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Ask Surly Amy: Depressed and Dating

Ask Surly Amy

Dear Surly Amy,

I find myself in a quandary involving my love life.  Here’s the problem:  I’m 50 and I’m on disability for chronic severe depression.It seems that women are expecting me to have a job and to have no baggage (believe me, if you look at the ads from women looking for men you’ll see that with amazing frequency.)  At 50 I can tell you that you’re going to have baggage, but in my case, thanks to the depression, I have enough baggage to choke United Airlines.  If it weren’t for the depression I’d be a pretty amazing guy.  I’m intelligent, witty, have a great personality and am willing to learn and do things I’ve never done before.  I’m also honest, so how do I  deal with my income (I get enough to support myself) issue and depression when a lady asks me what I do for a living?  If I come right out and say what’s going on it’s an instant turn off.  Any suggestions?  Or perhaps do you know of some place where people are accepting of people in my situation?


Dear V,

Your question really got the gals riled up behind the scenes. You might actually be surprised by how many people have had their lives touched by chronic and severe depression. In fact, I would guess that most of the writers for this blog know and love someone or actually are someone who have been touched by severe depression. And almost all of the ladies I talked with about this (it was the ladies you were asking about) agree on one thing: The depression isn’t the issue.

You sir, need to get a hobby.

Allow me to explain.

Seems that you are allowing your disability in combination with your income to be a road block in your life and while it is completely understandable that a chronic illness can encompass a large section of your life, it shouldn’t be everything about you. You may only make enough money for yourself. That is not as big a deal as you think and you are insinuating that all women are looking for a meal ticket. Which quite frankly, is offensive to say the least. I will say that if I were to look at a dating site and saw a potential mate with no job I would be turned off, not because he wouldn’t be able to pay for things for me (I’m quite capable of paying for my own things as are most women I know) but because it would appear as though the guy had no interests in life at all.

A wonderful suggestion by one of the Skepchicks quite familiar with depression was for you to do some volunteer work. That way you are doing something that will benefit society, you can make your own hours and you have something to put in the work section of a dating site.

At age 50 it would not be at all unusual for a man to be retired and doing volunteer work by choice. As a bonus you open yourself up to meeting new friends while you make the world a better place! Some volunteer work can even be done from home if you can not leave the house. Find a charity you like and get involved. Then pick up another hobby such as learning a new language or a musical instrument. Find things to do. You will open yourself up to a whole new group of people online and in person with similar interests and activities who will have a chance to get to know you for reasons much more relevant and interesting than your income statement.

Got a question you would like some Surly-Skepchick advice on? Send it in! We won’t publish your real name, unless you want us to and creative pseudonyms get bonus points! Just use the contact link on the top left of the page.

*Ask Surly Amy is meant for entertainment purposes only. All advice should be taken with as much skepticism as anything else, really.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. I completely agree with Amy here. I also would like to add: even if it is bothering you internally, pretend like it doesn’t.

    When I was dating, I would go out with a guy and the biggest turn off to me is when they start apologizing for themselves. “I’m sorry my truck is old.” “I’m sorry I can’t buy dinner.” etc.

    My husband still does this sometimes and I have to smack him around for it. Nothing looks more attractive than confidence. Even if you have to pretend at first, it will start to be real soon enough when you realize the person you are with never cared about the other stuff to begin with.

  2. I’m an enormous depressive. While I’m intellectually aware that it’s a chemical thing and I can sort of think of it like I do my allergies, I’m regularly prone to the darkness.

    I also am deeply involved in the local arts scene, volunteer and otherwise, and this helps immensely. There’s nothing like doing something, really doing, not thinking about, that helps the light break through.

    And, you know, the chicks dig it. Added bonus: artist chicks are hot. Find a nerdy artist chick and you are set, sir.

  3. @justinmckean:There’s nothing like doing something, really doing, not thinking about, that helps the light break through.

    This is so true.

    I came back to add: I have had all sorts of depression and anxiety related issues. Volunteering really does help a lot. I got into environment related activism during one of my lower points and it forced me to socialize with people that soon became my friends. It was such a boost of confidence to feel like I was doing something positive, and making friends/having good time as a byproduct.

    Once I finally got up and out, I started attenting more groups/meetups for topics I enjoyed and eventually met my husband.

