Disclosure: I’ve always hated dating, even before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I consider everything before a steady weekend date and the reasonable expectation of monogamy to be “dating.” I’d be happy to fast-forward past the stilted conversation and everyone showing their “representative” to get to the good part: a relationship. I’m good at those. But since you can’t have a relationship until you go on a few dates, I cast my net throughout the Internet to see if I can catch anything good without triggering my disease. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Don’t Go On A Date When You’re Feeling Depressed
I found my first Internet date after my bipolar disorder diagnosis on a very popular site that promised the most matches. The choices I was given weren’t exactly matches, but I decided to connect with an average-looking gentleman who was outside my usual educational requirements. He’d been very sweet over email and on the phone, so I decided to meet him for dinner at an upscale Mexican restaurant. We talked companionably until, out of nowhere, I started to cry. Right in the middle of the entrée. I was able to compose myself in the ladies room. When I came back to our table, he was very understanding and even wanted to continue the date. I had him take me home.
My tears were probably due to my bipolar disorder and other factors. My Mexican food companion was my first date after a relatively gut-wrenching breakup. I thought that I was over my ex at the time, but I apparently had some unresolved feelings. As for my condition, I was feeling a little depressed that day and had to rally to make the date. When I’m depressed, my emotions are more volatile than usual; being on a date with a new person made me realize what I’d lost with my ex, and that was enough to make me have a meltdown. I hope that guy still tells the “That time my date cried” story.
Not Every Date Needs to Know All About Your Bipolar Disorder
After being disappointed with the first dating site, I decided to look for dates a little closer to home: through Facebook. Now, I don’t go trolling through my friends’ friends lists for cute single men. Well, not that much at least. But I did date someone who reached out to me. We’d gone to school together from elementary through the end of high school and had been Facebook friends for about a year. When he asked me out, I was surprised yet flattered since I’d long thought he was cute. However, it had been a few years since I’d dated anyone and I felt some trepidation. As I often do, I blogged about how I felt. My blog was posted to Facebook. High School Guy read my posts, and he liked them.
Over the course of about a month, we went on two dates, with me blogging about both of them. My writing was full of the anxiety and distaste I generally feel for the dating process, along with some general details about my date. He read those too. And after our second date, he started to lose interest. We talked less and less until finally he admitted that he no longer had romantic feelings for me. He denied it, but I’m pretty sure he was overwhelmed by all of my emotions being shared via my blog. And it probably wasn’t just the blog posts about him, but also the ones I’d written which detailed my disease. So I’m probably not going to let my dates read my blog anymore, or at least not until the relationship has progressed further. But looking on the bright side, as for High School Guy, it turns out that he was into polyamory, and since I don’t share men I definitely dodged a bullet there.
Quantity, Not Quality
Right after the fiasco with High School Guy, I spread my dating profile across every site and app that I could find on Google. I figured that I needed to cast a very wide net to increase the likelihood of finding someone I might like. I was wrong. All it did was increase the chances of every 65-year-old creeper man who lives in his mama’s basement and every young buck who thinks that 40-year-old women are desperate reaching out to holler. Listening to my phone buzz with match alerts felt like the old-school “You’ve got mail” announcement from AOL. And every time I opened the sites to see somebody’s uncle dressed in polyester claiming he wanted to take me bowling, I cringed.
Every one of us, not just folks with bipolar disorder, hate disappointment. A lot of us, not just people with mental illness, feel rejected when nobody worth our time likes us on dating sites. I felt the same way, in addition to some negative thoughts about my looks and my ability to attract the kind of man I want. Then again, lots of “normal” people probably feel that way too at times. So what I learned in my attempt to find love on the Internet was that I’m resilient, I have a sense of humor, and I’m probably not going to use another dating site…
As for Facebook, I’ve got another man on the line over there, and I don’t plan on letting him see my blog unless we’re engaged.
Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.