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What Dating Is Like as a Man With Mental Illness

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What is it like to be a man with mental illness in a society that generally says men should be self-sufficient, stoic, strong and in-control? What is it like to be a man with mental illness and trying to date?

It’s challenging.

When I meet someone and I’m interested in them, I have this fear in the back of my head that my mental illness will present some problems at some point that will be hard to explain. For example, if I’m dating someone and I have an anxiety attack, how do I explain that to her? Let’s say I have persistent anxiety attacks that make it hard to communicate and explain what I’m thinking because I know what I’m thinking is irrational, how do I tell her about that without feeling so vulnerable I’m scared she’ll decide to end the relationship?

Will she like me if she knows about my mental illness?

It’s a real concern of mine that someone will decide to end the relationship because of the additional challenges my anxiety and borderline personality disorder pose. Will she still like me if she knows I can be moody? That some nights I just want to be alone after having a great time the night before? Will she still like me if she knows about the therapy I go through, and that I need this therapy so I can maintain relationships and jobs?

How can I take care of someone if I have trouble taking care of myself?

I have daily issues controlling my anxiety and controlling my borderline personality disorder traits. It’s hard work. Can I care for someone else when I spend so much energy trying to care for myself? Can I be completely there for her? Am I going to make some mistake in the relationship that hurts her emotionally?

Being a man with mental illness isn’t discussed often enough. We may want men to be stoic, strong and independent — but we also want healthy men. We don’t want guys feeling like they can’t get help so they resort to unhealthy means of coping. We want men to get help so they can be happy, healthy and contribute to our community instead of living in shame.

If we want to achieve those goals, I believe we have to change the dating culture. We have to change what we expect out of men. We have to tell everyone that a man can be masculine and vulnerable at the same time. We have to tell everyone a man can receive help and not be thought of as weak. We have to tell women that men can be strong, compassionate, loving people while also facing these challenges, and that sometimes men need to be supported as well.

Image via Thinkstock.

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Originally published: January 18, 2017
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