Dating While Bipolar: What I’ve Learned While Waiting for Love

So, it has been a long time since I’ve treated my readers to a glimpse inside my head.  I’ve been busy, y’all, but my busy-ness has been put to good use.

First, I’m the new Relationships and Mental Illness blogger on HealthyPlace.  Check it out every Thursday for brief pearls of wisdom from yours truly, plus a few videos if you want to see what I look like.  Having to post every week for them (and getting paid for it, thank you very much) has taken up a bit of my writing time and writing brain, but it’s for the grand cause of helping increase awareness and decrease stigma around mental illness.  I’m incredibly honored that they asked me to participate, so go on over there and have a look around.

While the Gods of Blogging and Mental Health took notice of my talents, I can’t say the same for the Gods of Getting Off the Couch and Getting a Damn Life.  After a few months of hanging around with my cat every Saturday night I decided to take charge of myself and start going out.  My new mottos are: Go Where You’re Invited and Make Your Own Fun.

When People Invite You, They Usually Want You to Show Up

Accepting all invitations was actually hard for me, since I think I have a touch of social anxiety.  When invited into a new situation, I’m generally very nervous about meeting new people and I often believe that I won’t have any fun.  But I reminded myself that my friends are pretty cool, and most of their friends are probably like-minded, and I’m not a social reject.  Also, if you show up for someone’s event, they’re generally happy to see you so there’s no cause for fearing rejection.  Over the course of a month, I went to a few new restaurants, a few birthday parties, a comedy show, a wine tasting and a couple of bars.  I spent time with my classmates, friends passing through town on business, and my cousins that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.  I laughed a whole lot, got closer to people I didn’t know that well and rekindled friendships that had fallen by the wayside.  Challenging my comfort zone has been refreshing, and entertaining.  Sometimes it really isn’t, but I’m sort of a walking party.  At the comedy club, I heckled the acts that nobody liked and made the audience laugh.  So, basically even if an evening is a total bust – like that awful internet date I went on earlier this year – I can at least amuse myself.

Party in My Head and You’re Invited

Which brings me to making your own fun.  Single people have no business complaining about being single if they, like me, alternate their time between working and napping on the sofa with the cat.  Whether you have a mental illness or not, there’s tons of fun to be had going out with your family, friends, whomever makes you feel good instead of waiting for your mate to walk into your house and sweep you off your feet (you know it ain’t gonna happen like that, right?)  The good news is that if you plan the fun without worrying about what other people think of you, you’ll probably have a good time and others will vibe off your vibe.  Misery may love company, but happiness also likes a party and is a better host than pity.

Speaking of parties, my new roomie and I are planning one, complete with helium balloons and signature cocktails because that’s just how I roll.  My most recent foray into fun and frivolity with friends led me to a 63rd birthday for my best gay boyfriend (every girl needs one) at an unknown gay bar in midtown Manhattan.  Your average single gal approaching 40 might not want to venture forth into that space because of the lack of eligible “targets”.  In truth, I’d recently cut down on my time with my gays because I’d been concentrating on meeting a man;  how could I find a boyfriend surrounded by men who wanted to date each other?  Fair enough, but my BEING fun and going everywhere edicts were about getting out of the house NOT about desperately seeking male companionship.

Of course, I had an amazing time at the party with fun people.  I did my share of making jokes and dancing, which are two of my favorite things in the world because I can enjoy myself while encouraging fun in others.  I also met a guy that I’d like to date. Yes, he’s straight.  Which brings me to what I’ve learned during my most recent involuntary dating hiatus.

Emotion Regulation and Burgeoning Relationships

I may have just jinxed myself by using the term “burgeoning relationship”, but I’m going to use it in terms of the guy I met at the gay bar on Friday.  Actually, I met him several months ago and thought he was cute, but had no occasion to see him again until last week.  He flirted with me and laughed at my jokes.  He paid me sincere compliments; I looked at him like he was on drugs but kept dancing and telling jokes.  We hit it off famously.  Onlookers told me that it was painfully obvious that he was hitting on me.  We left the bar together and, yadda, yadda, yadda,…we were both very tired the next morning.  In a very PG-13 way, of course.  We parted amicably, not needing to exchange numbers because we have each other’s work information.  I should mention that his company works with mine, but that we don’t actually work together.  I made no declarative comments about seeing him again (CURSES!) but he did friend me on Facebook.  Isn’t that a requirement for dating these days?

Anyway, Erik – not his real name – now has an open line of communication to me and vice versa.  I made a pithy comment about breaking a lamp in my bedroom (yeah, we’re hot like that), to which he responded. I’ve also invited him to aforementioned balloon-and-signature-cocktail party.  And because Facebook is the purview of psycho stalkers and obsessive relationship rejects of all kinds, I check the event listing for my soiree at least 10 times a day to see if he’s RSVP’d.  I also check Erik’s Facebook page to see if he’s commented on anyone else’s wall or had any modicum of contact with another woman since he left me on Saturday afternoon.

Yeah, obsessive.

I may not be able to control my internal monologue about not giving away milk for free or stop kicking myself internally about not saying “we should do this again” or something like that. I can, however, control my behavior towards other people.  I WILL NOT initiate further communication with Erik because nothing I do can or will make him respond to me if he doesn’t want to.  I also cannot make him like me if he doesn’t, but I will succeed in making him think I’m ridiculous if I (publicly) cyber-stalk him.  Also, the whole “we sort of work together” issue is politically charged, since Erik’s boss is on Facebook and they follow each other.  I have the common sense to tell my boss that he’s not allowed to friend me on Facebook, Twitter or any social media vehicle other than LinkedIn;  he has graciously complied.

The work issue notwithstanding, I could easily communicate with Erik via phone, text, email or carrier pigeon since Facebook is too public.  In the past I would have done all of the above in an attempt to wrest control of the uncontrollable:  other people’s feelings and behaviors.  Now I know how pointless that is because it not only makes me look desperate, it also causes me undue stress and reinforces my control issues.  I may have said these words before, but I’ve never actually followed my own advice, so I fully expect you all to applaud my self-awareness.

This Friday, I’m going to a Halloween party.  Instead of looking around the room to see what single-looking men are there, I’m going to pour my energies into enjoying the people who invited me.  I’m going to wear a funny costume, laugh a lot and be thankful for friends who desire the pleasure of my company.  If Erik isn’t going to be one such person, I won’t put him into the big “unfriend” pile.  After all, friends are really important to a single girl.

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