Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Bipolar Dating Game

For those us of us out there that live with a mental illness, telling someone that you have a mental illness can be one of the tougher things to deal with when it comes to any relationship.   When it comes to dating someone new it can been so stressful due to the concern of how the person might react.  It can almost give you so much anxiety that you do not even want to bother.  Dating can be very tough but when you live with a mental illness it just makes it that much harder.   I am now married to a wonderful, very supportive man that is always there for me during my break downs.   Even after nearly four years of the tough mood swings, suicide plans, and saving me from three suicide attacks he still is just as supportive as the day I told him I had Bipolar Disorder.  He never even blinked an eye when I told him and he never saw me as a  broken woman but sees me in my true light.  This was the first time in a romantic relationship that anyone had ever done this.  I often feel guilty about him still be married to me.  I have even told him a few times that I would not hold it against him if he wanted out because he had never truly seen just how bad the mood swings could be.  Of course he shakes his head at me at such a silly idea and always says "why would I leave my best friend and the love of my life ?" However my relationships in my past have not been this healthy nor understanding.

I can not even keep count on how many men could not handle my bipolar disorder.  I do not blame them for that because it is a tough illness to live with.   I know I would not choose to live with it if I had a choice so I am not sure why anyone would choose this.  There have been many boyfriends of mine who honesty did try but just could not handle it.  I think my illness has always been a factor in my very low self esteem and I am positive it was one of the reasons I married my first very abusive ex-husband because I did not feel worthy of love.  However there have been a ton of men who ran as fast as they could when I did tell then of my medical condition.  The stigma and the misinformation out there is just too great.  I even had one guy who told me he was in love with me but after "consulting" his friends at work thought I was some deranged lunatic.  I believe his friends exact words were "you better be careful man  because she will kill you in your sleep."  Well for men that cannot not even have an open mind then I am glad they took off running.  This goes for some of my so called friends who could only be there in the fun times.  So thus comes to the question I have been asked many times... When is the right time to tell someone that you are dating that you do have a mental illness????

While there is no perfect formula because everyone is different, I will share what I think worked best for me.  As I have said many times that I am still heavily guarded with telling others that I have a mental illness, I think a romantic relationship with someone is completely different.  I think it is only fair for the person to know the truth once it is getting serious.  Now while you are just casual dating and there is no hint of it being serious I think it is fine to not tell them and let them get to know you and see you for who you are and not just see your illness.  Throughout the past 8 years before I met my husband I used dating services online.  I found it a great way to meet people, get to know them through deep conversations and just see if they might be a possibility. Of course having social anxiety did not help going out to meet new people but talking to them for awhile online seemed to make it easier.   I was always safe with it and met them in public several times before I went on any official dates.  I of course never walked up and said oh yes and by the way I have Bipolar Disorder.  I always waited until it was exclusive, they had a chance to get to know me, and normally after they told me they were falling in love with me.  I think that is fair and it seemed to work for me.  I also made sure they knew the facts and if it was serious enough have them meet with my psychiatrist.

I have learned quite a bit about myself in the last 8 years and my time of dating after getting out of my extremely abusive difficult marriage.  I learned that I was worthy of love and that my illness should not keep me from pursuing that.  I was blessed enough to find a man that only sees my mental illness as a medical condition that requires treatment just as if I had diabetes.  So while my way of going about the dating game with a mental illness  might not work for everyone or anyone else, hopefully it has left you with more insight on how I have handled that dreaded part of sharing that highly guarded part of my life.