Welcome to Ask Ada, Folks’ bi-weekly advice column for people impacted by health issues or disability. Want Ada to help you with a problem? Email Ada at email@example.com or tag @folksstories on Twitter with the #askada hashtag.
Should I Put My Mental Health Diagnosis On My Dating Profile?
I have a pressing question for you regarding online dating with a disability that is not physical in nature. I have Bipolar disorder which prevents me from working and rely on Social Security to get by. How do you feel would be best to handle this in the online dating world? Should I list that I’m disabled? Or retired? I’m seriously considering joining a dating site in the next few months and really want to know how best to handle this.
I don’t think this is something you need to explain on your dating profile.
Online dating is a process. First, you match or start a conversation with someone. 95% of the time, this will lead nowhere, no matter who you are. For that remaining 5% where there’s mutual interest, there will be a trial period through chatting that allows the individuals to decide if they’d like to pursue a date. Only 1 out of 5 of those matches will turn into dates, which could be a lovely event or a complete waste of your time. And now, the pandemic transformed the dating world. Where people may have jumped from matching to going on a date quickly in the past, there’s a lot more time for text communication before meeting on, let’s say, a video call.
I mention this so you understand that there’s a lot of time for you and your potential matches to get to know each other — and that’s a great thing. I’m also saying this so you understand that the trick to online dating is to try to make as many initial matches as possible, because really, it’s a numbers game.
You’re asking specifically about your dating profile. For that, I don’t think you need to mention anything that you’ve shared with me there. Online dating profiles should put their best foot forward to maximize the number of potential matches. If we listed all our achievements, losses, fun facts, or insecurities on our profile, there would be absolutely nothing else to talk about on a date! Plus, you don’t want to make it too easy for potential partners to write you off. With some exceptions, most of what people think they want in the vacuum of a dating profile is a lot different than what they actually find important when they know a person.
You are not your depression, and you are not your social security check. Why should you put them on your dating profile?
You are not your depression, and you are not your social security check. Why should you put them on your dating profile? Treat your profile as a tool to attract the person you’re looking to date. And then save your diagnosis and life circumstances for the getting-to-know you stage.
Now, once you’ve moved past the profile and into a messaging tool or a video chat, I think it’s best to disclose your disability and life circumstances early on, but only after you’ve had the opportunity to determine if the person is worthy of this information. And remember, when you finally do share this information with a potential partner, present it as a facet of your life, not as a confession.
At this stage, the stakes are higher, it’s true. You’ll have skin in the game if they reject you. Your feelings will probably be hurt. But don’t doubt yourself, or your choice. Everyone is worthy of love. Everyone who wants a partner can find a good one. But you need to remember that for every person who rejects you, there’s another who will accept you. So when you get rejected, not only is it the dating process working as intended: it brings you one step closer to finding the person right for you.
How Do I Help My Chronically Ill Child Socialize During The Pandemic?
This year, I chose a remote-only school option for my daughter who has two serious health issues. She is excelling and seems to be doing well overall, but the problem is that she isn’t in class with any of her former classmates, and the school system we use has kids from all over the country with very few “group” meetings.
I sense she is getting a bit withdrawn and sad over not having any friends to play with, but with her health issues, I can’t just let her go visit a former classmate’s house or join a sports team in the middle of a pandemic — especially since I chose remote-only schooling! How can I fill this void in her life? I’m really at a loss on how to socialize her while keeping her safe.
I understand what difficult parenting choices you are facing: You want to keep your daughter safe, but you also want to get her some interaction so she feels less alone, withdrawn, or sad. You’re right. Signing her up for out-of-home schooling isn’t smart right now. However, there are a lot of digital options for helping her connect with her peers. And I think you should weigh if there’s any way that she can safely see friends in an outdoor, socially-distanced, supervised setting.
Let’s start with the digital. Start with her former classmates, which will likely be the easiest group to start connecting with. Contact their parents to see if they’re available for virtual play dates. Depending on their ages, they choose to play with their toys through the computer screen, watch a movie together (try Teleparty!), or do some co-op gaming together (Among Us is having a real moment right now, and it runs on pretty much anything).
There are also ways you can help her meet new people in her age range virtually. Contact the school she’s currently attending and ask if they have any virtual clubs or Zoom socialization sessions. Many remote-only schools host social hours of sorts. If the school doesn’t offer anything, push them to create one. Volunteer to make it happen. You might also try Facebook groups or posting to Nextdoor in search of other parents in the area having the same issue with their kids. You won’t be alone in this dilemma.
Another idea? Look to local businesses and organizations for virtual sessions that your daughter can join. For example, lots of paint studios right now are hosting virtual paint nights, and there are other businesses like karate, dance, and gymnastic studios that do the same thing. And, if none of those interest her, there are online educational sites, like Outschool, where you can sign up for classes in various subjects (like dinosaurs, Frozen sing-a-longs, Troll tea parties, pre-teen coding, book clubs, and more) and interact with the other students.
Those are just some of your options. You get the idea. You need to leverage the power of the internet to make these connections happen for your daughter virtually.
As parents, we all need to do everything I can to protect out children’s mental health as well as physical. And that means sometimes weighing risks.
But I want to close by saying something. Look, obviously, your daughter’s physical health comes before anything. But this is going to be a year that is going to have psychic ramifications on all of our children for their whole lives. Virtual socialization is a poor substitute for real socialization, and real interaction with friends. Suicide rates among teens and children are on the rise; parents are seeing their children go from outgoing extroverts to shy, anxious introverts in a period of months. I don’t think it is exaggeration to say that the pandemic will affect the way our children see the world to the same extent, if not more so, than the Great Depression did our grandparents’ generation.
What I’m trying to say is that, as parents, we all need to do everything I can to protect out children’s mental health as well as physical. And that means sometimes weighing risks. No, your child shouldn’t be playing in-doors at a friend’s house right now. But maybe the needs of her mental health make an outdoors, no-contact, supervised playdate worth the risk, given the possible benefits. A walk with a friend. Having a backyard dance party wearing masks. Even just a game of catch. All of these small things can make a big difference in a child’s mental well-being, with little risk to their physical health.
We all want to protect our children, but that can’t come at the cost of cutting them off entirely from the things that make life worth living. There needs to be something physical for our kids to look forward to. The rich social canvas that a child needs to become a mentally health adult can not be exclusively a virtual one. It needs to still be supplemented by real-life human connection.
Are you facing a problem that is being complicated by a health condition or disability? Folks’ advice columnist Erin Ollila wants to help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your problem.