Dating with a diagnosis is hard whether it’s depression, bipolar, PTSD, or another debilitating mental illness. My issue doesn’t define me, but it sure affects every part of my existence, including my love life. I wish I could say that I am a perfect lover, in spite of my illness, but that’s just not the truth. The reality is that I struggle immensely and as a result, I often feel as if I’m totally undateable.
I know my mental illness isn’t a moral failing, but it can feel that way. Impulsivity, sadness, inability to sleep, lack of motivation—these are all things that average people deal with, too, albeit on a smaller scale. Since I’m not the only one experiencing these things, I can compare myself to others who’re able to just “get their act together.” The fact that it’s an illness of the mind makes me grapple with thinking that it’s a moral failing on my part.
People have assumptions about it means to be mentally ill. Especially those who haven’t had exposure to people with a mental health issue think that I’m just crazy. Or, even worse, they think that I’m faking it and I should just snap out of it. Misconceptions about mental illness keep people away or leave them giving unsolicited advice. They think they know best about something that I deal with every day.
Sometimes I can’t take care of myself. Especially in the beginning stages of dating, it’s all about courting one another and trying to put our best selves forward. Well, this is cute and all except when I’m having a hard time showering and brushing my teeth. I don’t want to go on a date or flirt with someone when my personal care is riding the struggle bus. It definitely can make me feel like I don’t deserve to be hit on or dated.
My mood is volatile and unpredictable. One day I’m the happiest gal around and the next day I’m all doom and gloom. Sometimes I even have mood swings like this in a matter of hours. It’s a ton of fun (*eyeroll*). This leaves me feeling wacky when I’m in the early stages of dating someone. I sound super unstable when my answers to a simple “how are you?” are all over the map.
My desire to be social swings like a pendulum. >I love being around people about half the time. I can be a real social butterfly who’s happy to talk to anyone. The other half of the time, I’m the girl in the corner at the party petting the cat and plotting my exit. I can’t predict my desire or ability to be social. It’s sort of a last-minute thing, so this leaves it awkward when I’ve made commitments.
My energy levels can sometimes be low.In addition to my social energy levels, sometimes my physical energy levels have a mind of their own. There are times when I can do a few errands and still have plenty of energy left. Then, there are times when I’ve done a single errand and I’m completely wiped for the rest of the day. This is when I have to cancel dates and that doesn’t bode well for getting to know someone.
There are times when I can’t work. At least here in New England, the first question that’s asked when meeting someone is: “So, what do you do?” Work is a central focus and it’s seen as a huge part of someone’s identity. Well, I go through periods where my mental illness keeps me from working. This then leaves me feeling like an amorphous blob as I don’t have an answer to the routine question.
I’m not always interested in dating. There have been times where a perfectly lovely suitor has arrived right in front of me and I’m just not interested. I’ve literally had times where a nap seemed like a better use of my time—and this wasn’t because the person was a bad fit. I just couldn’t control my level of desire at that time. It makes dating quite hard when I don’t know how I’ll feel day-to-day.
I’ve been through so much. The sheer volume of trauma I’ve experienced in my life scares the crap out of some people. I do have to say that most people respect me more for what I’ve been through, but there are some jerks who think that I’m broken, damaged, or even lying/exaggerating.
I almost always choose to disclose—for better or worse. I much prefer to be totally honest. Some people tell me I shouldn’t be so transparent about my illness, but I would really rather weed people out ASAP. If someone’s going to be scared of my diagnosis, they know up front what they’re signing on for. This definitely sends some people running for the hills.
I have a mind that tells me I’m unloveable. More than anything, my own mind likes to sabotage any chance at happiness. Toxic messages come from my brain some days that whisper (or yell) about how unlovable I am. These voices tell me that I’m destined to be alone forever and they highlight all of my flaws. It’s quite hard to put myself out there when these messages are deafening in my ears.
My illness is for life. The thing is, I’m not just dealing with a phase of sadness. I have a mental illness that’s going to be with me for the rest of my life. The side effects are going to wax and wane—sometimes leaving me with peace and other times leaving me totally incapacitated. I need someone who understands this and isn’t scared off because it’s going to be me, my lover, and my mental illness… forever.
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