Like anyone, people with schizophrenia want to make meaningful and romantic connections — but many have trouble meeting and interacting with people.
As a diagnosed schizophrenic who’s single, host Rachel Star Withers has plenty of experience dating with the condition. She shares her top tips on navigating romance with schizophrenia. From harnessing your personal style to treating your condition with humor, she’s got your back. She also throws in her favorite pickup lines that squeeze in the sometimes daunting topic of schizophrenia if you have trouble breaking the ice.
Psychotherapist and Life Coach Dr. Ashley Snyder also joins us to break down common mistakes people make when they start dating and building their dating app profile, advice for what to expect, and ways to meet a romantic partner.
Dr. Ashley Snyder (Psychotherapist/Life Coach) focuses on your entire well-being, physical and emotional, and knows there is a direct relationship between both. Dr. Snyder is directive and supportive in therapy sessions, optimistic that you can make significant improvements to your life and how you are feeling over time. She does not see therapy as a quick fix but believes in long-term change.
Her passion is working with you to create a well-rounded fulfilling life, and she practices what she preaches. She emphasizes deep meaningful therapy sessions along with other aspects such as healthy eating, exercise, hobbies, relationships and time in nature. She likes to be clear with goals and how therapy will work to guide you each step of the way.
Rachel Star Withers creates videos documenting her schizophrenia, ways to manage and let others like her know they are not alone and can still live an amazing life. She has written Lil Broken Star: Understanding Schizophrenia for Kids and a tool for schizophrenics, To See in the Dark: Hallucination and Delusion Journal. Fun Fact: She has wrestled alligators.
To learn more about Rachel, please visit her website, RachelStarLive.com.
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Schizophrenia. Hosted by Rachel Star Withers, an advocate who lives openly with Schizophrenia. We’re talking to experts about all aspects of life with this condition. Welcome to the show!
Rachel Star Withers: Welcome to Inside Schizophrenia, a Healthline Media Podcast. I’m your host Rachel Star Withers here with my great co-host Gabe Howard. And on this show we have talked about, in the past, relationships.
Gabe Howard: We have, many times. They’re popular subjects because people living with schizophrenia, they want to make meaningful connections just like everybody else.
Rachel Star Withers: Mm-hmm. And it’s great useful information if you’re in a relationship. But for many people with schizophrenia, me included, we’re not even at that point. We need tips and advice for getting a relationship, for meeting people, for dating. So that is what this episode is all about. To help us people with schizophrenia get dates and tips on dating.
Gabe Howard: So you’re currently single and you want to date. That’s the entry point, right?
Rachel Star Withers: Yes.
Gabe Howard: Does it sound weird to you, Rachel, that this would even need to be a discussion? Like dating with schizophrenia? Doesn’t it just seem like any advice for single people should apply to people with schizophrenia? Like, why do we need a special show on it?
Rachel Star Withers: My answer to that is yes and no. It’s easy for me to be like, Oh, well, all tips apply to us, but I am 37 and single, so I mean, just saying.
Gabe Howard: Do you feel that you’re single because you live with schizophrenia? Is that why?
Rachel Star Withers: I don’t think so. But again, I am 37 and single and I honestly, I do think it impacts things. For one with my schizophrenia, I don’t like going out and making new friendships, relationships. Like I just rather stay at home and that’s not healthy for me, wouldn’t be healthy for anyone. So in a way, yes, that absolutely impacts it. Thankfully today we have a guest, Dr. Ashley Snyder, who is not only a psychologist but a life coach. And we have a great interview with her because she gives us, meaning people with schizophrenia, some actual specifics, not just, hey, it’s, you know, different for everybody out there. She gives us some specifics on how to get dates.
Gabe Howard: And it is important to say everybody is different and your mileage may vary and you can’t listen to one single podcast and suddenly meet the love of your life. But I do grow tired, Rachel, of trying to seek out help, ideas, hints and tips and everybody telling me stuff like In your own time, Gabe. It’ll happen when it happens. You know, Gabe, everybody’s different and you can’t compare yourself to others. Yeah, I’m not doing any of those things. I’m looking for suggestions, things that I can try, things that I can do so that I can propel myself forward and be better in life. Is that. Is that too much to ask, Rachel?
Rachel Star Withers: Well, it is because you’re married.
Gabe Howard: Fair. Fair.
Rachel Star Withers: [Laughter]
Gabe Howard: You know, you joke that you’re 37 and single, but are you lonely? Are you okay with it? Is it? I mean, I think it’s sort of important for our listeners to know where your foundation is as you talk about your opinions on some of these items.
Rachel Star Withers: No, I think that’s absolutely important. And I have been in some relationships in the past that I was not happy. I am much happier as I am. I don’t want to be in a bad relationship. I don’t want to be in one where I’m just kind of like, Yeah, the person is okay, I don’t want that. I’d much rather be alone. I’m happy being alone. However, it’s also not the healthiest thing. I am aware of that aspect also.
Gabe Howard: All right. Well, Rachel, is there research on this?
Rachel Star Withers: I jumped in right away, googling everything I could. Dating with schizophrenia didn’t get much then dating with a severe mental illness, then dating with a mental disorder, you know, just kind of kept throwing my net wider. And again, there are so many articles about being in a relationship with someone who has schizophrenia or a personal story who’s telling me about their relationships. And those are great, great tips and stuff. Most of the articles I found were from the point of view of the significant other.
Gabe Howard: Not of the person living with schizophrenia?
