Yearly Archives: 2012

Gay Conversion Therapy Provider Sued

Participants in a gay conversion therapy program are suing:

Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) fraudulently claimed to provide services that “convert” people from gay to straight. These services, known as conversion therapy, have been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the New Jersey conversion therapy organization for fraudulent practices. The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, charged that JONAH, its founder Arthur Goldberg, and counselor Alan Downing violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act by claiming that their counseling services could cure clients of being gay.

The lawsuit describes how the plaintiffs – four young men and two of their parents – were lured into JONAH’s services through deceptive practices.

Hallelujah. Here’s hoping that this is the first of many.

Why Helping Someone Cheat is OK, or Dan Savage Disagrees With Me!

This week on The Savage Lovecast, Dan Savage got a call from a man who hooked up with another man who had a(n allegedly) monogamous boyfriend. He wanted to know if he had done anything wrong, and if he should feel guilty. This question strikes me as particularly important to the polyamorous community, as we’re often faced with this sort of opportunity. Most advice I’ve heard from the community stresses that poly is only poly if it’s with the knowledge and consent of all involved, which includes partners of partners.

Dan (disappointingly, to me) gave a pretty standard response. He made a lot of room for degrees of offense committed, but ultimately concluded that the only morally upstanding thing to do would be to turn down a proposition from someone in a monogamous relationship. I was disappointed because, to my mind, that would be the worst choice of the ones available.

The Problem With the Standard Advice

Dan Savage feels that sleeping with someone in a monogamous relationship is wrong because, even if you don’t know the other person in the relationship and thus “don’t have a moral obligation” to that person, it makes you “an accomplice to cheating.” In Dan’s mind, cheating is wrong, and therefore helping someone cheat is wrong.

The poly community has, shall we say, an unconventional view of cheating. We tend to say that the problem with cheating isn’t the sex, it’s the lying. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having sex with a person in a relationship. The problem is that when a monogamous person cheats, they are being dishonest with their partner. The harm is caused by the betrayal, not by the sex.

The problem with the standard advice is that, once the proposition has been made, the harm has already been done. By turning down the proposition, you’re turning a cheater into merely an attempted cheater. Is that really any better? To my mind, it is not. When someone attempts to cheat, the betrayal has already occurred. By preventing the “actual” cheating, all you’re doing is perpetuating the fraud that they are in a monogamous relationship. You’re actually doing more harm to the relationship by turning down the cheater, because you’re making it easier for both of them to pretend no betrayal actually happened. Chances are, unless you tell (more on that later), the other partner will never know about it, so most of the effect will be on the cheater. You’re just making the cheater feel less guilty and less likely to come clean.

So What Should You Do?

When you’re propositioned by a person in a monogamous relationship, from a moral perspective, there are three possible effects that your choice can have: do good, do harm, or do neither harm nor good. If you have sex with the cheater, you’re doing neither harm nor good. As explained above, the harm occurs when the proposition happens. The betrayal has already occurred. Whether the sex actually happens or not, the harm has already been done.

That being said, there are plenty of good reasons not to have sex with a cheater. First off, there’s a perfectly acceptable reason not to have sex with anyone – you don’t feel like it. There is no moral concern that I can think of which would obligate you to have sex with someone you don’t want to have sex with. In addition, the fact that someone is a cheater raises all kinds of concerns about that person’s trustworthiness, character, compassion, and decency. I have absolutely no problem with categorically turning down cheaters for those reasons. All I’m dealing with is the proposition that there is something morally wrong with being an accomplice to cheating.

Dan Savage’s preferred option – rejecting the cheater – is premised on the idea that you have a responsibility for the health and quality of that relationship . As I’ve explained above, rejecting the cheater is, at best, not helping the relationship, and at worst harming the relationship. If you accept that you have a responsibility for that relationship (what I call the “be a hero” option), the only moral choice is to inform the cheater’s partner (or at least make reasonable efforts to do so). Any other choice makes you an accomplice to fraud. If you truly think you have an obligation to that relationship (which I don’t think that you do), your obligation must be to ensure that it isn’t being conducted under false pretenses.  Otherwise, you’re helping the cheater to hide their cheating.

If you’re going to be a hero and take responsibility for the other person’s relationship, a simple rejection isn’t going to do any good. To be a hero, you actually need to take some steps to right the situation. However, there’s no moral requirement to do so. Not everyone needs to be a hero. There is nothing morally wrong with accepting such an invitation if that’s what you want to do.

Poly Do’s and Don’t’s

Solopoly has a list up of do’s and don’t’s when it comes to treatment of a non-primary partner. The list:

Do:

Honor time commitments and dates.
Listen to and honor your non-primary partner’s concerns, needs, and feelings.
Make your non-primary relationship a priority.
Offer reassurance and understanding.
Embrace your non-primary partner’s world.
Keep your promises.
Support good metamour relations.
Invite non-primary partners into negotiations and decisions that affect them.
Clarify your boundaries and commitments BEFORE you begin a new relationship.
Fully disclose your constraints, agreements and boundaries.
Speak up about fairness toward non-primary partners.
Assume good intentions.

Don’t:

Don’t violate agreements.
Don’t conflate “fairness” with “equality.”
Don’t bail at the first bump.
Don’t default to playing the go-between.
Don’t foster competition or conflict among your partners.
Don’t pretend the dynamic of your existing relationship(s) will not change.
Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.

