Writing an Online Dating Profile While Mentally Ill

What women really think about news, politics, and culture.
July 18 2014 1:15 PM

Dating While Mentally Ill

There is no good time to tell a guy I like about my condition.

140718_DX_DatingMentallyIll

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

“My name is Molly. I'm 36, single, live in Brooklyn, and work in publishing. I love gloomy Victorian novels, obscure Korean horror films, Premier League soccer, and knitting. I'm 5-foot-5, slim, with brown hair and brown eyes. I am looking for a serious relationship. I suffer from mental illness.”

That dating profile is going to get me nowhere.

Finally verging on being over a long-term, on-and-off relationship, I am both excited and terrified at the prospect of a new one. On one hand, I am the most self-confident I have ever been. On the other hand, the tangle of depression, anxiety, OCD, and borderline personality disorder in my head came fairly close to talking me into a swan dive off of a fifth-floor Paris balcony last week. (If you’ve never suffered from depression, it might sound nonsensical that I would do this at my most self-confident. If there’s one thing I know about depression, though, it’s that it’s devoid of logic, and you can feel your lowest and your highest all at once.)

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It's been years since I've been faced with the question of when to tell someone promising, Hey, there’s maybe a few things you should know. My M.O. has long been to fess up immediately. This can come off as sort of romantic, in a Wuthering Heights, Lykke Li ballad kind of a way. But quickly guys realize that what might be absorbing on the page or on Spotify is both tiresome and scary in real life.

My dating history is checkered, to say the least. It's mostly a trail of intense but short-lived relationships, with a few regrettable one-night stands sprinkled here and there. A boy I met in grad school lasted a year, but we were too hot-tempered to coexist in the same air. A couple of unhappy years with someone back home who loved me when I did not love him. A good eight years were wasted on someone I dated briefly and became obsessed with once he ended it. It was the most tangible manifestation of my illness I’ve experienced, and it makes me sick to think about. Would anything have been different had I waited longer to tell these guys about my illness? It’s hard to say.  

I am not ashamed of my condition. Or not exactly. I think there is still a lot more stigma than we admit, and every joke someone cracks about being “so OCD” makes it harder to explain that while you all think you’re totally cool with me being obsessive-compulsive, it’s a lot more than lining up pencils and touching the light switch. Men have broken up with me after getting only a glimpse of my worst looming on the horizon, and others have stayed with me through abhorrent behavior because they were afraid of what I might do if they left.

I have no qualms about someone seeing my cellulite, but I am afraid of him seeing my self-inflicted scars; I'm not sure I would trust a person who had caused herself such violence, so why should he trust me? I am getting ready to switch medications, which can be ugly. Can I—should I—invite someone along for the ride? I've seen how my illness affects my loved ones, and as much as I long for marriage and children, I often think everyone might be better off if I moved to a secluded fjord in Iceland and just sent postcards.

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