Rachel Star Withers: Yes. It was the wife, the husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever. The person that they’re with got diagnosed when they were already together or that significant other fell in love with them before finding out they had schizophrenia. To me, all those articles were like, how to make the best out of a bad situation. I just kind of like, Oh my gosh, this person’s life is so hard that they’re with someone who has schizophrenia. Let me hear all their coping techniques.
Gabe Howard: I agree with you. The other really popular one is, look what a great person I am, right?
Rachel Star Withers: Yes.
Gabe Howard: I could have left them, but I didn’t. And it’s often I figured it out. I made it work. I got this going. It’s sort of like this sainthood, right? The person who stayed with the person with schizophrenia is a saint because schizophrenia reared its ugly head. And maybe in those relationships that’s true. Maybe there is an element of truth to it. I’m not trying to dismiss somebody else’s experience, but I got to tell you, as somebody who lives with bipolar disorder, if my wife ever described herself as my caregiver or thought that she was a saint for being married to me, that would hurt. And I have to imagine it’s the same for people living with schizophrenia. They want to be an equal in their relationship. They don’t want to be a burden, and they certainly don’t want to be somebody’s project or somebody’s reason for sainthood.
Rachel Star Withers: And I do personally feel that your wife is a saint for dealing with you, but has nothing to do with because you have bipolar.
Gabe Howard: Right. She’s a saint.
Rachel Star Withers: Yeah. Yeah.
Gabe Howard: For dealing with Gabe, not
Rachel Star Withers: Exactly.
Gabe Howard: Because of bipolar disorder, but because of.
Rachel Star Withers: Of Gabe.
Gabe Howard: That’s. That’s so mean, Rachel.
Rachel Star Withers: [Laughter] Well, something that has become very popular these past few years are life coaches. And a life coach is somebody who would help you navigate issues in your life and they actually tell you what they think you should do. So not just like a therapist who kind of listens and let’s get to the root, it’s more of okay, so your dating profile is terrible, you have a bad attitude, this is so they’re more direct and there’s actually dating coaches. That’s the next level of a life coach. They just focus on how to get you dates, to actually get dates and hopefully a second, third, fourth date.
Gabe Howard: But, this is not a concept that rose up because only people with schizophrenia can’t get dates. It’s a concept that rose up because everybody have needed coaching and assistance in this area.
Rachel Star Withers: So, you can actually find dating coaches who just focus on men who are shy. You can find ones that help with anxiety. And an area that’s really been growing is dating coaches who specialize in autism. And that’s partly because there is a Netflix reality show called Love on the Spectrum, and it’s a dating coach helping people with autism getting and keeping their relationships. Now, on that note, my own personal views. I haven’t watched the show, but I pulled up some clips and I think it’s really great that we have a show that is addressing the fact that there are people like us who who aren’t, quote unquote, normal, you know, and that, yes, we do date and yes, we want to meet people and things. However, in many of the clips I saw, the comedy was more directed at Ha ha, those people are funny. Like it was kind of exploitative versus Oh wow, what a funny situation. I can identify with that. Just many of the scenes to me kind of felt like what was funny was the people with autism and I’m from entertainment, so I know it’s a give and take. You know, any time people say, Hey, Rachel, what’s a good movie about schizophrenia? I’m always like, okay, so this one’s great. But yes, there are some demons running around. Yes, she does bite someone’s face. I always have to like have that little but. So I do think the show is good and I think there’s a lot of good tips in it, if that’s something you’re kind of interested in reviewing. But keep in mind, it’s a stepping stone and it is entertainment.
Gabe Howard: You said that there’s good tips. Are there good tips for people living with schizophrenia?
Rachel Star Withers: I think there are some good tips when it comes to people who might see the world differently. And sometimes people who aren’t as socially aware. And of course, when it comes to schizophrenia, you have people, all different types of people. And then depending where you’re at, when I’m psychotic, I act completely different than how most people see me. When I start to get off, I can’t even drive. So I’d say it’s a big kind of a big area there.
Gabe Howard: Now the specialized dating coaches that you made mention of that are really popular in the autism community and in people on the spectrum. Do they help people with schizophrenia?
Rachel Star Withers: I reached out to many of them. They have their own websites, all these articles about them, and so many of them push that they work with people who are neurodiverse. And if you don’t know what that means and I had to Google it cause I wasn’t 100% sure what it meant was neurodiversity describes the idea that people experience and interact with the world around them in many different ways, and there is no right way of thinking, learning and behaving. That’s a really sweet thing, right? I learned very quickly from these dating coaches that does not include schizophrenia. I was repeatedly flat out told, no, I do not do that. I only work with neurodiversity. And I’m like, okay. To me, I felt like they were saying, If you’re born this way, it’s good. But we see schizophrenia as a sickness and you’re broken. And no, not everyone said that to me. Only the ones who responded did. 90% did not respond to me, did not respond to my calls, my messages, my emails. So I’m not going to lie, Gabe. I was a little bit hurt because I was so excited about talking to someone who to me specialized in helping people like me. And that was not the reception I got.
Gabe Howard: This is the stigma even in groups of people who you would think would be warm to us we’re not necessarily always respected, accepted or understood. I am glad that you pointed that out because there is this community of people that are like, Hey, we’re all different and we think differently. And I’m like, Great, I’m different and I think differently. And they’re like, Not you
Rachel Star Withers: Mm-hmm.
