I’ve never been in a relationship. I’ve been on dates, sure, but none of these potential relationships lasted past the second date.
I’ve heard that I’m picky — that I’m not vulnerable enough, or that I’m just plain afraid of being in a relationship.
I don’t think others’ thoughts hold any real bearing on my own thoughts and emotions when the prospect of a relationship presents itself.
I know what I’m looking for. I know what my type is. Either because of a poor fit or because I’ve been too nervous, pushy, or paranoid, it’s never clicked.
For the last 8 years, I’ve had a major potential red flag hanging over my head: The diagnosis of a major mental illness.
When exactly do you tell someone you have schizophrenia?
I’ve been symptomatically stable for years. Although there have been periods of uncertainty and minor episodes, there’s never been any episodes of wild phone calls or threats that someone might mistakenly associate with a lover who has a mental health condition.
I’ll be the first to admit that at times my impulse control has been a little out of whack, but never to a high degree.
There have also been times when I completely misread a situation as flirting when it was simply friendly joking or being nice. That’s cost me a couple of friendships that afterward I regretted screwing up.
I am a good guy, though. My friends say so, and my parents say so.
Their concessions, however, mean little in the heat of the moment when a girl asks “So what do you do?” and I respond “I’m a writer for Salon.” She’ll then inevitably ask what I write about and I’ll inevitably tell her I write about issues facing mental illness and schizophrenia.
Of course, she’ll then ask if I have a background in psychology and that’s when I have to make a decision. Do I tell her that I was diagnosed with schizophrenia 8 years ago after I took a trip to the U.N. where I thought I was a prophet and I was trying to save the world?
Do I tell her an outright lie — something along the lines of “My brother has schizophrenia?”
Or should I say that I majored in psychology when in fact I only ever took Intro to Psych, but my illness has made me an expert? Or do I simply say, “I just have a history with the subject” and leave it at that?
The truth is, for the longest time, I was a nervous wreck. I doubt I would’ve been able to consider dating without stressing out and losing a bit of my grip on reality.
In most of my dating encounters, the subject of schizophrenia may have never even been broached, but it’s scary to imagine what would’ve happened had it been.
In situations where the ice has broken and they know, though, it quickly devolves from a date to a several hours-long explanation of all their anxieties and drug problems and psychological history simply because they trust me with the information.
Once that happens, it’s hard to keep the new spark alive — and whether I like it or not, a friendship, perhaps dysfunctional, has been formed.
I don’t consider this a bad thing, and I’m always up for listening, but I just kind of wish it had gone another way.
I won’t judge you if you tell me these things. I will listen to you for hours and give you my perspective if you ask for it, but at this point I’d rather cuddle with someone than listen to their history of drug use and emotional anxiety — in those early dates at least.
In the mental illness community, there also exists this idea that people like us can’t possibly date people without mental health conditions unless they’re psychiatric doctors or nurses or have some history with mental illness in their families.
The belief is that no one can truly understand what it’s like to have a mental illness unless they’ve either experienced it or been around it long enough.
I don’t think that should be a limitation. After all, everyone has anxieties; everyone has insecurities; everyone has a little paranoia from time to time. So, to a degree, everyone can kind of relate.
I’ve come to the point in my life, though, that I’ve accepted my insecurities. I’m as confident in myself as ever, and I know what I can and can’t do.
I think that dating is something that I might be able to do. I think that maybe, if given the chance, I could find the right time to kiss a girl, I could find the right time to tell her I think she’s beautiful, and I could find the right time to let her know she’s loved.
Call me a romantic, but I think love can exist for a person with schizophrenia if the conditions are right.
It can exist if the friendship is there, if the stability is there, if the humor is there, and if the self-confidence is there.
Sadly, stability and self-confidence are things that don’t always come easily for people with mental health conditions.
It takes work, and it takes time to develop those things. I do think that it can happen — and not just with people who are also living with an illness, but with anyone. At least I would hope so.