Dating is hard with or without a mental health condition. We have this overwhelming pressure to have the perfect body, perfect job, perfect social life and perfect mind. So you can imagine what it’s like when you have a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder. The stigma of mental illness sends a negative message to people. We are crazy! She’s a cheater! She’s unstable! So what is it like when you are actively dating with bipolar disorder? Lucky enough Teen Vogue contemplated the same question and reached out to me. I am so excited to share my interview with Teen Vogue. Check it out and please share.
I started my journey with HealthyPlace.com almost a year ago. I am so thankful for the opportunity to share my experience and talk about mental health in an authentic and open way. The adventure continues on my HealthyPlace blog, “I’m Bipolar Too.” There will be new posts every Tuesday and Thursday morning. I am getting personal, sharing advice and keeping it candid about mental health. Share your thoughts and experience in the comment section of posts or do a response video and send it into email@example.com.
Also, don’t forget to keep up with my HealthyPlace YouTube channel! New videos every Monday morning. Again, please share your experience or do a video for us. You have a story, a voice, and it deserves to be heard. Please subscribe if you have not had a chance!
This past Saturday, March 4th, I had the opportunity to speak with Rebecca and Joe Lombardo on their blog talk radio show Voices for Change 2.0 podcast. Prior to the show, people always ask me one particular question, “Are you nervous Hannah.” The part of me that always puts on a strong front answers, “No not at all. I am used to this by now.” The other part of me answers, “Hell yeah I am nervous.” The show was live, meaning anything I revealed stuck like glue. Luckily for me, Rebecca Lombardo eased my nerves days prior to the show. We talked about the podcast, but no specifics. It is better not to have the questions prior to a show like this. The thing that put me most at ease, was that Rebecca has bipolar disorder as well and has been sharing her story for years. For an hour we talked about our work as mental health advocates, the future of mental health and parts of our own story living with bipolar disorder.
On Saturday I was asked questions pertaining to my diagnosis of bipolar 2 and what it has been like coming forward. We discussed my experience in media and the importance of utilizing mediated platforms to spread awareness. We took people who called in with questions. One caller requested an answer to the golden question that I think many people hesitate to ask me. How is dating for you Hannah? Take a listen to the podcast to find out what I say.
Please follow this amazing podcast on their journey via Twitter @Voices4ChangeRJ.
In today’s society, with all the dating apps and social pressure, dating is hard enough right? Imagine having a stigmatized mental health condition on top of all that. In this video, I explain why dating with bipolar can be extremely stressful and what to do about it. Don’t mind the crooked face 😉
Treatment plans for mental health care differ from situation to situation. In some cases, it calls for therapy and in other cases medication is needed. This doesn’t mean that when you wake up feeling sad, you call the doctor and start popping pills. However, when depression or severe emotional behavior begins to affect your daily life, work and relationships, it is time to seek help. There is no shame in taking medicines if needed. If you get the flu do you take meds? Yes. So what is the difference when it is the flu of the mind. There is none. Would you blame someone who lost her husband in war for seeking out medication for anxiety? Would you judge a woman for taking antidepressants who lost her child 2 months shy of his 1st birthday to cancer? We all want to end up at the same place, but some need to take a different route to the intersection of happy and healthy. There is no shame in that.
Reasons why people feel uneasy taking meds for the head…
I don’t need a pill to make me happy.
Lets do a word replacement, instead of happy, lets put healthy. I don’t want to take a pill to make me healthy! Make sense? Happy and health go together like PB&J. Think about people from the past, who would have done anything to receive treatment to help them maintain a stable life with a mental disorder. Virginia Wolf is shaking her head.
I feel like I am weak if I have to resort to medication.
Are people who have diabetes weak because they have to resort to insulin in order to survive? It is all about how you frame it. You are not weak, you are honest about your situation and health. A strong person acknowledges their pain, and does something about it.
I am afraid people will judge me.
Okay, write out those people who you think will judge you. Now delete them from your phone. People who love you won’t judge you. I hate to tell you, but when you get a prescription you are not the headline on the 10’oclock news that night. If you fear judgement…dont tell anyone. You will be pleasantly surprised that over half the people you fear in opening up to, are going through a similar situation.
I don’t want people to think I am crazy.