Gabe Howard: It’s different for you. And of course, back to the topic of this podcast, it makes it difficult to date when you don’t know what community you belong to, right? If we can’t even figure out what dating coach is suitable for our special needs because we’re getting little bouts of stigma or discrimination or where we’re feeling like we don’t belong or were even told that we don’t belong. How do you find the tribe in which you can just even ask somebody out? I noticed that so far we haven’t gotten to the step where you ask somebody out. We haven’t even gotten to the, Hi, will you go out with me? Hi, will you go out with me? I live with schizophrenia.
Rachel Star Withers: You’re right, Gabe. Let’s get into some real tips. I already said I had some trouble finding articles directed towards people with severe mental disorders. However, there are lots of articles with tips from people who have physical disabilities. And yes, some of them I suggest reading through and stealing the ones that’ll work for you. A man who is called The Dating Coach on Wheels, and he’s called that not because he comes to your house, because he’s in a wheelchair with muscular dystrophy. He had these tips. You will never blend in, but that’s okay. Disabled people are memorable and you can control what they remember. So he really stresses on your outfit and your style. He says People don’t pity you when you look good. And I absolutely agree with that. It doesn’t matter what else you got going on. If someone, like, looks together, not even so much like, well, Rachel, I’m not hot. I’m not beautiful. Like, no. If you were just styled well, your clothing is on point. No one feels sorry for you. If anything, they’re like, Oh, my gosh, what’s that you know, man or woman have going on in their lives, like, wow, they got it together.
Gabe Howard: It’s funny to hear you say that because you are, in fact, the most well-dressed and well put together person I know. And I do recognize I don’t know as many people as you do, Rachel. And we run in different circles, but I wanted to stop and ask you, is that why you’re so put together? It really is incredible. But I know that it takes a lot of work and effort to be that coordinated with your fashion.
Rachel Star Withers: And what’s funny is that I don’t look at it as, Oh, this is my style, this is blah, blah. A lot of it has to do with my schizophrenia. I don’t like patterns. I don’t like designs. So most of my clothing is solid colors. They tend to be very like like a dark blue, like a deep sea blue. If I’m wearing pink, it’s like bright pink. There are no pastels. And that really has to do with my head. What I don’t want to say difficulty because it’s not that big a deal. But yeah. What was like my schizophrenia kind of messing with my mind. I have turned into basically my own style and it’s not for everybody. You know, some people are like, Rachel, I look amazing in zebra print and I believe you. I personally can’t take it. It messes with my head. When you’re looking for a style, try and find something, you know, maybe, maybe for you it’s like being a punk, maybe for you it’s like being super dressed up. The Dating Coach on Wheels, he’s always seeing pretty much vest tie, like he is on point, hair styled. That could be you. Or you could have a completely different look. But it’s yeah whatever you want to be remembered by. Another tip of his that I absolutely love is bring up your disability early but in a humorous way. They don’t need to know all your struggles, your pain. But yeah, you might want to give them a heads up. And of course, at what point early? That’s going to be up to you.
Gabe Howard: I want to, like, pause for a moment because as you were saying, you need to be open with your disability, you need to be open up front. I was thinking, no, no, you don’t want, you you need to hide it so that you can avoid discrimination and stigma. This isn’t something that you want to put out there. This is something that you want to protect and keep in so that you can avoid social shame. What do you have to say to the people who are hearing this and thinking, Yeah, I don’t want to share that I live with schizophrenia. This is a closely guarded secret.
Rachel Star Withers: It depends on the situation. If we’re talking about work, yeah, it’s not their business. You don’t need to tell your coworkers first day, Hey, you guys, guess what? I have no need to tell my neighbors who I randomly see throughout the week and I wave at them. I don’t need to go knock on their door and the first time I talk to them ever is, guess what, guys? So it really depends on the situation. Now, when it comes to dating, here’s my thing. I don’t want to go on two or three dates and really like someone and then they find out and then they reject me. That is not the type of person I want to be around. And honestly, look, that’s up to them if they don’t want to deal with something going on in my life and it doesn’t have to be schizophrenia. It could be, man, I hate people who like dogs and I can’t get upset if I’m rejected because of that thing. I just have to like respect that person. So for me, I agree with The Dating Coach on Wheels about bringing the disability up. It doesn’t have to be right away, first date, but probably early on. I worked on this, Gabe, and so I have some, some opening lines to try out on you.
Gabe Howard: All right, let’s try the dating lines. Are they these pick-up lines? Are you trying to pick me up, Rachel?
Rachel Star Withers: We’ve just met up, you know, or let’s say even before the date. But this is me bringing up my disability in a humorous way.
Gabe Howard: Perfect.
Rachel Star Withers: Some of these could be pickup lines, depending on how confident you are. They might. They might, they might win some.
Gabe Howard: Hey, people listening, you do you.
Rachel Star Withers: Yeah, exactly. By the way, I have schizophrenia, so when you date me, you’re getting, like a bulk rate on different personalities.
Gabe Howard: Ohhh.
Rachel Star Withers: Yes, yes, I know that’s the misconception of multiple personalities, but it’s a joke.
Gabe Howard: It is a joke. But then, when you have to explain to them. Right?
Rachel Star Withers: No, because usually they’re like, Oh, that’s funny. And then we move on. We’re not then saying, Well, let’s break down schizophrenia, what it really is, because it’s a date. Nobody came to learn.
Gabe Howard: But don’t you play into the hand of this multiple personality thing?
Rachel Star Withers: It’s a joke, Gabe. We’re here to have a good time.
Gabe Howard: All right. Well, that was the first one. Let’s see what the second one is.
Rachel Star Withers: Hey, I want you to know I have schizophrenia, so if I start acting a bit odd, like I’m on drugs, no, I cannot share with you.