    I always say, volunteering is the best way to meet people. You expose yourself to others that enjoy the same things and there is no “dating stress.” You discover people you like first, and then move from there.

  4. I wasn’t sure if this was addressed in the original letter or not, but I would also make absolutely sure you are dating age/life experience appropriate women. I had a long period where I couldn’t figure out why all women wanted men with no baggage, after I started dating girls born in the same decade as me, the problem sort of fixed itself.

  5. @Stevie: My problem with volunteering is that I tend to get all GUNG-HO about it and take on waaay too much, which in the end tends to feed into my anxiety, and then I crash and burn. I will never learn, however. lol. :)

  6. Having been severely depressed over a major medical issue, I can say that I couldn’t agree more with Amy. Doing *something* makes a difference. Especially when you’re doing something to make a difference for other people.

    What kept me sane was blogging/writing. During my medical crisis and depressive period I wrote (and still write) Boobcast.net Although I agree wholeheartedly that if you’re able, you should go out in the three dimensional world and volunteer there if you are able.

  7. I also think that learning to be alone, and find happiness spending time with others that perhaps you aren’t dating works. Dating and being in a relationship is lovely, but it’s also a lot of stress and work (at times). THere are people that would adore being in your position, no dependents, able to spend what little you earn on what YOU want, time to write or read or whatever.

    Also what kind of woman do you want to date? I hear men lament the lack of women willing to date them, then find out their “check list” is fairly strict. The hotties you were able to date in your 20’s and 30’s maybe shouldn’t be on the list. I know 2 men with very unrealistic expectations that complain about how “alone” they are. WHen I pointed out to one of them at TAM that another person I knew had a crush on them, he was “well, she’s too old, plus I like my women on the skinny side”. I took one look at his not so small size and went “you are so going to stay lonely”. I’m not saying that is the case here, but …

    One place to meet people might be a support group for people living with disabilites and mental illness. You may think the LAST thing you need is someone else with depression, but often the people with these groups are dealing with their depression well and are very supportive. See if there is a drop in center or support group for people with mental illnesses nearby. Very nice people get depressed. And they deal with it, and they might like a date. No need to explain a thing with someone that also has to deal with depression.

  8. I don’t suffer from depression, but being a male geek I suffered from similar dating success. One thing that helped a lot was focusing less on “finding a woman” and focusing more on what I had to offer a woman once I found her.

  9. I’ve dealt with depression for most of my life,27 now and well my homebody tendencies don’t help
    never so much as kissed,can’t drive,can’t keep a job,hate crowds etc. but i have a brilliant personality :D maybe i’ll try that volunteering thing soon as i can afford to.if i can find some place close to me that i can walk to that i can do.

  10. When I used to dabble in online dating (I don’t know another verb to describe trying it, running away screaming for a while, then coming back for more pain), “no baggage” quickly became my two least favorite words.

    Anyone who doesn’t come with baggage has clearly never travelled anywhere interesting in life. The goal (assuming a relationship is desired) shouldn’t be to find someone without baggage; it should be to find someone with a complementary set.

  11. While I encourage this man to volunteer, I do have one caution: if he can volunteer, why can’t he work? Would volunteering be an issue with whatever agency is providing his disability?

    Other than that, very sound and positive advice. And bravo on having the courage to write and ask that question.

  12. @Jeff Wagg: In the U.S. if you’re receiving disability through Social Security, you cannot additionally earn beyond a certain, small amount of income per month. In many cases this amount actually isn’t worth the exacerbation of illness/disability that a regular job may cause. (Not making any assumptions about the LW’s situation of course.)

  13. @Jeff Wagg: I believe there are restrictions on how much time you can volunteer, but you can still volunteer while receiving benefits. It’s encouraged, really, because sitting on one’s ass and stewing — whether you have a mental or physical disability — is not helpful.

  14. Doing cancer patient advocacy, I’ve heard horror stories of people getting kicked off disability for volunteering. (Also, horror stories about trying to get on disability.) I’m only hearing one point of view (and these were physical rather than mental disabilities), but you definitely want to check with your social worker just to make sure you stay within your guidelines.

    That having been said, volunteering can be a great thing, and there are so many different causes/opportunities out there that you can chose one that suits you best.

  15. @kittynh:

    I hear men lament the lack of women willing to date them, then find out their “check list” is fairly strict.

