As a woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I am not naive to the fact that people I date struggle to see beyond the label that society has stamped on me, which is why I wrote this post. If you are dating a girl with a mental illness, toss your preconceived notions aside and try to see the world from our point of view. Here are 17 things you should know about dating a girl with mental illness.
1. She is self-conscious about her diagnosis.
Why are women with a mental illness self-conscious? Well, isn’t it obvious? Society puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on women to be flawless in every area, including our mind. No matter how confident we are, stigma still follows us everywhere we go. If you love her, you’ll find ways to shed a positive light on mental illness. If you don’t have anything positive to say about mental illness, then do us all a favor and do not pursue anything further with her.
2. She is a person, not a mental illness.
Mental Illness is part of her, but it does not define her, and if her condition prevents you from seeing her as an individual first, then it is best to leave her be. People with mental illness are professionals, educated, well traveled, creative, artists and individuals. Do not judge her character based on what the news media persuades you to believe about mental illness.
3. Listen to her, do not try to fix her.
Mental illness cannot be fixed. It is not a flat tire. She does not, or should not expect you to know how to fix her problem. In my experience, when a guy feels like they cannot come up with a logical solution, they become frustrated. When it comes to my mental health, the only people that can help solve my problem are me and my psychiatrist. So just listen to her, or give her genuine advice of ways to help her handle the problem at hand.
4. She wants to feel empowered.
Empowering her as someone living with a mental illness is the greatest gift you could give her. We are punished because we are different, and this is something that cannot be understood by those who don’t live with a mental illness. She has so much to offer the world, and you may be the first person that comes into her life and relays this message to her. Make her feel as though the parts of her that she deems as ‘flawed’ are what ultimately makes her perfect in your eyes.
She never seemed shattered; to me, she was a breathtaking mosaic of the battle she’s won.-Matt Baker
5. She is different from other girls you have dated.
She is probably different than other girls you have dated. Great! You are here for a reason, and a lot has to with the fact that you are bored with women who act, dress, and think the same. Do not reject her because you are intimidated by the unknown. You are different from her, and she is different from you. She is taking just as much of a risk as you are. Do not make her feel as though you are doing her a favor by dating her. Appreciate what makes her different, and roll with it.
6. Do not blame all your relationship problems on her mental illness.
This is a biggie! Not every argument should be blamed on the fact that she has a mental illness. She is not a scapegoat, and this is a problem that happens too often in relationships. It’s a formula for disaster. It is essential to eliminate mental illness from the conversation unless it is evident that it’s the root of the problem.
I accused my ex-boyfriend of cheating on me. He tried to blame it on my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, calling himself a “victim of mental illness.” Unfortunately, the girl he cheated on me with didn’t get the memo about texting. It turned out he was cheating on me, and every single suspicion I had was justified.
7. She is extremely empathetic.
Women with a mental illness communicate in a language that is more emotional and beyond the surface. No, this does not mean are required to cry or read poems out loud to her. Emotional and sensitive are two different things. It means do not be afraid to communicate with her on a more honest and deeper level. We are empathetic, and this type of communication builds trust.
8. She doesn’t expect you to completely understand mental illness.
She does not expect you to be a book of knowledge about mental illness. Mental illness is a mystery, and those of us who live with it are the only ones who can truly understand the world that exists within us. It is not expected of you to completely understand, however, it is expected that you support us on our journey. I mean that is a rule in every relationship, right?
There are parts of me that will always remain untamable, messy, and reckless; but I refuse to apologize for it anymore. -Kaitlin Foster
9. She is not pushing you away on purpose.
I am a pusher! You have to understand that we live in a world that tells us we are unlovable which establishes a high wall up between you and her. We push people away to get an emotional reaction, because, in our world, this is how we determine a person’s intentions. However, it is a defense mechanism that signals the beginning of the end. If you are really into her, be patient, gain her trust without forcing it and when she pushes do not react.
10. She wants you to get involved in the mental health conversation.
Mental health is one of the most significant and most relevant topics in our society today. Learn about the history of stigma, what advocates are doing today and get involved in the mental health community. Send her posts, articles or quotes pertaining to mental illness. We are a unique group of individuals. You may think a six pack will turn her on, but offer to do a 5k for a local mental health charity and see what happens.
11. She will hide her pain.
People with mental illness may try to cover up their internal pain by exerting themselves on behalf of others. Sometimes we run from our pain or recklessly behave. Remember you can only offer her support, and you cannot fix her. If it begins to take a toll on your mental health then definitely take a break from dating or the relationship. I am a woman with a mental illness; however, I understand that other people are not obligated to condone my reckless behavior at times because I have bipolar disorder.
12. She wants to tell others about her mental illness.
The stigma of mental illness makes people feel obligated to hide their condition. She wants to explain her diagnosis to friends and family at her own time. It is not your place to tell others unless she asks you to do so. It is a very sensitive subject. The last thing you want to hear when introducing her to your friends is, “Wow, you sure don’t look mentally ill!” It’s happened to me, so trust me when I advise you to let her come forward.
She was never crazy, she just didn’t let her heart settle in a cage. She was born wild,and sometimes we need people like her. For it’s the horrors in her heart which cause the flames in ours. And she was always willing to burn for everything she has ever loved. -R.M Drake
13. Like any relationship, there will be challenges.
Challenge is a part of life, whether you are dating someone with a mental illness or not. Do not freak the moment you notice a change in her emotional behavior. Overcoming these challenges will only make you and your relationship stronger. If it is too much for you to handle, then be honest with yourself. She may not be the right fit for you.
14. It is not doomed from the start because she has a mental illness.
Do not set your relationship up for failure. If you go into anything assuming you are going to fail then most likely you will fail. One of my favorite authors Jen Sincero sums it up in one sentence, “What you choose to focus on becomes your reality.”
15. She can be overly sexual or not sexual at all.
People with mental illness can be extremely sexual at times. I know some of you are like Score! However, there will be periods where not much is happening between the sheets. It may be due to medication, or she is going through an episode of depression. Do not be offended or let it affect your self-esteem.
16. Sometimes she will withdraw or be distant.
There is no doubt that at points in your relationship she is going to distance herself from you mentally. We are so used to handling our internal struggle on our own that it comes naturally for us to feel the need to do so once in a while. It is not a reflection of you or your relationship, unless you have obviously done something hurtful.
17. She needs you to understand that mental illness is a disease.
If you believe mental illness is not real, then stop reading this blog post and cancel your next date. Save her from your ignorance. Not to be harsh, but if you believe that mental illness is just some made up condition for people to use as an excuse, then dating a girl with a mental illness makes no sense. If you love her put your personal bias about mental health to the side and educate yourself.
WebMD ‘Dating with Bipolar’
For more mental health content, follow me @hannahdblum
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Video: Dating with Bipolar Disorder