Gabe Howard: [Laughter] I did not think that it was going to go that way. All right. All right. I’m digging this. And this also goes into you have to have the personality to pull this off. Like you, Rachel, you and I, we kind of like a little I don’t think this is really gallows humor, but it’s a little off color, for lack of a better word. So you’ve got to have the personality like that. So it both showcases your personality and it showcases your schizophrenia.
Rachel Star Withers: Absolutely. You, I’m going to be honest, Gabe, you keep talking about love and stuff. Not everybody listening is in this for love. Okay. Some of these people that are listening are like, Gabe, I’m just trying to get with some people. So
Gabe Howard: Just trying to hook up.
Rachel Star Withers: Yeah.
Gabe Howard: But then I guess you’d have to ask the question, if you’re not in this for love or to build a long-term relationship, is it important to share at all? You’ve got to be trying to build some sort of foundation if you’re telling them you live with schizophrenia. Because if you’re just looking to hook up, it’s really irrelevant, right?
Rachel Star Withers: Maybe not.
Gabe Howard: Hmm.
Rachel Star Withers: Moving on.
Gabe Howard: All right, I’m ready for the line.
Rachel Star Withers: Hey, I have schizophrenia. So you’re going to have a great story to tell your friends of how you hooked up with a schizophrenic tonight.
Gabe Howard: I like that for two reasons. One, it lets people know where the date is going.
Rachel Star Withers: Yeah. Yeah,
Gabe Howard: I mean, you have laid it all out.
Rachel Star Withers: And it makes it be like, well that sounds fun. Yeah, I like that.
Gabe Howard: That is both humorous and effective.
Rachel Star Withers: And Gabe, me and you both know quite a few people with schizophrenia, and I can say I can see some of them using that. Some of them, our more confident friends. I could easily see
Gabe Howard: I’m pretty sure that I know a couple of people living with schizophrenia who have used it and you straight up lifted it from them.
Rachel Star Withers: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Gabe Howard: [Laughter]
Rachel Star Withers: And my last one is kind of the opposite of that, because, you know, we all have quirks. And I might want to tell this person up front that I have schizophrenia because there’s a specific reason. So I have schizophrenia and I can be a little weird about people touching me. So I know it’s going to be hard, but you got to keep your hands to yourself tonight.
Gabe Howard: All right. All right.
Rachel Star Withers: So I like that because I’m kind of like saying, Hey, I know I’m good looking. It’s going to be hard on you, but you’re going to have to control yourself. And just kind of takes a little bit of humor in it.
Gabe Howard: I like it. I like it. But let me ask you this. When you use humor like this, isn’t it reasonable for the person to assume that you’re kidding? They might say something funny back that could be deemed offensive. Like, for example, let’s go with your you’re going to have a great story to tell because you hooked up with a schizophrenic. Now, let’s think. I think you’re teasing. Right? I just I just think this is, you know, foreplay, for lack of a better word. And I say something like, oh, you know what they say about crazy chicks? And then all of a sudden you’re like, Well, wait a minute. No, I didn’t say I was crazy. That’s offensive terminology. What are you doing? See, I. I think we’re just having a little bit of banter, so I would caution anybody using humor, if you get humor back, be a little patient. Right? They may be misunderstanding. They may think that you’re joking. They may not know how to take it, especially since we’re kind of hiding it in humor a little bit, too. You will probably be asked some serious follow up questions at some point if the person does not understand schizophrenia. Be prepared to answer questions.
Rachel Star Withers: Yes. I would say, you know, if you start with a joke, you’re putting everyone in the mood of, okay, this is a joking thing, so don’t get offended if they joke right back. You’re the one who started the banter.
Gabe Howard: Exactly. I love it.
Rachel Star Withers: Now moving on, let’s say that I got this person, we’ve been talking on an app and we’re going to set up a date. So right away, I should start kind of controlling the situation. Pick a place that you feel comfortable at. If you know that you don’t do well in crowds and the person says, Hey, let’s go to this giant street fair, just be be real and be like, Actually, I kind of would like to do something a little bit more, you know, kind of quiet, you know, blah, blah, blah. Another thing is doing an activity you enjoy. So if you’re good at bowling, that’s a great thing to suggest. Okay, I can show off a little bit here or I go to this bowling alley all the time. So I feel confident. Anything, though, except for just sitting awkwardly at a restaurant. It’s just weird when you’re having to sit there because now all those questions, Gabe, that you mentioned, they’re going to come up because we have nothing else to talk about. Whereas if we’re bowling or if we’re out, let’s say shooting pool or something, there’s things going on. I’m too busy doing the activity, getting to know you as a person.
Gabe Howard: I think that’s really good advice because if somebody asks you a question that throws you for a little bit of a loop, like you’re really not sure how to handle it, you can say, Oh, hey, go bowl your frame. And then I’ll answer that or let me finish my shot at pool, and then I’ll answer it. And then in that even 15, 20, 30 seconds, it gives you time to take a deep breath. Think about it a little, maybe think of some angles and then come back and answer it. Say, oh, I’ll answer that, give me a moment. And then you have that moment to think without it being awkward at all because you’re just moving the evening along.
Rachel Star Withers: Another thing. Prepare for your date. Do not wait till the hour before to try and pick out your clothing. As I mentioned, clothing messes with me. I need to know probably the day before because I can’t pick out something an hour before because I just even I get weird. Prep yourself. If you need to figure out transportation, don’t wait till the day of okay. Depending on where you live. If you drive, if you have to take like public transportation, if you’re able to walk there, like figure that stuff out before so you suddenly don’t freak out like, oh, my gosh, I have no way of getting there.
