Mental illness and online dating

SteveI have been in and out of psychiatric hospital since 2007. In 2009, during my second spell in hospital, I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. At the present time I am living in the community in supported housing and I am taking medication (a depot injection), which does have some side effects but is not too troublesome compared to some of the other antipsychotics I have taken.

When I am going through a good phase and am out of hospital and feeling well, my thoughts often turn to my social life and how I can find people who are good company to spend time with. Being a naturally very anxious person, I find it difficult to meet people in some of the traditional ways (going to bars and clubs, playing sports, etc). I do spend quite a lot of time online and I have a good network of friends who I communicate with regularly on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites.

Meeting new people can be difficult when you have a mental illness

Meeting new people can be especially difficult when you have a mental illness. My illness has been such a significant part of my life over the last six years that when I meet new people now it is pretty much impossible to avoid the subject.

I tend to open up quite easily and I also tend to be quite open about my condition on the websites I use. I feel that if people really want to know who I am, they need to know a little about my illness and how it affects me.

One exciting way of reaching out and meeting new people is online dating. A couple of years ago, during a good phase in my life, I decided to give Match.com a try. I suppose the fact that I joined in the first place demonstrates that I believe I am worthy of having a girlfriend despite my mental illness.

How open should I be on my Match.com profile?

When it came to writing my profile on Match.com I had an interesting predicament. How open should I be about my mental illness? I actually decided not to mention it specifically. I explained that I was a person who had experienced a turbulent spiritual journey, but I didn't mention the words 'schizoaffective disorder' or 'mental illness'.

When it came to messaging people on the site I tended to be more open but only with those people who seemed as though they were caring, open-minded, and compassionate. I decided that I wouldn't meet up with anyone in person until I had told them about my illness and they had responded favourably.

Our relationship gave me confidence that online dating can work

In time (and you do have to be patient with these sites) I actually met someone with whom I clicked and we ended up dating and became girlfriend and boyfriend. I had opened up to her about my illness and she responded with warmth and kindness, even though she had lots of questions about my illness and how it affected my behavior. Even though it didn't last and we eventually broke up our relationship gave me confidence that online dating can work, even when you have a mental illness.

My advice to other people with mental health problems who are considering online dating would be that if you can afford it and if you are in a good frame of mind, why not give it a go? While you don't need to go into details about your illness on your profile it is best to be open with people before meeting up with them. It’s better to see how people react when they are at a distance rather than opening up for the first time on a date. Please be careful, take things slowly, and only meet up with someone after a fair few conversations when you have a real sense that you can trust them. Don't be defined by your illness but it is an important part of who you are so don't avoid talking about it.

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Steven blogs about philosophy, religion, spirituality, and mental health, at www.perfectchaos.org. He has written a book called The Philosophy of a Mad Man in which he discusses his experience of psychosis as part of his spiritual journey.


Comments

Well said

Well said and I hope you meet that special person very soon.

meeting new people

I had just come out of hospital and they placed me in a step down house.. This was a mixed unit and i got on with a lady resident very well. After about a year she popped the question ''Will you marry me?'' and i couldent refuse so i said yea and we had a small do just family and close friends attended and had are honeymoon in Clevelys in lancashire It was the best thing i ever did so you never know whats a round the corner. Good Luck mate and i wish you all the best

Thanks for sharing your story

Thanks for sharing your story Paul! Just goes to show you can meet someone when you're least expecting it :-)

me to

I was in a care home was told I would never live in the community meet my partner August 21yrs ago got married Dec 18th 21yrs ago and we are still together she has scitphinia and I have mental health problems but we manage with support so again they got it WRONG!!! Good luck to you both now and in the future and here's to the next 21yrs :-)

Finding a partner

I suffer from Anxiety and Depression, equally I find it extreamly difficult to meet people and make friends. A year and a bit ago I decided that I would try to find out about online dating and give it a go. The first time I tried it I freaked out within 24 hours and deteted everything and closed down my page. I clearly wasn't in the right place for it at the time. A few months later I thought I would give it another go and this time I felt better and more confident about it. I decided that because I did very much want to meet the right person that I would say at the end of my profile that I do suffer from Depression however I was managing it fairly well (which was true). It turned out to be a really good thing that I decided to be open about it from the start because it meant that I knew whoever decided to message me would know from the start that I had a mental illness which meant that it was understood that I had to go about things in a different way to maybe some one who didn't have a mental illness. I feel extremly lucky because as a direct result of this I have met a very kind and open partner who has understood from the start that I have a mental illness and he has never held it against me. It of course has been rocky but I know I would never have met him if I hadn't gone online and I hadn't been open from the start. I think you are very brave and I hope that you find the right person for you soon. At least when we are open it is easier for the right kinds of people talk to us and help us and equally easier to talk openly in return.

Brilliant piece

So happy you wrote this. Still get so angry when people feel too scared to share.

Bravery!

Thanks so much for sharing your story Steven! I live with (refuse to say suffer) panic disorder and agoraphobia. Have done since as long as I can remember (they put it down to childhood epilepsy initially because I would shake so much). During the good periods I am strong/bubbly/confident/funny and have no issue with dating or telling people about who I am. During the bad periods I still appear the same but struggle to accept that anybody would want to date me! I like being me and wouldn't change the MH aspect as it has made me the person I am. The whole dating/mental health thing still scares me though, despite having had supportive partners in the past!

Great, honest blog

Thanks Steven, this is really useful and a very honest account. Gives some very handy advice too as someone who is in a similar predicament!

Thank you so much for the encouragement

My depression has never affected how giving I am in a relationship, but it has led to me putting up with more shit treatment than I should because my self belief gets so destroyed. I find the idea of 'marketing' myself online so difficult, but now I think I may have a change of heart about. Thank you for that.

Really good advice

This is a really good piece. Glad you posted about it, something for me to think about!

Disclosing on a date

Tell them. They will probably be sympathetic and want to be supportive. If they don't, they're a waste if space, move on!

online dating

were I to try this, which I wont as am now old & dont want the hassle, I would embellish the truth of 100% failure in relationships, abuse and abandonment,3 traumatic abortions, one chronic middle aged schizo son years of misery and yes it is still shameful, and worse - BORING - no one wants to know - dabbled in drugs dip in psychosis fuelled by speed. if only I d thought of this earlier : I d say 'Im a psychopathic version of Miranda ' (thats the Tv program). rather than some horrible pseudo medical ****.

thank u

Hey :) Thank u so much for your posts and being honest, open and spreading awareness. We need more ppl like u in this world. Everything was said so acuratly and beautifully. I too struggle, bpd & bipolar mix. Its hard living in todays society being young, trying to be on same levels while trying to care for yourself- some ppl take things for granted. I feel positive after reading this post and wish u all the best! I'm grateful for your bravery, honesty and wisdom.. Let's drop that stigma 4real.

depression / anxiety.

I have no idea of online sites,so please bear with me.Suffer from depression and anxiety,just read some of the above stories,moved me almost to tears.Good luck all, and never give up giving up.Hope to hear from you soon.

You look cute in your picture

You look cute in your picture. I hope you find someone. It is so hard to find someone who is willing to put up with all the ups and downs of any mental illness unfortunately, no matter how much love is there...i wish you luck in your journey :)

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