Admitting to having a mental illness usually comes with a painful and unnecessary stigma.
Whether you struggle with anxiety or depression, some people can mistakenly see you as falling short in comparison to others. It sucks, but people judge. They see you as unstable, weak or even worse, damaged goods. But that’s not, and never is, the case. As author Glennon Doyle Melton puts it, “People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help.”
Having a mental illness can range from having a mild case of anxiety to being severely bipolar. Those diagnosed live with these disorders each day and go on with their normal activities despite the hurdle.
However, it’s not personal acceptance that’s the hard part; it’s explaining to others what you deal with and telling your friends and family that you’re the same person regardless.
That’s why admitting to having a mental illness to a new partner can be so stressful. There’s a fear that he or she may look at you differently. It’s terrifying because once you let them in, they may turn and run, leaving you alone and wondering if you should have even shared the status of your mental health with them in the first place.
But you should and you can. So how does one approach their partner about their mental illness? Here are a few tips to help ease you through the process.
Be sure to feel comfortable with your partner before you bring up the conversation.
Trust is everything in a relationship and if you don’t have trust, you don’t have anything. It’s important that your relationship is at a point where you’ve both shared enough with each other that you don’t feel as though you’ll be judged for what you’re about to tell them. Regardless, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted off your chest once you talk to your partner.
Think about what you want to say before hand.
Putting your feelings into words is sometimes difficult, and you may worry you’ll say the wrong thing or explain it poorly. So take the time to think about what you want to share with your partner beforehand. Only say what feels comfortable. Decide what you want your partner to know before you go into the conversation. Remember, those who haven’t struggled with their own mental well-being often won’t know much about mental health problems and it may take a while to explain, so it will help if you have your thoughts organized. Consult your therapist or psychologist if you need some help getting your thoughts together.
Whatever your struggle, you likely have some experience with expressing, processing and identifying your own emotions. So before talking to your partner about your mental wellness, you need to address your own emotions and prepare for how you might feel during the conversation. Will you get upset? Will you cry? Will you shut down? By understanding your own feelings before bringing someone else into the situation, you’ll do a better job of communicating.
Be open to having future conversations about your mental health.
Chances are you won’t be able to address every aspect of your mental health in a single conversation with your partner. There’s also a good chance your partner will need time to process and will come back with questions. In these cases, it is important to tell your partner that you’re always available to talk. If you expect their support and cooperation as it relates to your mental wellness, you must remember to give them the same support and cooperation with any questions or concerns they have. Be considerate of their response because depending on the situation, they may need time to process.
Be honest with your partner and know the right person will be understanding of your mental health.
Stay true to your morals and values and only share what you feel comfortable sharing. At the end of the day, it’s okay to admit you’re not okay and your partner should understand that. If he or she doesn’t, someone else will. You wouldn’t shame someone for getting a personal trainer, so why would you for professional mental health services? Everyone is worthy of love and affection from a partner, and the status of his or her mental well-being shouldn’t change that.
Do you have any other tips on how to talk to a new partner about your mental health? Let us know in the comment section or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.