One of the most difficult parts of living with a mental health diagnosis is deciding when and with whom to share your journey. There can be fear of how they may react, it may be difficult to explain, and it could be hard to find what feels like a good time to talk about it.
One thing to keep in mind is there is no “right” time to tell someone you care about that you live with a mental health diagnosis. It will likely happen when the time feels right, and when there is a level of trust between you that allows for an open conversation.
When you do decide to talk to your partner about your diagnosis, make sure you take the time the discussion deserves. This is not a conversation that should take place with the TV on or while texting. It also should not happen during an argument or in a crisis. Having a calm and rational conversation sets you and your partner up for success. It is also not necessary to have just one conversation. Sometimes these discussions evolve over time, and there shouldn’t be any pressure to complete it in just one sitting.
The conversation you have should be honest so your partner knows what to expect and how to help support you in times of need. Be specific when discussing the symptoms you experience as vague language can often lead to confusion and miscommunication. If you are feeling stuck, practice disclosure with your mental health provider. It can be helpful to anticipate questions that your partner may ask. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is an excellent resource. On their website you can find informational pamphlets, and suggestions on how to disclose your mental illness to others. If you to tell your partner and they are struggling, it can be helpful for the two of you to see your mental health provider together so they can ask questions in a safe space.
Unfortunately there is often stigma and misunderstand surrounding mental illness, so it is important to be prepared if the conversation doesn’t go well. Try to keep an open mind about how your partner may react. The right person will be understanding and supportive of you, and if they are not that tells you a lot about their character. It is not fair of your partner to throw your illness in your face, or use it against you in arguments. You deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin. Your illness is part of who you are. It doesn’t define you, but it is a piece of you, and you shouldn’t be punished in your relationship because of it.
*Originally published on the Inpathy Bulletin