This last SharePost of the month will talk about schizophrenia and relationships.
In the fall of 2007, when I first started working here, I interviewed Jim, the founder of NoLongerLonely, an Internet dating service for people diagnosed with mental illnesses. Since then, TrueAcceptance also offers the chance to be matched. Read my NoLongerLonely Interview here.
The two online dating sites operate on the premise that because everyone has a diagnosis, we'll be more accepting and open to meeting each other. The diagnosis is the icebreaker and after that you have to prove yourself, just like in any relationship.
In my humble opinion, a diagnosis of schizophrenia becomes irrelevant to who you are, thus it is not stigmatizing, when you have a "full and robust" life of your own choosing.
As a guy I interviewed for SZ magazine suggested, "The point of recovery is to be in relationships. If you can't open up to and trust a few people, it will be harder to be in a relationship."
I take my medication every day as prescribed. It takes every ounce of energy and active dedication and hard work to succeed. It would be a heartbreak for me to date a guy with SZ or BP who refused to take medication. Would I have the ability to take on the role of actively managing someone else's illness full-time, in addition to mine?
The option of dating a guy who is not a peer is appealing, even if, as a friend warned, "Everybody's weird." Nobody's totally normal.
For those of us who want to try dating other people, the Schizophrenia: Public Attitudes, Personal Needs survey (conducted by NAMI, June 2008) revealed:
"80 percent of members of the general public expressed discomfort with the prospect of dating someone with schizophrenia who has not received treatment, compared to only 49 percent if the person has received treatment."
This is understandable. The odds are OK that a guy would want to date you or me if we were in treatment. It's half and half. So we can look on the bright side.
I've written elsewhere that people with schizophrenia need to take their medication and stay in treatment as part of the social covenant of living with others in society.
It's only fair that a guy wouldn't want to date a woman who didn't take responsibility for her own health. It would take a supreme amount of open-mindedness to overlook the fact that your untreated lover was actively symptomatic.
We need to look on the bright side.
I would tell anyone:
Just be yourself. Be authentic and own up to the idea that we're all vulnerable as human beings. Take the risk to be in relationships, because love is worth the risk.
The survey's unspoken twist is that a not insignificant number of guys would date us gals with SZ. I'm reading the book Love In 90 Days by Diana Kirschner who gives some good techniques for connecting with another person socially or romantically:
Imagine that the guy or woman you meet on your first date is your best friend. Take an eager interest in him or her and smile and use his or her first name repeatedly in the conversations.