I’ve written on the blog before that living with mental illness can impact daily life in so many ways. One of those ways that has the biggest impact is with the relationships we form. My entire adult life, I wasn’t really sure how I’d approach dating with depression, and it was something I was afraid of. I’ve written in the past about some types of relationships, but I’ve never really had the courage or knowledge of how to write about romantic relationships – until recently. From putting yourself out there, to opening up and having those conversations about your mental health and figuring out what comes next, dating when you live with mental illness – and dating someone who lives with a mental illness – isn’t easy to navigate. Where do we even start? Well friends, I’m here to help (with the limited personal experience I have). Welcome to Dating with Depression – told with the help of a wonderful woman I’ve been fortunate to get to know this year.
Putting Yourself Out There
Entering the adult dating world as a single person is complicated for a lot of reasons. For most, it’s a period of transition, of adjusting to new jobs, cities, apartments, etc. and there is a lot of change. Toss in living with a mental illness, and you can see how things could get even more complicated. Some people thrive in that ability to deal with such a big amount of change. Thanks to my depression and anxiety (along with my natural temperament), I did not thrive early on in this setting. I was very nervous to meet anyone new, let alone women I was interested in romantically.
Fortunately, there are many more ways to meet people that might make you feel more comfortable. As someone who’s terrified in most new social settings, dating apps helped me understand the type of people I’d like to meet and get to know. However, I also know that for others, that didn’t work because they didn’t like writing or putting themselves out there. On the flip side, some would suggest to walk up to people and be confident and say hi. While I don’t think that would work for me, I know friends of mine who that would be perfect for. I ended up taking the approach of knowing what’s comfortable for my personality and going from there.
We All Have Something to Offer
It sounds frivolous, but the biggest obstacle I had with putting myself out there was understanding that I can do it – that people might find me interesting and that I have something to offer. Since a lack of self-worth and self-doubt are key symptoms of depression, I accepted a while back that this would be another obstacle to overcome. The other key obstacle I had to overcome was that when I met someone special, I was ready to be open and honest about my mental health issues. In the next post I’ll elaborate more on that, but knowing that I was going to open up at some point about my mental health made me feel much more comfortable in the beginning.
At the end of the day, I think it’s important to hear from people that you have something to offer – whether it’s other people or yourself – and that you deserve what you’re looking for just as much as anyone else. For some, it’s a lifelong struggle to believe this, so hearing it as much as possible helps break into that cognitive distortion. But I believed this myth that these are mutually exclusive things; that I couldn’t really date someone if I still didn’t completely love myself. At a certain point, I decided to separate those two things, and it’s helped me build a healthier relationship because of it.
What other mental health obstacles get in the way of putting ourselves out there? Let me know! Next in this Dating With Depression series, I’m going to talk about how to have a conversation about mental health with someone you’re dating – one of the trickier parts of dating.