Dating in the Internet World with Mental Illness
Dating is tough. It is hard to find someone you click with, but it is even harder when you have an illness. A mental illness. And online dating? Well, that brings up its own set of difficulties because when you meet someone online you aren’t really talking to them. They are not able to see you or your personality. And I am not my illness. It is a part of me, but there is a whole lot more to me as a person. So, how and when do you talk about your mental illness: before the first date or after your second? Perhaps you even wait for a third? Well, it depends. But me? I tend to bring it up in the first conversation.
I don’t like to hide things and like everything to be out in the open.
I know my approach is not for everyone. It can be scary as well as intimidating to a lot of people. But being someone that is very open and honest about my illness — I am an advocate; in fact, my dating profiles mention I am an advocate —I feel it is imperative to bring it up right away.
But still, it can be a tough subject to bring up. I really can’t just blurt it out from out of nowhere What part of the conversation you have gives an opening to bring this sort of thing up?
Of course, I don’t get a lot of answers back after mentioning it, especially when I explain that I have bipolar disorder, an anxiety disorder, and depression. I am dead in the water most of the time. I don’t get a whole lot of first dates. So how do you bring up your mental illness? When do you bring up your mental illness? On day one. In conversation one because if they can’t deal with it than they can’t deal with me — and why should I waste my time.
That said, some would argue you need to get to know the person first, and they need to get to know you, and I agree with part of that, at least to an extent. You do need to know the person first, but hiding your illness can make things worse in the long run. They may think “what else is he hiding or lying about?” Besides, do you want to be left at the bar or table when they “go to the bathroom” after learning about it?
Make no mistake: some individuals are more understanding than others. They “get it” or “totally understand” because they know someone with a mental illness. Because they’ve dated someone else with a mental illness, and maybe they do. But I’ve noticed that when I mention my bipolar disorder things change. The conversation changes, and that is because the very mention of bipolar brings up a whole host of stigmas. Am I “bad” or crazy or violent? Am I going to hurt someone, especially them?
The answer is no. My lows normally mean isolation, so having someone normally helps that. And my highs mean I am wanting to go out and can be hypersexual with a lot of PDA. But violent? Violence is something that most with bipolar never exhibit. (Not that it doesn’t happen, but statistics show that it is unlikely to happen.) More often you are going to deal with isolation on lows and sometimes highs.
So when do you bring up your mental illness? How do you bring up your mental illness?
That is the question.
That is my dilemma.
Michael Thornsbury is National Board Member of Mental Health America. He has been a fundraising professional nonprofit and membership organizations for 20+ years. In 2005, Mike was diagnosed with his first mental illness following leaving New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Since then, he battled with many variations of depression, anxiety and panic disorders and bipolar disorder. In 2010, after his first of 4 unsuccessful suicide attempts and a short stay in a mental health facility, Mike has moved on. Noticing the lack of care in and available facilities available to those that suffer, he was in and the huge lack of awareness and stigma around his disease, he decided to get involved. After sharing his story with family, friends, colleagues and then more and more people, he has become a strong advocate both locally in the D.C. area and nationally.
He currently resides in New Orleans, LA.
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