This is what it’s really like telling your partner about your mental illness
From the girls who have
by Una Dabiero
Trigger warning: This article contains accounts of sexual assault, emotional abuse, gun violence, panic attacks, eating disorder, and suicide.
It can be intimidating to date with a mental illness. It can be hard to know when you should tell someone about something so intimate, how gritty you should get with details, and how much they can take. Will they understand? Will they run away?
These are stories and advice about talking to your partner about mental illness:
“We haven’t defined the relationship yet, but I first told my partner about my mental illness on our fifth date. I had a really bad episode due to my depression right before I was supposed to meet him, and when he asked how my day was, I told him straight up about the episode.
“He said he understood that it happens sometimes. Knowing that he understood helped a lot, and knowing he was alright with it helped me be more honest about rough patches in the future.”
“I have really bad anxiety, and I will have severe panic attacks every few months or so. When my boyfriend and I started dating, he didn’t know about my anxiety. One day, a month into our relationship, we were talking about a shooting incident and he pulled out his gun to show me. It really freaked me out. I had a friend die by another friend accidentally shooting him in the face while trying to unload and clean the gun, so now they trigger me.
“I asked him to put it away and he thought I was joking. I started crying when he finally realized I was really panicked. We were driving to dinner later that night and I was thinking about my friend who died, and I lost it. I was driving on the interstate and had to pull over. I got out of the car and was hands and knees in the grass heaving, crying and shaking. My boyfriend got out and freaked out because he had absolutely no idea what the fuck was happening.
“I had to tell him in not so many words to just stand there and wait. He did, with his hand on my back, while I tried controlling my breathing enough to think straight. He was so helpful and considerate. Throughout dinner, he kept his hand on my knee and every so often made sure I was okay.”
“I have anxiety and was nervous about telling my only longterm boyfriend. Of course, after stressing forever about telling him, I told him. He was relieved because he suffered from a number of mental illnesses as well – far more severe than I could imagine. He’d been nervous to tell me, and my telling him made him feel more comfortable to open up.”
“I told my boyfriend I about my severe Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) on the third date. He had asked me why I could never take a compliment and I told him about my disorder. I was going to tell him early on before things got serious anyways because when you have BDD to the extent I do, it brings on panic attacks, and a other symptoms.
“I don’t think he fully gets what BDD is, but he has been by my side to calm me down through my panic attacks and even a suicide attempt. He has never once told me that it’s a silly issue when I tell him I don’t believe when he says I’m pretty or I skip hanging out with him because I’m ashamed of my body. He has really been there for me.”
“I got PTSD after I was raped and subsequently stalked. I was dating a guy who used to be in his fraternity, and I didn’t tell him about any of it until I had a panic attack right before we were going to have sex. He was really nice about it, but I would not recommend waiting until the last possible second to explain something that important.”
“I first told my boyfriend about my anxiety when he expressed his interest to determine the relationship. I presented it to him in a way that made it seem like an excuse for my fear of disappointing him as a human after making the commitment to be his girlfriend, rather than an explanation for my fear.
“Instead of freaking out, I realized much later that he asked me to rephrase and re-explain what I was saying was a way of talking me out of my fears he would not understand. He helped me to do something I never thought I could do – rationalize my fears to an unbiased third-party.”
“So I’ve made the mistake of not telling a long time partner of my mental illness and when I finally broke, it felt like it was all too late. He didn’t want to care for me at all and told me I was stupid for not being stronger. I had to hide an eating disorder, depression, and a suicide attempt from him because anytime he found out I was not in a good spot, he’d make it so much more worse by telling me I didn’t suffer enough to have any sort of disorder.
“My current boyfriend will not hide anything at all. He made the same mistake of not seeking support from his past partner. I told him from the start that I suffer and I need someone that is willing to push with me through all that. He understood and told me almost the same about him. He didn’t want me to suffer and even if I did, he’d do everything to help. I’m extremely happy I told him at the beginning because now we have each other’s backs for everything.”
“I told my boyfriend during our first fight. It was completely unplanned. I told him I was going to need some level of commitment because with winter approaching and my seasonal depression creeping closer, I didn’t need another reason to be sad. I told him if he didn’t see this going anywhere he should just end it now, because it would be easier on both of us.
“I think it really helped him understand me better and it definitely made our relationship stronger. It helped me better communicate how I was feeling and it helped him respond to my needs better.”
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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