Gabe Howard: I think that’s good advice for anybody. I mean, I got to be honest, as you were talking, I was like, is this advice for people with schizophrenia or is this just good advice? Seriously, anybody listening, if you do not live with schizophrenia and you are in the dating pool, maybe picking out your outfit and transportation method an hour before you meet the person is not the level of care and seriousness that you want to project. Yeah. Give it some thought.
Rachel Star Withers: And we’re back talking about schizophrenia and dating.
Rachel Star Withers: Gabe Howard: Okay, Rachel, let’s get to the meat of the topic. Is there a place that are, I don’t know, like safe spaces for people with schizophrenia where you can meet like minded people, people who understand, people who I don’t want to say definitely like people with schizophrenia, but is there just like a safe place for people living with schizophrenia to date?
Rachel Star Withers: There are some sites and now you have to understand. There’s going to be pros and cons to this. Pros: Yes. You have people who are like you who probably are more understanding. Also, if you join a specialty site, you’re probably more serious. This isn’t just like a fun swiping Tinder game, hot or not. Cons: This is going to limit your options to only people not exactly like you, but who have, you know, a similar situation as you. And also, immediately, it focuses on only one part of you. It just is, OK, I’m here because I’m blank, whether it’s schizophrenia, bipolar or severe depression. You’re starting at right off with, Hey, this is a big part of my life, which it is. I don’t know if I want that to go into a dating thing right away is, hey, my life revolves around this one thing. So there’s pros and cons. Some of the dating sites that specialize in disabilities are NoLongerLonely.com, and that is described as a dating site for people with mental illness. And it boasts that they have spawned over 40 marriages.
Gabe Howard: Yay!
Rachel Star Withers: Yeah, that’s sweet. Yeah. So NoLongerLonely.com. SpecialBridge.com is another one. And that one is for adults with mental and physical disabilities. It’s a very large spectrum. But I looked on there a little bit. Schizophrenia isn’t specifically like pushed, but they say mental disorders. So yes, I would say that’s probably a safer place. Another one, Dating4Disabled and four is the number four. And what was interesting about this one is they actually had a matchmaking feature. And the last interesting one I found is actually a dating app called Ellie, E L L I E. And they say that if you’re searching for a serious relationship and have a disability or are positive about disability, Ellie is the app for you. So I like it that they include people who don’t just have a disability, but they can sign up and they know as they’re going in, most of the people on here do. And of course, you’re always going to have all of the main dating sites, the main apps and stuff, and they’re good because there’s so many people on them. They’re also bad because, you know, there’s a lot of stuff that goes into that. It’s easier for you to be rejected. It’s a lot easier for you to be ghosted and you might even be ghosting other people. And if you don’t know what that means, it’s like where you’re talking to someone and then suddenly you just stop. So it’s like, Man, we were texting everyday and now this person won’t respond to me. That’s what ghosting is.
Gabe Howard: If you’ve ever been ghosted, it kind of hurts a little bit because you wonder why. And especially if you’re managing schizophrenia or managing a mental illness, it’s really easy to start assuming that the reason that you were ghosted is because of schizophrenia or because of mental illness or because of the disability. I want to say two things. One, please don’t ghost people. I think that that just to be a civilized human being, dating is very, very hard. Just shoot off a text that says, you know, I’ve decided that this is where this ends. I’m sorry, I’m not going to be replying anymore. I wish you the best of luck. Two, if you are ghosted, people ghost for all kinds of reasons, they meet somebody. They’ve decided that that your musical tastes aren’t for them. It’s probably not schizophrenia, it’s probably not mental illness, it’s probably not the disability. It certainly could be. Nothing’s a lock. But that’s my point. Nothing’s a lock. To automatically assume that you were ghosted because of your schizophrenia, it’s not a fully formed idea and I recommend just letting it go and moving on. And again, don’t ghost people. It’s super hurtful.
Rachel Star Withers: Well, I would say the opposite of that coin would be me. I have absolutely ghosted people because of my schizophrenia. My mind stops being able to compute things and I just stop talking to these people. And again, it has nothing to do with them. It just my mind stopped being okay, and I just, I can’t. You’ll notice sometimes I’ll like, I’ll say I’ll go dead on social media where I just won’t really respond or do anything because I mentally can’t. It’s like too much for me. And that happens more so with dating sites, I think, because it is putting yourself out there in a different way. But yeah, none of I’ve never ghosted anyone just because, oh, something better came along or. It really has honestly always been my head got off and I stopped being able to kind of like handle that kind of stuff.
Gabe Howard: I’m glad you pointed that out, because we always think that the ghosting is because of us. Right. But there’s there’s so many possibilities that have literally nothing to do with us that at least put them on your list of possibilities. It’ll definitely make you feel better. Rachel, you got to interview. I mean, you got to interview a really cool person. Tell us who our guest is.
Rachel Star Withers: So we’re going to be talking to Dr. Ashley Snyder. And I was excited because this might be the only time to have someone outside of me pick apart my dating strategies.
Gabe Howard: I’m excited, Rachel. Let’s hear her tips.
Rachel Star Withers: We’re excited today to be speaking with Dr. Ashley, who is a psychologist and a life coach. Thank you so much for being with us today, Dr. Ashley.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: Oh, thank you. Thanks for having me.
Rachel Star Withers: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What got you into this field?
Dr. Ashley Snyder: So I have been in the behavioral health field for almost 20 years. I used to work in schools a long, long time ago with kids with behavioral issues. And that kind of transformed over time into me working with adults and doing therapy and just an interest in behavior and really wanting to help people. And I graduated with my doctorate about ten years ago, and I’ve done a bunch of different things along the way. I’ve worked in hospitals, I’ve worked in outpatient centers, but just I love the field. I think it’s interesting. And at the end of the day, I just want to help people.
Rachel Star Withers: What’s the difference between, let’s say, a life coach and a therapist?
Dr. Ashley Snyder: So there’s actually a big difference.
Rachel Star Withers: Okay.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: A life coach does not have to have any particular education to be one. You cannot call your therapist yourself a therapist unless you are a licensed professional. The people that fall under the category of therapist would be. So you can be an LCSW W, which is a licensed social worker, you can be an MST, which is a marriage and family therapist. There’s also something called an LPAC, which is a licensed counselor. Those are the master’s level. Or psychologist, which is the doctorate level. So the big difference is life coaches aren’t particularly regulated. There are certifications and things that people go through. I know there’s multiple certifications you can do and you can end up at a company that does life coaching. But anybody who calls himself a therapist is regulated by the state and the different boards for behavioral health and things like that. So there’s a big difference in terms of education.
Rachel Star Withers: Got it. Now I myself, I go and I see a therapist every two weeks and we always talk about my week. I think she helps me handle things. If I’m going to a life coach, what would be different than going to a therapist?
Dr. Ashley Snyder: It is very different. Usually the first thing is coaching is what I would call lighter than therapy. We’re not going to go in, process your childhood and talk about all the traumas you’ve been through probably. So what coaching is, it should be short-term, solution focused. Also, you would expect a coach to give you more advice. Your therapist is not going to tell you what to do, whereas in coaching there’s an expectation of a little bit more advice and pushing and prompting. Coaching should be time limited. It could just be one time. It could be just a few, whereas therapy can be a little more open ended. Coaching, it’s just more directive and specific. For example, in my relationship coaching, what I like about it and that’s fun is people come in and they’re showing me their dating profiles and the text messages they’re sending and things like that. And not that that doesn’t sometimes come up in therapy, but it’s usually I’m going to get in there and be like, Hey, this is okay, this isn’t, if we’re coaching, like strike that line, rewrite this. And in therapy, I really wouldn’t do that. It would be more me helping you figure out the best thing to do.
Rachel Star Withers: Let’s say I’m your client and I have schizophrenia and I’m just I have trouble meeting people. And my goal is to have a romantic partner. So not just a friend. I don’t just want more friends. My goal is to have a significant other of some sort. So how would you start to coach me?
Dr. Ashley Snyder: I would probably take some background information on what you’ve tried, what you haven’t tried. A little bit more information about what you’re looking for, what you’re willing to do. What is your day-to-day look like? Things like that. Because with schizophrenia, there is such a huge spectrum. It can go from fully employed to maybe not being able to work, which would change drastically the avenues I would probably suggest using for dating. In terms of finances to like the different things you can use. But I would first kind of ask the person where they’re at and see what they’re looking for because today everybody’s using the dating apps, like everybody. So some of my advice wouldn’t change necessarily for somebody with schizophrenia and it actually has come up recently. We probably start with the apps unless the person was super active in another lane or maybe had their eye on somebody, you know, it kind of depends on the person. Sometimes people are going to meetings every day and they’ve kind of had their eye on someone they like. Maybe we talk about approaching them. If they have no contact with anybody, I probably go the online route or suggest some meetup groups or something. Kind of depends on their comfort level with everything.
Rachel Star Withers: What do you suggest someone put in their dating app?
Dr. Ashley Snyder: This is something I go over all the time with people. My first thing, anybody who’s getting on the app. I would not put anything too personal that would indicate exactly where you work, exactly where you live. I’m not a big fan of including the Instagrams and the social media. I think that’s too personal in my opinion. Unless you are some sort of celebrity maybe and you want to use that and you have a public social media. The other thing on the app, the first steps I would say is I’d go through some photos and then I go through the about me. The biggest thing I see in photos is ensuring that they’re clear pictures, not pixelated or blurry, making sure the person has recent photos. I would ensure the person isn’t using group photos on their profile. That is something I see a lot. And also anything. Not too revealing. Guys with their shirt off, stuff like that. There’s a certain vibe you want to put out on a dating app. Also, the about me, I noticed a lot of people struggle with that. Always on the dating apps, you have to put your profession, which can be tricky maybe if you’re not employed.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: And I would talk about different ways to phrase that because I’m not a fan of people being misleading. So maybe problem solve or brainstorm what to put for the employment title and then the bio get into just a few sentences and kind of go through some of my nos, which is don’t say ask me and I’ll tell you. That’s when I see a lot when people can’t think of what to say. Sometimes people just start saying, I am looking for this, and then list all the things we’re looking for in a partner. The about me should be about you and all of your strengths. It should always be positive and not negative. So no complaints. Just like, hey, I’m a high energy active person. I like going to the beach, I like drinking coffee, I like going to museums. Just something that gives people a taste or a flavor of who they are and go through that, those basics first.
