Sunday, October 06, 2013

Damaged goods for damaged goods?

I don't want to appear ungrateful when people offer to set me up. Since I can't go to many parties or singles events these days, and since I've given up throwing good money after bad on dating websites, how else am I going to meet someone? But I'm not interested in marrying another person who has a mental illness.

This might seem unfair or arrogant. After all, I'm proud of how high-functioning I am (at times); why wouldn't I give another person the same credit?

It just doesn't seem like a good idea. Genetically or otherwise. Aside from that... it just bothers me. But I had some trouble articulating how I felt when a friend emailed me with a shidduch suggestion.

I am getting on a plane now but MUST speak with you later. I had an idea for a shidduch for you while we were in (another city). He lives in (another city) -- Masters in psychology but works in IT now. Used to do clinical work. Also managing bipolar disorder and overcoming a difficult family situation and never previously married.

He's VERY funny. I don't know him well and did not see him this trip but being in (another city) reminded me of him and I heard he is doing well...

I immediately thought of you and wondered if you would be interested in talking to him. Don't tell me to send him to your blog. If you are interested, talk by phone...

I am SO pleased how well you are doing!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've gotten into trouble with friends by blogging about encounters with them. So I was on the fence about sharing this conversation. All I responded was:

Thanks. I'm not sure I want to be with someone who also has bipolar. It might be too much.

I couldn't put my finger on why her suggestion bothered me so much until I read an article about Michael and Chava Willig Levy, He's legally blind, she's a survivor of polio, and they've been married 30 years with two children. Heartwarming story, blah blah blah, but the Q&A that really hit me in the gut was:

Did you have any reservations about marrying someone with a disability?

Chava: We were both dead set against marrying someone with a disability. It’s a piece of who we are but certainly not what defines us and what was so thrilling was that we had so much else in common. We are both very attached to Jewish tradition, we both love music, words, kids, and then we both have disabilities. It’s been symbiotic; it happens that the things he cannot do, I can, and what I can’t do, thank God, he can.

Michael: People would want to set you up with people who are disabled just because of that without knowing anything else about you and it’s dehumanizing because they are saying that your central quality is that you lack something.

They didn't meet because they were disabled, they didn't fall in love because they were disabled, they didn't get married because they were disabled. It's not the first quality they considered when seeking a match, and it's not the first thing they think of when they think of themselves.

Granted, my friend's friend is said to be funny (which most people think Ayelet is) and to have worked in my field at one point. But that's not why she thought of me for him. She thought of him because he has bipolar and I have bipolar.

I think that's the biggest reason I may never go "public." I have never wanted to let my illness define who I am. Some days I'm more successful than others. But having people say, "I want to set you up with this guy who has bipolar disorder" is as disheartening as being hit on by men I find unattractive who say, "We should go out because I have bipolar disorder."

When you seek a life partner, ideally you find someone who complements you -- who is strong in areas you're not, and hopefully you're strong in areas they're not. I don't want to marry someone who shares my biggest weakness. Just like I don't want to marry someone who's got a bad temper.

I'm not looking for someone who's perfect, despite what my sister might say about me. But I want to be with someone who's calm and easygoing. Maybe a little too calm and easygoing, so he'll appreciate my vivacity, energy, enthusiasm, and passion. Because that's the positive side of my mood disorder. I don't need someone who's a laugh a minute -- but I do need someone who appreciates my sense of humor.

Apologies to the friend, who will probably read this post. I hope I've disguised you sufficiently. I do appreciate you thinking of me -- but I don't want my bipolar disorder to be the first thing you think of when you think of me.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

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