These are mostly good suggestions. Most of them apply to any relationship, not just a non-primary relationship, and they are generally rather intuitive. However, I’d like to add something to the list that’s somewhat counterintuitive:

Do Take Sides

This does not necessarily apply to only non-primary relationships, but it applies to any situation in which you are dating multiple people who have exposure to one another. In such a situation, conflict is inevitable. If you date for long enough, your partners are going to have a conflict with each other. In such a situation, your instinct is going to be to remain neutral , to facilitate discussion, but not to exercise judgment. In my experience, this is a mistake.

When your partners have a conflict, you’re going to have an opinion. I’d be willing to bet you’re going to have a pretty clear opinion about who did what wrong, who should apologize, and what they should apologize for. Hiding that opinion doesn’t help anyone. Firstly, it harms the trust you’ve built with both partners. Hiding things always does, and hiding something so relevant and important harms the trust to a greater degree.

Secondly, when you’re in a relationship with two people having a conflict, you have a lot of power to influence how the conflict goes. And as Spider-Man has taught us, that comes with a corresponding responsibility. By being in a position of trust with both people, you are possibly the only person who can talk straight to both parties and have them actually listen. When one of your partners is behaving unreasonably, you are one of the only people who has the ability to talk them down. If you abdicate that responsibility, your partners have to solve the issue themselves. Maybe they will, but they’d stand a much better chance with an effective mediator.

The much better alternative is to pick a side in the dispute. If you think one party is right and the other wrong, say so. If you think both are wrong, say that. If you think one is very wrong and the other is only a little bit wrong, say that too. In almost any dispute, both sides have made errors. Point them out,. But do not try to remain neutral. It’s easy to fall into the “both sides are wrong” trap. It’s easy to point out minor infractions on both sides are pretend they are equivalent. Don’t do it. One side is almost always more wrong than the other. Say which one.

The other thing to remember, and I can’t stress this enough, is do not always choose your primary partner’s side. The whole thing only works if you give your honest opinion and overcome your biases. Your primary being your “top priority” does not mean that you always take your primary’s side in a dispute. Sometimes, your primary is going to be in the wrong. It happens. It’s up to you to say so.

Adventures in Therapy: An Eye on the Prize

Around the time when I really started having to interact with peers, I imagined a fantastical version of myself hoping that someday I would figure out how to be it.  The Gina of the future would be confident and no nonsense.  She would not take everything personally, and if she had a problem with someone or something, she would handle it head on, honestly and directly.  She would be her own person regardless of the expectations of others and especially regardless of the insecurities of others.  She would defend herself and others when needed.  She would be amazing. This started when I was 5, so the language then was perhaps not so flowery or sensical, but it evolved into that as I grew older and the dream seemed more and more out of reach.

I viewed it mostly as a fantasy because I couldn’t imagine ever being able to actually do any of these things well.  Over the years I learned how to act the part often.  People have often viewed me as confident and level headed, original, unique, no nonsense.  But it has, for the most part, been a façade.  In life, you do what you have to do to be successful, if you are able.  There were many times when this ability waivered horribly making things like excelling in college extremely difficult.  I had the desire for a comfortable life and did what I had to do to achieve that, but I was a mess at the same time.  In the moments when I was not a mess, I would condemn myself for not being like that all the time.

Recently the problem became prevalent because I found myself living the life that I wished to live and was still a mess.  I had managed to rid myself of toxic people. I live in a beautiful house filled with wonderful people who love me.  I have a career that can be fulfilling if I apply myself.  I make music in a band with my best friend.  I really can’t ask for more.  And yet anxiety and sadness fill my days.  When left too long to my own devices, my mind becomes flooded with awful thoughts about things in the past and fears about the future. I have invented realities that don’t exist, and in them I am the loser.  Negativity is the norm and positivity is an uphill battle.

Coming to terms with the idea that I suffer from a mood disorder was difficult.  I assumed that the only people who were medicated were people who had Real Problems.  From my view, I functioned well enough…I just wasn’t happy.  I thought it was greedy of me to seek help this way. “Who do I think I am? Someone who can have everything?”  I found myself calling it a First World Problem because I had so much and was still not alright most of the time.  But each time I lost it again, each time I found myself out of control with grief and anxious madness, I realized that it doesn’t matter if I’m not the worst off in the world.  Refusing to get help because I didn’t feel I deserved it as much as someone else was just another symptom of the disease and wasn’t a reason to continue to suffer.

Before I had my appointment to get a prescription, I read this post about how to get people you care about to seek help on JT Eberhard’s blog.  His writings about his struggles with his own mental illness are powerful and brilliant.  And though he was writing for people who would try to help someone else, I was comforted by the familiarity of the entire thing.  I had this same struggle within myself.  I had all kinds of reasons not to try medication, but one very important reason to do it: Misery does not have to be my general state.  My entire life does not need to center around keeping myself afloat.

So I started Zoloft and the first couple of days were terrible.  Then something miraculous happened.  For three days I was that incredible woman that I imagined all those years ago. I had occasion to deal with three potentially very stressful situations in a row and found myself able to navigate them beautifully.  Without the anxiety, I was suddenly aware that anxiety was always with me before.  Everything I did or said carried with it some level of fear.  To be without it felt like being finally free of some kind of demon that possessed me and suddenly I felt fully like myself because it was who I always wanted to be.  I was euphoric.  I thought for a second that the bad side effects were over with quickly and that all that was left was perfection.  I basked in it.  I felt like life could finally begin with gusto!

