"Don't contact me if you're mental." Welcome to the world of online dating, where some people don't think before they type and are antipathetic to mental illnesses.
To the untrained eye, this sentence might seem like a jestful attempt at breaking the ice - but for those who recognise the stigma and struggles associated with the word 'mental', this sentence can have serious repercussions. What if the person reading this had a mental illness? Or knew of friends and family affected by a mental illness? Good work buddy - not only have you offended a good majority of the world's population, you've also revealed yourself to be a grade A idiot.
I'm not mental - I just have a mental illness
As a dating blogger, I've seen - and heard - some pretty unbelievable things when it comes to the world of online dating. But seeing this on an online dating profile? This is a first. However, it's not to be the last - as it seems that many people are averse to the idea of dating someone with a mental illness.
But let's break it down for a second: if someone is suffering from a cold, they don't say they're cold. They say "I have a cold". The same goes for mental illnesses - they're not schizophrenic, they have schizophrenia. What I'm trying to say is that from time to time, they'll exhibit certain symptoms. But under all those symptoms, is a rational, normal and more importantly, loving human being.
How do I know this? Because I have a mental illness myself. And believe me, after leaving a trail of broken relationships in my wake, know all too well the heartbreak associated with love and mental health. However, I also know that as someone with a mental illness, I am capable of having fulfilling and loving relationships - and have the happy memories to prove it.
Once bitten, twice shy - thrice proud
A few years back, I met a guy who I was extremely enamoured with. But a couple of months in, our relationship came under serious strain - to the point where I became violent and swung from one mood to another at an alarmingly fast rate. My boyfriend at the time suggested that I had a mental illness and that I should visit my GP to arrange a psychiatric assessment, and after initially being given anti-depressants, I eventually got seen by a psychiatrist who delivered the devastating news I was not expecting. I had Borderline Personality Disorder.
To cut a long story short, our relationship eventually fell apart. Despite my visits to the mental health team (which were sparse) and my medication (which I didn't react the best to), the property destruction/self-harming/insulting arguments/paranoid thoughts got too much for him and we called it quits. Cue being on my own which helped greatly, and after a year of flying solo, I decided I was ready for another relationship - except this time, I decided it was important that he knew about my condition. So after a successful first date, it was on our second encounter that I told him about my illness.
His reaction? He accepted my BPD - terrifying symptoms and all.
Sadly, history repeated itself and once the honeymoon period came to an abrupt end, he was suddenly faced with an extremely stressed and ill girlfriend. Except this time things took a turn for the worse - and despite my best attempts at getting my foot on the mental health care community team ladder, my wellbeing worsened and I had a breakdown. Both mentally, as well as my relationship breaking down to the point of no return.
OK, so I couldn't return to that relationship. But I could return to the dating scene. And that's exactly what I did - where I met someone and was upfront about my mental illness. Because third time's the charm, right?
Timing ISN'T everything
So how did I know the timing was right? I didn't. However, I did know something that was far more important - and that was that my partners weren't right for me. I tried telling one partner at the start and that didn't work, but I've still taken a chance and told someone new upon our first meeting. And you know what? It's going in the right direction.
To those who believe about meeting the right person at the wrong time? That's just BS. Those people we met at the wrong time? They were just the wrong people.
That's why I can tell you from personal experience, there will never be a right time to tell the person you're dating about your mental illness - but there will be the right person.