I recently decided to attempt to go back to the world of dating. Let me just say that it was short lived. I am not exactly sure what spurred the sudden onset of the thought of dating again. I thought I was ready. I was oh so wrong.

I have spent the last 4 1/2 years single by my choice. I took that time to be able to finish school successfully, to take time for me to figure out what it is I am looking for/want, to take the time to concentrate on my road to managing my illness, to basically take the time to work on myself. To begin the journey of learning to like myself again and learning to forgive myself.

I have learned a lot about myself since being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. I have on numerous occasions sat and looked back on every relationship and everything I had done for reasons I did not understand at the time, some of which made me feel like I was a heartless monster. However, that is not the truth. I am not a heartless monster. Deep down I knew that then, just as much as I know it now.

So, this is what I have concluded thus far. Relationships while living with Bipolar 1 Disorder are hard. Very hard. Obviously this is from my standpoint though I am sure there are many others that stand with me.

Even though I have been single for quite some time, within that time I have randomly by chance met a couple good guys, who became good friends. I will not lie and tell you that I did have feelings for one of them. Quite strong feelings. But within 5 seconds those feelings vanished into thin air. Gone. Not coming back kind of gone. I am not sure why or how at this point but this was not the first time such a thing has happened. It has happened a few times. I really thought it was just me, that I was broken and incapable of maintaining such feelings. But thanks to Google, after the last disappearance of feelings, I learned I am not alone and I am not the only person on the planet who lives with Bipolar who this happens to. It was a great feeling to know it was not just me. Kind of a relief actually.

I am thankful that my most recent time in the world of dating did not get to this point, but I did hit a pretty big roadblock nonetheless.

I have worked hard to get to this point in my road to successfully managing my sickness. I sit here behind my computer screen and openly speak about my illness to anyone who reads my blogs. Three times a year I help out my past professors and our local United Way by sharing my life story and my struggles with mental health. I sit and talk to friends of my boys about mental illness and how it is okay to say, I am not okay. It is actually important to do so.

Despite all my hard work, and despite all the battles I have faced and won to this point, I could not do it. I could not tell anyone I was speaking to while online dating why I was sick and not working. I wanted to but I feared their reaction. Oddly, it was not their reaction to me having Bipolar 1 that scared me, it was their reaction to my source of income at this time that had me on edge. I did not have it in me to tell them I am sick enough that I was approved for ODSP. For the first time in a long time I felt ashamed. I felt unworthy and I felt that they deserved someone better. I was not prepared for this.

So, where does that leave me? Should I feel ashamed I am on ODSP? No, no I should not. At this time it is what is best for me. Should I feel unworthy? Nope. Should I feel they deserve someone better than me? Again, no I should not because I know I am a great person. But, as I said, where does that really leave me? It leaves me going back to my drawing board. It leaves me taking on a different aspect of how the stigma towards those on any form of social assistance can affect those with mental illnesses. It leaves me with another battle to overcome and fight. I am sick, not weak.

About Karen M. Thompson

Michelle is a 2014 graduate of the Child and Youth Care Program at Loyalist College. During her time in the program she got to take many courses on Mental Health/Mental Illnesses. While she was learning academically, she was also learning quite a lot about herself as well. It was during this time when her mental health struggles became noticeable to herself and those around her. She had struggled from her mid-teens to her late 30's never quite knowing what was the root cause. In August of 2015 she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1. Michelle has now found a passion for telling her life story and struggles to educate students in hopes that by doing so they will have the knowledge and power to help put a stop to the stigma that affects so many with mental health issues.

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