On Saturday I woke up feeling anxious and sad. I didn’t like that, but figured it would pass if I got myself moving.  I started going through the motions of the day and then noticed that the kitchen sink drain wasn’t functioning very well.  A little while later, Shaun emerged from the shower and told Ginny that the shower wasn’t draining. I went and involved myself (something I didn’t need to do right away) and immediately starting getting really stressed out as things we tried didn’t work.  I went to Home Depot and bought a drain auger and Draino and then attempted to fix the problem when I got back.  I was turning into a mess.  I was upset and angry.  I made Wes help me.  Nothing we tried worked.   He went to take a shower.  I fell apart in the back yard.

I sat on the back steps of the yard and cried for a while.  I cried because I felt like the three days before were just a big tease.  I kept saying out loud, “Please…why won’t this go away? Please, just go away!” Somehow I thought that I had found something that would help me not have to work so hard all the time and it abandoned me.  I felt like I would never be free of this bullshit ever.

I went upstairs to talk to Wes and he reminded me that I would never be able to stop working but that things should even out over the weeks.  I had no other desire except to curl up in bed, so I did.  We had plans to go see Rise of the Guardians (which I loved, by the way) and Wes tried to help me but I was being frustrating, unwilling to admit why I was upset and condemning myself as stupid and crazy instead.  Eventually he got me out of it and made me get up and move.  I went downstairs and Jessie was there to talk some real sense into me.  I told her I was upset because I had what I wanted so badly and then it went away.  I told her that I thought I had finally figured out how to be easy on myself and not work so hard every second.  And she said a wonderful thing.  She had her arm around me and explained that I might have to fight still, but that I don’t have to do it alone.  And this time she didn’t just mean that I was surrounded by people who love and care about me.  She said that it won’t just be me alone with a sword on the battlefield…Zoloft would be next to me with a bigger sword and lasers shooting out of its eyes.

I, of course, started laughing at the image and was able to get myself over the hurdle at the moment. And told Wes again how happy I am that Jessie is in our lives.  I often don’t know what I’d do without her.

I often don’t know what I’d do without any of the people close to me.  One of the things that my outburst showed me on Saturday is that a lot of my motivation for getting help has been to be less of a burden to the people who love me.  It made me aware of how I still view relationships as transactional.  If I take too much without giving back, everyone will tire of me and leave.  It was one of the things I had to admit out loud and Wes reminded me that my value to people is not in what I do for them.  He also reminded me that the people who love me now loved me before I took big steps to improve.  Clearly my emotional issues were not a deterrent to Wes 9 years ago, or Shaun a year and a half ago.  I was worse then.  I am better now.  I have to remember all of this.

I didn’t feel very good for the rest of the day.  We had to call Roto-Rooter to deal with the drains ultimately and they didn’t get to the house until 8pm or something.  It was Saturday and it was expensive.  Shaun had spent all day cooking for the dinner we had with his mom and Wes’ mom and all in all I would say it was a success, despite the plumbing ridiculousness.  But I had a hard time being present because anxiety aside, I was dealing with other side effects again too.  I was a little stoned, and a little crazed, and had no appetite, and all that fun stuff.  I calmed down more when the plumbing was fixed, but I knew that it wasn’t just about that.

I am hoping that in the next few weeks I will find a middle ground, an evened state of being that makes it easier to stay stable.  I know that I can’t expect for the issues to not be there at all ever, but I want to be better equipped to handle them when they arise, which is the point of Zoloft ultimately.  I was so excited by the early results that I was using the meds as a crutch to not center myself in the face of stressful stimuli.  I forgot the rational promise I made to myself before starting (and after talking to friends who have dealt with this too): The medication doesn’t stop the thoughts from coming.  It just makes it easier to deal with them.

On Sunday I upped my dose because I was supposed to, so I’m evening out again.  I will say that though I still wake up anxious and can have battles with badness, I think that it is actually starting to work because I’m not anxious all the time anymore.  This morning it took me two and a half hours to get to work due to public transit crap and I got depressed near the end after dealing with the ordeal alone for a long time.  Initially, I was fine, and I stayed fine for a while.  That’s an improvement and I’ll take it.  And the awesome days last week show me that days like that are possible, and I’ll take that too.

It’s cliché, but I have to take this one day at a time still.  I remember when my ex’s grandfather was suffering from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s at the same time.  He was on a bunch of different medications but for the most part was not present anymore.  My ex mentioned that there were miraculous days when all the medications would click just right and he would be him again for a little while.  I didn’t really understand it then, but now I think I do a little.  In this life there are good days and bad days.  It is what we do with them that counts.  While I’m getting used to this stuff, there will be good days and bad days.  The bad days are not a punishment for being too crazy even for pills.  The good days are not proof that everything is solved forever.  None of this is absolute, but it’s all progress.  It’s making my happiness and mental health a priority in my life.

I appreciate the people who have been reaching out to me, sharing their experiences with this kind of thing.  I think it’s important to know that none of us are alone.  Everyone’s experience is different over all, but with some common themes and it’s really good to know that there are people to bounce ideas off of, to ask the “is this weird?” question, or to simply rejoice in the ups and work through the downs with.

Happiness runs in a circular motion.  Love is but a little boat upon the sea. Everybody is a part of everyone anyway.  You can have everything if you let yourself be. -Donovan

Charlie Jane Anders Should Read More Atheists

Charlie Jane Anders, a writer for one of my favorite nerd blogs, io9, wrote a post today called Why Smug Atheists Should Read More Science Fiction. The post, to be as charitable as I can, is total crap. Anders starts out by saying

You can’t be on Twitter these days without being bombarded with atheistic smugness. You know what I mean. People who can’t just profess that they don’t believe in God — they have to taunt religious people for believing in “fairy tales.” Or the Tooth Fairy. Most of the time, these are geeks who have immense respect for science… and yet, they won’t recognize a situation where they simply have no data, one way or the other.

image

The first problem here is that Anders is attacking an attitude without citing any examples, just saying “you know what I mean.” This is an almost guaranteed straw man, as it relies on the detractor’s characterization of the offending behavior with no room for interpretation.

