Telling your partner you live with a mental illness

14 February 2019

If you meet someone, when is the right time to disclose your illness? We asked mental health campaigner Ellie about when she first tackles that tricky conversation.

This is a difficult question as it entirely depends on the type of person that you are in a relationship with. In my previous relationship, I hadn’t been diagnosed with any mental health problems in the past but it was clear to my partner that I had them due to the way I would act/react to certain situations. In this relationship, I never needed to ‘tell’ my partner that I had a mental illness as it was very clear from the start. Together we did discuss getting some help – and that was how I got a formal diagnosis of Post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

When I met my current partner, I told him straight away about my mental illnesses. One of the reasons why this was so important to me was that I was afraid that without him knowing, he wouldn’t be prepared for the ‘episodes’ or ‘flashbacks’. I am quite difficult to get close to during these periods, so I didn’t want him to feel that it was him that was the ‘problem’. 

  • On top of my formal diagnosis, I had such low self-esteem and I felt disclosing my illness would protect me from him bringing it up and use it against me in the future; I had already made him aware that I can be difficult to deal with and struggle a lot.

On the other hand, telling him beforehand meant that he could look after me and make sure I was okay when I was finding things difficult and to make sure he knew that I don’t react to situations the same as every other person do.

However, telling someone that you have mental illness/es as soon as you meet them can be tough as you may have a fear of rejection and they may walk away from you. It’s a difficult decision to make but it should be up to the individual to find what works for them.

From my experience I do think that telling someone who you are going to spending a lot of time with about your mental illness is a good thing. They can be more understanding and be more aware and together you can both enjoy the good days and help each other on the bad.

Recently I’ve been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder/ emotionally unstable personality disorder and at first I didn’t tell my partner about this diagnosis. I was afraid of what he would say or that he would look at me differently but when I got the courage to tell him, he was very supportive and we discussed the different ways we can work together to ensure that I cope with it in the right way and I get the help and support I need.

If you have a mental illness, when did you tell your partner? What tips do people who have recently been diagnosed have on ‘coming out’ to their loved ones? Join us on Instagram and share your thoughts.

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