Crazy for Life

Escapades of a bipolar princess.

This Won't Hurt a Bit, Really: Dating After Mental Illness

This Won't Hurt a Bit, Really: Dating After Mental Illness

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety and...uh, psychosis (I usually hold off telling people that part) it's not like I suddenly stopped being interested in dating. In fact even in the hospital I met...well that'll be another post.

What I mean is we don't stop craving companionship just because we have a mental illness. We're just like everybody else (for those of you without a psychiatric disorder - you may not want to hear that). But we are.

But how do you start dating again? There are a lot of factors to consider and it's not like there's an outpatient program for us: "dating after diagnosis", "intimacy after insanity".

One time, when I got out of the hospital - I kept running into this guy I liked. I don't think he knew I was alive. I must've been invisible. Oh. Don't say to your shrink: invisible. Red flag phrase for doctors. I just mean Sam - that was his name (cute, red hair, bulging biceps, lanky too). I just mean he probably had a girlfriend and didn't even notice me.

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Problems really start once you actually start dating. How do you know when it's the right time to tell the person you've got a mental illness? Or...three? It's all gotta be very strategically timed. Do you wait ‘til the fourth date - you know, test the waters first? Or just blurt it out during the first - put all your cards on the table, right up front?

Then there are the specifics: after appetizers - but before dessert? Certainly way before you announce the engagement and meet the parents, right? It might be sort of a "one-disorder-per-dinner-date" kinda thing. You've gotta consider the overwhelm factor.

It's like an art form: telling people, especially when it comes to dating. It's like pairing wine with food. Yeah. You know... you should only disclose bipolar disorder while eating something mild and stabilizing, yet still richly complex...like a classic Fettuccine Alfredo. Not with anything too wild like wasabi tuna steaks over udon noodles.

And when I let the cat out of the bag about anxiety, make sure it's not with anything too complicated or overpowering - don't need to add unnecessary pressure. Nothing too finicky...like a soufflé...or that requires extra cutlery skills - like fondue spears or chopsticks. Something simple, like a hearty hamburger - something that adds strength.

And psychosis...well, just stay away from anything flambéed.

Maybe a casual approach is best. A haphazard manner to mirror my history:‘Oh, hi. No, I don't eat meat, or smoke, but I do occasionally take Prozac and Lithium.'

The point is we don't leave our hearts and desires behind when we get a diagnosis. We take them with us, along with our bodies, minds (yes our minds) and spirits as we walk or, in my case, stumble our way to recovery. And that's the point isn't it? Not how graceful we are, but that we're heading in the right direction and surrounded, hopefully, with people who are heading our way too. And into a great restaurant.

 

Victoria Maxwell is a playwright, actor, and lecturer on her 'lived' experiences of bipolar disorder, anxiety, psychosis and recovery.

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