Recently a commenter asked how to tell her boyfriend about her bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, this commenter had negative past experiences in dealing with her bipolar disorder in relationships. In fact, people had broken up with her because of her disorder. A scene that is far too common in mental illness.
So, when is the right time to tell the person you’re dating you have bipolar disorder?
Disclosing Bipolar Disorder
Unfortunately, many of us have had similar negative experiences. People find out about the bipolar disorder, or an aspect of the disorder, and just flat out leave. This has the nasty consequence of making us feel very bad about ourselves and it makes it really difficult to tell others in the future for fear of abandonment.
But that doesn’t make the need for disclosure, or the bipolar, go away.
When to Tell the Person You’re Dating about Bipolar Disorder
You have three choices: now, later and never.
- Now – this is, well, now, and most of us don’t like now and would like to avoid choosing now as often as possible. Now runs the risk of the person leaving you before they even get to know you.
- Later – this sounds good, at least at first blush. At least it isn’t now. But unfortunately later quickly turns into later still and can even move into never territory. And the later it gets the more attached you are to the person you’re dating and the worse it will feel if they choose to leave you after you disclose.
- Never – this was actually suggested to the commenter. I think never is ridiculous. To suggest the person you’re dating won’t notice you have pill bottles in your bathroom, doctor’s appointments and bipolar websites bookmarked is fairly ridiculous; not to mention the fact that building a relationship on deceit isn’t beneficial for you or the person you’re dating. As bad as it feels to be abandoned because of an illness, it would also feel bad for your partner to have been lied to repeatedly.
When I Tell Someone I Have Bipolar Disorder
I tell them pretty much as soon as it naturally flows into the conversation. This might be the second date or the third, but it’s put up front because honestly, I can’t afford to have people I’m attached to leave – it just hurts too much. If a person is so weak they would leave a person over an illness, well, that’s something I’d like to know up front because they obviously aren’t the person for me.
I think there are two keys:
- Don’t make it seem like the end of the world otherwise they certainly will
- Be prepared for ignorance and step up to educate
As I said, I mention my bipolar conversationally. It’s not a deep, dark secret. It’s not a dead body buried in the back yard. It’s just a thing about me. It’s just like the fact that I have no depth perception – it’s not the end of the known universe. It’s a hurdle, but then, without depth perception so is parking, and I seem to manage that just fine.
People won’t know about bipolar disorder. That’s OK. That’s to be expected. Remember, when you were first diagnosed you were scared and ignorant too. It takes time to get over that. And you, as the person who understands, need to step up and help the other person learn. This takes time. Bipolar isn’t a small thing. You didn’t understand it overnight and neither will they.
It Doesn’t Always Work
But no matter what you do or how you do it, some people are never going to react well to learning you have bipolar disorder. But understand, this is about them and not about you. Some people would run from a person with epilepsy too. That’s not the epileptic’s fault, it’s the runner’s.
So be prepared for rejection. Tell the person early so the rejection won’t hurt as much. And remember, there are better people out there for you than those who would run from a person with an illness. They aren’t good enough for you anyway.