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I kind of felt like I had graduated to this specific little world of people that had mental illness. A lot of it was a fear of rejection, but a lot of it was this negative self-image thing that people without mental illness wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me. ” and I said, “No, I’m not.” They put me in an ambulance and I went to a hospital. And then I got to a hospital and it started to sink in that like, this is awful. Every once in awhile I get, “I have autism” or “My daughter has this, do they qualify? I didn’t have much of a love life to speak of for quite some time. I ran through a stoplight and a cop pulled me over and he said, “Are you alright sir? I thought I was the most important person on earth, that all the newspapers were gonna write my story and everything, Peter Jennings would be talking about me at on the evening news and stuff.The artwork—that’s an area that didn’t take off as much as I thought it would. A sizeable percentage of those probably haven’t been on the site for a while. The big stat is the amount of marriages that I’ve had with the site. I think professionals in the field discount the importance of relationships. I don’t think they work nearly as well as they advertise them to. Robert Whitaker shows that you need drugs in the short term to medicate somebody and bring them back to reality and stuff, but the long-term use of these things creates chronic conditions. Do you think that people with mental illnesses can only have a true bond with someone else who has a mental illness? ’ and I was like, ‘Wow, I guess there are people out there who are understanding.’ Are you still together? But you wouldn’t say it was because of your mental illness?There are a lot of talented people with mental illness that have great creative potential and I thought that would be an important way to let people connect and share on that level. I do occasional purges to get rid of older profiles. And these are only the ones that I’ve been told of, but there’s been more than 30. No, but I kinda’ thought in the back of my mind that if I’m with a woman who’s experienced similar things I can talk about it freely whenever I want. I’m still facing that challenge but it’s a big world. But I don’t think people identify themselves that much as, ‘I am that or this.’ I am somebody who struggles with [a psychiatric] diagnosis and I take medicine for it. Would it be fair to say that it took about ten years to say, “OK, look, I’ve got a handle on this. Whereas, another person, even if their function is pretty high but they’re experiencing a lot of the same things as the other person, there could be a bond there. Try to do something meaningful.’ And they leave out the most important parts like: ‘Bond with people. A dating site is something that has a critical mass where it’s not very effective until you get a certain amount of people. I didn’t create the categories, it’s just what the major ones are: schizophrenia, schizoaffective, but I may have to remove that as an option. There really aren’t that many categories of mental illness. I hadn’t dated much and was really afraid of disclosing to women. Once you’ve been branded with this illness you feel kind of like a reject, in a way. It was in 2003 that you started thinking about this website. As of today I wouldn’t want a girlfriend that was seriously mentally ill. A lot of people that are bipolar, if they’re high-functioning, they’re not gonna want somebody that’s schizophrenic and cant hold a job and has active delusions and things like that.
I wasn’t making any new friends that were not mentally ill at the time. Feeling worthy of love is something I really struggle with. I don’t like who I am when I get anxiety attacks, so why would I think that someone else would love that? When I turn inward, I don’t want to pollute people with what’s going on. There’s this part of me that thinks that life is supposed to be enjoyed, it’s this wonderful gift and everything, and yet I’m completely depressed so it’s like I’m a bad person for feeling that way. There’s stigma involved and everything, but once you put the word “schiz-“ in front of something, there’s a lack of education. I still had psychotic features for several years after that, still thinking that all the stuff was true and everybody were idiots and they just didn’t believe me. On No Longer Lonely, do people have to say on their profile what mental illness they have? ” And often enough I usually err on the side of, if they’re struggling with something and they think they can benefit from this and maybe they can connect to these people, you know, I’m fine with that.
Around 2004 it was underway but it wasn’t as big as it is now. All these jokes about, you know, ‘What does psycho 1 plus psycho 2 equal? Every once in awhile you get someone whose user profile is “Batshit crazy” or something, or says, “I like to put heads in my freezer,” joke stuff like that. What are some of the mental illnesses that your users have? Asperger’s doesn’t exist anymore, now it’s an autism spectrum disorder. I think a lot of it was just a negative self-image. I do have something pretty serious, here.” That was around ’92. I thought, “I’ll meet a girl this way.” But eventually it changed a lot. I don’t have numbers on that, but generally certain illnesses pair together better than others.
Most of them don’t have their own car or anything like that so that makes a difference. You’re not gonna get harassed for saying, “I have delusions.” How important are relationships and love, do you think, for this community? First of all, I’m a little bit skeptical about the drugs they give people. I remember the second time I brought her to my apartment I was like, ‘I’m so glad I don’t have to hide my pill bottles anymore.’ She looked at me kind of crazy, like ‘Why would you hide them from me?
I became the director of that library in 2007 and I’m still the director. You have to have a psychotic break, which I did have. It could have been worse, but I was driving around with a big knife in my car thinking people were trying to kill me and that my parents were members of the Manson family and that the other members of the Manson family were hunting me down.
It's been ten years since James Leftwich first created No Longer Lonely, a dating website exclusively for people with mental illnesses.
Leftwich spoke with me about the challenges of running the site and about why he believes forming loving relationships should be recommended more frequently than pills.