Mental illness is on a very wide spectrum, ranging from the highly functional to the debilitating.
Its severity can be dire and impact every aspect of a person's life or it can be subtle, enhancing who they are as a person, almost like some extra sprinkles on the sundae of their life. Is there a point, though, where the sprinkles stop sticking to the sundae and begin falling onto the tabletop?
Crappy analogy aside, there's an invisible line we draw in the sand that separates the "neurotypicals" from the "aneurotypicals" when in reality, we're all on a spectrum and vary in terms of mental health throughout our lives. To say that any of us are completely mentally healthy at any point would be far from the truth, but in the case of extremes, these seem to the exceptions to the rule. Illnesses such as schizophrenia can uproot a person's life and turn it upside down, but what about the most common disorder, "depression?"
Depression can be a fickle thing, sneaking up and rearing its lazy head at the most inconvenient of times and ripping the rug out from under you in the slowest and comforting way; it's almost like you fall in slow motion and don't realize something is wrong until it's too late. Then, you're trapped in an episode and can do nothing until something pulls you out of it, be it a change of scenery, activity, or weather.
Oh yeah, now's the time to explain that I might have had my fair share of depressive episodes in my time.
So, am I being a complete and utter hypocrite to say that I don't want to date someone who might have the same issues as myself?
Yes and no.
Many of my friends have mental illnesses, and I've lent them a hand in the times they most needed help.
There are always rough nights that can be too much or situations that can overwhelm, and it's important to recognize that a break is necessary, or perhaps just a hug and a quick cry. Having friends with these afflictions can add to your life in so many ways and give you a broader understanding of the world at large...but what about your significant other? Your partner?
The one you spend most of your time with? There is a societal expectation to be consistently present beside them and support them in everything they do and everything they are and help them through any issues they have -- but where is the line? When do you become more of a therapist than a significant other?
I've dated people with mental illnesses in the past.
On both occasions, I found myself acting like a bit of a mother, shouldering a lot of responsibility and attempting to care for their emotional wounds at every chance I got. Ay, there lies the rub in dating someone who you believe needs your help: you try to fix what isn't yours to fix.
Being the repairman for both your life and another persons' whom you love can be exhausting and hurt both of you more than help.
Maybe one of you should have put in more effort, maybe both of you were trying too hard, but in the end, one thing was clear: it wasn't going to work.
Of course, this is all based on my experiences and your own could be completely different. Don't base your own future and feelings on the experiences of another person, and don't be discouraged from loving another person simply for a part of who they are. Their mental illness is a part of them, so loving them for the whole package is just a part of it and if being with them makes you happy, then you should pursue that relationship. If it's making you unhappy, though, you might want to have some deep conversations with your partner to discuss your thoughts and concerns -- it's always worth trying to fix it before giving up.
So, does not wanting to date a person with mental illness make you a bad person? No. Should you avoid dating a person solely due to their mental illness? No. If you like them and want to be with them, don't let a pesky thing like depression stop you.