22

I have bipolar disorder. It is under control, but I read that my children might inherit it and my medicines might affect unborn children. But, I'd like to get married and have children.

After starting the treatment, I stopped dating. Now, I'd like to start again, but I'm terrified of bringing up the subject. Where I live there is a lot of stigmas associated with mental illness, and I keep quiet about it, among other things, because I wouldn't like to lose my job. I've already lost my previous job over it.

My question is, when should I disclose this issue to my potential dates and how do I frame it so they won't run away screaming?

  • Are you a man, or a woman? A pregnant (or nursing) woman obviously has more trouble staying on her medications without exposing her child(ren) to complications, than her husband does. – Jasper Aug 18 '17 at 19:23
  • What country is this in? Different locations have different levels of stigma about mental health. – user288 Aug 19 '17 at 21:35
  • 3
    I don't know if it helps allay your worries, but I have a sibling with bipolar disorder and she has never been able to keep it well managed (she does try, doctors, therapists, etc). She has been married over 20 years to a good man who knew all that from the start. I do understand your concern for sure. I also have a real belief that if you want to be in a relationship and are willing to be open to that, then there will be someone out there that also is waiting on you to show up. I think you have to trust your gut on when you tell someone. My sister told on the 1st date. – threetimes Aug 27 '17 at 6:30
29
+50

A Good Read

Bustle has a great article on the matter: When To Disclose Your Mental Illness To Someone You're Dating

They note five different times when you should consider disclosing your mental illness:

  1. When It Influences Your Behavior

    For instance, Health Central gives a scenario in which a person with an anxiety disorder is invited on a date to a crowded space in which they would be at risk of panic attacks. That acts as a spur to disclosure; it requires negotiation and plan-changing with a date, and therefore, your mental health needs to be on the table.

    But this isn't as simple as it seems. People with long-standing disorders often note that many aspects of their behavior are affected by it and that it forms part of who they are. "When it influences your behavior," in that case, is "always," and there isn't one particular "flaring" moment in which the symptoms become more or less noticeable.

    (emphasis mine)

  2. When You're Not In A Disorder Phase

    Organizations like NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) suggest that it's best to "talk about it during a calm time when you're not actively struggling with an episode of anxiety, depression, psychosis, or mania," as it will help you explain things clearly and respond to their concerns. Some people may worry that this makes their condition seem less believable to their date, but a person who doesn't believe you when you say you're diagnosed with a mental illness is not somebody you should be spending movie nights with.

  3. When You Reach A "Serious" Stage

    This is one of the most common tips: that you definitely need to disclose if things are becoming "serious," though how that's defined is up to you (sleeping together, seeing each other multiple times a week, calling each other "partner" or "girlfriend," etc.). Psychologist Barbara Greenberg, for example, interviewed on the question by Mic, says disclosure should occur "whenever the relationship has matured to the point where it feels comfortable — usually, around the three-month mark."

  4. When It Feels Safe

    There is, as always, a caveat. For some people, their disorders are sufficiently intrusive that waiting until safety has been achieved is not feasible, or indeed particularly cool for their partner. "I would love to feel I could keep my mental illness under wraps until I was comfortable with someone as if it were a hobby like collecting international Barbie dolls," writes Molly Pohlig, who suffers from various disorders including borderline personality disorder and depression. "But that seems both unfair and dangerous. Having a panic attack in front of someone unprepared is not great for building trust." In those cases, being up front early isn't just polite, it's necessary.

  5. When They Ask

    Statistics are on your side when it comes to disclosure. The mental health organization Mind explains that, according to a large survey, two-thirds of people with mental health issues and partners described their partner's reactions to disclosure as "unfazed" and "really understanding," and that only five percent of all the surveyed subjects, with or without partners, had dates break up with them when disclosure happened.

My Two Cents

I was in a relationship for four years with a lady who suffered from bipolar disorder; it took her a while to disclose this to me. She admittedly took step 3 and we reached a point with each other where it didn't matter to me, as I had already grown with her and got to know her for who she was. We were comfortable.

She sat me down and arranged a date night at her place with a dinner. I feel she did this to try to ease any tension when telling me (and to make herself feel as comfortable as possible). So I went to hers for a different (to me thinking it like any other time) kind of evening from what we normally had and when we finished the dinner, we sat together and she revealed it to me. I could tell she had garnered the confidence to do this throughout the night.

She said:

I have something to tell you, I'm not sure how you're going to react but the last few months have been great for me, and I feel it's the right time.

And then, for the rest of the evening (thinking about it now), educated me more than I could educate myself. It was great seeing the relief she had felt that evening.

Your wanting to get back into the chaos that is dating is a giant leap forward and I personally commend you for that. But, you do have statistics on your side (see point 5). Do what you feel comfortable with at a time you feel comfortable doing it. You can get out as fast as you can go in. No one can rush you, and if they do, would you really want to be dating them anyway?

How you can approach it

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers great advice in an approach called "process" talk.

"Process" talk means "talking about talking," rather than talking to share information. Prepare your listener for an important conversation by using "process" talk. Here are some ways to begin a process talk:

  • "I want to talk to you about something important. I'm not sure how to talk about it, though. Can you just listen to me and try to understand? I'm hoping I'll feel better after talking about it with someone, but I need you to be patient."

  • "There's something going on in my life that's bothering me. I think I need to talk to someone about it. I feel embarrassed about it, though, so please don't laugh it off or make a joke out of it."

  • "I'm not sure if this will make sense. I feel uncomfortable talking about it, but I want to tell someone. Because you're an RA, I hope you'll be able to give me advice on what to do next for help."

Further reading

I wish you the best of luck and truly hope you find someone that is understanding and caring.

  • 2
    This answer helps me a lot. I tend to blurt out things I have on my mind for a long time, and the effect is always negative. I was worried of doing this to a date and scare them to death. I'm going to try one of your suggestion, i.e. wait until I'm comfortable and it becomes more serious. – user2107 Aug 17 '17 at 17:54
1

Guardian has an interesting article on how someone with bipolar probably shouldn't disclose this and offers some advice here.

You asked,

if and when should I disclose this issue to my potential dates. And if I do it, how do I frame it so they won't run away screaming?

If they run away screaming they aren't the right person for you :) Unless you want them to, so wear a funny T-shirt about it and test this! (Joking)

The first part of your question is if you should disclose this issue to your potential dates. Some examples:

Yes: If the potential dates are women there is a good chance you will want to marry and they will, too. This is someone you may end up spending the rest of your life with so honesty and good communication is important for a healthy, long-lasting relationship.

Depends: If you are disclosing this to women you aren't sure about.

  • You may go on a couple of dates and not feel this is going to work out so there is no need to say anything early on.
  • However, there is also a possibility that you meet someone who is going through the same thing and decides to tell you about it even on the first date. In that case, you might feel inclined to do so, too.

To answer the when component of your question,

When it feels right to you and when this person:

  • seems compassionate and encouraging to you to open up about things
  • values honesty
  • has told you they love and want to be with you not just for the good but also for the "bad
  • asks you herself because she happens to have a relative or friend with the same illness

The how might even come naturally when that person has made you feel comfortable enough and you will be feeling they are here to stay.

Personal experience: I was once with someone who suffered from depression and was bipolar but wasn't on any medication. The relationship was serious but he hadn't been open about what he was going through. Sometimes, it got difficult for me and I did have to consult a professional so I know how to handle some of these difficulties. I now feel I could have been more prepared if I knew from the beginning. I basically had to find out myself. But it still wouldn't have made me change how I felt about him. I wanted to be with him and help him.

Hope this helped any! Good luck! :)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy