I told people I’m bipolar on the first date and I’d still be doing it if I was still dating.
Here’s the thing, I didn’t at first. I was terrified of what people would think of me, how it would effect my chances with someone. I wouldn’t tell a soul, I thought it was something that should be saved for a few months in, a “so I should probably tell you…” that comes when your ready to confess.
But why was I confessing? I wasn’t guilty of anything. I am bipolar, it’s part of me and it has been for a long time. I’m not ashamed of it, I’m annoyed by it a lot, but I’m not ashamed of it. It was out of my control and it made me stronger. It’s just there, a consistent part of me, and I share things about me when I’m trying to get to know someone, so why shouldn’t it be shared as well?
Sure, there is stigma, but there is stigma on all sorts of things, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be talking about it. Maybe by hiding our disorders we’re adding to the stigma. We’re acting ashamed, so they must be shameful! But it isn’t. Bipolar disorder is nothing to be ashamed of, so I started to act like it.
To my surprise, very few people I told cared. They didn’t linger on it too long, just long enough for me to say a few lines about having been medicated for it since I was a child. And after I confessed it, there were no looks of horror. Sometimes there was a mention of a loved one who was bipolar. Sometimes I get an “oh” then a “well, okay”. Then we’d move on to the next topic. It didn’t really effect whether or not I got asked on a second date. It didn’t change the mood of the night. I said it so simply that it wasn’t even awkward. It just was, and it was accepted as such.
It was amazing. I felt like really uncovered something astonishing. This wasn’t the outcome I was expecting, and it certainly wasn’t what I had prepared for. It made me feel better about humanity, about what we’re teaching people and what stereotypes exist. But really, it made me feel better about myself. It was a freeing, to throw it down on the table as confidently as I would with a friend. To own my disorder and not back away from what it means or fear what others thought about it.
It wasn’t an easy experiment to start. In fact, it started with me telling a guy I had no interest in seeing again. When he didn’t care it opened my eyes to the fact that most people might not. Once I learned that I ran with it, telling my next few first dates about it as well. I did it all the way up until my last first date, which was with the man I’m going to marry. It didn’t change his mind about me either.