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Explaining Mental Illness to a Partner

Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
I have a bipolar 2 diagnosis and the depressions are really long and dark and heavy. I've so far managed to mask it, but the past few months I've near enough become a recluse. I'm dating somebody rather lovely who knows I have this diagnosis, but I don't know how to explain how it affects me to her...

Basically, I can go through periods with no sex drive (it doesn't help that I'm a transman and feeling low makes my body feel even more messed up than before) and feeling no emotion, or at least no positive emotion... It sounds dramatic, but all I feel is pain and I just want everything to go away...

This winter I have felt especially isolated. I've removed myself from Facebook because paranoid thoughts are happening.

So I don't know if her and I are serious... But I'd like to keep seeing her. The thing is, I feel like she's been more distant recently and I'm not sure if it's just her being super busy... Which is probably is as Christmas is busy and exhausting and she has a massive family and well--- I realise that I've been in a pretty awful place and really paranoid, so I'm putting it to the back of my mind.

I want to talk to her in the new year about how it affects me, but I don't know if I should.
  1. I don't want her to be afraid to leave me, or criticise me because she's scared how it'll affect me
  2. I don't want her to see me as "sick"... Though I can't function as well as most people, though I can just about hold down a job and am too tired to do much else when depressed. I need that understanding that I might not sometimes be able to hold a conversation.
  3. I don't know how to find the words to explain things either.
  4. I have really bad experiences about coming out with being bipolar, or the effects of it--- When I had a major episode a few years ago, my best mate left me, people involved with volunteering treated me as a burden... I've kind of built a lot of my life avoiding emotional closeness since then.

So to people in relationships, who live with mental illness... How did you first explain it and how did people react?


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    Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,323 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Hi Namaste

    I've been in this position a few times. For the most part, I am very open about my mental health, although talking to a partner has always been a bit more of a hurdle, for exactly the reasons you outlined.

    From my own experience, I have learnt just be to honest. If someone wants to love me and be part of my life (whether that is through friendship or a relationship) they have to accept that mental illness is part of me, but doesn't define me. Of course, that is easier said than done because not everyone is accepting. I think the way I have viewed it is that I would rather establish some form of trust and be honest sooner rather than later because I don't want to end up in a situation when I am either extremely high or low and close to crisis point and for them to be totally shocked and unprepared for the situation.

    With my last boyfriend, he had picked up on some things from mutual friends, but I said to him very honestly what was wrong (I can't think of a better way of phrasing it, because mental illness is not wrong!) and what could happen. It seems that even though you can have extended periods of time when you are isolating yourself and paranoid you still have a grasp on reality, correct me if I'm getting that wrong. So, I outlined my crisis plan with him, talked through some of the things could where massive triggers and also explained why certain times of year are really hard. I also gave him the names and numbers of people I turned to in crisis, so he could step in if necessary. I've done the same with friends and have found it's easier because they know what to do and don't panic. Having said that, try not to expect your partner to meet all your needs. It is normal and the distinction between partner and carer is a good thing.

    I think also encouraging them to be honest and ask questions is a benefit. Not everyone has vast amounts of experience with illness, or whatever form. I try to remember that mental health isn't any more of a barrier to a relationship that other chronic conditions. Like everything in life, it is something to adjust to and that's okay.

    I can fully understand your concerns due to previous experiences and unfortunately you are not alone. It is incredibly hard to not end up blaming yourself, but your mental illness is not the direct cause and you are not a burden.

    As cliched as it is, and I really really hate the saying, but try to allow yourself to self care because it makes it easier to have someone else to care about you, in whatever form.

    I hope that if you do choose to talk to your partner, it goes okay.
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    PGreenPGreen Posts: 175 Helping Hand
    Hey Namaste :wave:

    It's great that you are looking for support here, the thought of talking about your own mental health can be a terrifying thought. There are no rules about when you should tell someone, it's important that you feel that the time is right for you. Every relationship is different.
    We have an article on TheSite that has some great information and support about when and how to talk about your mental health with a partner.

    I think as Ella said this conversation can also provides a great opportunity for your partner to ask questions and to better understand how they can best support you.

    I hope the chat goes well if you decide to have it, make sure you feel ready and in a place where you feel happy to open up and share.
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