Mental Health and Hooking Up

At HealthCentral years ago I wrote a news article detailing a study that indicated people diagnosed with schizophrenia have HIV/AIDS in greater numbers than other people in society.

Circa two weeks ago a study revealed that people diagnosed with schizophrenia are more likely to mate with other folk with schizophrenia–and people with bipolar were more likely to mate with other bipolar folk–and so on according to the mental illness you had.

Yet as the Health Guide at HealthCentral I had to field responses from women whose psychotic boyfriends or husbands were violent or tried to strangle or kill them. These guys weren’t taking medication.

Often times I would write “Get away from that guy right now.” Those guys gave every other guy diagnosed with schizophrenia a bad name.

I was quoted in a Yahoo news article on dating when you have a mental illness.

Though I was positive and proactive the comments below the article were mostly stigmatizing. One person branded me a liberal because I would only date a guy with an open mind.

A woman who commented thought I was the exception. To what? I wanted to say. How is wanting to be in a positive and nurturing relationship anything unusual? I had lamented that I couldn’t find a guy and that it had nothing to do with my diagnosis.

What’s unusual is that I won’t date a guy with schizophrenia who isn’t taking medication. That is off the table right from the start.

One guy who commented said he wouldn’t date any woman with a psychiatric history. As if every woman diagnosed with schizophrenia acts the same way.

The truth is no normal guy wants to date an actively psychotic woman. And no woman wants to date an actively psychotic guy. That’s a leap of faith that I doubt is happening often in society.

I’m going to continue to write about mental health and relationships in the coming blog entries because no one else is doing this.

I’m the only one talking about this too in a way that is not the usual screed about having other guys and women think you’re crazy when you go on a date and tell them you have schizophrenia.

What I write is the exception because I’m in the vanguard in what I write and how I see things. My contention is that the routine judging of others that most people do in society has to stop.

My contention is that a diagnosis is irrelevant to who a person is on the inside where it counts. It only matters to the degree of its effect on a person’s life. Thus my lifelong belief that getting the right treatment right away can enable a person to have a full and robust life.

A life where mental illness doesn’t dictate our potential. A life where no one’s labeled an exception when they’re simply their own person. A life where I or you or anyone else is not the standard bearer for everyone with schizophrenia.

In seven months I’ll have been in recovery 29 years. If I’m not talking about these things who will? If not now when?

Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and athlete.

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