Rachel Star Withers: Do you suggest putting that you have schizophrenia or serious mental disorder on the about me section.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: I do not. It’s interesting you say that because I was thinking about that for this interview. Yeah, I have a huge fan of people being honest. However, medical history and life history stuff, I don’t think that should be on the app anywhere, any mention of that. I’ve seen people with schizophrenia and I absolutely think you should be with people and proud about who you are. But people on the apps are looking for any reason because it’s almost like limitless, the people you can go through. Any reason to say no. So you don’t want to give people a reason to say no without giving you a shot or getting to know you at all. Right? Because that’s just like one detail out of a whole person. I also am not a fan of people maybe throwing that out on the first date. Because the first date, it should be very light, positive. What do you like to do? Do we have the same interests? Do we want to go out again? Everything doesn’t have to be shared immediately.
Rachel Star Withers: So let’s say I am seeing someone. Let’s say it’s second, third date. When do you think I should mention that I have schizophrenia? Or should I just even kind of be, I guess, more vague? Say I do have a mental disorder?
Dr. Ashley Snyder: I’m not sure there’s a right time. It depends how smoothly the dating is going and where the conversation is going. I wouldn’t just throw it in right out the gate. It depends how connected you’re feeling to the person and where things are going. Are you talking about your background, your history? Do you need to kind of explain something that’s going on in your life that somehow this schizophrenia would explain? It depends. And I think it’s different for each person because I don’t think it should ever be said too soon when you’re really getting to know someone. It would depend for each person, honestly. I’ve known a lot of people that meet people at their day treatment program. I don’t know if you need to throw it out. There’s an understanding that maybe there’s a shared diagnosis or life situation at that point. If the other person’s asking a lot of questions and you think that that would help explain some things. If it feels like it’s being hidden, that means it’s the right time to say it. But if it hasn’t come up and you’re having a great time, that’s not the time to say it.
Rachel Star Withers: Because with schizophrenia, it can be a little different than certain things like autism or Down’s syndrome, because I don’t want to say it, schizophrenia can come and go, but you might not be psychotic, obviously. For me, me personally, Rachel, I know that people told me that I kind of act like I’m on drugs, like my speech will start to slur. Let’s say I’m worried that something will happen when I’m out with that person. Should I? You know, I say warn them, but be like, hey, like, should I give them a heads up? Hey, this might happen. And I don’t want you to think I did some drugs in the bathroom just now.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: So if you have some sort of something like that, I would say giving a heads up is better. You know, and I don’t know for you particularly, but say you’re supposed to go to a concert, you could say, hey, sometimes I get really uncomfortable in large crowds and I might need to take a break and go outside. Or maybe that’s not the best thing for me. If it’s like the second or third date, I maybe wouldn’t even say the schizophrenia thing. I would say like what you’re saying. Hey, sometimes when I get nervous, I start slurring my speech or if it’s later in the evening or I’m like, I just want to let you know. Sometimes that’s just like this little quirk that I have. I would throw it out in that manner, but say, you’re on the 10th date, then that’s the right time to explain where that’s coming from. You know, everybody has faults and quirks and different things that they do. I think it’s always okay to mention it because they’re going to see it. Right. If you start doing that with your speech, they’re going to see it. So give them a heads up. If they ask, don’t lie, maybe explain it. But in the beginning, kind of less is more until you get a feel for each other.
Rachel Star Withers: Now there are some dating apps out there that are catered towards people with disabilities. Most of them tend to be physical disabilities. But I’ve been scouring the web and I have found a few for mental. Do you think two people with a serious mental disorder should like say, yes, that I’m actively going for someone else with schizophrenia?
Dr. Ashley Snyder: I don’t think it’s the worst idea because there’s a lot of shared understanding, maybe lifestyle, empathy, things that can be had from it. So I don’t think it’s the worst idea. I don’t think you have to particularly search for somebody with the same thing that you have going on. But I think it’s an interesting idea for sure, that’s worth trying.
Rachel Star Withers: Are there any type of groups or events that you would suggest, like adventure groups or speed dating? Are there any type of meetups like that that you’re like, Oh, hey, this actually really works well for certain people?
Dr. Ashley Snyder: Some of the speed dating stuff can be fun. I’m a big fan of going to meetup groups of things you’re either interested in getting into or are into. You know there’s hiking groups and there’s groups of people that go running. Every like sport has one, right?
Rachel Star Withers: Right.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: I’m a fan of joining a group of people that share your interests. I like the speed dating and stuff like that. That’s fun. And that’s the way to get out there and get in person because being in person is different than being on the Internet or the phone, right? So I like the idea of meeting in person, but I think maybe a better route because first of all, it’s interesting. It’s something to talk about. It’s just looking for groups that do the same things that you like to do, not necessarily wanting to date, but oftentimes it’s single people that are drawn to those types of things because they’ve got the time they want to meet other people. So it’s kind of a way to meet people you’d like to date.
Rachel Star Withers: It makes absolute, absolute sense because if I’m really good at soccer, at least I can also show off my skills.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: It’s win-win because at least you’re doing something you enjoy too.
Rachel Star Withers: What’s the biggest struggle that you’ve heard clients have? Like, what’s a common struggle that people say, Hey, this keeps happening?
Dr. Ashley Snyder: I think there’s a few common things with everybody, but a lot of the confusion that happens with the online texting, texting for a while and then people don’t want to meet up
Rachel Star Withers: Right.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: Texting for a while and then they have a date and then they go on the date and the person doesn’t show up or all of a sudden the texting goes like sideways and it becomes inappropriate.
