To be honest, I don’t believe myself to be an aficionado on matters of the heart, but one thing I know to be true is that whether you’re living with schizophrenia or not, we all, as human beings, want to be seen.
In May 2021, I had a milestone birthday -- I turned 50 years old -- and while I am of the mindset that age is just a number, I began to reflect on my life, including my love life. I currently am not in a relationship and I’ve never been married, but I have been in love.
I have fond memories of getting butterflies in my stomach upon meeting a new romantic prospect, with periods of heartache in between. I have been in love, engaged once, dumped, and even ghosted in my life, but despite it all, I’ve never given up on finding love.
Dating and finding love isn’t easy for anyone, but living with schizophrenia adds some obstacles when you’re looking for romance. When to disclose to your potential love interest that you’re living with schizophrenia is the obstacle I fear the most.
Disclosure has always frightened me because I know that in the beginning stages of getting to know my suitor, there’s already a fear of being rejected in the first place. Adding to it that I’m living with schizophrenia only compounds my fear.
Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s in my best interest to disclose relatively early in the dating process. I do this for two reasons. The first is that I don’t want to hide who I am from my romantic prospect as if I’m ashamed of my disorder.
And second, if they can’t accept me as a person living with schizophrenia, then it’s in my best interest to let this relationship go. I’m not going to pursue a relationship with someone that can’t see my potential despite my condition.
My symptoms pose another obstacle. Staying well is so important to daily life, but adding a romantic relationship to the mix can bring about difficulties in managing my symptoms. I combat this by continuing to use my coping skills, practicing healthy boundaries, taking my medications as prescribed, and keeping my psychiatry and therapy appointments. If I’m not well or unable to hold myself in high regard, then having a romantic relationship isn’t going to work.
It’s also important that I remember to not lose myself in a relationship. There’s truth to the age-old advice that to maintain a relationship you have to stay true to yourself.
But like mental health recovery, relationships take work, and you have to trust in the process in order to stay healthy. Taking care of yourself while being able to communicate your needs is essential to a healthy relationship.
There was a time that I didn’t think I was worthy of love because of my schizophrenia. I thought that I would never have love and romance in my life ever again, and though I’m single right now, I believe there is someone just for me. I don’t dwell on the past or look too far into the future, but I always stay in the present and keep my heart open to finding love.
Don’t let yourself feed into the fear that a happy, healthy relationship or marriage will never come because of your diagnosis. If you ever feel alone or unseen because you’re living with schizophrenia, remember that you are worthy of love and there is someone wonderful for you that you just haven’t met yet. I haven’t given up on love -- and neither should you.
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