Dating sucks. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. But maybe I should amend my statement and say that finding someone to date sucks. There are thousands, nay, millions of people searching for love at any given time, making decisions about which people to accept, which to reject, and which to simply ignore. For me, however, handling the rejection and my bipolar disorder — even when I’m the one doing the rejecting — is one of the most difficult aspects of dating and relationships.
I’ve had a lot of therapy and learned a lot of techniques to regulate my emotions and stop the negative thoughts that trigger my bipolar depression. I’ve been taught how to react to other people’s behavior. But I don’t really know how to react to my own. This deficiency becomes evident when I deal with rejection and bipolar disorder as the one doing the rebuffing.
Like everyone else, I’m using online dating apps and have met a few people I like, but there are countless others who I don’t give the time of day. As per the rules of modern communication, I ignore unwanted messages, ones that are misspelled or offer no substance. Then there are well-written messages from men I find undesirable, ones I don’t find attractive, who take selfies in public bathrooms or who have no interests beyond going to work and watching TV. I know myself well enough to know what I want in a relationship, but I always feel guilty tossing aside men based on first impressions. I start to think that I have no business critiquing someone’s spelling when I have a chronic disease. Or I wonder if maybe that man I didn’t find attractive would look better in person, if his looks would grow on me after a few good dates.
The second-guessing of my choices can lead me down a road of self-inquiry and degradation where I question my ability to choose a mate for myself. I’m reminded of past romantic failures. I wonder if I’d be better off letting my dad pick out my boyfriends. I begin to think I’m useless for a while until I remember that I have a lot to offer a potential suitor. I’m well-educated and funny. I’m very caring and an excellent cook. I spend a lot of time making my man happy as long as he makes me happy. And besides that, I’m sexy, if I do say so myself. Why can’t I be picky? Just because I have bipolar? Everyone has issues.
Certainly, there are times when rejection and bipolar disorder don’t lead me to a good place, and those times are also when I’m being rejected. Getting ignored on OkCupid or having a man ghost me is par for the dating course. But the rejection that hurts me most comes from people who don’t even get a chance to know me. I can handle the chorus of “no fat chicks”; I’m full-figured, and I realize that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. But when I feel like I’m being rejected straight away because of my disease, I feel personally and politically jilted. When I read dating profiles that bad-mouth depression or people who take “happy pills,” it makes me feel like less of a person. And when I feel like less of a person, I have negative thoughts, sometimes about closed-minded people, but mostly about myself and how I’ll never find love because of my disease. And that’s the hardest part of dealing with dating rejection and bipolar disorder. The feeling that I’m undesirable and that maybe I should just settle for whatever man will have me. That feeling coaxes me to date men who I know are no good for me. It urges me to stay with a bad boyfriend because my mental illness prevents me from deserving better.
Rejection is difficult for everyone, whether you’re rejecting or being rejected. We will all go through some form of it over the course of our lives with varying results. However, managing the emotional outcome of rejection and bipolar disorder is a harder task and one that can yield negative consequences, including clinical depression.