The next problem, just with this paragraph alone, is that Anders characterizes equating religious belief with belief in fairy tales and/or the Tooth Fairy is “smug.” The problem is that religious belief is no more reasonable or supported by evidence as is belief in those other “ridiculous” things. In some ways, it makes more sense to believe in the Tooth Fairy, as parents often specifically set out to provide evidence for its existence. Anders just throws this out there like it’s obvious, instead of providing an argument or any reasons why religious believers shouldn’t be mocked for their ridiculous beliefs.

Third is the classic agnostic fallacy – we “simply have no data, one way or the other.” Wrong. We have a ton of data disproving a ton of religious beliefs. The only way you get to “we have no data” is by reference to a vague, squishy idea of “a higher power” which doesn’t necessarily do much of anything. Any time you get more specific than that, chances are there is some evidence against your belief. But that also ignores a central idea behind all reasonable thought – belief without evidence is unjustified. If we have no data for or against a proposition, the reasonable thing to do is to disbelieve it. The strength of a belief should be proportional to the strength of the evidence. If there is no evidence, there should be no belief, and anyone who has a belief is being unreasonable. Anders continues

A lot of the best science fiction includes a sense of wonder at the hugeness of the cosmos — and the flipside of that is a sense of our own smallness. And the humility that goes along with that. If you want to feel a real sense of quasi-religious awe, don’t think of the world as being 6,000 years old — think of its actual age, measured in billions of years, and the huge timescales of the universe before and after our world. And think of the vastness of the cosmos, whose mysteries we’ve only just begun to glimpse in the past century.

What now? Anders sounds like most of the often-called “smug” atheists I know of in this paragraph. Is Anders trying to suggest that atheists lack a sense of wonder at the universe? I’d say that Anders ought to take a look at The Magic of Reality before making unsourced assertions like that. Anders’ next point:

There’s a common plot in science fiction — particularly media SF — where someone is “seeing things” or having experiences that can’t be easily verified or quantified using technology. Like a sense of “deja vu,” or hearing voices, or seeing the missing-presumed-dead Captain Kirk floating around. And a huge problem in these stories is that nobody can really know what another person is experiencing, or whether it has any validity or is just a hallucination. Thus it is with religious experiences — other people can speak about their profound experiences of the divine, which seem immensely real to them, but may sound like a crazy delusion to the rest of us.

Is Anders seriously suggesting here that “smug” atheists aren’t aware of stories in which people seem crazy, but are later vindicated? Of course we’re aware of those stories. The reason we don’t immediately draw parallels to the people we know who seems crazy is that THESE ARE WORKS OF FICTION! Seriously, how dense do you have to be not to understand that? One of the common criticisms that “smug” atheists level at believers is that they can’t tell the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Anders seems to be proving that point. Anders closes with this:

Still, it’s great to be atheist — and I strongly support arguing publicly and loudly in favor of atheism as a point of view. Just, you know, don’t be smug about it. You don’t actually know any more than the rest of us, and the universe is a much stranger, more bewildering place than any of us can really begin to grasp, and the only thing that would be surprising is if we stop being constantly surprised. If you don’t believe me, just read some science fiction.

This is the paragraph that inspired the title of this post, in that it seems to me that Anders just doesn’t know any atheists. Almost all of the atheists that I know agree wholeheartedly that the universe is a strange, bewildering, and ultimately unknowable place. Our frustration is with religious believers who claim to know things that they cannot possibly know, based on holy books or intuition. It’s the atheists who are insisting that the universe is a giant mystery, and the believers who claim that they have it all figured out. Atheism is nothing more that the belief that the idea of “god” is unsupported by the available evidence. Anders should actually speak to a few atheists before painting them with such a broad brush.

Dan Savage Agrees With Me!

UPDATE: Dan Savage quotes me in Slog

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From the latest Savage Love:

Poly is not a sexual identity, PP, it’s not a sexual orientation. It’s not something you are, it’s something you do. There’s no such thing as a person who is “a poly,” just as there’s no such thing as a person who is “a monogamous.” Polyamorous and monogamous are adjectives, not nouns. There are only people—gay, straight, bi—and some people are in monogamous relationships, some are in open relationships, some are in polyamorous relationships, some are in monogamish relationships, some are in four-star-general relationships. These are relationship models, PP, not sexual identities.

As I’ve been saying for a while, polyamory is not a sexual orientation:

There are a few problems with describing polyamory as a sexual orientation. The first of which is that polyamory is not sexual. Polyamory is about relationships, honesty, and intimacy. Look back at the definitions given by Loving More. Not a single one mentions sex. Calling polyamory a sexual orientation is a joke.

Secondly, polyamory is not an orientation. Polyamory is not a physical desire or a feeling. While there is not complete agreement on what polyamory is, there is clear agreement about it isn’t. And it isn’t just an attraction to multiple people. As Shaun pointed out, if you define polyamory as a feeling or an inclination, then half of the country is polyamorous, which is an absurd result. Almost everyone feels attraction for multiple people at the same time. This does not make them polyamorous.

