Dating with a mental illness

Story by Brenna Thompson, News Editor

When I came back from my eating disorder inpatient facility and began school again, I had to explain to each of my professors my summer whereabouts, specifically about the acclimation I still had to do, considering that a month prior I couldn’t even walk outside without asking permission. I wanted to let them know I wasn’t going to be the same student or even the same person they had a semester before.

I joked I had become a ‘walking DSM.’ I won’t get into details but I will say it’s quite a list. Thankfully, I can tell my professors about my struggles.

As a psychology major, my Social Science professors are not only understanding but trained, educated and empathetic toward mental illness and its victims. Opening up and sharing my vulnerabilities to employers, friends, extended family and strangers: that’s a different story.

For this reason, a girl who once swiped on tinder with speed and intensity jumped at the chance to go get ice cream with her crush, flirted literally for the heck of it, but found herself pulling away from dating. In fact, I avoided it at all costs.

I used to stay up until 1 a.m. on a school night to watch the newest “Twilight” movie, spent way too much time and became far too invested in “The Bachelor” reality show, and lived vicariously through celebrity couples. Yet, I now cynically mock “The Bachelor” and become discouraged and incredulous when breaking news reveals a Hollywood split ‘no one saw coming.’

This change of heart, as I now understand, is nothing more than a coping mechanism against the possibility of actually caring for someone and getting hurt. For someone with a mental illness, dating isn’t fun for me anymore. I know that sounds extremely pessimistic, and although I tend to look on the bright side, I can’t seem to see the silver lining in this situation.

I would never even hint at the slightest indication to struggling with mental illness to a new partner. I find that conversation to be extremely anxiety provoking and uncomfortable. My diagnoses make up a large part of who I am and have a huge impact on my everyday life. Therefore, I feel I am almost lying by hiding that part of me. I worry what they’ll think, what they’ll say when they find out the girl they’re talking to has these disorders. I wonder if they won’t want to deal with it or if they’ll find a girl who doesn’t spend days in a funk from a depressive episode or doesn’t need encouragement to eat a slice of pizza.

It’s not easy, dating with a mental illness. Almost two years later and I still have yet to even slightly get the hang of it. The thought of having a person there to make sure I went to my psychiatrist appointment, remind me to take my antidepressants, learn my meal plan and do yoga when I’m stressed sounds incredible. Yet, in the back of my mind, I know what it would take to get to that point. It would take me ripping off the band-aid, exposing my wounds to someone I genuinely have feelings for and having them accept me and all my flaws. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like no easy feat to me.

So, to anyone in a similar position, I clearly don’t have the answers. But, I beg of you to be braver than me, give love a try. At the end of the day, having a mental illness doesn’t make us weak, but strong. They don’t make us strange but special. We’ve been through enough, we deserve to be loved and adored, we deserve to be shown the silver lining.