The Difficulty Of Dating When You Have A Mental Health Problem

If you have walked into any shops or restaurants in the past few weeks, you may have noticed a lot of brightly coloured hearts in various shades of fuchsia splashed about all over the place. Cards with hearts on, posters with hearts on, even giant teddy bears holding hearts (which is biologically confusing as without the heart how is the bear able to breathe and thus hold the heart at all…unless he is holding someone else’s heart in which case that is pretty damn sinister if you ask me). Funnily enough this is not because February is a month in which humans feel the need to celebrate the life giving aortic pump caged within our ribs (or in the hands of a rather terrifying and possibly murderous teddy bear), all this heart shaped nonsense is because tomorrow is Valentine’s day. Personally I have never understood why you should need a holiday to remind you to let your partner know that you love them, but I suppose it is better to have a day dedicated to love than something horrible like punching puppies in the face. Nevertheless, I still find it quite a difficult holiday as it is one that reminds me all too loudly of the detrimental effect my mental health has on my love life.

To sum up my current “love life” I guess you could simply say that it is non existent and has been this way for several years. During my life, in times in which my mental health has been better, I have somehow managed to have two “proper” relationships thus far, both of which it can be argued ended either because my mental health problems were actively getting worse or because they simply became too overwhelming for my partner (which was totally understandable in both situations.)
I guess in a way it is good that the main reason for both of my relationships collapsing is centred around an illness because at least an illness can be cured and could potentially disappear one day. Had the problem been a weird habit of belting out ABBA’s greatest hits in my sleep, that would perhaps be more frustrating, as to my knowledge there is no cure for that kind of thing. When it comes to OCD, depression and anorexia however, I know there are people who have got better and hopefully one day I will be able to count myself among them.
Truthfully though, I cannot see that happening. I would love it if it did and I will never stop working towards that goal, but realistically the chances are pretty slim, and even professionals have admitted that I am going to struggle with my illnesses for the rest of my life, maybe not to the same extent as I do now, yet chances are they will always be there. Assuming these predictions are right then, any relationship I ever have is going to involve my mental health problems having some kind of an impact, and that is the kind of thing that inspires the classic “I am going to die alone” worry considering my mental health problems have been the destruction of all former attempts at having a partner. I can’t even do what most people who fear this do and resign myself to the identity of being a “crazy cat person” because I don’t think I could handle four little paws spreading potential bacteria around my house let alone a whole litter’s worth… What back up is there to the “crazy cat person” back up plan? The only option is to be simply “the crazy” person…That doesn’t sound fun…

I think relationships are actually one of the biggest struggles faced by people with mental health problems but it is a struggle people rarely talk about because admittedly it feels a little embarrassing. Nevertheless, it is because nobody really talks about it that I think it is so important to talk about it. If I struggle with and worry about this kind of thing whilst feeling totally alone in it, amongst other people my age who are doing things like getting married and giving birth, then there is a high chance that there are other crazy people out there who feel the same and need to know that it isn’t abnormal. Indeed, I think the impact mental health can have on relationships is seriously under reported. The instability of my mood, the inability to touch most things, the compulsion to clean obsessively, body image issues blocking the way to physical intimacy, trust me, the list of obstacles in my way is endless, and those are the problems you face when you have actually managed to get into a relationship in the first place.

Nowadays before you can even get to that stage you have to go through the terrifying minefield that is otherwise known as “dating”. I know that a lot of my friends have been on these “dates”, but mental health wise I cannot get my head around the idea. For one thing, where are they meeting all these people with whom they go on dates?
Usually people come into contact with potential romantic entanglements during social events or hobbies, but because of my mental health I am rarely at social events and my only hobbies are things like repeatedly tapping doorhandles which is a relatively solitary pass time. The only places I tend to go regularly when I leave the house are therapy appointments, so the only people I meet are mental health professionals, and I think it is pretty frowned upon to start dating your psychologist.

