I always thought that the way in which my muscles spend more time tense than relaxed was normal. I figured waking up in the middle of the night because my legs had cramped, again, was probably a sign of not drinking enough water or something. There are areas of my body I thought were bone, and later discovered were in fact muscles so tense they were like painful rocks. Similarly, I thought my stomach issues were caused by not eating enough vegetables (I eat a lot, but figured maybe they weren't the right ones) or being in an unhealthy environment (which probably didn't help, tbh). I figured that waking up with your mind racing was just part of the human experience.

Now I realize so many of these symptoms relate to having an anxiety disorder. And learning how to be true to myself, and engage in self care, while also being a good and compassionate partner, is taking up a lot of my life right now.

Reminiscing about past relationships, both good and bad, is pretty normal I expect, but I literally get relationship flashbacks. The way a hand rests on my lower back, the way a lover's eyes light up when they see another partner, the casualness of discussing yet another threesome, all of these things have caused me to tense up with some sort of poly/relationship PTSD, and I'm still trying to figure out what to do about it.  I have nightmares about my lovers dumping me for not being pretty or sexually available enough or that I state a boundary or ask for a need to be met and I get hit. I wake up in tears a couple of times a month. I have had some terrible experiences with nonmonogamy- lovers pitting me against other metamours, being lied to about safer sex, being left without warning while in another country. It makes it difficult for me to breathe and accept that a person wants to be with me. I spend a lot of time waiting for the other shoe to drop, while also worrying that my lovers will eventually get fed up with my anxiety and walk.

Part of me wants to avoid the panic altogether, quit polyamory, dump my partners and become a solo cat lady, while part of me wants to challenge myself and be uncomfortable in order to work through it. Yet I'm not sure if I am, in fact, working through these feelings, or if I'm just retraumatising myself in the hope that eventually the nerve will numb. It's been difficult to admit that I am actively traumatised by sex party spaces, and that maybe my relationship to them is not something that's fixable if I just work hard enough. Sometimes I feel like I'm smiling while I dig a fork into my thigh, afraid not to reassure my lover that I'm ok with everything, I'm super GGG. It has not always been safe for me to have boundaries, and now I navigate my feelings and the reactions of others to them like a complex laser alarm system. And I'm clumsy.

I guess I dread discovering that my feelings aren't entirely under my control. I spend a lot of time trying to logic my gut feelings away, reminding myself that people DO genuinely like and desire me, and that no, that love isn't because of or in spite of my body. I keep hoping that perhaps I can find the magic words to reassure myself that I don't have to compete with other lovers by being up for anything or emotionally stoic, I can be myself and that's enough, that's what's wanted. I keep pushing myself to feel uncomfortable and to figure out why so I can process through it, but I'm beginning to suspect that I'm doing myself more harm than good.

The irony is that I really like my metamours. They're all people I get along with really well, and enjoy spending friend time with. I don't have any fear that they're seeking to shut me out. But it's been difficult not to compare myself to them and worry. How can I possibly measure up to a woman who has financial stability and privilege and doesn't struggle to find money for food some weeks? Or a woman who finds group sex easy and fun, for whom threesomes come naturally and not like a hive of anxious hornets? Or a woman who shares more interests and points of connection with my lovers than I do? I see how amazing my metamours are, and I look at my panicky, fat, hand-to-mouth, sexually complicated self and think "but you're already doing so much better".

I can't feel jealous of these metamours, because I don't want to take them away from my lovers, they're great! So instead, sometimes I'm eaten up by sadness and a feeling that it would be better if I just withdrew so they could have more awesome experiences with them rather than sit with me and my seemingly endless processing. I worry, often, constantly, that I'm not fun enough, that while I value my commitment to social justice and enacting change that taking care of me when I'm drained is too much to ask. I worry that I'm not sexual enough, or that my sexual currency isn't high enough. It's not so much that I think I'm unattractive, but that I'm very aware that society deems it acceptable to laugh or shudder at my body and I'm afraid that impacts my partners.  Am I holding them back?

I've read a lot of poly advice and it so often seems like either you need to be able to put these feelings aside or you need to give up open relationships. There's not a lot of information on balancing mental health issues and nonmonogamy, or how to heal yourself when poly was used as a weapon (mentally and sometimes physically) against you.  I don't have any answers, obviously, but maybe just coming out and saying these things is a good first step.

Categories: abuse, anxiety, boundaries, caution, communication, dating, fake it til you make it, gfe, love is a dog from hell, nonmonogamy, parties, personal, psychology, reflection, self care, sexuality, sweeties

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