new 8 episode webseries, Unicornland, and watched all of it today. I highly recommend it: it centers around a single person’s experience of dating/having sex with couples, and over half the cast are people of color, trans, genderqueer, and people with disabilities.  There are moments of awkward, awesomeness, hilarity, and tenderness, and it is pretty astonishing to me how much the writer and producers packed in each episode (which lasts 2-7 minutes long). Check it out!

And, if you haven’t watched the short series “Easy” on Netflix- do that, too! The wide range sexuality and love experiences that show portrays is similarly great. And, there is one episode that features Orlando Bloom as part of a threesome- hot!!

And, recently, I finally watched the film “Throuple“- it’s quirky and cute and bittersweet, and includes a few solid interactions among the characters that address some common poly myths.

You Me Her” is a relatively new TV show that features a couple dating a third, set in Portland! I have only watched the first couple of episodes, but plan to watch more soon- I also recommend!

It’s so fun how media around open relationships, poly, and nonmonogamy has exploded in the last few years. If you aren’t familiar with the Poly in the Media blog, you should be! It inspires hope to see how often and in what capacity ethically open/nonmonogamous relationships are being described and showcased, and how the quality of that coverage is increasing.

Traveling as three: some things I learned

Talk before you leave about the following questions (super solid answers are not needed but the conversation should be started and some hypotheticals discussed):

  • What kind of 1:1 time does each dyad need and want? How much? Where? When? Will sex be involved?
  • What kinda of things does the third person need and want when the other dyad is having 1:1 time?
  • What are sleeping arrangements like?
  • What dynamic are we presenting (verbally, through body language, etc) to our family members that we are staying with and visiting? How much will we tell them? What is our story?
  • How will we address hurt feelings and miscommunication as various dyads and as a group of three?

And try to keep the following in mind:

  • Traveling as a group of three likely means that 1:1 time is not inherently built in. At least on my trip, the default was that the three of us would be together. 
  • Traveling as three, instead of two, changes the dynamic in new and positive ways. Remember why you love having this other person around? Now you get to experience them in a new way.
  • This is an opportunity to test your coping and communication skills, and to test your sense of flexibility. Mantra: my relationship is a vehicle for personal growth.
  • You are invested in everyone’s happiness, needs, and wants. You have a right to voice your needs and wants and comfort levels, and you are responsible to hearing others’ as well.

Clearly, this was a new experience for all of us. There were some rough spots and some really great spots and I’m super grateful that we had the opportunity to experience something new and growth-inducing. 

Asking for what you need 

I read Nonviolent Communication, finally, while J and I were on vacation. I’ve seen it touted among the poly community for forever as a staple in communication skill building. Reading the book gave me more insight and awareness into the structure that the model articulates, and I feel pretty invested in cultivating my ability to practice it.

Essentially, NVC asks you to:

Communicate what you observe without using judgment words

Communicate how you feel

Communicate what you need or value 

And, make a specific request without making a demand

Here is an example:

When I saw you come home last night drunk, I felt worried about you because I value your safety. Would you be willing to call me or a cab next time you go out drinking?

Or:

When I didn’t receive a phone call or text from you last night when you said you would, I felt lonely and disconnected because I value growing our connection. Would you be willing to share information about why I didn’t hear from you?

I think this communication can be anxiety provoking and highly vulnerable. Many of us are quite used to blaming and shaming others, and keeping ourselves in high esteem as if our actions and intentions can rarely be called into  question. It can also feel much easier to say “it’s your fault you feel shitty. I did everything right.” This method both asks us to own how our feelings derive from values and needs while also listening to how we do or do not understand, empathize with, and honor the values and needs of those we are relating to. It also emphasizes creating authentic communication and actually tuning into the people we’re talking to- it’s not about being “right” or trying to make someone feel bad or guilty for how we feel.

If you’re looking to take your communication and relationships to a deeer level, I can’t recommend this book and practice enough.

My Framily

For the second time in my life, I am in a class requiring me to create a genogram- essentially a family tree that uses symbols to denote characteristics like gender identity, family ties, marriages, divorces, family secrets, miscarriages and abortions, pets, sexual orientation, mental health diagnoses, substance abuse, and any other applicable dynamics. In mine, I also include domestic violence, poly relationships, education, and geography.

A few years ago, I discussed creating a critical sexual genogram, which is a variation on the traditional method that I totally love.

The last time I made one for class, I created it based on family ties and marriages. This time, I decided to include my framily- those friends of mine who have, over time, become family to me. 

Especially right now, when the world seems like total shit, it is extremely strengthening and heartening to me to see, on paper, the people who rely on me and who I rely upon, who I trust and love and care about. Who I know are genuinely kind and compassionate people, who are all doing their best in their own ways, of making the world a better place.

I talked to my sister on the phone tonight, and she was asking me, How do I not let the stress I’m experiencing from all of The Shit get to me? There’s only so much I can do! I have to work and I can’t know everything about everything, and there’s so little in my control.

I feel you, sis. Making my genogram tonight was so helpful though- people matter. People doing their best to be kind MATTER. Small actions matter. It can be hard to remember that, especially when we have been watching such big, destructive things happening so quickly. Creating community, building authentic relationships, continually striving to be more compassionate and loving people- that all matters, and it does make a difference.

Cheers to small actions, kind deeds, and the people who make the world brighter. I love you all, FramBam. You help me keep the hope that things, eventually, will be better for everyone. 

Kitchen Table Poly

I have often thought that I was comfortable with both kitchen table poly and parallel poly, as defined by Kimchi Cuddles. I have told many potential and actual partners that they needn’t feel pressure to interact with J and that I don’t expect everyone to be best friends. I still foundationally believe those things, but it is becoming increasingly clear that I prefer the kitchen table model. I love it when my best friend/J’s partner is around all the time: she and I spend time together and the two of them spend time together, and the three of us hang out all together often. We share stories, make nachos, hot tub, walk the dogs, and more. I love the intimacy that we have developed, and the safety and security I feel with both of them.

My boyfriend is learning about poly and has become increasingly comfortable with various aspects of it. It’s been almost six months of dating and he and J don’t really know each other, except what they each know of each other through what I’ve shared. I want it to feel comfortable for both of them if they run into each other in the morning or J and I have a party and boyfriend comes. I want them to genuinely appreciate each other, even if most of that appreciation comes from a respect of who they each are in my life. 

But I don’t want, and I can’t, force that kind of intimacy-building connection that J and best friend and I have been creating. Both J and boyfriend are open to hanging out one on one, after I expressed my need for increased integration. It’s tough for me to know that they are pretty different from each other, and tough to accept the fact that they just may not like each other on a very deep level (although I hold out hope that they may in time like each other). I appreciate each of them for being willing to think about hanging out more.

What kind of poly structure do you have, do you like, would you want? What factors are important to consider? What kinds of situations would you make exceptions for?