When to Disclose Your Mental Illness to Someone You’re Dating

I’ve always been open about living with mental illness with anyone I’m romantically involved with. In my last relationship, I told him after our first date that I struggle with bipolar disorder. I’m sure many people would advise against this but the fact that I live with mental illness is not something I hide. I mean… I do have an entire blog dedicated to discussing mental health and my personal experience living with bipolar disorder and anxiety. So, even if I wanted to hide it, I couldn’t. 

Opening up publicly about my mental health disorders has changed my life for the better. It has allowed me to connect with and inspire so many people. That being said, I know this is different for other people. For some, the thought of disclosing your mental illness to the person you’re dating leaves you in fear. You face potential judgment and also have to consider that they might not want to be involved with you. Yes, there is more awareness around mental health and mental illness these days, however, not everyone understands and if you’re living with a highly complex mental illness such as bipolar disorder, it can be difficult to explain. Telling a new partner about your mental illness is important if you want a healthy relationship.

There is no “right time” to tell someone you’re dating about your mental illness. Like me, some people may want to disclose early on while others might wait a few months. It’s all about when you’re ready to open up. Here are a few signs that it’s time to disclose:

You feel comfortable with them. When I opened up  to my ex about living with bipolar disorder on our first date, it was because there was an instant connection. I felt extremely comfortable with him and I knew we’d eventually become serious. If you’re involved with someone and you feel safe, it could be time to share your mental health struggles. It’s ok to wait until you have a strong connection with someone. 

When they notice symptoms. If your partner notices symptoms or a shift in your behavior, it’s a good time to be honest with them. Talk to them about why your behavior has changed and allow them to ask any questions they have. 

When you need support. Having a support system is crucial to managing mental illness. If you’re struggling and need support, talk to them about what’s going on. You don’t have to hide what you’re going through. 

When things start becoming serious. If you’re entering a serious stage in your relationship, it’s time to open up. Your partner needs to know about your mental illness. Imagine starting a life with someone and there’s this huge piece of yourself that you’re hiding. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide when and how you will tell the person you’re dating. When you do, be as honest as possible and give them as much information as you can on your mental illness. If they aren’t familiar with the symptoms and everything associated with the disorder, it could help to send them articles or videos about the mental illness you struggle with. 

Something else to keep in mind is how this person reacts to hearing about other people who struggle with their mental health. Do they try to be understanding or are they judgmental? If you find that they’re judgmental, they most likely aren’t someone you’d want to be with in the long run which means it’s best not to disclose to them.

Opening up about your mental disorder can be terrifying. When I published my very first post on having bipolar disorder, I was fearful of the outcome, but in the end it was worth it. Every time I have to tell a new partner about me having bipolar disorder (assuming they’re not on any of my social media or haven’t already read my blog), there’s a part of me that still feels afraid. I obsess over what they will think of me. Will they call me crazy once I divulge my chaotic episodes? How will they feel knowing I’ve had numerous suicide attempts and I have a history of self-harm? Do they even know what bipolar disorder is and not just the stereotypical “I was happy now I’m sad” definition? Will they still want to be romantically involved with me? There are many questions that run through my head and I’ve found that there are times I tell someone and they think having bipolar means you’re crazy. After explaining in depth what bipolar disorder is and isn’t, they’re able to have a better understanding of it. Although I’m public about my diagnosis, I still live in fear of the possible outcomes of disclosing.

Know that if you do reveal your struggles and they aren’t receptive, that’s ok. You are deserving of being with someone who wants you regardless of a diagnosis. Realize that your illness is only a part of you and not all of you. There is someone out there who will love you and all the layers of you. 

Photo by Julian Myles on Unsplash

My blog was recently accepted into Feedspot’s top 100 mental health blogs. I’m number 81! You can check out the list here for other great mental health blogs.

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