I’ve never been in a relationship. I’ve dated, sure, but none of those potential relationships lasted beyond the second date.
I’ve heard that I’m picky, that I’m not vulnerable enough, or that I’m just afraid to be in a relationship.
I don’t think other people’s thoughts have any real bearing on my own thoughts and emotions when the prospect of a relationship comes up.
I know what I’m looking for. I know what my type is. Whether it was a bad fit or because I was too nervous, pushy or paranoid, it just never clicked.
For the past 8 years, I’ve had a major potential red flag hanging over my head: the diagnosis of a major mental illness.
When exactly do you tell someone they have schizophrenia?
I have been symptomatically stable for years. While there have been periods of uncertainty and minor episodes, there has never been an episode of wild phone calls or threats that someone might mistakenly associate with a lover who has a mental illness.
I’ll be the first to admit that my impulse control has been a little out of control at times, but never to a high degree.
There have also been times when I completely misinterpreted a situation as flirting when it was simply a friendly joke or being nice. This has cost me a couple of friendships that I later regretted sticking with.
I’m a good guy though. My friends say so and my parents.
His concessions, however, mean little in the heart of the moment when a girl asks “And you, what are you doing?” and I reply “I’m a Salon writer.” Then she will inevitably ask what I write about and inevitably I will tell her that I write about issues facing mental illness and schizophrenia.
Of course, then he’ll ask me if I have a background in psychology and that’s when I have to make a decision. Do I tell him I was diagnosed with schizophrenia 8 years ago after going on a trip to the UN where I thought I was a prophet trying to save the world?
I tell him an outright lie, something like “Does my brother have schizophrenia?”
Or should I say I majored in psychology when in fact I only took Intro to Psych, but my illness has made me an expert? Or do I just say, “I just have a story with the subject” and leave it at that?
The truth is that for a long time I was nervous. I doubt I would have been able to consider going out without stressing out and losing my grip on reality a bit.
In most of my dating encounters, the topic of schizophrenia might never have been broached, but it’s scary to imagine what would have happened if it had been.
In situations where the ice has been broken and they know it, however, it quickly goes from a date to a multi-hour explanation of all their anxieties and drug problems and psychological history simply because they trust me with the information.
Once that happens, it’s hard to keep the new spark alive, and whether I like it or not, a friendship, perhaps dysfunctional, has been formed.
I don’t see that as a bad thing, and I’m always willing to listen, but I wish it had gone the other way.
I won’t judge you if you tell me these things. I’ll listen to you for hours and give you my perspective if you ask, but right now I’d rather cuddle with someone than listen to their story of drug use and emotional anxiety, at least on those first few dates.
In the mental illness community, there’s also this idea that people like us can’t date people without mental health issues unless they’re psychiatric doctors or nurses or have some history of mental illness in their families.
The belief is that no one can truly understand what it’s like to have a mental illness unless they have experienced it or lived through it long enough.
I don’t think it should be a limitation. After all, everyone has anxieties; everyone has insecurities; everyone has a little paranoia from time to time. So, to some degree, everyone can relate.
I’ve gotten to the point in my life, though, where I’ve come to terms with my insecurities. I have more confidence in myself than ever and I know what I can and can’t do.
I think dating is something I could do. I think that maybe, if given the chance, I could find the right time to kiss a girl, I could find the right time to tell her I think she’s beautiful, and I could find the right time to kiss her know that he loves her.
Call me a romantic, but I believe that love can exist for a person with schizophrenia if the conditions are right.
It can exist if there is friendship, if there is stability, if there is humor and if there is self-confidence.
Unfortunately, stability and self-confidence are things that don’t always come easily to people with mental health issues.
It takes work and it takes time to develop these things. I think it can happen, and not just with people who also live with an illness, but with anyone. At least I would hope so.
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