Despite the abundance of dating opportunities, finding love has never been more challenging. We’ve come so far with technology and cultural progress, yet we still struggle with dating burnout. Finding love should be simple now, but it’s become a complex and emotionally draining journey. We strive for security, independence, and growth in our relationships, yet the search for love seems to bring on feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and heartache. We want to protect ourselves, but it’s becoming harder.
Dating World ChangeD But Our Humanity Remains the Same
The feelings of unworthiness and shame individuals with mental health challenges experience when dating are often overlooked. Asking for an emotional connection right away can feel like an imposition, and waiting too long can leave us with doubts. Despite the turmoil, we still have to play the game and losing sucks. We hide our feelings, put on a facade, and are afraid to show our vulnerabilities. We seek validation and send panicked screenshots to our friends for the next best reply. We’re constantly second-guessing and navigating with care, yet we dare. But sometimes, in the quest for love, we shove our emotions to the back of our minds, choosing solitude over relationships and self-discovery over love, believing that we must love ourselves before we can love others.
Navigating My Highs and Lows In Pursuit of Love
I have struggled with my moods for a long time, especially in what some would say are my “hot years.” I’ve woken up on many days with the vow of not pursuing relationships altogether, feeling unworthy and overwhelmed. On other days, I would feel ambivalent, deleting dating apps and re-downloading them frequently, exhausting my very little energy. I would be hot and cold, asking for space one moment and as little space as possible the next. If I really liked someone, I’d freak out. What if they could see through me? Sometimes, I would reveal too much too soon, and I always wondered, why was that a problem?
I have searched for stories like mine in books, TV shows, movies, and other people, hoping to find a way to make it to the other side. But to avoid heartache, save energy, and keep other aspects of my life stable, I have denied myself the opportunity to date on several occasions. I’ve also been in failing relationships where the guys would gaslight me, twisting my words and actions to make me question my own reality. And when I dared to speak up, they would blame it on my bipolar disorder, making me feel like the villain. They would use my mental health as a tool to manipulate and control me, making me doubt myself and my own experiences.
It was a constant battle, trying to navigate the confusion and uncertainty they created. I felt like I couldn’t trust my own mind and that I was constantly walking on eggshells, trying to avoid their wrath. My condition felt like a burden, and I thought I must be wrong after all. It was cruel and left me feeling isolated and alone.
“Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am”
I had to learn that my bipolar disorder is not something to be exploited or used against me and to trust my own mind. I had to learn to dig deeper into my intuition and virtues, always align my actions to my moral compass and walk away when needed. This guided me in all types of connections I made over these years. I have slowly started speaking up about my mental health. Among friends, coworkers, and at open mics because pretending that I was not crumbling on the inside was getting exhausting.
A friend once suggested the third episode of the show “Modern Love,” in which Anne Hathaway plays a character who navigates the dating world while struggling with bipolar disorder and balancing her professional life. That hit me hard. I must have cried throughout the episode. The title “Take Me As I Am, Whoever I Am” is not just for the world but also something I have had to ask myself to do.
I feel my feelings very deeply. Lately I’ve had to dig a lot deeper to uncover what I am running away from, discover what keeps me from moving forward, and how I can avoid this back-and-forth in my decisions and actions. These promises of self-protection would keep me isolated and spare others from hurt, but they also burnt bridges and left some perplexed. What followed eventually was regret.
With goals achieved, self-care maxed out, and passions no longer filling the void, this dust would settle, leaving me alone with my desperation staring back at me. But I do often catch a break which gives me a chance to breathe as a human — a messy, vulnerable, magnificent human who is very well capable of love.
LET LOVE FLOW BY EMBRACING YOUR VULNERABILITIES AND INSECURITIES AND PASS YOUR LOVE ON TO OUR CHILDREN
This is not just a story about seeking love in romantic relationships but about preserving the very essence of it. A story about love that:
As I delved deeper into my emotions, I discovered a hidden treasure — a superpower I never knew existed. Embracing the ebbs and flows of my moods made me incredibly attuned to the feelings of others, and empathy began to flow naturally from me. I recall a moment when I was feeling particularly low and witnessed a woman crying on the subway, ignored by all around her. Without a second thought, I followed her off the train and gave her a comforting long hug until she said she felt better, and was ready to go on with her day. It was then that I realized the true power of empathy and how it can transform the lives of those around us as well as ourselves. It makes us brave to show up.
It’s also about learning to receive empathy as well. My friends who understand my condition show me endless grace and compassion when I feel unworthy and when my thoughts become stuck in a cycle.
Let’s pass this love on and assure children who’ve endured the bitter pain of growing up in an emotionally abusive environment, where love was a distant dream, that it was never their fault. They have every right to feel the hurt and the pain. Indeed, allowing themselves to do so is the truest form of love. There are those among us – coworkers, friends, and even strangers – who will listen without judgment and hold you tight as you cry. That is love. And, when your friends are too burdened to reach out, you must reach out to them with tenacity and openness and, when they finally open up, that is love.
We all seek love in our romantic relationships, but we can’t limit it to that. It flows freely. Love is everywhere, in every person we come across, and in every moment. We have all felt denied of the love we so deeply crave, but let that be the driving force to create more of it. We are love; we are it. Do not take my word for it. Go out into nature, sit in a garden and truly relax. Take in every detail around you, and you will see it. You will feel it.
DO NOT LET YOUR MENTAL HEALTH LIMIT YOUR ABILITY TO LOVE
To those battling their mental health, please hear this: your capacity for love is not limited by your struggles. It is often through the darkest of days that we learn to love with the deepest of sincerity. You have felt the pain of life’s harsh realities, and in that pain, you have found the strength to love with a ferocity that others can only dream of. You understand the importance of compassion and empathy: of truly seeing and understanding another person. You have been to the depths of despair and have emerged with a heart full of love and the courage to give it to the world.
You are capable of loving in ways that others can not imagine; your love is pure. It is real and it is what the world needs. You are the light in the darkness, the hope in the despair, and the love in pain. Believe in yourself, in your capacity to love, and let that love be the beacon that guides you through life’s journey.