Dating Someone With Mental Illness

This post was featured a few years back on another publication (29 Secrets). I normally post something during Mental Illness Awareness month which is in May. I think it’s important that we continue to keep the discussion open in order to build awareness and let those who are struggling know that they don’t have to suffer in silence. In addition, with the right treatment and support system that they can live a happy and full life. 


Appearances Can Be Deceiving

It’s Saturday night and I am getting ready to go out on a date with Justin-Bobby (obviously not his real name), a guy I met while I was out two nights prior. We actually bumped into each other on my way out the bar. JB is very attractive, and I surely wasn’t the only one to notice his 6 foot built frame, green eyes, and short blonde hair. I was actually surprised he didn’t have some girl hanging off his arm. We are at a bar after all and men who look this good never go home alone. Okay, fine perhaps this is a generalization, but really this hot gent was flying solo. I guess I caught his attention, wearing gold sequin helps a petite girl stand out in a crowd, because literally as I was leaving he made a beeline to me and stood right in front of me. Trust me this was a pleasant surprise. He is really easy on the eyes. We did our introductions, exchanged numbers, and I was out of there, it’s never cool to stay out past 2 am on a Thursday.

I have to say I like a man who knows what he wants and takes action right away. The next day I heard from JB (not two days later like some of you) and he was more than ready to see me for dinner that night, but I opted for Saturday. I have been single for a while now, so you really get to encounter different kinds of people. You start to realize that your list doesn’t really matter because no one can live up to a list. They may meet some of the requirements, but the perfect man, or person for that matter, will never exist. What you do find out is what you don’t like. My advice, pay attention to that gut feeling when something doesn’t feel right, that feeling definitely resurfaces when you conclude why a relationship wasn’t right for you.

So it’s date night with JB who picks me up at 7:30 pm…on time! So far I would say this guy is looking good. We decided to head to a Gastropub on Ossington (in Toronto), a great place for a first date because it’s not formal. We find ourselves a quaint table next to the bar and order our first round of drinks and appetizers. It’s time to get familiarized with one another. You know the obvious questions, like who are you? What do you do? What inspires you? We get right into it. JB is very open and has no issue talking about his life and his future aspirations. I can feel the passion he has for the things that are important to him as he speaks. His green eyes light up when he tells me “ I want to be a motivational speaker, I want to help people who are my age. Let them know that they can do anything with their lives”. Immediately I want to know the back-story behind all this. I don’t know many people who choose to motivate other people to overcome life’s hurdles unless they have suffered some form of adversity.

Of course, I ask why? This is where things get a little weird. Not in a bad way, but confident JB suddenly appears to be uncomfortable. I wonder if I had overstepped, but it’s too late. He really couldn’t blame me he had my curiosity going. He looks down and begins to nervously spin his napkin with his left hand on the tabletop. Oh no, I begin to think, this is either a really sad story or worse, he was recently locked up (it’s my imagination…donot judge). I sit there waiting patiently; I take another sip of my Thornbury Cider. Finally, he just says it, no introduction; it’s not a long-winded story. He’s schizophrenic. He was diagnosed his first year in university and has been living with it for the last ten years. As he further explains this to me, I realize how ridiculous the stigma associated with mental illness is. How we have a view of what it looks like and what people who may suffer from a mental illness and/or disorder may look like and behave. Here I sit, in front of a very attractive, young man, who is ambitious, passionate, intelligent and honest. I realize that my worry about the way people perceive me is very small in comparison to his. We all want to find that special someone who we hope will accept us with all our flaws. We often get in the way of ourselves when meeting people, because we are focused on the things we don’t want them to see. In JB’s case, although I couldn’t see it, he knew eventually this is something he would have to share. I am not sure if he planned on telling me on the first date, but I think he was relieved. Maybe a first time and the first step for him and I do applaud him for this act of courage.


Why It’s Important To Talk About It

It’s never a good idea to date someone for a long period of time and not tell them something that will factor into your relationship as things progress. Dealing with a partner with mental illness is not necessarily any different than dealing with someone who doesn’t live with one. You can still have a great and loving relationship. I know every case is different and there are many variables to take into consideration. It’s important to note that variables such as communication, trust, maturity, and honesty come into play in all relationships. Every relationship will have its hurdles. Some relationships require a little more work.

It doesn’t mean that this will make them a bad partner or they are incapable of having a healthy relationship. There must be a level of awareness and knowledge you must equip yourself with to have a healthy and understanding relationship. Before you pass judgment get to know the person, this will help you discern how well they manage their illness and whether or not this is something you can handle. There are support groups available as well. Don’t feel guilty, if you can’t handle it, it’s better to be honest, in the long run, it’s beneficial for both parties.

The stigma that those with mental illness experience can be quite isolating. There are many who are in relationships who suffer in silence. Maybe friends of yours who suffer in silence. I feel the more we know, the more we can do to help those living with mental illness live full happy lives and not a lifetime riddled with shame but with pride. That although they may be a little different that they matter and they’re not alone.

JB, a great energy, who I enjoyed my Saturday night with, is a good reminder that eventually the good guys come out on top. I wish him all the love, happiness, and abundance life has to offer. I hope you fulfill all your dreams. I hope you become, everything you imagine you can be.





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Hanifa Sekandi

Founder & Editor-in-Chief Follow Me on Instagram @thethingsiwishiknew

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