Susanna Page is a student in San Francisco, CA. She loves to write and is a blogger for Young Minds Advocacy Project and the International Bipolar Foundation. She is a field mental advocate for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. She loves to write about mental health and young adults. She is in the beginning stages of connecting with University newspapers in colleges in San Francisco persuading each University to include a column in every issue that has some form of mental health information or personal story of someone that is living with a mental illness. On her free time she likes to adventure around San Francisco, write, and cuddle with her dog Hamish.
When I met the guy that is in my life right now, I was at the lowest I have ever been in when it comes to believing I would find someone to love as a partner. I didn’t believe that I could just go out into the world, and be loved with bipolar. A man may see me as attractive, but from experience, I always got this half smile, with some eye action. that I would always take as the, “She is crazy” look, and before I met Aki, I told my Mom that I was not going to have grandchildren, or get married, because it felt too daunting.
So, I took the jump and made an online dating profile. I was one of those people who dissed online dating right and left, thinking it was the most stupid thing in the entire world. I have always believed that the right man will come along without any help from the internet, but one day, I took the plunge and it was not easy. I went on a couple of dates, until Aki found my profile, and it was the sort of situation where I was attracted to the other guy, but he was not to me. It hurt, but in a weird way, I really liked the online dating concept. With my rumination about a guys point of view of myself with a mental illness, dating someone I already had my eyes on just was not attractive to me. I thought, that I would at least do online dating to see if I could get confident to just be around a male.
Online dating I believe is not simply signing up online and making a profile, but much more work if you want to be safe about it all. You meet in a public place, you ask him questions, you don’t share too much with him at first, and by NO MEANS do you have sex, kiss, or anything else that suggest you have signed up for a one night stand. Believe me, real men like confident woman, woman who test them, challenge them, and make them better by teaching them a few things.
I tried a dating service that is called How About A Date? I loved this service because it was casual. You made up a date, and people would look at it and see if they liked it, and if they liked it, they would contact you and you would go on this date. It was just an idea of going out with a guy friend, going to a museum, hiking, or walking, and seeing how the relationship panned out from there. Of course there are creeps on the site, but as I said, you need to read, and get advice from anyone about online dating, before you set out on a date.
The couple that inspired me to even think about online dating, was my old boss. She met her husband online, and they were so compatible that no one believed they had met online. My first date online was a good date, but I go the wrong vibe. He even gave me a kiss on the cheek, so the next day I texted him and asked about his day. He never replied back, even to my second and third texts, and I saw that he had read my iMessages. It hurt, to be that rejected, and for a couple of days I was depressed, but the best thing about it all was that I barely knew him. It made me feel better that I barely knew this guy that I thought I was attracted to, so it was easier for me to go back to my life. The second date was awkward, and he was creepy, some tech savvy guy from Google, that seemed to only want to have sex and kiss me. It was crucial to stay in a public place on these dates, in case something did happen, and I needed to run away or go home. I would always leave the guys number and address with my Mom or a family member and my roommates, and hide the information on my desk at my house too in case they lost it. I would put tracking on my iPhone in case something happened, and I would not let the guy pick me up at my place. Precautions were important.
Aki found me one day, and we had been talking for about two weeks before we were both available to go on a date. We clicked in text, but when we hung out the first time we had chemistry. I was surprised, but it felt great. I talked to my therapists about me doing this online dating thing because I was concerned if it was the best decision. In the end it was my decision of what I was going to do with my life, but my therapists know my moods, know my medications, and know the disorder better than I do, and I wanted to know, if all of the emotional stress, and still being a little uneasy about online dating would affect me in the long run.
My therapists said they thought my choice of going out into the dating world was good, as long as I was safe and truthful about who I was. After the first and fourth date, my therapists hinted that I should begin to tell him about my writing for mental health organizations and my struggle with a mental illness. I was shocked they thought it was a good time to just come out and tell him things that may possibly make him step away from me but they were right. Something like a mental health diagnosis, you want to be upfront about it, especially to people you are thinking about having in your life. I realized, that real men would at least take the confession and think about it or tell me the truth about their point of view of those with mental illness. If Aki was not going to accept my diagnosis, or my writing, or my love for mental health advocacy he was not worth my love. So I told him.
The night I told him, he sat with his phone, looked at his phone, then back at me, and said slowly, “I actually think it is quite inspiring that you are doing all of that, and that you were so nervous in telling me”. This most definitely does not happen all the time to people, but it taught me a lesson- that maybe the more we choose to share our diagnosis, our experiences, and put it into a light that isn’t so scary for others, they might be more willing to accept it. He also told me, “You don’t seem like one who would have a mental illness”. I used to be taken a back by that sort of comment, but I live by it now. It is crucial to show those who love you and you care about that you can take care of yourself, that you take responsibility over your health.
Aki reads my blogs, he proofreads, and he reads policy when he has time over mental health. He is a medical engineering graduate student here in the Bay Area, and his love for helping people is almost stronger than my need to help people. He has taught me a lot in an area that I never felt confident before. I never had, had a boyfriend before him, and I never believed I would. You don’t have to do online dating to find a person, but you have to be adventurous after a diagnosis. You have to be adventurous, but at the same time aware of what is best for you. It needs to be a balance, but it is possible to find your real self among the chaos. There is something special about a mental illness that I believe can actually make a relationship stronger. Dating someone with a mental illness is an adventure, and it can be a really good adventure. We are loving creatures, goofy, wacky, and quirky. We understand a state of mind that many do not, and if we take our medication, take care of our health, and believe we are more than our diagnosis we can only rule the world.