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Dating Sites, a Match and Mental Illness: When to Disclose

There are a couple things I find especially troubling about how people talk about mental illness on dating sites.

I’ll often come across a profile description that says something like, “My last girlfriend was bipolar, no more crazies!” Ya. She probably wasn’t bipolar, she probably just behaved in ways you didn’t like. Furthermore, why would anyone automatically rule out someone who struggles with mental illness? They can be the most interesting, most creative, most empathetic and most genuine people around.

Deciding what to reveal at what point in your interactions is one of the most personal decisions you can make. There is no right or wrong here. There is only what is best for you. This is where it’s especially important to trust your gut. Your gut and your heart will tell you when it’s the right time to share, if it ever is the right time. And if, in hindsight, you feel you were off on the timing, don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. It’s simply information that helps you with your decision next time.

If I hit it off with someone, if it feels as though we might develop a friendship, I generally disclose I live with bipolar disorder pretty early on in conversation. Why? Well, primarily because if they’re going to judge me or rule me out for it, I want it to happen sooner rather than later. Interestingly, thinking about it right this moment, I’ve never had a match rule me out for being mentally ill. I don’t know why. But isn’t that interesting. It may be because I am also open about the fact I aggressively manage my bipolar with prescription drugs and therapy. So, I’m sick, but I’m doing what I need to do to be stable. And that’s a strength, not a weakness.

When I’m chatting with someone and they disclose they struggle with depression, I don’t rule them out. I usually empathize with them, and most importantly, I listen. My heart goes out to them, because their pain is pain the likes of which I’m exquisitely familiar.

Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be forgiving of yourself. Embrace who you are, all of who you are.

Your mental illness is part of you. It does not define you, but it is an inextricable part of who you are. Make peace with that.

“Be kind today….to yourself, remember to be a good friend to yourself, accept that you’re doing your best, love your perfect imperfections, be mindful of what you need and give it to yourself, and surround yourself with people who honor, love and cherish you for who you are.”
-Ian Lawton

Getty image by Anastasia Molotkova

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