What is crazy is having the available resources to receive good mental health care, and not taking advantage of it. Reaching out for help is far from crazy. People will get wasted, and have sex without a condom with the first person they meet at a bar (no judgement) and that is not considered crazy. However, taking anti-depressants for depression, YIKES that is insanity! Think about it.
I don’t want to stay on medicine long-term.
Okay, do not jump the gun. Get to Point A before jumping to Point Z. You may not be on medicine for the long-term, but if you are so what? If you feel like your life, relationships and your day to day has improved since taking a medication than why would you stop. Again, everyone has to take a different route to happiness sometimes. Do not be ashamed of the route you take.
I will never forget when my ex would grab the rolls off the table as I would reach for them, and say to the waiter, “She doesn’t need these,” or all the times he asked for a togo box after I took my first three bites of a meal at a restaurant. I am not looking for sympathy by telling you this. I already disposed of that garbage. I am letting you know this actually happens. Body image issues are heavily present among women. We are surrounded by things that make us question our reflection constantly. The last thing we need is for our guy to do the same. So I am going to help you guys out. Here are 10 rules to follow when talking about body or weight to your girl that could potentially save your relationship, get you a second date or even asked upstairs.
10 Rules Every Guy Should Follow When It Comes To Her Body…
1. Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever comment on her eating…ever!
You might think a harmless, “Hey babe you must be hungry tonight,” is not a big deal. However, the minute you see the devil rise in her eyes, you realize you have made a huge mistake. We eat, some days more than others, and the myth is true, when our monthly friend comes along, our hunger intensifies. Its simple, mind your own business.
2. Don’t ever mention her weight.
Even if you are saying, “Wow you look like you lost a lot of weight,” you could enter the danger zone. “So you are saying I was fat before?” To a woman, commenting on weight means that it plays a major role in your relationship. It is almost if we feel like you are constantly watching how we fit in our jeans. Maybe you are not, but this is how our mind works.
3. Don’t ever buy her a weight related gift.
“Merry Christmas hun, I bought you a Jenny Craig Membership!” I hope you kept the receipt, because after she has lit the tree on fire, you are going to want to return it! Imagine if you open your Christmas gift, and it is a hair transplant consultation. You didn’t think you were balding, but immediately you know that she does! Buy her a gift that flatters her, and not a months supply of Nutrisystem.
4. If you order for her at a restaurant, it better not be a salad and it better come with a side!
It doesn’t matter if you are a French cuisine expert, and the best thing on the menu is the house salad. Trust me, women know what salads taste like. We want you to indulge us, make us feel like you want to feed us delicious treats and make us plump. Don’t ask, its complicated.
5. Don’t buy her clothes…just don’t.
Some women may love the fact that their man buys them clothes, but come the day you buy one size bigger, that dress is going to be in the garbage along with you. You don’t need to buy us clothes, and as women, we should not be asking men to do our shopping for us. Don’t feel obligated…buy her a gift card always.
6. Grab the most insecure part of her body & tell her you love it.
It may be her butt or love handles, if you know she is insecure about specific parts of her body, let her know that you love them, to the extent that it turns you on. You have the ability to build her up, only making her a better partner in the relationship, and you getting more action.
7. If you think she is lacking confidence, make her feel like the sexiest woman on the planet.
Go out and buy her lingerie or just grab her and tell her how hot she is. She will probably give you the “Oh stop!” but inside heart is pounding with joy. Even the most confident women in the world go through these spurts.
8. Mind your own business when it comes to her eating habits.
Tell her to get dessert when you go out to eat. You don’t have to be our nutritionist or personal trainer, in fact we prefer that you are not. Its our body, not yours, and if you don’t like it then leave. Trust me the damage of a break up is not half as bad as the damage of body shaming.
9. Remind her that you love every inch of her body.
Remind her every once in a while that you love the design of her body shape. This is not a daily thing. Things in the environment we live in have the ability to really make women feel insecure, especially physically. The last thing we want, is for our safe place to be the place we feel the most insecure.
10. If you are concerned that she is gaining weight, ask the right way.
It is all in the approach! If you are concerned about fast weight gain or loss, do not ask…“Hey why are you putting on a lot of weight?” instead ask, “Hey, are you feeling okay these days? Is something bothering you?” Excessive weight gain or loss in a short amount of time usually has to do with something going on inside her head, not her stomach.
