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How Many of Us Are "Socially Normal"?


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hello all,

i have been thinking lately a lot about the relationships that i have with others, friendships mostly as i haven't had a romantic relationship in quite some time due directly to mental illness. oddly enough, though, i have been able to grow a 'grown-up career' and thrive. i lost that career once over the past ten years due to a run of atypical antipsychotric trials and the medications working so terribly for me, but i quickly recovered and picked up where i left off.

anyhow, i was wondering, because most of us here have very severe disorders or very  severe variants of disorders, how this impacts your romantic relationships and how many of you guys and gals are in fulfilling romantic relationships? at this point (i'm in my mid-30s) and haven't been in a relationship for about ten years and at that time was actively dating before my already treatment-resistant severe-variant anxiety disorders took a turn for the worst and i stopped due to, well, progression of the illnesses.

i would love to get back out there but because i'm so impacted by mental illness, i feel like it's such an ingrained part of who i am and wonder if this will prevent romantic relationships - everything from future relapses to minor instability, medication issues to sexual issues due to medications. like, yes, there is a relatively long "sexual window" during which i "work" currently and i have to take dexedrine outside of that time because i'm not normal.

nothing is normal and i want a normal relationship but with someone compassionate and i feel like i have to put this information out there somewhere on dating profiles online and i feel that that makes me vulnerable in some way because as much as mental illness is a part of me, it's a part of me that is stigmatized by society and will, no doubt, drive good people away because they have been told or have heard that mental illness = violence or mental illness = the most severe form of schizophrenia out there where we are never in touch with reality which again brings us back to potentially being violent or just outright bizarre. that bizarre quality i think is what makes us so actively and passively avoided once they know that we are or have not been well.

i dunno, i suppose i'm just looking for tips on how to deal with this and jump back into the dating world because 1. i'm on a lot of medication to treat severe disorders 2. i fall unstable every now and again, sometimes more severely than others and 3. i'm shy, so meeting people in person is difficult for me unless i'm at work and those people are, for the most part, a lot older than i am, so...yeah. like, how do i do it? how do i stick it in an online profile without blasting out BTW, I'M A BASKET CASE?

i know that some of you lead very normal lives relative to me and i know that i lead a very normal career life relative to some of you. i'd like to bridge the gap between my career life and my social life in a positive direction because i do get lonely like anyone else would and i'd like companionship like any other.

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I currently have no romantic life by choice-- not interested, pandemic etc.  I look outwardly normal. Inwardly I don't feel that way.

I have kept working, but I find maintaining a professional life difficult because I find my anxiety bad at times and people can be dicks about it.

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5 hours ago, basuraeuropea said:

I know that some of you lead very normal lives relative to me and i know that i lead a very normal career life relative to some of you. i'd like to bridge the gap between my career life and my social life in a positive direction because i do get lonely like anyone else would and i'd like companionship like any other.

I would say, that right now, online dating is more difficult in general for everyone, due to COVID.

I am fortunate that I was already in a long-term relationship, when my MI became very debilitating, and that person has been there for me through it all........I had to stop working in 2015, and haven't been able to work since, because of my MI.....So you are much more fortunate than me as far as being able to work.

I totally understand that you are lonely and want companionship......Have you tried maybe doing some volunteer work in your off-work hours?....That might be a good way to start socializing with people outside of work....There are all sorts of non-profit organizations that need volunteers, and who knows, you might meet someone special.

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Posted (edited)

I'm too socially inept to have friends or date. MI + being an introvert and possible Asperger's. It use to make me very suicidal but I guess I've just come to accept it. It really sucks though. The thought that I will never marry or have kids. I've thought about going to work but I have no work experience due to being on disability my whole adult life and I'm scared of losing my top notch insurance. I've always also been scared of revealing my diagnosis to others because  I've done it in the past and people just assume someone with bipolar or schizophrenia is either a invalid that can't do anything or dangerous. My pdoc says this is all a sign of negative symptoms.

Edited by CeremonyNewOrder
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I'm married. I met my husband doing volunteer work. We're both socially awkward introverts and both come from families with a history of mental illness. My own mental illness worsened significantly when I was pregnant and in the years afterwards, I was more stable and was working when I got married.

My job history is quite sad, though. Just minimum wage stuff here and there, never for very long. I'm not working currently.

