Dating during your twenties is an experience in itself, but when you live with a severely stigmatized condition like bipolar disorder, dating can really be a challenge. As a 28-year-old mental health advocate who is publicly open about her life with bipolar II disorder, I have often experienced stigma in my dating life. Bipolar disorder is a part of me, and I am not ashamed of my condition, in fact, it is the opposite, I embrace it. However, dating—when you live with a mental health condition—can be complicated: When should you tell your date about your diagnosis? Should you even tell them at all? Will they think of you differently once they know? You have self-doubt, you question yourself, and mainly you assume you are the underdog in romantic relationships. When I accepted my diagnosis and life with bipolar disorder, I finally found my confident self, but I had to overcome some obstacles to get there.

I was in a toxic relationship where I was gaslighted by my boyfriend: he manipulated me into questioning my own sanity. He turned out to be a miserable person all around. We started dating around three years after my diagnosis—when I was just starting to publish my blog and open up about my struggle with mental health. Slowly he began to use my diagnosis of bipolar against me. In his mind, everything I said or did was a result of my mood disorder. When I suspected him of cheating, he made me feel as though bipolar prompted delusional ways of thinking. I questioned myself and my sanity, which was the wrong thing to do. But it was not long before concrete evidence of him cheating on me surfaced.

Rejected Because of Bipolar

After our breakup, it took me almost a year to feel like I could start dating again. When I finally got back into the dating world, I was very skeptical of people. I went into dates automatically on the defense. My guard was up and still is today. Past experiences with dating also include people asking about my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. On some dates, I have felt more like a therapist or consultant than a woman being courted. I have had men reject me based on my openness about bipolar disorder and tell me they don’t feel comfortable dating someone with “those types of issues.” There have been many dates where stigma plays a role, but I pay no attention to it anymore. These experiences have only made me stronger and more confident.

What I Know Now

Bipolar disorder does the dirty work for me and filters out individuals who tiptoe through life. The fact is, we all have issues, whether you live with bipolar disorder or not. And if someone won’t give you a chance because of a label, consider yourself lucky. Today I approach dating with one purpose— to have fun. Dating experiences can teach you a lot about yourself. In an attempt to mask my vulnerability, I have found that  I can be a bit harsh and overly confident in some situations.

Living with bipolar disorder gives you a very different perspective on the world around you. You look for meaning and depth in everything. We behave based on what we feel, not necessarily what we know is right or wrong. Sometimes this can lead us to be irresponsible and careless, but if handled properly, can actually be a gift to another person.

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In my opinion, everyone benefits from getting to know someone who is unlike them. I believe individuals with bipolar or any mental health condition add depth and understanding to a person’s life. We live in a society right now that lacks empathy and is void of emotion. The most empathetic people I know live with bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety.

My dating experiences have opened me up to individuals who are very different from me as well. I have learned a lot from men I’ve been romantically involved with—including the ones who have treated me poorly. It is important for people to remember that challenges are inevitable in romantic relationships regardless of if your partner has a mental health condition or not.

My advice to those who live with bipolar disorder and ready to enter the dating world is to make sure you are confident in yourself. Do not assume you are the underdog because you live with a mental health condition. Self-love and self-acceptance are so important when it comes to dating with bipolar disorder.

I never used to be a big fan of self-help books, but two books that have really helped me gain confidence are: “You Are a Badass: How To Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life” by Jen Sincero, and “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck” by Mark Manson. Give them a read for yourself and see how you can incorporate self-love into your life.

When you’re first getting to know someone I’d suggest letting the person get to know your character before opening up about your condition. It is not necessary for you to reveal your diagnosis up front. Wait until you feel comfortable, and believe that the other person deserves to hear about that part of your life. Know that you are a capable and unique individual who has something special to add to another person’s life. Remind yourself of that on a daily basis, and go into dating feeling proud of your differences.

 

Last Updated: Mar 21, 2018