Considering we are currently in the age of internet dating you may think that my lack of social skills in real life are no longer an issue as I could easily meet someone on one of these websites like match.com or an app like “Tinder” (WHAT THE HELL IS TINDER. Everyone has it and from what I gather it is just a lot of swiping…what are we swiping…where are things going when we swipe them out of view…should I want to be swiped? WHAT IS GOING ON).
Thing is, though I have never been on any of these websites myself, from what I gather they involve putting pictures of yourself online as well as a brief description of your personality. A brief description of my personality? What the hell can I write there? “Totally bonkers”? Who would look at that and think “well I want to spend the rest of my life with that insane creature”. Of course I could easily lie and write something like “I am a totally sane and calm human who is not crazy at all and likes long walks on the beach” (massive lie. I HATE the beach), but that seems far too much like false advertising. Ok, people false advertise in adverts all the time (like with that mermaid Barbie I wanted when I was 7…she wasn’t a real mermaid! I threw her in the bath and she didn’t even float let alone swim. What kind of mermaid sinks? LIES I SAY), yet despite its acceptability in general life the idea of putting myself online without mentioning my mental health issues isn’t just false advertising, rather it is dishonest. The truth is that at the moment there is no aspect of me that does not involve some kind of mental health complication, and were I to ever get into a relationship again, that would be something that I would have to be open about from the start.

Then even if you have mental health problems and manage to somehow get a date with your restricted daily schedule and unattractively marble free online profile, how the hell do you actually go on the date you somehow acquired? Usually a date will include something like a meal, but with my eating disorder a meal out is basically impossible and in terms of OCD any other activity like bowling is ruled out too. YOU CAN’T BOWL IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO TOUCH THE BALLS. Then there are the obvious issues caused by general anxiety, social anxiety and depression making everything more complicated, as well as OCD worries like the fact I wouldn’t be able to hold open a door for anyone which would look very rude, and that isn’t getting into the inability to hold someone’s hand or touch their skin without panicking. How can you advertise all that on an online dating profile or ask someone on a date in that situation? “Hi, my name is Katie, I would love to go on a date with you…but there can be no food involved or if there is food I will just have to watch you eat…also we can’t do any activity that involves touching objects in public or each other…and I need you to be aware that I might cry at random moments without warning…yeah…thats about it…CALL ME!..but not on my phone…phones are scary…CONTACT MY MOTHER.”

Maybe I am panicking a little too much about all this as I know everyone worries about the whole “dying alone” thing, but I have to say that with mental health problems the whole dating world and romantic stuff does get a lot more complicated. If I put on my optimist’s hat (it is purple with a penguin on), I like to think that in the end I will read this post back one day with my future wife and laugh at what a fuss I made worrying about something that really will be ok in the end.
Reading this back I now realise that I haven’t actually given helpful or constructive advice on how to date or manage a relationship with mental health problems. Instead I have simply splurged my anxieties all over you (apologies for splurging), but I hope that I have started some kind of discussion or raised some awareness as to the impact mental health problems can have on one’s love life. Right now I don’t think I am qualified to give any romance advice anyway, yet if ever I find myself able to manage the dating world rather than panic at the thought, any tips I do learn will be passed on to you. For now at least I have helped my fellow relationship worriers out there know that they are not alone and not a freak for being unable to go on Tinder or go on dates and have fun like everyone else this Valentine’s day.
Even though none of you are my other halves I still send each and every one of you a lot of love this Valentine’s day and every day of the year…You can thank me by getting me a date with Helena Bonham Carter, or at least getting her to call me (and by me, I mean my mother).

Take care everyone x

datingmhproblems

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16 thoughts on “The Difficulty Of Dating When You Have A Mental Health Problem

  1. You’re not alone in this 🙂 I honestly don’t know how people can date someone, then break up and immediately find someone else. I haven’t found anybody in like 23 years and to be fair it’s more convenient for me not to have a partner (no meals/drinks out, no panic about messed up meal times, no panic about having to socialize etc). Maybe we have to find someone with the same mental illnesses.

    PS: I love your blog, I have anorexia, depression and ocd as well, it’s good to know that I’m not alone in this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww thank you so much for this comment! When it comes to the whole romance and dating world related issues of mental health I often feel more alone than ever and this has been a lovely comfort to me! (Although of course I don’t want you to be going through this too…but since you are it is nice to know about it so that we can stand in solidarity!) Maybe we will both find someone with the same illness eventually or just someone who understands. Either way, I hope it works out for both of us and in the meantime know that I totally relate to you on this one! Thank you so much! Hope you are having a great day xx P.s Also thank you so much for your P.s, I don’t think I have ever found anyone else who truly gets the anorexia AND OCD thing! Yay for not being alone again! xx

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  2. Fabulous post Katie! I feel exactly the same way. I never had a boyfriend and i just feel so weird about it. All of my friends are dating and I’m just here…. alone. Not that long ago, I thought that I would finaly be in a relationship. I liked the boy, the boy liked me… and then I had a major panic attack. He was so scared when he saw me like that. He walked away and left me for some other girl. You know, a “normal” girl. I felt so bad. And you know what my psychiatrist said to me? “Maybe he left you because you are too skinny”.
    Anyways, I hope you find someone that loves no matter what. You deserve it.
    Kisses from Portugal ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh! What is wrong with that psychiatrist! How rude! Unfortunately I think there are a lot of people out there who can find mental health problems “too much” in a partner so I can totally relate on that experience. One day I hope we both find our “I will love you no matter what” people as I can reassure you as you did to me, you certainly deserve it! Always here for you lovely, kisses from England ❤ xxx