Just remind yourself, happy mind=happy body=even happier you. Think if you have a little sister, daughter or niece, how would you feel if you saw them in pain because someone made them feel ashamed of their body. If a a guy made her weigh herself in front of him to humiliate her (true story). A real man defines his own type of beautiful. We are goddess divines, a piece of art, and we deserve to be loved by the artist.
We have all seen the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, and Kat’s memorable speech to Heath Ledger at the end of the movie. Familiar? While reading this post, think about Stigma as if it is a person. Stigma has influenced many in society to make negative assumptions about mental health conditions. Stigma is like a bully.
1o things I hate about stigma…
1. I hate the way you think every emotional reaction is a symptom of my “illness!”
I will never forget when a young guy emailed me with concern for his girlfriends mental health. “She freaked on me! Yelled, scream and threw me out! I texted her that I think her Bipolar is out of control and she should seek help!” My first question, “Well what did you do?” His response, “I hooked up with her roommate but…”
Just because a person has a diagnosis, or is in a bad spot mentally, does not mean that every emotional reaction is due to their condition. We are all human, and react in hostile ways when confronted with harmful words or actions by others.
2. I hate the way you assume I am violent or out of control.
People with a mental illness are more likely to be the victim of violent acts, than the perpetrator. Don’t let the media fool you! Most likely we are violent towards ourselves, not you.
3. I hate the way you feel about me professionally.
Jobs and mental health. Yikes! A mental health condition does not make a person incapable of succeeding. In my experience in the mental health community, most of the people I have met with a mental disorder are extremely successful. We are capable of more than you think.
4. I hate the way you think I am suppose to physically appear grimy.
To assume I have no fashion sense is rude! Sure I have my no make up, sweatpants, cheesy bread and greasy hair days…but doesn’t everyone? Yes, I do care about my physical appearance so please refrain from statements such as, “Oh my Gah I would have never assumed you had bipolar! You dress cute, and are really well made up!”
5. I hate the way you make negative assumptions about my condition.
When I revealed my diagnosis, I heard statements like, “I don’t think you got that, your just so positive!” As if having a mental condition means I am suppose to be negative and doing nothing with my life. A lot of people I have met with mental conditions are upbeat. If we are in a dark place, you usually don’t see us or hear from us.
6. I hate your lack of compassion.
It is not a “mental health problem,” its a “people problem.” In modern day society, people are less compassionate. Okay so you don’t think mental illness is a real condition, but what happened to simply helping someone in need. A person who is struggling despite your biased attitude.
7. I hate the way you think I am not capable of succeeding.
There are tons of people with mental health condition that succeed as parents, students and/or professionals. Our ability to reach a deeper level of emotion makes us more capable of success in a lot of areas.
8. I hate the way you make me feel like an outcast.
You are weird!–No you are just boring! Making someone feel different in a negative way is unacceptable. The ‘you can’t sit here’ attitude is a character flaw on your end regardless of someones condition.
9. I hate the way you are so judgmental.
You don’t know my story. You don’t know my struggle. The truth is most people really don’t understand mental health. Do not judge my condition before taking the time to observe my character.
10. I hate the way you think my mental health defines me.
Yes it is a part of me, and is something I deal with on a day to day basis, but it does not define who I am. We are defined by what we create in this world, who we love and how we do it, not by a disorder or disease.
But the sad part is I don’t hate you a bit, not even at all because ignorance-ness is a more dreadful disorder than mine.
This summer, I decided to take a road trip (via air) from east coast to west coast. Flying from the South to my hometown in Boston, MA to the sunny San Diego, and ending in Chicago. I felt it necessary to take a step back, and explore. With Bipolar 2 disorder spontaneous ideas can be frowned upon, which is understandable. However, ridding myself of all my spontaneous characteristics is unreasonable. In my travels, I feel refreshed. It has lead me to wonder why traveling has this impact on us. Here are 5 reasons why traveling helps your mental health.
You gain perspective.
We are each a single droplet in a huge ocean, and this is something you learn on the road. To see people around you from different cultures, in different positions, and situations, it allows you to realize that in the end everything is going to be okay.
You learn more about yourself.
