I Stopped Dating Because Of Depression, & I’m Finally Learning to Accept Myself

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

When I entered the online dating world in 2019, I knew dating would be harder for me than the average woman. It had been a little over a year since my marriage had ended, and while I had no love for my ex, I was emotionally fragile. Learning about dating trends like benching made me feel even more vulnerable. But my biggest worry was that no one would accept me as I am. Despite increased mental health awareness, many people cannot handle clinically depressed partners. As someone who is always depressed, it seemed that my chances were ultra slim.

My use of the word always is no exaggeration. The thing is, I have an uncommon mental illness called double depression.

It is a combination of two types of depressive disorders: persistent depressive disorder (PDD) and major depressive disorder (MDD). PDD is characterized by low to moderate depression for a minimum of two years. MDD or clinical depression is characterized by moderate to severe episodes of depression, with an episode lasting at least two weeks. I got my first MDD episode at the age of 13, and it was preceded by PDD. I am 31 today, and both haven’t left my side since.

What this means is that I am in a low mood for most of the day, every day. This consistent low mood is periodically replaced by intense depressive episodes. The days when I am blues-free are very rare. In fact, in the past five years, I can’t remember having such a day. I am never depression-free, and unless my diagnosis changes, this state of mind is permanent. That’s why my psychiatrist recommended that I come to terms with double depression.

Despite my fears, I thought I should give online dating a shot; maybe some guys would be open-minded.

But after speaking with a few matches, I learned that being depressed was a deal breaker. Whenever I answered a “how has your day been” kind of question with a candid “bad, I’m depressed and need to sleep”, the conversation would go downhill from there. Men would either express shock because they felt I had no reason to be depressed, extend their condolences, and suggest lifestyle changes (exercise! socialize! meditate!), or both. Fixing my depression would then become their primary focus, and soon, they would ghost me after failing to do so.

Whether I revealed my health condition after a week or after a month, the reactions were standard. Plus, since I wrote about mental health, some avid Googlers brought it up before I did, along with judgment and unsolicited advice.

None of this was easy to deal with, especially when I clicked with a guy and things seemed to be going well until my “confession”. To avoid such unwelcome situations, I decided to own my depression and explicitly stated it in my profile. I reasoned that it would drive away those who stigmatized and discriminated against mental illness. Anyway, I had nothing to hide or be ashamed of, especially as I was responsibly treating my illness with therapy and medication.

I was wrong, and how! Some guys took the mention of depression on my profile as an Ask Me Anything invitation. Another category still took it up as a challenge to cure me. And the third kind believed that I only needed them in my life to become normal. Because they were missing in my life, it was natural to be down in the dumps. Talk about believing the mass misconception that a woman needs a man to be happy! Sadly, I went on dates with a few men of the third kind because they kept this ridiculous belief to themselves. They only voiced it when they were tired and had to vent how “nothing can make you happy, not even a good guy like me.”

Most people don’t know that depression is on a spectrum. Just because someone they know has high-functioning depression doesn’t mean that’s the only kind of depression there is.

I can never forget this one gentleman who said that I needed to work on my willpower when I shared my piece on low-functioning depression. All I wanted was to let him know that I was unwell and would need some time to recover. Instead of understanding, he got upset at me for being lazy and said that he could not commit to a chronically unhappy woman. He also said that I was too much (read: crazy) because I hadn’t healed despite going to therapy and taking psychiatric drugs. As if he were doing me a favor, he added that he was open to a no-strings-attached relationship. This after I had explicitly stated—both in my bio and in person—that I was looking for a serious monogamous relationship. The incident broke something in me and I cut down my app usage. And whenever I went back, I always regretted it.

And then I reached a breaking point.

On the eve of February 9, 2022, I found myself thinking that I was inadequate and unworthy of a relationship. I then spiraled and found so many personal faults that I cried myself to sleep. The next day, I took the time to figure out the origin of these thoughts. Turns out I had internalized the ignorance spewed by the men I had connected with. I decided to get off dating apps for good. All they had done was expose me to criticism, ghosting, toxic positivity, and mental health stigma. As a result, my self-worth was shot to bits and had to be rebuilt. My accounts went dark that day, and I have zero intention of going back.

Honestly, it’s been a relief to get off the dating hamster wheel. I don’t miss getting my hopes up only for them to crash, and I’m slowly learning to accept all of myself.

Men implied that depression made me a liability, and I actually believed it! It’s clear now how wrong they were. I have enough to offer (like boundless love, empathy, loyalty, a quirky sense of humor, and healthy boundaries), but they failed to see that because of their implicit bias and prejudice toward mental illness. This makes it their problem, not mine.

Thanks to therapy and inner work, I am in a headspace where I barely care about others’ labels. What matters most is how I see myself.

Depression may disable me but it does not define me. Even at its worst, it cannot change the fact that I am a complex, multidimensional individual. Having depression makes me difficult (hello anhedonia and suicidal ideation) but it does not make me undateable or a burden. I am strong, brave, and doing my best to function with a severe mental illness. No more will I let anyone tell me how to recover and become normal. Living with depression is normal to me, and I am done imparting free education to closed minds.  I don’t need anyone’s pity, condolences, or advice.

Giving up dating apps has helped me regain my self-worth, and now that I know how I deserve to be treated, it’s been easy to stay away.

I am leaving it to God, fate, or whoever is in charge of our lives to find a suitable partner. The right guy will accept and appreciate me for who I am instead of trying to fix me. But whether our paths cross or not, I am working towards the okay if it happens, okay if it doesn’t headspace. On most days, I am content with solitude and can thwart the inner critic. And years from now, if I still don’t meet anyone, that’s fine. I will be “the one” to accept me as I am.

Tired of the stigma associated with mental illness?

Tired of the stigma associated with mental illness?

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