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ah, so it seems that some people are and some people are not. like you, @wookie, i also look outwardly normal by all measures, but inside i am definitely not.

the pandemic aside, i was just really referencing life in general. the pandemic will pass and the situation may improve or it may not. i have a lot of things going for me, but i also have a lot of attributes associated with the disorders that people would consider detrimental. it's difficult for sure but i do want companionship much like the vast majority of others on the planet.

4 hours ago, CeremonyNewOrder said:

I've always also been scared of revealing my diagnosis to others because  I've done it in the past and people just assume someone with bipolar or schizophrenia is either a invalid that can't do anything or dangerous. My pdoc says this is all a sign of negative symptoms.

i don't think this is a sign of negative symptoms showing themselves, i think this is a very real and a very valid concern of yours, unfortunately due to the stigmatization that surrounds those disorders in particular.

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i also find romantic relationships an impossibility due to the way my MI manifests itself. i can't stomach most physical touch and have a terrible time with emotional intimacy because i think too much. i have no ability to be spontaneous and i can't say anything emotional without literal weeks of thinking about it. even then, i usually have to text because i can't get the words out in person. i have a difficult enough time telling my family i love them, let alone friends or anyone else. most of that i attribute to OCPD. intimacy problems are noted in OCPD and i'm basically a testament to that.

on the OCD/anxiety side of my dx, i can't stomach anything remotely sexual in real life because it triggers horrible intrusive thoughts that plague me for weeks/months (sexual content in books/movies/etc doesn't bother me at all -- i just can't handle anything that involves people i know, including myself). as a teenager trying out romantic stuff, i used to physically shake when people touched me. i think back sometimes to a guy i was a bit involved with when i was 17 and i just have to shake my head. i was such a basket case (unmedicated, which didn't help).

it also takes me years to warm up to people. i don't make new friends easily, and when i do they don't stick. i just don't put effort into maintaining relationships if i feel they're transient. it's difficult enough to keep up with the friends in my inner circle who i've known for almost 10 years.

i don't talk a lot about my relationships with my pdoc or tdoc, but i consider that whole area of my social ability to be quite dysfunctional. 

right now i am not attempting to make new friends or romantic opportunities, and i don't think that'll change soon. it keeps my life a lot less stressful. i am occasionally lonely but i'm much more stable with fewer people in my life.

oh yeah, also, i'm very competent in my current job. i'm considered a key person in the management team where i work and expect to be there for the foreseeable future barring any catastrophes. i appear very functional, but it doesn't take much digging to see my social life is nonexistent.

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thank you to everyone who has shared their story. i know things are difficult for many of us here on this site, although it appears that 'normalcy' within the romantic and/or social sphere(s) has affected most of us, no matter how 'normal' we may appear externally, particularly within our respective careers.

 

it is disappointing to read the pain within these stories, i do have to admit.

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I think I can pass as socially "normal" but it is a bit of an act.  I have been married 25 years. I met my husband video dating (VHS tapes) back in the day.  I was terribly shy and quiet.  I did have a career as a clinical lab scientist that is long gone.  Stress makes my symptoms worse. I currently work part-time as a peer mentor in mental health.  It is a lot less pay, but my speed.  I met my husband and had children before i was diagnosed.  I have 2 friends who have bipolar disorder who I met through working. I also have one friend from high school but we only talk over the internet.  Sorry, I don't know anything about dating and disclosing,

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Honestly I'm not sure being married should be seen as the quintessential sign of normalcy, anymore than being employed should be seen as such. All marriage means is that you found ONE person who is willing to put up with your particular brand of crazy (at least for now). I have very little social life and zero close friends who aren't family.

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6 minutes ago, Juniper29 said:

Honestly I'm not sure being married should be seen as the quintessential sign of normalcy, anymore than being employed should be seen as such. All marriage means is that you found ONE person who is willing to put up with your particular brand of crazy (at least for now). I have very little social life and zero close friends who aren't family.

But I think it is a good reminder to all of us struggling that “normal” can be pretty overrated

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something similar to this just came up in therapy recently.  I'm going to start dating again (or, at least, I'm meeting someone who an ex is setting me up with).  My question to my therapist was how do I explain my dating history and the fact that I'm 38 and have never been married. 

