Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Double D

In the area of dating, anything goes. Isn't that what they say? People date to find a match, to have a one-night stand, to boost their ego, to find happiness, or to find a way out of reality for a while. People date for a barrel of reasons, non of which are wrong in my eyes, although lets be honest, some of them can cause serious heartache.

So, I found myself wondering...if anything goes, are there any exceptions to this? What about depression? Does depression and dating mix? Can they mix? Should they? Shouldn't they? With 1 in 4 people suffering from some sort of mental health problem (depression, anxiety etc.) over the course of a year, I found myself wondering how many people in the dating pool are currently also depressed?

I want to clarify that when I say 'depressed', I'm talking about actual depression. Not the sort that makes you feel down for a day when your goldfish dies, but the sort thats like living under a cloud, seemingly with no way out. Can this type of depression go hand in hand with dating?

I'm a firm believer that there is no black and white in life, it's not cut and dry. Things aren't one or the other, but varying degrees of in-between. So to me, saying someone with depression shouldn't be dating, isn't quite right. Don't get me wrong, if you're suffering on the extreme end then I would be inclined to say that dating wouldn't be a good idea for anyone involved. There are too many uncertainties in dating and without some foundation to start with, it seems like a concerning path to walk. Think of it like someone with wobbly legs trying to stay upright on a surf board - it's not going to work. You're likely to fall off in spectacular style, potentially with a belly flop (man, those things are painful!) and a mouth full of salty water. It's not exactly going to be a pleasant experience.

But what about the majority of people who suffer with some form of mental health problem? The ones I think of as 'middle of the road'. Who have their share of ups and downs but manage. Those who may or may not take a prescribed pill to help make getting up easier, or those who may have needed time off work in the past, but are now living a 'normal' life. What about those who live with depression and make the most of it? Can they be in the dating pool successfully? Should they?

To discriminate against someone with depression is as frustrating to me as discriminating against someone with a physical disability. But the trouble with mental health problems, means that the unseen is unheard. Mental health problems are treated with major social stigma, even in an era where it's so common. Which quite frankly, really pees me off. Yes, a person might struggle to find the motivation to get out of bed sometimes (but somehow they do) or they may sit and feel really crappy for no reason, but what about the times they go out with friends and make everyone laugh, let their hair down and really love life? Depression, like everything else, isn't black and white.

When I was with an ex, I went through a period of needing anti-depressants. I had post-natal depression and it was a really sucky time. My ex hated that I needed anti-depressants and was quite vocal about this. He thought that he should be enough to 'cure' me. It doesn't work like that. I knew I needed them because I would sit in the bath every night and cry. For no reason. I felt crap, I couldn't concentrate on anything for long enough to distract myself, so even watching a soap was tiresome as my brain tried to focus, and yet couldn't. I recognised the traits and asked for help. Within a few months, I was confident enough to get back on the surf board as I knew my legs weren't shaky anymore, and I didn't need the prozac either.

In a world where bills, pressure and stress are everyday occurrences, should we think that someone who's depressed shouldn't date? I know someone who's suffered with depression on/off for over a decade. She's intelligent, beautiful and confident, but sometimes she needs a bit of help. When she does, she visits the doctors and takes a pill a day until she feels strong enough to stop. She's never been addicted, she's never viewed anti-depressants as a permanent option, just a temporary aid. This friend is dating currently and she's happy trying dinner and drinks with different people. She's still on anti-depressants but she's happy. She gets dressed up, enjoys a good dance with her friends on a night out, and she likes to make memories. Does that mean that sometimes she doesn't come home from work and lay on her bed staring at the ceiling for an hour? Or that she doesn't have to sometimes disguise that she sits at her desk at work, staring at the screen wondering why she has such a low opinion of herself? No, but she rides the storm. Life only happens once and my friend says that she isn't prepared to waste more of her time letting the depression rule. Does she tell her dates she's on anti-depressants? Hell no! Would they know? No chance! If she's having a bad day she covers her tracks, makes excuses and does her thing to cope - goes to the gym, gets an early night, spends time with people who make her smile etc. Should she not date? I think she should! She enjoys it, she's able to and she's doing no harm. But I know not everyone agrees. If she felt like throwing herself off the multi-storey then I would think differently, but she doesn't.

My opinion is that dating and depression can work. Every case is individual, but overall I see no reason to say that the two can't be compatible. Although I have to acknowledge that this would throw up some difficulties.

So people of the world, take heed from my friend - if you're able, and you're doing no harm (to yourself, or anyone else) then go with it. Life is too short to live under the cloud.

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