A third problem with describing poly as a sexual orientation is that being poly is nothing like being GLB. Being GLB is about the type of person to whom you are sexually attracted. Being polyamorous is about the amount of people you love. Describing polyamory as a sexual orientation suggests a false equivalence between the groups, and seems like an attempt to coopt the sympathy that the GLBT community has built up.

Sounds like at least one high-profile member of the GLBT community doesn’t like the comparison any more than I do.

Adventures in Therapy: Wherein Things Get Real

I woke up on Saturday morning excited. I had big plans for late in the morning.  I was finally going to see a psychiatrist about getting some medication to help me.

A few months back I was talking to a friend about how open I am about myself and everything that’s going on with me on the internet. Zie didn’t like the idea of having so many profoundly personal details about hirself documented in the public sphere.  Once it is out there, it never goes away.  In the internet age, anyone can find you with a simple Google search and they will know everything that you share and will judge you for it.  In the era when employers search people’s lives for potential dirty laundry before choosing the best candidate, the dirty laundry they see is the items you choose to hang out in the air.

I had mentioned that in a recent recorded interview, I admitted that I had started therapy.  My friend said that he never would have admitted that because then it’s there forever.  And while the comments stayed with me for a long time, filling me self doubt and fear that I have done everything wrong and that my choices to be so ridiculously honest and open about my trials and tribulations, interests, beliefs, and relationships in the world where everyone could see with a couple of simple key strokes are putting my family and me at undue risk, I stood fast.  I’ve already shared so much…what’s one more thing.  What harm is there now putting a face and voice to the next adventure in both living a life less ordinary and a life very ordinary for people all over the world.

The psychiatrist’s office was in a lovely part of Jersey, nestled between a couple of farm fields.  It was a calming and beautiful.  I was already happy to be there and I was happy to be taking a very big step towards finally being well.  The doctor was pleasant and caring.  She asked a million questions to really get to the bottom of what I struggle with every day.  At the end, after listening to me closely, she gave me a prescription for Zoloft with instructions and warnings.

I left feeling positive, feeling like I made the right direction.  I need more help than just talk therapy.  I can talk until I’m blue in the face, but if I don’t listen…if I constantly have to fight waves of difficult emotion and anxiety, the conversation with myself can’t be productive.  And I had grown tired of walking on eggshells around myself when I felt an unsettled simmering beneath the surface.  And I had grown tired of being overwhelmed, with losing control, with being disinterested in anything I used to really like doing.

I filled the prescription and got my hair cut short.  I went home and dyed my hair red.  New stage, new costume.  The next morning I took half a pill and went to visit my parents.

I was not prepared for such immediate effects.  By Sunday afternoon, I felt in a haze.  I was numb and though I was angry about something that had happened, I wasn’t having a complete break down over it as has been the norm as of late.  These effects grew stronger as the evening progressed and by the time we threw a movie on I felt stoned.  I fell asleep during the movie, like I do, and then after it was over, I bolted awake.  I was completely awake and alert and completely anxious.

And so I was for the whole night.  I don’t know when I actually slept.  I laid awake in bed trying to calm myself down but doing a lousy job of it.  Poor Wes had to endure me tossing, turning, weeping, going nuts.  I was thinking obsessively about a few things and got myself completely whipped up into a tizzy and finally after writing an email I kind of wish I didn’t, I calmed and sat quietly in bed.  I think maybe a got a couple of hours, but I have no idea. My alarm went off and I was already awake.  I cried and Wes said he would take me to work.  I got to work feeling the effects of the second half pill settling in.  I sat at my desk, feeling an odd numbness, but it was not impenetrable to outside stressors.  I encountered one and for an hour did not know if I would be able to stay here for the day.  But it passed and I am still hanging in.

It is only Day Two and I am committed to at least giving this a fair shot.  Friends have told me that it can take a couple of weeks for things to even out.  The doctor said that it takes 4 weeks to really start working.  So I will be patient.  After having some issues today, I guess I am not much worse off than I already was, but this time I know that there is something at work chemically trying to set me right.  It may not be the correct ingredient, but I can’t know until I test and observe.

This is hard.  This is scary.  This means that I have to put some things to the side so that I can get my brain in order so that I do them well and happily.  Even though I feel completely bizarre right now, I find peace in the fact that I am taking steps to tackle this in a real, concrete, lasting way.  Good brain chemistry facilitates an environment where rational, productive discussion can happen and there is nothing wrong or embarrassing about taking that step.  There is nothing stranger about handling this like handling a case of gout. When you have a chronic issue, you treat it.

And so it is out in the world and no one is worse for it.  I look forward to finding some balance in my mind so that I can finally fully appreciate this amazing life I have built.  I am so tired of seeing it through a fog.

There Can Be Only One

Most poly people encounter a phenomenon where a heterosexual couple decide to open up just slightly, so that one or both members can have sex outside the relationship with women, but not with men. Most tend to call this a “one penis policy.” I think that term is boring, so I’ve taken to calling it “Highlander Penis.”

This is what happens if another guy has sex with your woman

Needless to say, I find it incredibly frustrating, not only as a man who slogs through the dating world, but also because it almost always seems to rely on sexist assumptions about the difference between men and women. Whenever I encounter it, I just roll my eyes and think of this:

Horror Stories Would Be Nothing Without Stupidity!

Hello! Happy Halloween!