Part is the fact that I came out in my 20s and was engaged to a guy (I identify as lesbian, just late to realize it).  I was three weeks out from getting married.  Details past that would be a long story not pertinent to your question. 

Part is the fact that my mental illness has gotten in the way.  Tdoc's slightly simplistic but honest appraisal is that a person who I click with is not going to be phased by it and/or is going to learn to work with it.  I don't eagerly anticipate having to divulge mental health stuff, but I can see his point.  That said, I have a lot for someone to swallow. 

I'm first going to go on this meet-up thing with my ex's ex's friend (that's the lesbian dating world for you).  If that doesn't work out, I'll be back on okcupid because it's what most people on my geographic area use.  I won't put the mental health diagnosis in my profile (though that's a personal preference).  I will raise it fairly early, but generic. 

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I have been married for six years next month.  We lived together beforehand (don't remember how long; I also don't remember how long we've been in a relationship...15ish years).  

Our relationship is a happy one.  We met as he was finishing chemo (he had no hair) - we had mutual friends and interests in common and while we both liked each other, hung out as friends for what seems a long time before he asked me out.  I told him about my MI on our second date - it might have made me damaged goods, but then, he had had cancer and it was only months after stopping chemo.  We both had damage.  I told him I was taking lithium and the next day he emailed me some of the research he'd done on it in case that was helpful.  We dated for three months, then I broke up with him (I was too fucked up to be in a relationship).  A year later, I realized I loved him, and won him back - we had our ups and downs for the first few months together, but we worked through them and became a tighter unit - and function really well together.

He's very supportive of my MI - barely blinking when I had psychotic preoccupations about killing him (WHEN he is older and has dementia, he was in no imminent danger...but I like planning things, and have no idea how to get a gun (Canadian) so I came home two Valentine's ago and asked if he could buy me a gun (so I'd be prepared in the future).  He simply said while he felt safe he was worried one day I'd use it on myself).  I don't know what I'd do without him.  

He has issues with anxiety and depression, and I support him.  We've both had careers affected by MI - I rebounded better than him, but I don't care what he does, as long as he enjoys it, so it's fine.  I'm proud of him and his job. 

So...normal?  Outwardly, yes.  In some respects, inwardly, sure, but in others no.   

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On 5/10/2021 at 4:33 PM, basuraeuropea said:

ah, so it seems that some people are and some people are not. like you, @wookie, i also look outwardly normal by all measures, but inside i am definitely not.

the pandemic aside, i was just really referencing life in general. the pandemic will pass and the situation may improve or it may not. i have a lot of things going for me, but i also have a lot of attributes associated with the disorders that people would consider detrimental. it's difficult for sure but i do want companionship much like the vast majority of others on the planet.

 

I think I find dating hard normally due to issues with ptsd, and anxiety.  The pandemic gives me a free pass to say no.

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4 hours ago, wookie said:

I think I find dating hard normally due to issues with ptsd, and anxiety.  The pandemic gives me a free pass to say no.

i also find dating difficult due to self-esteem issues, anxiety and sexual dysfunction as a result of the medications. the pandemic has put everything on hold, although now that i'm fully vaccinated (i'm youngish -- 35, but was one of early ones to receive vaccination doses because i work in  educational administration) i feel like i should be being more proactive but i'm not because well, the same issues that prevented me from dating before are still present.

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6 hours ago, Iceberg said:

But I think it is a good reminder to all of us struggling that “normal” can be pretty overrated

i don't think this is true. i think that as one who has been in a longterm relationship before shit really hit the fan, that companionship and love provide for a more profound outlook on life and a deeper sense of happiness than one can achieve alone. that's been the case for me and we all prioritize different things, but humans are inherently social creatures and love is an amazing phenomenon perhaps unique to our species where loyalty might be more common amongst others inhabiting the planet.

 

anyhow, suffice it to say that i would love to reenter the dating scene and find someone but there are psych issues (depression most of all at the moment, even though my primary refractory diagnoses are within the anxiety spectrum) holding me back and also a fair bit of sexual dysfunction that has been problematic to say the least also holding me back.

5 hours ago, dancesintherain said:

something similar to this just came up in therapy recently.  I'm going to start dating again (or, at least, I'm meeting someone who an ex is setting me up with).  My question to my therapist was how do I explain my dating history and the fact that I'm 38 and have never been married. 

