ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Lynne had someone to spend Christmas and New Year's with this year. And that's unusual.
"It's been a long time since I've been with anybody for the holidays," the 50-year-old Albuquerque native said recently. "That was different."
Many people find dating stressful. But, for Lynne, who was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and other mental disorders at 19, dating invariably ends in disaster.
But about a month ago, Lynne began seeing a 53-year-old man she met through a dating Web site designed specifically for people with mental illness.
The site — TrueAcceptance.com — was launched last year by an Albuquerque social worker to help people like Lynne find healthy relationships.
"The Web site, because it caters to people with mental illness, you go in knowing that up front," Lynne said. "It makes communication a lot easier. You don't feel threatened by what the other person might think."
Lynne was married once, briefly. But relationships were more likely to aggravate her mental problems than improve them.
"I've been single most of my life for that reason," she said.
Elizabeth Barrett, who created the site with a partner in Denver, Colo., said she observed from her work with people with mental illness that those in strong relationships are more likely to thrive.
"They tend to do better," Barrett said. "They tend to stay out of the hospital." Couples in which both partners struggle with mental illness can share their experiences and help keep each other out of trouble. "You have somebody to throw your ideas off of."
Barrett, 30, has worked with the mentally ill in a variety of settings, including the Bernalillo County jail and an Albuquerque psychiatric clinic. She now works in several New Mexico schools, from elementary through high school.
"I came in contact with quite a few adults with mental illness in jail," she said. "A lot of people with significant mental illness tend to isolate."
Social withdrawal can lead to hospitalization or even suicide, she said. "I saw how the lack of social interactions made conditions worse."
About 300 users have posted profiles on the site since it started last summer. Users can post as much, or as little, information as they like. Many list the nature of their illnesses.
For now, TrueAcceptance.com charges nothing to post a profile and to contact other users.
Lynne said she and her new companion exchanged about 100 e-mails before the two met for the first time.
"We've been seeing quite a bit of each other," Lynne said.
Does she see a future for the relationship? "Maybe. For now, it's good companionship."