The Challenge of Dating With Mental Illness

We can all agree that dating isn’t easy, right? I’m fairly certain I’m not falling into some large divide by saying that. However, dating when you have a mental illness can be a completely different experience. I’ve found it can be an emotionally charged and turbulent journey where people struggle to openly talk about themselves to another person.

In “My Sister’s Keeper,” Jodi Picoult writes, “I wondered what happened when you offered yourself to someone, and they opened you, only to discover you were not the gift they expected and they had to smile and nod and say thank you all the same.” Mental illness is still highly stigmatized in society, and to openly admit you are battling a mental health issue to a potential suitor can be terrifying.

Vulnerability is a trait that is often applauded but can easily be overlooked when discussing a topic so personal and misunderstood. As a mental health advocate, I find it imperative to
discuss my own diagnoses fairly quickly with a potential new partner. I don’t want to hide any part of my personality, which means my depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder will be a topic on the first date. It is my personal belief that potential suitors should be informed before getting too emotionally involved, and while it might not be what they’re expecting, that doesn’t mean it’s not still great. Some people can handle all that comes with dating a person with mental illness, and some cannot. However, after hiding my depression for years, I cannot allow myself to live that way any longer, and I believe transparency can alleviate that struggle.

I have mental illness, I write about mental illness, and I advocate for mental illness — but that does not mean I am mental illness. It can be important to discern that when discussing mental health because of the stigma often associated with it. Having borderline personality disorder has made me a more empathetic partner and overall person. Being diagnosed has
allowed me to connect with a community that is so openly supportive of one another, and it has transformed me into a more caring and concerned individual. I am a better partner today than I was 10 years ago because I’m self-aware and I want to be a compassionate and considerate girlfriend and friend.

It is not difficult to date with mental illness, but it is the stigma of mental illness that can make it difficult to date.

Image via Thinkstock.

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