You may have heard that there was a bit of hurricane that blew up the Northeast Corridor, and so state governments around here have been rescheduling Halloween for this coming weekend and beyond, but for much of the country today is still The Devil’s Christmas or whatever the kids are calling it during this time of rampant immorality.  After all, we’ve got preachers saying that The Gays caused Hurricane Sandy and it’s certainly fitting that it would fall right around the most immoral of all holidays.  Halloween: When women all dress as the “slutty” versions of favorite childhood characters and when gay people are…gay…or something.

Look, I’m just looking forward to the election being over, alright?

In honor of the holiday, we at the Polyskeptic Compound have been watching various thematically appropriate pieces of media.  For instance, we have all the seasons of Are You Afraid of the Dark…and I am not ashamed to admit that I am loving it.  I didn’t have Nickelodeon growing up, and this is one of the shows that I watched when I got the chance at my grandparents’ house or something.

Of course, Goosebumps was on broadcast television and I watched the hell out of that.  Mental note: Download Goosebumps also.

Last night, we watched the movie Pet Sematery, based of course on the novel by Stephan King.  Jessie is a huge Stephen King fan and I admittedly have not read or seen very many of these.  I started reading Pet Sematary once and got terrified and put it down. But I figured that I’d watch it because at least it didn’t have a bunch of twisted, blue, cat children like all the Japanese horror movies of recent acclaim.

Several years ago I went to see The Ring in theaters.  I went with three friends and it was a while after its initial release, so the theater was empty.  I spent most of the movie peaking sheepishly from behind my jacket and when I left, I was fairly convinced that I was going to be dead in 7 days.  I had a television in my bedroom at the foot of my bed and my door didn’t close properly and my window was in an odd place so the air current coming from it never reached me, but it would reach the door.  For 7 days I kept expecting a fucking phone call telling me of my fate, kept hearing the door creak in a sinister fashion from the wind convincing me that a weird hair-faced girl decided to take the stairs instead of the television…and then remembering “no, that’s stupid.  She’s totes coming out of the tv…at the foot of your bed.”  I only breathed easily after 7 days…because I’m a jackass.

What I’m saying is, I scare easy.  This is why I don’t go to haunted barns anymore.  Also haunted silos…and prisons…and hay bales.

Anyway, I learned an important lesson from watching Pet Sematery.  Namely, if the people in my house were the family in the movie, the movie would have been about 20 minutes long.  And so for your Halloween Reading Pleasure, here is a comparison:

***SPOILER ALERT!  IF IT’S, LIKE, 1989 OR SOMETHING***

The movie opens with us meeting a young doctor, his beautiful wife (Tasha Yar), 7 year old daughter and 2 year old adorable son. There is also a cat named Winston Churchill.  They’re new in town.  They have a nice house on lots of land, but beware, there’s a big nasty road nearby.  FORESHADOWING!

Their neighbor, an old an wise man, comes to introduce himself and warn them of the big nasty road nearby. Everyone thanks the old man, but don’t really think anything of it, nor do they do anything about it.  Within minutes in the movie, the little kid has already run toward the road in a haphazard fashion.  FORESHADOWING!

OK, so at this point we already have a problem.  If this was the Fenzorselli/McBrownigal household, I would already be pushing pretty hard for some kind of fence.  We have a crazy dog who likes to run around and not particularly come when she’s called outside.  If we also had a gaggle of unaware kids and cats that liked to be outside (which we do now)… Hell, I barely trust myself not to walk into the road in a haphazard fashion.  We would build a freaking fence.  So…at that point the movie is basically over.

But let’s assume that we build a shitty fence…which is certainly possible.  Wes and I are all about the half-assed projects.  Why use all of the ass when you only need to use half?  EFFICIENCY!

The doc gets ready to go to work. He’s also bringing the cat into get fixed because unfixed cats wander or something.  His daughter asks him to promise her that nothing will ever happen to the cat.  He doesn’t want to do that since it’s a bold faced lie.  Tasha Yar tells him to anyway.  FORESHADOWING!

Obviously, no one in my family would tell the kid that the cat is immortal.  Knowing us and our household opinion that cats are universally assholes, we would talk about cat stew recipes and how maybe the road will do our dirty work for us…because we’re terrible people.  But even if we weren’t going to talk about caticide, we would tell the kid that the cat is going to die well before any of us.  Then we would talk for the cat and say in a high scratchy voice, “AND I WILL COME BACK TO HAUNT YOU…UNTIL YOU GIVE ME MORE CAT FOOD!  ALSO, I WILL GHOST POOP IN YOUR BEEEEEEEED!”

Meanwhile, the old man has taken the young family on a field trip to the local pet cemetery at the end of the big nasty road.  The camera pans to a weird pile of sticks or something and ominous music plays.

Gina sez: Hey, old man, next time can you pick a less terrifying place for us to picnic in? Jeez! Also, I’m never coming back here again.  I don’t know if you noticed, but we have ample land on which to bury our animals.

Rest of the family: Yeah, this place sucks.  Also, old people are weird.

Meanwhile, a teenager gets hit by a Mack truck on the big nasty road and dies.  The doctor tries to help him, despite the fact that he is pretty much a lost cause.  The teenager’s ghost comes back to warn him not to go past the eerie pile of sticks in at the Pet Semetary.

My family: Yes, no shit, ghost.  We already said we’re never coming back here again and you’ve made fucking liars out of us.  THANKS.  Also, are you evidence of ghosts or do we just need to drink more?

The doctor’s family goes away for Thanksgiving.  The doctor’s father in law hates him for some reason so he decides to stay behind and eat turkey by himself.  The cat gets hit by a car.  The old man finds the cat and tells the doctor.