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  3. I have this fear too. Well, it’s not so much a fear… because it’s basically my reality. I’m 40. I had a relationship from the age of 19 to 29. I’ve got enough to worry about right now, so finding some sort of life mate is not on the top of my list of to-dos! M’dear, drop this worry down a few notches. Don’t freak. You have enough on your plate (errrr, bad way of saying it I guess with an ED!) and don’t need to worry that you’ll be forever alone/die alone. And you’re young. So young! 🙂 I know it can be really frustrating to see all your friends couple up and move on in different ways of their lives. Soon they’ll probably start getting married. Then have kids… and then you’ll hardly be able to communicate with them because when people have kids, it’s like they acquire those brain slugs like in the show Futurama.

    All you can do is focus on you and what would make you happy. Right now the timing’s not right for dating. That can definitely change! You’re not dooming yourself to the spinster life by not doing it right now. 🙂

    But if you decide to become a crazy cat lady (is there really such a thing?!) maybe there is a robot cat that is cleaner. Does that exist now? I know there are robot dogs!

    I hope this comment isn’t too preachy. It’s not meant to be. (BTW look up the brain slugs if you didn’t catch that reference, haha.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • THIS IS BY FAR THE MOST REASSURING THING I HAVE EVER HEARD IN RESPONSE TO MY LACK OF LOVE LIFE STRESSES. Just yesterday two more people my age announced weddings and put up pictures of ultrasound foetuses and it freaked me out! You are totally right though, right now it really is NOT the time for dating but that doesn’t mean that is forever…maybe I will move that one down a few notches (like you said, I have a lot on my plate lol). I’m sure we will both find our “people” one day and if not, maybe that is ok because robot dogs! Thank you so much as always for knowing exactly what I needed to hear…now if you don’t mind I am off to look up brain slugs as I have no idea what they are….). Happy Valentine’s Day my dear xxxx

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  4. Oh, re: Tinder. (I don’t use it, never have)… but swiping means you’re passing on the person, I think. Also, I think most people seem to use it as a hook up app. I don’t even know. Geez, I’m old…

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  5. You are absolutely right in what you say. I had never been on a date until the age of 25 because dates inevitably involve food/alcohol, none of which were acceptable to anorexia. But, when I began ‘properly’ recovering and I wanted to start dating (even though it was terrifying, anxiety provoking etc), the actual dating aided my recovery as it forced me to be put in horribly difficult situations eg restaurant meals, drinks, spontaneous ice creams etc and to deal with them. Once I had begun to recover properly, I think perhaps the idea of finding a partner was more enticing than sitting alone at home with anorexia as I had done for the previous 12 years and I noticed that I actually found it easier to be in food situations with a potential suitor who I fancied than with my family.

    Regarding your online dating profile, don’t forget YOU ARE NOT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH DIAGNOSES. If I were to write a description for you, I would say something like ‘a witty, articulate penguin-lover’. Tinder doesn’t even require you to write about yourself – you can leave that part blank and still match with people.

    Something that I struggled with in dating is my low self esteem which often accompanies mental health problems. I’d have thoughts of ‘he’ll never like me’, ‘he’s way out of my league’, ‘why hasn’t he replied to my message? Maybe he doesn’t like me anymore’ etc and it has been a steep learning curve but I eventually learned not to take these things so personally – after all, it’s not like you can actually get to know someone by going on one or two dates with them so any rejection should be taken in your stride (easier said than done!).

    I have now been ‘seeing’ someone for 7 months and whilst I still sometimes find myself in uncomfortable food situations eg I see him cooking for me and FRYING things or going for meals and drinks out – which we do around once a week – I endure the uncomfortable feelings (and sometimes actually enjoy the food/drinks) because I have come to value the relationship over my eating disorder.

    That said, relationships are not all they are cracked up to be and they can be unhealthy for example if they become co-dependent, and they can encourage worry and stress if there are misunderstandings/miscommunications. Perhaps you are not in the best place to date at the moment, but that is not to say you won’t reach a more mentally robust place in the future. I bet you never thought you’d be able to cope with a busy Xmas temp job, but you did. Just because things seem impossible right now, it doesn’t mean they can’t happen in the future.

