What do men really want? Mental illness, apparently

Words by Emelia Haskey

Illustration by Ivan Bucalo.

The emergence of the “softboi” in the year of our lord 2021 has given me pause to consider if, finally, my comorbid mental illnesses have finally become attractive to men.

As defined by The Guardian, a softboi is “anyone who has any unique or alternative interests that make them feel superior to other people”. My personal definition is anyone who plays guitar in a bad Doors cover band, listens to Radiohead, is unemployed, and enjoys a spot of gaslighting.

They seem to have a penchant for mentally ill women who they can prey on with their façade of gentleness and genuine interest in arthouse movies — before becoming every woman’s nightmare. But since Scott Morrison has kindly ended sexism with a quick chat to his wife, is there hope for women like me hoping to score a partner?

Usually, dating with a mental illness involves jumping through the hoops of deciding how early into a relationship to disclose the fact that you’re unwell, dealing with how well they take that, and then bitching to your psychologist about it. It makes dating a pain and genuinely disturbs your friends and relatives.

It also, as I found out, disturbs whoever runs the Adelaide Love Letters page on Facebook. They have rejected swathes of my applications because I keep describing my crippling, rapidly-shifting depression as a fun aspect of dating me. I will be suing the page for discrimination later. I’m also in recovery from anorexia and I’m also a coeliac — so I’m the life of the party at dinner dates! Now excuse me while I weep into my (gluten free!) dessert.

Now, we’ve already established settling as an STI, but it’s especially common for those living with mental illness. Staying in a relationship because your partner does the bare minimum to aid you and live with your illness does not a good lover make. In the words of fictional literary genius Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t help but wonder…how do you date well when you’re not well yourself?

I’ve dealt with a number of truly strange and fascinating responses to my disclosure of having mental health issues. One man asked me if my anorexia was contagious. Another referred to me as having “bad vibes”. Though, my personal favourite was after spending the night at a Tinder date’s house, he asked me to leave because I was “too depressing”. This is occasionally very funny but mostly very irritating.

In regard to whether to bring up your mental health issues early on in a relationship or even on a first date, my advice is to always get to know the person a bit more before you do the grand reveal. Once you’ve established that they are a fairly normal and open-minded person, mentioning that you see a therapist once a fortnight shouldn’t disturb them. And if they freak out within the first few dates? Then they’re usually not worth pursuing. No one deserves to be told they have bad vibes.

But being in a relationship whilst dealing with your brain’s bad vibes is also a challenge even if your partner is understanding. Cancelling date night, explaining why you’ve done nothing but sleep all day, and bursting into tears while watching a particularly moving Harvey Norman advert can be somewhat awkward. Providing the context that you’re having a rough day with your brain and need a little extra TLC can be a helpful tip. It can also be good to work out a ready-to-go action plan for when you’re in a crisis — mine involves ice cream, all six seasons of Sex and the City, and some horse tranquilizer.

But if you’re ever really unsure whether someone’s right for you, if they visit you in the psych ward and tell you how sexy you look in your pyjamas and unwashed hair, they’re usually a keeper.

Like Tinder, mental health issues are something you have to learn to live with. It certainly gets easier with time, and it’s wonderful to feel like an expert at being a bona fide crazy bitch. And remember, if he sleeps on a mattress without a bedframe, he’s probably far crazier than you are.

Read more articles like this in Issue 2, on campus now.

Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Ivan Jankovic, Stasi Kapetanos, Isobel Moore, and Michelle Roylance. Get in touch: onditmag@gmail.com

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