At this point, most reasonable people would say, “Well, shit.  I guess it’s time to bury this cat in non-weird soil…better yet, let’s cremate it.” That’s what we would do.  Hence, the movie would once again be over.  But let’s say we don’t just bury the cat and let the old man talk.

So the old man takes the doctor to an old Native American burial ground and tells him that it will bring the cat back to life.   This way, the doctor gets to lie to his daughter some more and nothing bad will happen!  The doctor asks questions that get no answers and instead of, you know, not burying the cat in the spooky burial ground that the ghost told him to stay away from, he does.

Presto change-o the cat comes back to life…as a total asshole!  Now, we at the Fenzorselli/McBrownigal household wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the new “evil” cat and one of our standard cats.  In fact, while watching this movie, we decided that Tandoori must have been buried in this place before we got him.  I laughed hysterically every time the cat did something dickish because it was just so darn familiar!

Meanwhile, because the family didn’t build a damn fence, the adorable little boy gets hit by a truck and dies.  The doctor is understandably grief stricken and, seeing this, the old man warns to not bury the kid in the burial ground.  He tells a tale of a friend of his who did that, and his son came back as a crazy flesh eating monster.  The old man (and a bunch of neighbors) came and burned the house down with the crazy flesh eating monster in it.

At this point, we’d all be asking this jackass why he told us to bury the cat in the asshole generating soil in the first place if he has first hand experience with its “magic”.  And we definitely would have not considered burying the kid there after a story like that.

But this doofus decides that this sounds like a great idea because he probably thinks the old man is blowing it out of proportion and that the worst thing that will happen is that the kid will come back as a hipster or something.

Aaaaand the kid comes alive, finds the doctor’s scalpel and starts slicing everyone up…like you do.  So, the kid kills his mother who comes back just in time (with the aid of the ghost who seemingly wanted her to die with all his freaking help) to get killed.  So the doctor shows up, re-kills his son and then decides that he should now bury his wife in the asshole generating soil.

She comes back to life, shows up at his house, they make out for a while and then she stabs in the head.

The end.

Being skeptics, it’s possible that we would have tried the burial ground for the cat…but probably not because we would have thought the old man was off his rocker…and this would have been a good decision.  But in the name of the scientific method, we might have wanted to prove to ourselves that burying things in the Native American Ancient Burial Ground was a terrible idea.  Upon getting a really big asshole of a cat back (where there was less of an asshole before), we wouldn’t test it again…right?  I mean, I guess reproducibility is the best route to declaring something a law.  But we’d probably test it with hamsters or something…not people.

But as I said in the beginning, this all could have been avoided if they had just built a fence.  Or more importantly, it could easily have been avoided had they hired competent people to build a really good fence.

Also, I would encourage us to either not follow the old man into cemeteries, or encourage him to be more upfront with his horrifying tales of horror from his past BEFORE burying things in spooky places.

The Fenzorselli/McBrownigal movie: Move in, heed the warnings about the shitty road, hire someone to build a decent fence.  If the cat dies, bury him in the backyard and don’t lie about it.  The End.

Man, pretty boring, right?  Well, whatever.  Fine…we’d put some scenes of us in our hot tub or something, ok?

Adventures in Therapy: Waiting for the Next Session

There’s a song out by the band Imagine Dragons that, despite being catchy from an arrangement point of view, annoys the crap out of me because the entire point is that the narrator is the same as he always has been and won’t ever change.  The line that rings out often is “I’m never changing who I am”.

Now, you might be wondering why this would annoy me.  As Americans, growing up in the land of “Individualism” or whatever (I hear that’s part of our cultural identity, but you wouldn’t know it by how differentiations from the norm are dealt with), we are raised to believe that one of the ultimate quests of our lives is to figure out “who we are”, and once we do that (if we manage it), we must stand by “who we are” and not change just because of…anything.  Our identities are extremely important to us.

It annoys me because we should never be so attached to staying the same.

As you know, I have been engaged in a massive overhaul of my mind lately.  Well, for the last few years and now it’s getting into high gear because I refuse to waste another decade being miserable.  At 31, I look back at my 20’s and wonder what the hell I was doing with myself.  In my 20’s, I asked the same question of what I was doing in my teens.  I have accepted that I was likely depressed all that time and refused to seek out treatment because I disliked a good deal of people in my life and they seemed worthy of dislike, so my poor emotional state made logical sense.  But I wasn’t paying as much attention to it as I am now and I keep wondering how much I could have helped myself had I thought about the issues as also chemical, as also warped thinking that I needed to work on.  It’s easier to see it now because the people in my life are amazing and yet I am still not OK most of the time.  But it took me 20 years to see this.  I will be looking into medicinal help since the physical response to my ridiculous thinking patterns is doing me in.  I have started to exercise more in the morning, which helps keep me calm during the day.  I have maintained my no caffeine rule for many months now and no longer crave it.  I have noticed a huge link between my ability to handle stress and not only the amount of sleep I get, but also to any other low energy times during the day.  I have cut back on carbs, replacing them with protein and other lighter healthier stuff to attempt not to crash in the afternoon.  I am trying very hard to get this under control once and for all (with habits that will last a lifetime).

But none of that will change the way I think about myself, and that is the hardest thing.  As such, I have been thinking about identity a whole lot lately.

Identities are made up of “good” and “bad” things we think define us…but we define what is “good” and what is “bad”.  One of my issues is that I allow others to define these things for me often and I take things to extremes.  For instance, I have defined myself by my willingness to change and by the fact that I always look to myself first in difficult situations.  I generally assume that I am at fault, or am wrong.  It is not generally important to me be “right”.  And I see this as a virtue.

