January 27, 2018
Dating is rough and finding a soul mate isn’t necessarily easy! Dating with a mental illness makes things even more challenging. Having mental illness can be taxing on you and your mind. Whether you have anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, living with mental illness is hard. When you factor in dating someone who has a mental illness, there are other things involved. As a person who has the mental illness, you wonder when (if at all) is the appropriate time to share your diagnosis. You might worry about whether or not the person will understand, whether or not they will continue to love you or not. People with depression might suffer from low self-esteem and wonder if they are even worth loving. These things are not easy to confront for the sufferer of mental illness, so imagine what it’s like for the person they are dating when they internalize that information.
I have mental illness, and I’ve struggled with how to tell my partner about it. I’ve worried that they wouldn’t love me anymore, that they would run away and never talk to me again. This is partially because of internalized stigma that I learned growing up in the 1990’s. I was trained to hide my mental illnesses because I was afraid that people wouldn’t understand me or would judge me. This was particularly hard when I entered in relationships with men. I would start liking a guy and try actively to look “normal” but also be myself. It was extremely difficult to say the least. However, the longer the relationship went on the more challenging it was to maintain my cool and not have him see me panic, or lose things because of my ADHD. I was scared that he would become irritated with my idiosyncrasies. But what I realized after some time is that: it doesn’t matter.
People will eventually learn that you have a mental illness. You will be in a position where it becomes obviously and it’s not worth getting to that place. Tell the person you’re dating what you struggle with because they are going to find out one way or another. And it would be better if it was from you rather than them discovering it and having to confront you about it. It’s tricky because your disability is invisible. If you were physically disabled your date would see your cane or wheelchair. With a mental illness, your disability isn’t visual, which means that you could try to conceal it for as long as humanly possible or how about this? Be honest. Tell your partner that you have schizoaffective disorder or PTSD, because chances are they are going to find out anyway. Later down the line, when your mental illness is out in the open, and your relationship progresses and is serious, you might need to enter couples therapy to discuss issues related to your relationship.
I wouldn’t suggest revealing your mental health issues on a first date, but you never know. It might come up somehow organically in conversation. Maybe your date mentions that they have anxiety or bipolar and then you can jump in and say what your mental illness is. You never know! Society is becoming increasingly more open about people revealing mental illness to each other.