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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 kind of felt like I had graduated to this specific little world of people that had mental illness. I became the director of that library in 2007 and I'm still the director.
They featured me as one of the most ill-advised dating sites on the web. But the ironic thing is that it gave me a lot of traffic. I started working at a college library, which turned into a full-time position by 2004.
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I'm still facing that challenge but it's a big world. I've had very few people that come on there as a joke or prey on the users, at least that I know of. Do you mind saying what you've been diagnosed with? I think a lot of it was just a negative self-image. 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. A dating site is something that has a critical mass where it's not very effective until you get a certain amount of people. 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. (More from Narratively: The guardian of the Chelsea Hotel's secrets) So all of your friends had mental illnesses? 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. Around 2004 it was underway but it wasn't as big as it is now. 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 wasn't making any new friends that were not mentally ill at the time. I didn't have much of a love life to speak of for quite some time. Most of them don't have their own car or anything like that so that makes a difference. 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. Schizoaffective: you're blessed with both a psychotic disorder and a depressive disorder so it's one of the more chronic diagnoses.
The artwork—that's an area that didn't take off as much as I thought it would. 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. (More from Narratively: Kidnapped in Syria) How did the DSM-V, (the American Psychiatric Association's newly-revised diagnostic manual) change it? It's kind of like where they elect the pope; they just put people in a room and they figure something out. That's my only hospitalization, but I was there for about two months.
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. They just removed schizoaffective and now it falls under schizophrenia.