I am going to start a series where I talk about mental health in relationships and how it all affects everything. I’m going to cover multiple different aspects of relationships and my story with how mental health affected my relationships. It is important to note that everyone is different and every relationship is different. My story may be very different than yours. If you feel like sharing, please send me a note about your story and relationship advice. Also, if there is anything in particular you would like to hear, let me know as well!
So I am going to start with how I told my boyfriend I had a mental health disorder. As I noted in my mental health story post, my first semester of college went really well for me and my anxiety developed around my second semester. I was having small panic attacks here and there but at this point, I did not know what they were. My depression also came back pretty strong as well. I met my boyfriend pretty early on in my freshman year and we just clicked. It wasn’t like we were looking for anything it just happened pretty naturally. And I was really happy. Everything seemed to be looking up for me again and I was over the moon about it. However, things started crashing down one night because of one incident about 3 months into my new relationship. A group of my friends and I were hanging out in one of their rooms on campus and I was making brownies. Why I decided that I would volunteer to bake is beyond me because I hate baking. I prefer the eating part. Anyways, I put them in the oven and they weren’t cooking right. They were barely cooked when the timer went off and my friends were starting to pick on me. They were making little jokes about how I can’t cook and complaining that they weren’t done yet. I don’t know exactly why but it pushed me over the edge. I stepped outside to breathe and realized I was going to break down. I ran back inside, grabbed my stuff, and ran back to my room. Thankfully, my roommate wasn’t home so I just fell to the floor and sobbed. About 20 minutes later, I heard a knock on the door and I opened it to find my sweet boyfriend checking in on me. He was a little shocked when he saw me because I had been bawling in pitch black darkness. I probably looked horrifying. He asked me what was going on and I had to tell him. I didn’t have a choice at this point. Because of the state I was in, I didn’t go into much detail about what was going on which he was okay with. He understood that I wasn’t in a place where I could share my story. The next day after I calmed down, I was able to share everything with him. He was extremely open to hearing everything and accepted me for what I would be dealing with. Because it was so early on in our relationship as well as in my mental health journey, we were not overly cautious or worried about how it could affect our relationship. I’ll go into all of that in later blogs. Anyways, here are my tips on how to tell a significant other about your mental health.
- Be in a good mindset. In my situation, I was almost forced to tell him what my life looked like because I had a break down. But I chose not to share everything with him while I was in that mindset because I know I wouldn’t be able to have an informed and reasonable discussion. Ideally, I wouldn’t have jumped into that discussion. I would have rather sat down and shared everything from an honest and open place. It can be very easy to get emotional and worked up when talking about my depression and anxiety, so being relaxed and happy is a better way to start any of those discussions.
- Be honest. One of the hardest parts of telling someone who you are in a relationship with that you have a mental health disorder is that you have to be able to accept it yourself. I shared my story from the beginning and let him understand how my feelings have changed over the years around my depression. I also talked to him how it is a work in progress and the struggles I have with it today. At that point, I knew that it could get worse and I had to let him know these things because he was know a huge part of my life.
- Tell them what they can do. One of the things I stressed with him was that this was not his problem. He did not choose to have a relationship with depression or anxiety in the mix so he didn’t have to deal with me when those take over. We also talked about what he could do to help if he wanted to. When I’m depressed, I just needed someone there to hold me and tell me that everything is okay and that I am still loved. When I’m anxious, I needed him to help me breathe regularly and stop me from scratching. I saw that Kelsey Darragh posted a list on twitter that she made with her boyfriend about her panic and anxiety disorder and I really loved it. It was so inspiring to see how partners can work together at mental health problems and support each other in the best ways they can. Here is the link to the tweet if you want to read them yourself. https://twitter.com/kelseydarragh/status/995045375420567552
- Give them time. It can be a lot to process when you tell someone that they are dating someone with a mental health disorder, especially if it is early on in the relationship. Give them some time to think it over and really understand the full picture of everything. There are a few things that can happen. One- they could decide that they aren’t in a position where they can be with you. That can be extremely hard to hear but maybe it is good for you. I wouldn’t want to be in a relationship where my S.O. didn’t think my mental health problem was real or could not work through it with me. Or option 2- They could come back and learn to love you through everything. If the person is open to continue the relationship, keep talking. Keep the conversation going as that will help them understand your mind better. It also allows them to learn more about your triggers, symptoms and how to help you better.
Telling my boyfriend at the time that I was dealing with anxiety and depression was extremely hard. However, I am forever grateful that I did because he was a huge support system for me in my journey to better my mind. If it wasn’t for that incident and conversation, I don’t know how long I would have tried to hide my feelings. I truly believe that honesty can be the best medicine for mental health as it opens the door for real conversations that need to be had.