Rachel Star Withers: Mm hmm.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: The Internet has given people this ability, I think, to talk to tons of people at the same time. So people have all these different options they’re talking to and they’ll just kind of disappear from different conversations and things. And that’s hard for people to wrap their heads around, I think, and then they get their feelings hurt. So I just think the quantity of dating brings more rejection at times and just not taking that personally of like, hey, we texted a week, then he disappeared. People are taking things personal that I think don’t need to be taken personally. I have worked specifically with people with schizophrenia and some dating stuff. And sometimes people with schizophrenia can be a little more paranoid of people’s intentions. Right? Like a common symptom. But on the other end, I’ve seen people with schizophrenia be too trusting of people. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. And I’ve seen a few people swindled out of some money.
Rachel Star Withers: Oh, wow. Yeah.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: Because of that. So they get this online video or phone relationship going. If someone doesn’t want to meet up with you, I would not suggest continuing it. And if they have a sob story six months later about why they need money for their children’s birthday, or there’s always like a sob story. And I’ve seen a lot of people with schizophrenia be too trusting and feel sorry for these other people and then give up the last bit of money they have. So, just to be careful. If something seems wonderful. Or if they want you to follow them to some place that costs money. Stay away from all that.
Rachel Star Withers: Okay. Yeah. No, that’s very, very smart.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: Yeah. And I tell people, going and asking somebody else their opinion and taking their feedback like a friend, a family member, like, hey, does this seem right? You got to double check with other people and see. See if you’re correct with your instincts.
Rachel Star Withers: Well, thank you so much, Dr. Ashley. This has been great talking with you, and thank you for sharing your knowledge about, well, therapy in general, but also life coaching and dealing with dating.
Dr. Ashley Snyder: Oh, you’re welcome. I really enjoyed it.
Gabe Howard: Welcome back, everyone. Rachel, great interview. What did she say that resonated most with your situation?
Rachel Star Withers: I like her take on the dating apps. What she was saying about like making sure your pictures are current, what to say in the bio and what not to say. I really like that. She stressed that. Don’t. Don’t ever just put ask me about myself because. Yeah, nobody wants to message you to say tell me about you. If you’re wanting to start a conversation with someone, start a conversation, don’t just have some rhetorical question, like actually start a conversation. Hey, I saw you were at that Marvel premiere in one of your photos. I love such and such. Or, hey, what’s your favorite Marvel movie? In your bio you mentioned that you’re really big into horror movies. What’s your favorite? Mine is such. It just gives you a jumping off platform to start the conversation.
Rachel Star Withers: And I thought she brought up something very important that we haven’t spoke on until this moment, scams. And not even so much someone actively trying to scam you, but just taking advantage of you because that is something that’s overlooked a lot, especially when it comes to online dating. You talk to somebody for weeks and weeks and then suddenly they need help and yeah, they need money. And a lot of people, yeah, do get pulled into this. And it’s not just people with schizophrenia, it’s people everywhere of all walks in life. You know, that was a famous Netflix documentary about the Tinder scammer and whatnot. So, yeah, everybody can get sucked into those. And I really liked her comment of show a friend, like have someone else look over and be like, okay, is this person being legit or is this person even being fair when they’re asking me to do this or send the money? Bring in somebody else to your situation. Let them know what’s going on and get their advice.
Gabe Howard: Rachel, was there anything that was surprising to you that you were just like, I don’t know if I agree with that?
Rachel Star Withers: Not so much that I don’t agree with her, but clearly she brought up the point that she didn’t see that dating apps or websites that just focus on disability was necessarily a good thing. And I’m going to say I’m on the fence. I think you should try different things. Hey, if this going to your church meetups, going to such and such hasn’t been working? Yes, try online dating. If doing Tinder, if doing all these like general apps has not been working? Hey, here’s a new avenue to try. So I think it should be a little bit more like, hey, see what works for you and what might not.
Gabe Howard: I can appreciate that. Really. Dating is hard for everybody. It’s not an easy thing. It is the great equalizer because everybody struggles with it. Everybody can have their heart broken. Everybody has challenges. Coupling is a difficult thing for everybody. There’s just a little extra or some things that we should be aware of if we’re living with and managing schizophrenia. So I’m really glad that you used yourself really as a guinea pig to be open about it.
Rachel Star Withers: Along those lines, earlier I talked about how hard it was to find a guest, an expert in dating for people with schizophrenia. And I’m telling my mom this early in the week, you know, I’m just kind of frustrated. I’m just telling her and she goes, Rachel, you should become one. You need to fill that gap. You need to do it. You need to become a dating coach for people with schizophrenia. And I’m like, What? No, why would anyone listen to me? And she goes, Rachel, your schizophrenia doesn’t hold you back. You could do it. No, no, no. Not because I’m schizophrenic, because I’m single. Why would people listen to me? Because I’m single. Nothing to do with schizophrenia. No. Don’t take dating advice from me.
Gabe Howard: I love that. I love that. It’s like people who are out of shape that give, they give exercise advice. It’s like, wait a minute.
Rachel Star Withers: Yeah. That’s like don’t ask me for help. Since I’m not an expert in this area, I wanted to close with some words from someone who is. Back to The Dating Coach on Wheels. By nature, humans are curious and we all check each other out, disabled or not. So make people look at you and remember you for the right reasons. I’m Rachel Star. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Inside Schizophrenia, a Healthline Media podcast. Please like, share, subscribe and rate our podcast and we’ll see you next time here on Inside Schizophrenia.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Inside Schizophrenia, a podcast from Psych Central and Healthline Media. Previous episodes can be found at psychcentral.com/is or on your favorite podcast player. Your host, Rachel Star Withers, can be found online at RachelStarLive.com. Co-host Gabe Howard can be found online at gabehoward.com. Thank you and we’ll see you next time.