Alias: Hannibal Lecter
I'm a male in late 20s suffering from mental illness. I've been on medication for over 6 years now and have been leading a relatively stable life. I believe that the person entering into a relationship with me should be aware of my illness but I'm unsure of the appropriate time to tell them. Tell them too early and maybe they'll run away thinking I'm a freak and too late and maybe they'll think I was hiding it.
Hi Hannibal Lecter,
As people who have struggled/are struggling with mental health and have sought professional help to better our lives, we relate deeply to the trepidation you feel regarding wanting to share your mental health journey with your new relationships (romantic or otherwise) but being unsure of when the right time is to bring it up.
First of all, we are glad that your life has “stabilized”. For largely irrational reasons, medication for mental health is still looked at as taboo, as compared to medication for diabetes or blood pressure, for example. All three can have debilitating impacts on one's quality of life if not cared for properly, but no one thinks it’s out of the ordinary to take medication for the latter. It is unfortunate that we have this double standard, because more people (everyone?) should probably be seeking mental health care, just like everyone has a physician. No taboo, no stigma - just making sure that our minds and bodies are doing the best that they can!
Have you shared this aspect of your life with friends and family before? If yes, how did you go about talking about it? In our experience, it all starts with building trust. You should not be put in a place to share your vulnerabilities on day 1, but it is equally important to grant people time to fully understand your situation.
We would suggest casually communicating this aspect of your life, just like you would any other. There are probably many topics that you don’t want to go too into when you first meet someone. This is just one more such topic. In the initial stages, perhaps you could mention that you have an appointment with your therapist, or you feel good that your mental health has not affected your life adversely lately. You will likely get some follow-up questions, but this is where you have to set boundaries and gauge if the person is being respectful and understanding, and how much you would like to share based on their response. You may have to put some effort into educating them about the specifics of your illness and how you cope with it. These conversations won’t always be easy or comfortable but will hopefully bring you both closer!
Take your time - no one is owed your story. Give them time too, so they can fully process how your mental health impacts you, and your relationships. We ultimately cannot control how people react to our mental health struggles. But if they are disrespectful, or treat us like we are inferior or weak, it just means that they are probably not a good fit for our life. We hope whoever you decide to share this part with next, is understanding, supportive and knows that you are more than just your mental illness. We hope you continue to remember that as well!
The Second Puberty