Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mental illness and marriage in the blogosphere

The blogosphere has started discussing mental illness and shidduchim, and I couldn't resist inserting my $0.02.

A Jewish mother asked whether she and her husband should tell the girl her son is dating that he has bipolar disorder, well-managed with medication. One of the comments read:

"under control" is not cured, like diabetes

It's genetic, meaning that the tendency can be inherited. Some rabbis would even annul a marriage if it's discovered later.

I fired back:

Plenty of people have medical conditions that can be managed with medications, and they lead good, productive lives. Should diabetics, those with a family history of heart disease, epileptics, and so on just never get married? You'd be eliminating a lot of wonderful people from the dating pool! Moreover, mental illnesses are not 100% heritable. Your attitude betrays a lot of ignorance and prejudice.

Another blogger took up the topic, and again, some of the comments really bothered me, so I posted:

Plenty of people with bipolar disorder 1) have no family history of it and 2) lead happy, productive lives because their condition is well-managed by medication (the side effects of which can be slight or nonexistent). I know because I am one of them.

It is ignorance and prejudice, however, that keeps me from being open about this disorder. I'm not ashamed to have it -- I work extremely hard to function extremely well. I worked full-time while earning my first master's degree and am now earning a second master's degree. I'm a loving and beloved aunt to many great kids. I have terrific friends and relatives who value my presence in their lives.

I am single, and I don't want the first thing people know about me to be my diagnosis, because it doesn't define me 100%. If you truly think that an intelligent, competent, kind, giving, and attractive woman should remain single for the rest of her life and never have children, you're not only cruel, you're short-sighted. Mental illness can afflict anyone at any time. I've already proven that I can cope with it. If you're unable to see that as a sign of strength, it's your narrow-mindedness.

I was happy to read another post from the wife of a man with bipolar disorder, who told her about his condition on the third date. They struggle, but they're pretty happy.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. good for you for taking a stand!

  2. The right will be able to handle it. I have a very good friend who just got engaged to a guy who has bipolar disorder. She gave it a lot of consideration, spoke to his doctor about it and was very open about it while they were dating. She was blown away by his middos and how focused he was on the things she considered important in life, and ultimately, those things were much more important to her than the fact that he had a controllable condition. She's extremely happy and I'm sure that your chosson, when you meet him, will be as well.

  3. Thanks, Shoshana. It means a lot to hear you say that and to hear stories like that.