    That is a very good point; however, it’s not so easy to just up and change one’s “checklist”. After all, such things as sexual attraction, which is pretty darned critical for a lot folks, are more chemically based than otherwise.

    Speaking from personal experience, as a 53-year old male, I must contend that there is a reasonable amount of truth to the lament of the frustrating and lonely challenge for older, non-wealthy, intermittent-employment types in finding a compatible mate. And I think for us non-wealthy, intermittent-employment older fellas, dismissing it is unrealistic.

    While the parent post above carries some truth for sure, I firmly believe it views the world of dating through a rather rosey-glassed, and not rigorously realistic or socially generic perspective — for example, Skepchicks and Skepchick followers are almost certainly representative of a fairly small population/demographic.

    I also suspect that the post’s relevance, or accuracy, or whatever we may call it, would depend a very great deal on location. By which I mean that men and women in LA would have very, very different dating requirements than men and women in Tulsa Oklahoma, or Bangladesh, or Vancouver BC.

    If you see what I mean.

  16. Hi. This is my first comment on Skepchick. I can speak as someone on Soc. Sec. Disability, though for a physical medical problem (which has caused me some depression, which I have basically worked through). I am a woman and I was 50 when my health deteriorated. I did try dating for awhile via on-line dating sites and many men I went out with were turned off by my medical issues. While I look “healthy” externally, my medical issues cause my health to go downhill periodically and severely. When I am back at my “baseline” I have daily symptoms, but try to accomplish what I can. I do some sporadic volunteer activities. I have had to quit one volunteer activity as it was too much for me, but I have one I can still handle that requires only a few times a month, and which I can bow out of when my health collapses. During the flare-ups, I just lay low and recover. Now after all that gloom, here is the good news. I did meet a man at an on-line dating site in my age range who accepted me for who I am, despite my medical issues. We have been together seven years. And we met while I was in the extended and highly stressful application for disability process. I am on a fixed income. We live together and I pay my share of expenses. If I were to date again, I would consider a gentleman who was also on disability…if we were compatible. And, in addition to a bit of volunteering, I have a number of creative pursuits I am still able to do and many areas of interest. Nevertheless, I would not look forward to dating again. Aside from my health, being a woman over 50 automatically limits the pool of men available (especially since they are seeking younger ladies). So, I wish V the best in his pursuits…and yes there can be light at the end of the tunnel…if you have a candle and a match!

  17. I’m going to fess up and claim responsibility for the original message to Surly Amy so I can explain my position on what has been posted.

    Volunteering is an excellent idea, however it’s one I’ve tried and discovered that it’s just like working for a living in terms of how it affects my depression. Along with the depression (in my case, others are different of course) comes panic/anxiety attacks when I get too much stress. And just like Marilove, I go gung-ho myself and that isn’t good for me. The problem is I want to help too much for my own good.

    As for my own list of what I want, I basically want an atheist/skeptic and somebody who is nurturing and can deal with the problems my depression can create. I’m not trying to get some hot 20-something model, I’m dating in my own age range. I’m not very demanding of a physical type as long as I think her face is attractive enough to kiss. (This is purely a subjective point.) I don’t think I’m being picky.

  18. It seems that I have inherited the disposition that caused my grandmother to commit suicide, and several others to require therapy for their issues. I tested three out of four on a recent depressive test, and all the “optimistic” answers had me staring at them asking, “Do people actually think this way?!?”

    I agree with Amy: Get a hobby.

    Whenever I feel depressed, I go out and *do* something. I’ve been to more Catholic shrines than most Catholics! ;-> Go outside and play. Find something to do.

  19. @vbalbert: The point of ‘hobby’ is to do anything that leads to a sense of self-satisfaction. Introverted personalities can get quite stressed simply being around people so volunteering is not for everyone. The important thing I think is not to knock yourself out thinking “I’m bad” or “I failed” because you don’t get satisfaction from something you think you should.

    Also, putting in an ‘atheist/agnostic’ filter on your average dating site – probably a good idea for a skeptic! – strips out about 95% of the options. A vexing conundrum for us all.

    You could try a place like http://www.sciconnect.com, which specializes in nerdy types who are typically smart and non-judgmental. And hot, but then show me a nerd who isn’t.

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