Part is the fact that I came out in my 20s and was engaged to a guy (I identify as lesbian, just late to realize it).  I was three weeks out from getting married.  Details past that would be a long story not pertinent to your question. 

Part is the fact that my mental illness has gotten in the way.  Tdoc's slightly simplistic but honest appraisal is that a person who I click with is not going to be phased by it and/or is going to learn to work with it.  I don't eagerly anticipate having to divulge mental health stuff, but I can see his point.  That said, I have a lot for someone to swallow. 

I'm first going to go on this meet-up thing with my ex's ex's friend (that's the lesbian dating world for you).  If that doesn't work out, I'll be back on okcupid because it's what most people on my geographic area use.  I won't put the mental health diagnosis in my profile (though that's a personal preference).  I will raise it fairly early, but generic. 

that is the lesbian's dating world, but as a gay guy, it isn't much different on this side of the aisle. the communities are just so small and tight-knit. i've been out of the dating scene for such a long time, though, and i also have explaining to do because like wtf have i been doing for the past decade that has prevented me from dating is going to be a question that i'm not totally prepared to answer and i'm not totally prepared to date, either although i want to so very badly.

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13 minutes ago, basuraeuropea said:

i don't think this is true. i think that as one who has been in a longterm relationship before shit really hit the fan, that companionship and love provide for a more profound outlook on life and a deeper sense of happiness than one can achieve alone.

My comment had nothing to do with being single vs in a relationship... I meant that it is possible for people to find fulfilling relationships even with  unique social challenges afforded by MI 

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10 hours ago, Iceberg said:

My comment had nothing to do with being single vs in a relationship... I meant that it is possible for people to find fulfilling relationships even with  unique social challenges afforded by MI 

oh, well, in that i wholeheartedly agree with you in theory, although in my experience and depending on the severity of the mental illness, how it presents itself, the treatment and the treatment's side effects, i have found that it's significantly more difficult.

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, basuraeuropea said:

companionship and love provide for a more profound outlook on life and a deeper sense of happiness than one can achieve alone. that's been the case for me and we all prioritize different things, but humans are inherently social creatures

No offense, but this kind of statement is a large reason why I couldn't care less about being "socially normal" and find the definition of what is in the neurotypical sense bordering on ridiculous. 

To answer the question, though, I consider myself to be fairly "socially normal", for an autistic person, and I guarantee that my mental health and overall life, not to mention my sense of identity and self-worth as an autistic person are far better than what they were during my childhood, wherein I was forced into trying to fit into that ridiculous definition, and taught to absolutely hate myself, be ashamed and disgusted of who I am and to utterly disregard my needs and way of being, socially and otherwise, taught to believe I deserve nothing other than punishment because of it, and to accept that it would be OK if I died, because at least I wouldn't be a burden anymore. 

I am one of many autistic adults like this, and such child abuse is a large reason I became ill. I have been severely ill for the majority of my life and I am glad to say I am no longer in that place where my social differences because of who I am are anything but things that make me who I am, and I would not trade them for anything. 

In the neurotypical sense, I will never be "socially normal", and yes, I do consider it to be massively overrated, and no longer give a care in the world about being or appearing as such, because it would be a complete disrespect and defiance of both who I am and all the abuse I have suffered, which is no measure of proper mental health.

No, I am not happy, doubt I ever will be, and I don't give a care about that, either. But I accept myself as an autistic person, and I am more than content and at peace with the ways it makes me, because that is exactly who and what I am supposed to be. Not shoved into some box for the majority's or someone else's pleasure and gain, and not being forced to meet standards and expectations that are not designed for me, and the actual brain I have. 

I know that my social and interpersonal behaviour, is, and always will be, disturbing and incomprehensible to most neurotypical people. That is what causes actual loneliness and alienation, not the way I am in and of itself. And I have learnt to accept that is their problem, if so, not mine and not my responsibility. 

There are far more important things in life. So as far as being "socially normal" goes, and as far as statements like that go, they can go and fuck themselves, as far as I am concerned. I didn't literally almost lose my life to bend myself to such redundant labels and expectations from others.

But I will always be a minority. Suffice to say that I am fairly certain a lot of other autistic adults would and do agree with me, at least to some degree, but are just not as assertive as I am about it. This whole desperate need for others, constant reassurance and reciprocity is something I will never understand. 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Hopelessly Broken
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