DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: So my life feels more like a series of failures than a series of accomplishments. I even managed to get a job that would have perfectly aligned me to get my dream job, but bipolar disorder made sure I ruined that opportunity.
The last few women I’ve tried to date have made it very clear that because I’m on disability and only pursuing “dumb hobbies” like composing music or learning web design, I’m not worth their time. One of them said, “Just leave me alone. I don’t have time for people like you.”
Is it possible to find a woman who accepts me for who I am? Who realizes I might be crying nonstop during a sad movie one day and be bouncing off the walls after 3 days of no sleep the next? I don’t even want to imagine dating another bipolar person…my life is chaotic enough.
I guess my question is how do I find meaningful friendships or relationships? How do I find people who are fucked up in the same way I am and won’t assume I’m a lost cause? Thank you. Your writing has helped me more than I can put into words
DEAR MR. SINGLE: This is a situation where two things can be true, Mr. Single. The first is that you need to meet a much better class of women than you’ve apparently been dating. Someone not just deciding to date you but insulting you for pursing hobbies they think are “dumb” or pointless is someone who should be scooped out of your dating pool and tossed into the trash. That level of disrespect is a straight up deal breaker and the most they deserve is a “thank you” for revealing themselves in this way, this early on.
The other thing is true is that I’m not entirely sure you’re in good enough working order to be dating right now.
If you’ve been a reader for a while, then I’m sure you’ve seen me talk about needing to be in decent working order if you want to date. This is a concept that trips a lot of people up, but I find it’s helpful to think of it like driving a car that isn’t in pristine condition. Not everyone’s going to have a car that’s still as cherry as it was when it rolled off the dealer’s lot. Sometimes folks end up with a car that is in less than mint condition. It may shudder and stutter as it accelerates uphill, the engine may knock or seem to struggle to shift gears at certain speeds, the radio barely picks up AM stations, you have to SLAM the door to get it to close, apply a little lift-and-pull to open, and you need to turn the key in just a certain way in order to get the engine to start.
But while the car certainly has its quirks, it’s still in good enough shape that it passes the annual inspection and it can be relied on to get people from point A to point B in safety, if not perfect comfort.
That’s what “in decent working order” means; you may not be in ideal shape, but you’re able to function more or less as needed without causing undue or unnecessary stress or risk.
It seems like you’re not there, right now.
Now, I want to be clear: I say this as someone who’s aware of what’s possible with a bipolar diagnosis and what it can be like trying to live with them. I’ve had friend (and family members, for that matter) with bipolar disorder, who had their condition well managed – to the point that you wouldn’t have known if they didn’t tell you that this was something they struggled with. I’ve also seen just how bad things can get when the condition isn’t managed, or when they would fuss about with their medication; they would take their anti-depressants but not the mood stabilizers to keep the manic phase in check. This sometimes lead to things like their car being found in Amarillo and their being found in Bismarck, North Dakota. Or that they’d sold all of their possessions to become a monk in Arizona, only to show back up three days later to an empty apartment and bank account.
(And in one case, it ended in driving the wrong way on the freeway.)
It doesn’t seem like your bipolar disorder is nearly that extreme, but one doesn’t need to hit that level in order to make dating a challenge at best. To be blunt, dealing with someone who’s crying constantly from a sad movie or being on day three of a manic phase is going to be exhausting for pretty much anyone to deal with. Even you don’t want to date someone who deals with the same issues you do. That should tell you a little about what needs to be done here.
And honestly, there’s a difference between finding people who don’t think you’re a lost cause and needing someone “as fucked up as you” – and frankly, that’s a framing I find troubling. People can have empathy and compassion and understanding for the struggles that come with a mental health condition without needing to be “as fucked up”. But at the same time, there’s a difference between finding someone who has compassion and understanding and not making the effort to manage your condition so that your partner doesn’t have to manage you on top of her own life. Especially if things are so bad that you’ve had to go on disability.
And believe me, I’m sympathetic to just how fucked health care, especially mental health care is in this country, and what a fucking trial it can be to get both the regular care and the necessary medications. But that’s still something that you’re going to have to make a priority if you want to date. If you’re not willing to date someone who behaves like you do… well, why would someone else? The course of true love never did run smoothly, but there’s not running smoothly and then there’s not trying to run a trail that’s full of deadfalls, snares and hurdles.
Now with all that being said, there’s one thing that leapt out at me: one of your previous dates said “Just leave me alone. I don’t have time for people like you.” I would be curious as to what the context of that quote is. The way its phrased sounds like it could be either someone who’s rejecting you right off the bat because of your condition or someone who’s getting frustrated that you aren’t taking the hint that they’re not interested. If it’s the former – well, I stand by my “you need to date a better class of people”. But if it’s the latter… well, again, having seen how some folks with bipolar disorders can be, that ends up being another mark in the “make getting your condition under control” column.
Make your mental health a priority and get it managed. Like I said: you don’t need to be in perfect, neurotypical shape to date… but you do need to be in decent working order. It sounds like you’re not there, yet.
And when you are? Ditch whatever app or venue where you’re meeting these women from before. You deserve better than that.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org