    Another important thing to remember is that one in four people has a mental health problem. ONE IN FOUR. That means that out of every four dates you have, statistically speaking, one of those dates would have had a mental illness of some degree. Mental illness is so prevalent in our society that it would be impossible to only encounter and date people without one.

    In my opinion, any girl would be lucky to be in a relationship with you.

    P.S. IGNORE the nasty professionals who have told you that you can’t get better. I was told the same – labelled a ‘chronic anorexic’, a ‘severe and enduring case’, someone whose best hope was to ‘manage’ in the community at a low weight, yet here I am at a healthy weight enjoying life. No, I’m not cured, but I am living a ‘normal’ day to day life and I harbour much resentment towards the professionals who told me this would not be possible, as I spent a long time believing them and not really trying to recover because it seemed there was no point.

    P.P.S. Sorry for the essay!

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    • I was already loving this comment and finding it very reassuring enough, but then I got to the bit about you “seeing” someone at the moment and suddenly I couldn’t help but start beaming in the kitchen where I was reading it (suffice it to say I have NEVER beamed in the kitchen before). It is so lovely to hear that though all this stuff remains a mine field that is difficult to navigate, it IS possible and does happen. If I am honest I would also probably have to agree with you on the “now isn’t the right time” as I know I am one of those people who tends to put their entire self worth into a relationship and make the other person the sole basis on which to focus recovery which inevitably leads to disaster if the relationship ends. One day I really hope I can do as you say and be more mentally robust/able to have a relationship as a nice bonus in recovery rather than the reason for my entire existence. I have decided I am going to listen to your advice on the “chronic thing” too. It is a nice thought to think that someone out there has hope that things can change. Seriously thank you so much for all this. I feel so lucky to have your support and advice
      right now. We need more people like you in this world. Please work on cloning yourself in the next few months. Thanks. Hope you are having a good day, much love and support xxxx

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  6. Another brilliant post! You write so so well and I love reading them (though I hate that your life is so hard). Hi.
    I don’t really know what to say but wanted to say this (if that makes sense. Words not my strong point!).
    I was always so terrified of ‘dating’ (even the word makes my skin crawl), not for quite the same suite of reasons as you but because such low esteem always made me feel like anyone on a date with me would be mocking me and I would be completely humiliated and crushed and would regress.
    I started seeing someone a few years ago after an evening of exceptional bravery. For the first few months/even years, every 5 minutes my brain would tell me I wasn’t good enough and was ruining his life and he was just too nervous about my mental health to dump me. But he didn’t dump me, nor did he want to. I realise now… It took many years of him literally holding my hands to stop me cutting myself, and reassuring me almost constantly (all the while my guilt was skyrocketing and making me feel way worse than if I didn’t have him). But over time it’s started to trickle into my brain and I’m now so so much better than I’ve ever been.
    There are really good people out there, ones who see you through the demons and stuff that stomp on you at the moment. And it’s not right for everyone, and might not be the right time now, and it’s definitely not necessary for a happy life. But there really is hope, I think. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww thank you so much for your comment on my blog! It is very reassuring and gives me a boost to hear that there are people who like reading my ramblings of nonsense! I also cannot thank you enough for sharing your experience and giving me a little burst of hope that dating with mental health problems doesn’t have to be a disaster and there are people out there who are able to deal with it (not that I blame the ones that don’t…I am well aware that I am often a nightmare to live with). I am also glad to hear that you have found someone who is so supportive! I can tell from that comment alone that you are a very lovely person who is certainly deserving of love. Just today you typed a lovely comment to a stranger on the internet! That my friend makes you a good, kind, caring and WORTHY person. I really hope things continue on the up for you. Thank you for making me feel less alone, I hope you are having a wonderful day ❤ xxx

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  7. That’s a loverly post tinged with some sadness.
    Needless to say, you are definitely not alone. I myself have and still do suffer with such MH issues and also found myself single for a long time. After a couple of years the right person did come along though, and although we are not together now, it was just the confidence boost I needed for the next time.
    From what I see and from what I’ve read in your blog, I am certain it will happen for you when you least expect it….. A person who you will be completely comfortable with and who accepts you as you are.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My goodness what a lovely and reassuring comment. I think the hardest thing about all of this MH romance stuff is feeling alone in the difficulty, so it is incredibly comforting to hear of other people who understand. The end of your comment also gave me a little boost of hope so thank you so much for being lovely to me. I really hope you find your special person who accepts and supports all your wonderfulness too. Sending much support and kindness your way xxx

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