The problem here is pretty obvious.  My being willing to change IS a good thing, but the change has to come because I personally view it as necessary, not because someone else does.  It took me a long time to learn this and I still struggle with it.  Similarly, being willing to look at yourself in a critical way is great IF you are capable of coming to the conclusion that, after reviewing the facts, you aren’t wrong sometimes.  I very rarely do that.  If I had anything to do with something, I will take on as much blame as people are willing to pile.  I am stubborn about it because I think it’s better to be agreeable.  As such, I don’t really look at myself as an authority on myself.  I look at other people as that and require their validation and approval constantly because otherwise, I have no idea of my worth.  I have made it so my entire sense of self worth comes from outside.  Add to that the fact that I generally have a low opinion of myself, I have gotten to the point where I don’t even believe people anymore when they say good things about me.  But I still rely on the validation, so if people don’t say it, I assume that it’s because they don’t think it anymore.

Obviously, this is completely fucked up.

I’m not writing this to get a bunch of eHugs or anything.  I’m writing it because I’m kind of astounded by the discoveries I’m making about my perception of the world and my place in it.  The image I have of myself is completely ridiculous.  Take these statements commonly heard in the hallways of my mind:

“I am a bad person because I am selfish sometimes.  Being selfish sometimes means that you are a selfish person and that you don’t care enough about other people.”

“I am good as long as I keep doing things for people.”

“I had a hard time figuring out something that ultimately was easy.  I am not smart.”

“I get sad a lot.  I am not succeeding at my emotional goals and am therefore a failure…at everything.”

“I don’t know a lot of hard chemistry off the top of my head.  I am a lousy chemist.”

But even worse are the things I think when I want to be appreciated.

“I did all this stuff for them without getting asked to.  Why are they not praising me profusely??”

“No one else tries as hard as I do to be better.  Why don’t they appreciate that???”

Sometimes I wish that something awful would happen to me so that people could appreciate me and be worried about me and all that.  It’s terrible and I would never ask anyone to come into my head.  It’s a really aggravating place to be and sometimes I wish that I could have a lobotomy for a day just to not care.

So, yeah, I’m getting help and I’m looking to get more because I’ve had enough of this horseshit.  But I bring it up because I refuse to say “This is just who I am” anymore.  Fuck that.  They say that people don’t change and that’s a load of crap.  The truth is that you can’t change other people.  You only have control over yourself.  And change is hard so a lot of people won’t do it, but it doesn’t mean they can’t.  The key is deciding for yourself if you’ve had enough of something and that being a certain way causes you a lot of trouble.  My problem in the past was that I was trying to be what other people wanted.  I still struggle with that, but now I am making changes for me.  Sure, other people benefit if I’m happier and more confident and secure, but ultimately this is so that I can be comfortable and secure within myself based on my own merits and perceptions.  Change is an important part of life and stubbornly stating “This is just who I am” doesn’t do anything useful.  If your flaws and virtues become your identity, then having their “goodness” or “badness” questioned results in a lot of difficulty.

Maybe this all seems really obvious to you.  It wasn’t to me.  For instance, I always thought that being a nice person was a good thing, but it also means that people take advantage of you, so you have to balance that.  I always thought that being selfish was bad, but if you never do what’s best for YOU (regardless of other people), then you suffer and often for no good reason.  I thought that amount of work you do for someone is directly proportional to how much they will love you.  I thought I had control over people happiness if I was just as perfect as possible…and that every sign of imperfection would people question their decision to be associated with me.  I saw perfection as possible and hated myself every time I proved that it wasn’t.

I talk about this in the past tense because I am aware of it and am working on changing these thoughts, but I still have them all the time and I drive myself crazy with them and won’t let them go.  Letting go of “I am a person who works the hardest”, “I am a person who is nice”, “I am a person who will take only after I’ve given more” is extremely difficult because these are things that people liked and I want to be liked.  I want to be loved and while I have unconditional love from people, I am suspicious of it because I learned stupid lessons growing up that I incorporated into myself as profound truths.  I hear “You would have to become a completely different and despicable person for me to leave you”, but it translates to “If you don’t do the dishes as much, I won’t like you anymore.”  I have every flaw on equal footing and look at it like our country’s drug policy: Pot and Heroine are equally horrible.  I have no hierarchy when it comes to this stuff.  I have things I don’t like about myself and therefore I am probably not really likable.

My journey to mental health keeps taking me deeper to the roots of my problems and my identity seems to be the deepest root.  This idea of good and bad and the need to be loved has warped how I perceive everything.  I have not yet gotten to the point of generally digging myself while also seeing what has room for improvement and accepting that I will never be perfect.  I keep saying “I will let go of this whole perfection thing” and then I can’t because I just don’t believe it’s impossible.  I can admit that it’s an asymptotic reality, but because I have made a lot of progress I just see myself being able to get pretty much there and I just won’t stop.  I don’t know how to accept the imperfection is guaranteed and keep working on myself.  There has to be an endgame and I don’t know what that is if it isn’t perfection.

I guess that is the number one thing I have to answer.  An overall increase in happiness is certainly a goal, but what about everything else?  I don’t know yet.

Next time I’ll talk about Imagine Dragons’ other song which suffers from the same “decent arrangement, stupid writing” problem.  Accept, I’m much more scathing of that because “Radioactive” is an apocalypse themed song…you can tell because it has a line in it that says, “This is it.  This is the Apocalypse.”  Please see my explanation of why this is annoying in this post. Ugh.