Through your interactions with other people, you may find out things about yourself that you never knew before. There is an inner strength that is needed when you travel, especially on a solo adventure. This maybe the key to making you feel good about yourself, and realizing you are stronger than you think.
It gives you a chance to breathe.
The pressure and stress of life that you may be facing are silenced when you travel. It gives you a chance to reflect on your life, and breathe. Take a step back from social media, and live in the moment.
You feed off others energy.
You meet people on spontaneous adventures, and create unique connections with others. When you are down in the dumps, there is nothing better than feeding off the energy of other people.
Its a confidence booster.
Traveling encourages you to be self-efficient and independent. You create memories that are interesting, and that add excitement to your life. Traveling is a great way to turn your dull attitude into a fabulous one.
9 traveling quotes…
It was six years ago that I had my first major episode with Bipolar 2 while in College. I was living with a group of girls who this story is about. In the last month before I withdrew from school, I kept my struggle hidden from others, especially myself. Two days before I left, my parents were called by 2 of my friends. They told them that I was falling apart. Day by day I was getting worse. They realized they couldn’t help me, and decided not to tell the other girls. I do not like to talk about the pain of the past. However, a few days ago I learned that sometimes it is necessary to walk down memory lane, no matter how dark the road is…
This past weekend, I reconnected with friends who I hadn’t seen since the day I withdrew from school. Jenny, one of my best friends, planned the weekend. When we arrived to the house, we poured a cocktail, and sat outside. After an hour of blabbing, I heard little footsteps behind me. When I turned, my heart dropped. Sophie was walking towards me. Sophie and I were inseparable during my time in Boston. I hadn’t seen her since the day I left school. When I saw her I could have dropped to my knees. We all sat outside. It was just like it used to be. We reminisced about our lives over the last six years. It was magical. We laughed, we loved, we danced. However, I knew at some point I was going to have to confront what happened six years ago. On the second night we walked outside to sit on the patio. We pulled out a bottle of wine, a pack full of cigarettes and started to talk…
I let them lead the conversation (this is very rare). Sophie revealed to me her confusion over the last six years. As I saw her crumble in tears, I realized that it was not only me that needed closure, it was her. It was all of my friends. The day I had left, I closed that chapter, and refused to finish it. I had given them no explanation for my emotional episodes or distant behavior. I smiled as they walked out the door, and when they came back, I was gone.
Sophie looked towards me for some sort of reaction, and explained what she remembered about the day I left…
I was walking back from class. Someone called out to me and said, “Somethings going on with Hannah. She is outside of the health center crying and screaming about how she can’t take it anymore. She doesn’t want to live.” I couldn’t believe it. I kept walking, and then you were just gone, and I never knew what happened…
I have no recollection of this time.
You don’t remember Hannah? Jenny asked.
No. I don’t.
I sat there in disbelief. It was the first time in years I had to confront the darkest time of my life. With tears in her eyes Sophie asked me the question I had been dreading for 6 years. I revealed to her what happened and why it occurred.
Please tell me what happened?
I told her the details of what happened that day. I am still hesitant to share this part of my story publicly. She cried so hard I thought she would break. We all sat there in silence. The next day we woke up in one bed with smiles ear to ear. When we all separated, we hugged each other longer than we ever had.
Six years ago I met a group of girls, who, little did I know, would save me from myself. People who loved me so much they were willing to take the leap with me. They had to look at an empty room not knowing if the person they used to see dancing would ever be the same again. It built a strength in all of us, and an unbreakable bond. No matter the distance, we have a story unlike any other. We had no idea what we were doing or who we would become in the future. All we knew is that we loved each other, and one of us was slowly withering away. We are not friends, we are soulmates. This past weekend I realized that reflecting on our struggle is not something to be feared. It is an epic part of our story, and deserves to be shared. It is no longer my story, it is our story. A story about friendship, strength and genuine love.
To Jenny, Sophie, Michelle, Kim, Cayla, Alex, Katie, Cody & Kara. Thank you for never giving up on me, always supporting me and loving me endlessly. I would not be here without you.
It is important for those of us who have struggled with our mental health to understand that we are not the only ones hurting in these situations. The people around us suffer, and have their own story that deserves to be heard. If you have a friend who is struggling with their mental health. Please look to my H2H Support Page or H2H Resource Page! Don’t give up on those you love.
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