Hi. My name is Ros. I love the food channel, Paulo Coelho is my favorite writer and I’m a fan of the Harry Potter series. I’m a strict vegetarian, I dabble in yoga (very frequently)…. and oh, I suffer from depression!
That’s not how I introduce myself, but that what I thought of saying when anyone asked me if and why I was single. When you suffer from a mental illness, dating can be somewhat tricky. You are not sure if you should tell the potential suitor on the first date, or wait a couple of dates. You are afraid of how they may react due to how those close to you have reacted. In most cases, you want to run back into your cave, and never come out. At least that is how I felt.
About two years ago I found myself dating a medical student. I was very excited because I thought I may have found someone that understands and can handle the reality of being with someone that has depression. However that wasn’t the case. After telling him my diagnoses and the potential pitfalls we may have in future, he told me that he doesn’t believe that depression is a real medication condition. The relationship ended shortly after that.
However this is not to say that depression was the cause of the break up. Rather it was my failure to understand my condition and what it means when entering a relationship that caused that relationship to fail. Below are a few things I learnt from the last two years of trying to date when suffering from a mental illness:
1. Date for the right reasons
There is this void that those with a mental illness know well. It is a void that seems to eat us from the inside, and so we try and fill it with anything we can find. Some resort to food, others to exercise, and many use other people. I, like many people, resorted to using others by entering the first thing that resembled a relationship. The relationship was not a healthy one, but I was too afraid of getting out. I was afraid that I wouldn’t find someone that could love a mess like me. I began to convince myself that maybe this was the best I could get.
That is the danger with failing to enter relationships for the right reasons. You begin to believe that you are deserving of less because you suffer from depression. And thus tolerate the name abuse that might come along with the relationship.
2. Be open about your illness
I am very open about my struggle with depression (hence the blog), but found it very difficult to be vocal about it with someone I liked. Saying it out loud around them felt like being diagnosed all over again. However if this person is someone you plan to be with for a long while, then you have to allow yourself to be in that position of vulnerability. I realized this with my current partner. He found out about my depression on my blog, and asked about it when I least expected it. I then had to make the decision whether I would underplay my depression, or tell it like it is especially on bad days.
Not everyone will appreciate your openness, but those that are worth your time will.
3. Don’t be offended when they ask questions
Most people only know about depression from what they see on TV. You are probably the first person that they know on a personal level that suffers from the illness, and you are nothing like what media as told them depression suffers are like. They may want to know what sets you off, or what you are like when you have an episode. They will want to know how long episodes last, and what you do to get out of those episodes. Theses questions are not to irritate you. These questions allow them to form a basis on how best to support you when you need them the most. So be open and honest when they ask questions.
4. Be open to support
it is very difficult for me to say I need help. Most of the times I feel like I am burdening someone else with my sorrow. Some days I convince myself depression is a contagious disease, that I will spread to others when I talk about it. However I soon realize that it stems from my fear of being vulnerable. I have learnt that it is okay to be vulnerable when in a healthy relationship. It is perfectly normal to ask for help, and to receive help even when you didn’t expressly ask for it. Those around you see your distress and your pain, no matter how hard you try and mask it. Allow them to love you by helping in anyway they know how.