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Internet Dating Profiles and Mental Health

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Just how honest are we on internet dating profiles? We like people to see our best bits, our qualities, the things we are proud of, so we leave out the flaws, the weaknesses, the things we wish we didn't have. We upload our best picture, the one that say's attractive, sexy, happy, not the mid blinking, pre make up or post bottle of plonk.

But fast forward the potential relationship three years - which is when we approach the notorious three year itch and if we don't make the right decision we have to wait for the seven year itch, it's a bit like being sentenced then waiting for parole - and by then we are all attuned to the traits we left out of our original profile. So why not just get it out of the way in the beginning? No way!

Being totally honest in our profiles can go in one of two directions. You either get no replies, perhaps the odd one or two after pub closing hours, or you attract someone who admires you for your honesty AND your flaws. Bingo. You may as start choosing the fabric and start table planning.

I thought about doing this experiment, for about ten minutes, but did I really want to greet my potential soulmate with my most personal personality defects, which for me is my mental health? Oh no. People are still scared of mental health, but even though stats are rising, awareness is on the up, and all of us know someone who knows someone with a severe and enduring mental illness, we would apparently live with an ex convict then someone like me. A whopping 75% of us don't let on about our condition for a whole year, often allowing behavioral symptoms such as a manic episode to do the talking for us.

So, my profile begins.. female, thirties, Aquarius, journalist and textiles artist living in London zone 2, with a professional (that means photoshopped) pic of my good side (good start, grabs his attention). Into reading, walking, swimming, ski-ing (like it), dining, dancing, partying (so far, so good), likes interesting science facts, random humour that makes me laugh uncontrollably (she's a keeper)... and stalking people off the Crime channel. My friends see me as manic, an insomniac, of which I'm prone to delusions from a parallel world. I can't make decisions unless when dating then I make bad ones. I keep up to sixteen rodents and have a weird obsession with Noel Edmunds (logs out). Oh, and I've only been ski-ing once, I was rubbish, and the only thing I "read" is Take a Break. Really, lets just stick to our qualities.

Last year I joined Guardian Soulmates which was my first ever internet dating experience. I did the fabulous sounding profile and clicked the upload button, and by the end of play the following day my inbox was shockingly chocka with messages, likes and favorites and I made it onto the front page (whoo hoo!). But it was very overwhelming, my previous relationship had left me feeling worthless, and I felt like a fraud because I hadn't declared my mental illness, so I didn't allow myself to reply to any of these potential soulmates. Six months of not replying later, still guiltily peeping out from the front page, I deactivated my account. I kicked myself for being ashamed of something I have no control over.

What's even worse are job applications because we HAVE to tick a box stating whether we have a mental health condition or not. If we declare it, hmm.. they're not supposed to deselect us but they do. If we don't, and become unwell, they can a) not pay us sick leave or b) dismiss us for fraud. Epilepsy, diabetes or hard of hearing are other examples of "hidden" disabilities but without that awkward stigma which is mental health.

There is one dating site which caters for people with mental health issues looking for love or even friendship and its called No Longer Lonely. It was set up by a guy called Sam with mental health issues of his own who told me..
"I get regular testimonials from users attesting to how their lives have improved because of this site. Fact is that we've spawned at least forty marriages. I think there is a profound comfort getting to know someone for romantic intention when the idea of disclosure is taken off the table. We speak a common language of experience.

I'm all for people with a mental health diagnosis getting together with a similar partner, however, the cross-over of symptoms can be hard work and need deeper attention and indeed support. Mood disorders and personality disorders can be a toxic combination if unattended, although anxiety disorders tend to be more straight forward to understand, but cross partnerships in general can be difficult because not only do we have our own condition to control, we then have a whole new batch of symptoms to understand and nurture. Match partnerships, i.e. bipolar to bipolar tend to work better because both partners share the same awareness, experience and empathy.

Friends who think they are helping when they say "You need to be with someone normal" do not tend to understand that whilst their support has not gone unappreciated, we often feel that our condition is highlighted in comparison with someone without one, like having a spotlight shining down on us.

I'm done with the whole internet dating thing, it wasn't for me. Perfect if your fridge is empty and you're skint because you could fashion a short notice dinner date (if it goes well you get breakfast too) but I think I'll do better hanging around outside manic depression support groups and depot clinics!