Living with depression is a challenge, to say the least. You may be facing feelings of hopelessness, irritability, and frustration on a regular basis. Sometimes you may even lose interest in things you typically love doing.

Being around people may be difficult and cause you to isolate more than usual. You may not feel like answering the phone or responding to a text, even if the person on the other end is someone you enjoy talking to.

Depression affects every part of your life. One of the most difficult things to figure out is dating. I used to hate dating. Dating has always been an awkward, anxiety-ridden, messy situation for me. But I haven’t given up on it.

Why? Well, love is one of the greatest things about life! A loving relationship can bring out the best in you. Companionship is a basic human need, and you shouldn’t deny yourself just because you’re living with a mental illness. You deserve love too.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned about dating with depression.

It’s OK to wait to tell your date about your illness. People living with depression often see the condition as a negative attribute — something our partners will have to deal with. You might feel compelled to tell your date about your depression as soon as possible. However, that conversation is not exactly first date material.

Don’t let depression take center stage during the prologue of your relationship. It isn’t being deceptive to save some details until you know the person is worthy of being invited into your world.

Date someone who “gets” it. Dating someone with a mental illness isn’t a walk in the park. Sometimes we aren’t pleasant to be around. We can be easily irritated, messy, and sometimes we’ll even lack the motivation to shower. That’s just the way it is.

The last thing you need is someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to live with the ups and downs of depression. Also, you may meet someone who wants to “fix” you. Don’t subject yourself to that kind of negativity. You are perfect as you are.

There are people out there who will take the time to learn about your condition because you are important to them. They will love you for you, depression and all. Find someone who understands all of you and will know how to be there for you when you need them.

Self-esteem issues may cause you to sabotage a blossoming relationship. This is something I’ve talked about with the people in my community. Depression can cause serious self-esteem issues. You may feel like you’re not worthy of someone’s love and affection. But you are!

Familiarize yourself with your insecurities and learn the difference between negative self-talk and when outside influences are putting you down.

When you’re depressed, just getting out of bed can be a challenge. You may lack any motivation to put on makeup or a nice outfit. That being said, it’s likely that going on a date is the last thing you’ll want to do.

This is something I have struggled with personally. When my energy levels dip, I barely have enough willpower to shower, let alone put makeup on. Usually, people like to look their best for their partners. If you show up for a date without makeup on, you might worry that the other person will think you’re not into them or you don’t care. Doll yourself up, even if it takes everything in you. You’ll be surprised at how looking your best can positively impact your mood.

However, I don’t recommend going on a date if you’re very deep in a depressive episode. You’ll need to focus all of your energy on getting better. Once you feel more like your usual self, then you can push yourself to get on out there.

The past can haunt us and affect our current relationships. You might be worried that you’ll make the same mistakes over again.

Someone in my community once told me that she feels like she’s wasting the other person’s time when it comes to romantic relationships. When she does decide to date, she never lets it get too serious. But by keeping the other person at arm’s length, she’s denying herself the companionship we all need.

Just because you didn’t get it right in the past doesn’t mean you don’t deserve another shot at happiness. Everyone makes mistakes, whether they’re living with depression or not. Rather than dwell on past mistakes, learn from them and be stronger for them.

Dating with depression is possible. It might seem frightening, but that’s also what makes it so exciting. Stay optimistic, be kind to yourself, and prepare for bumps in the road. You’re going to do just fine! And if you ever feel defeated, come back and reread this article. Just knowing you’re not alone and that other people have the same challenges can make a world of difference.

René Brooks has been a typical person living with ADHD for as long as she can remember. She loses keys, books, essays, her homework, and her glasses. She started her blog, Black Girl Lost Keys to share her experiences as someone living with ADHD and depression.