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Dating While Bipolar: Is it deceptive not to disclose your disease?

So, I’ve been doing a fair amount of complaining about the men I’m dating, or trying to date, or seeking out for the express purpose of dating.  To be honest, I’m pretty excited about being healthy and rational and looking for a companion.  Yet a part of me is a little afraid about embarking on a relationship while carrying the baggage of bipolar.  It was OK when I thought I was just a little depressed and the behavior I now know as mania could be shrugged off as “free-spirited behavior.”  Now, with multiple rounds of medication and weeks in the mental hospital under my belt, I wonder how to work my mental health background into the dating picture.

If you’ve been reading the “Dating While Bipolar” series, you know that I went in on a date that behaved as though he had Aspergers syndrome – basically, I thought it would be a good idea for him to prepare dates for his (apparent) clinical lack of social skills.  You see, my theory was this:  in dating, you have to manage expectations, prepare people for what they’re gonna get, especially when you meet them online and have limited information at best.  And when you plan a date online, sight unseen, you’re managing expectations for the DATE, not for a RELATIONSHIP, so you should mention stuff that will become obvious when you meet someone for the first time.  Like your inability to look someone in the eye when you talk to them,  if you actually talk to them during the date.  In my head – and on this blog – I’ve likened the brain disorder to having a physical disability, or having a third arm growing out of your chest, in that Asperger’s is going to make itself known even if you don’t mention it.  But what about my brain disorder?  Isn’t that what bipolar is?  We mental illness advocates talk a very big game about emotional disorders being physical in nature, diseases that you live with even though there’s no cure. Isn’t that the same as Asperger’s?  Honestly my disease reveals itself whenever I meet new people, but that revelation is inside my head rather than on my sleeve. It’s like if I had diabetes:  it would come up, or make manifest on the outside, if it came up.  If it didn’t, why mention the disease if nobody can tell?

Yeah, yeah, that last statement made me feel a little icky too.  Another thing the mentally ill do is say, “it would be so much easier if people could see my disease on the outside, then they’d know I had a disease instead of some personality shortcoming.”  So why am I talking out of both sides of my mouth?  Well, I am bipolar. . .Seriously, though, I’m not manic or depressed most of the time, because I’m healthy and I know how to live a (mostly) happy, average life.  But if I had another disease like, say the Asperger’s that I think afflicts Eggbert, it would be evident more of the time, perhaps less manageable to “average” and, therefore, more prone to disclosure.  What I mean to say is this:  if someone has a personality disorder that’s pretty evident upon meeting them, mentioning it before you met someone for the first time would stop them from thinking that you’re an asshole for ignoring them.  If I was in the throes of mania, I’d date you, drink too much, laugh too loud, suggest we go to a sex club and…wait, I’ve done that.  And I actually wasn’t dating (as in, looking for a potential long-term mate); I was responding to “Casual Encounters” on Craigslist, not exploring the dimensions of long-term compatibility (or some such shit) on eHarmony.  The guys I met during my full-blown nuttiness probably didn’t care about relating to me emotionally as long as they could stick their tongues down my throat, or anywhere else they wanted to stick it.  In that instance, a sexually-transmitted disease or inability to orgasm would’ve been appropriate to disclose.  She what I’m getting at here?

Right, so I should wait until after I get to know someone before disclosing my bipolar disorder.  Riiight.  So when is “get to know someone” over?  10 dates?  After sex?  Before you meet the parents?  When it comes up?  What if it never comes up?  Actually, I can see marrying someone before mental illness just “comes up”:

My 2012 Husband:  “Baby, can you pass the beer nuts?”

2012 Me:  “Speaking of nuts, let me tell you about those 2 weeks I spent in the psych ward back in ’09…”

Bad example, but if I manage my disease well, behave like a regular person and keep myself out of inpatient, my bipolar would be virtually undetectable.  OK, there will be questions about the medications on my bedside table, but only if you get to my bedside.  Basically I’m prepared to hold onto this nugget of information until it becomes necessary, like when I start dating someone exclusively, after “I Love You” but before “I think this relationship is going to be really serious.”  Not that I’ve ever made it to that last milestone, but I’m thinking that it comes at some point when people start sharing everything, start asking about family histories, and start going to the bathroom with the door open.  You know, intimacy and stuff.

Or I could just use my real name for this blog and tell people to Google me…would take a lot less effort.

4 comments to Dating While Bipolar: Is it deceptive not to disclose your disease?

  • I'm speaking as the wife of a man who is bipolar. I was not aware that he was bipolar before we got married. What a shock when he disappeared less that 2 1/2 weeks after our wedding in a manic episode (if you'd like to read the whole story I'm working on a blog myself, http://lifeasbipolarswife.blogspot.com).
    My father was bipolar too. As a result my regular dating "getting to know you" chit chat eventually leads to mental health in some form or another. My husband outright lied when I had asked if he'd ever seen a psychiatrist or attempted suicide. I still believe he should have been upfront and honest. Though I do understand that he thought I would leave had I known. Bottom line, if you tell the person you're seeing and they leave, they weren't worth having in the first place. Even if my husband HAD told me I would still have married him. I love him and support him.

    • mypolaropposite

      Thank you for sharing your story. I would never get to the "we're getting married" stage without telling someone about my disease. But WHEN do you bring it up? It's not an icebreaker, but those of us who're newly diagnosed (and single) are trying to find the right balance between "too much info, too soon" and being honest. I'll look at your blog and add it to my blogroll – I think a relationship with a bipolar can perhaps be as trying as having the disease. Best of luck! – Deltra

      • I honestly think that telling me when I asked would have been the best time. However, most people don't think to ask! It is a very sensitive subject which has a very negative stigma. It would have to be during the getting to know you phase, but before getting serious. That's very touchy. Just make sure it feels right. That would probably just depend on the relationship. :)

        Not a great answer, I know.

        Thanks for adding me to the blogroll.

  • Beth

    I'm thinking somewhere around the second or third month of dating… after the casual conversations but before things get serious.

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