You fall in love. He’s perfect, brilliant, kind, funny, maybe even has a job and a car. Your parents are thrilled with him. There’s talk about moving in together, merging finances or maybe a ring.
But have you told him yet? That sometimes you go off the rails, sometimes you miss work, cry interminably, and can’t leave your bed?
If you’ve had an episode since you’ve been dating, did you hide it, telling him you had the flu or were busy with a big work project? Did you stay out of sight until the light returned to your eyes?
When, exactly, should you share with your partner your particular challenge, be it chronic anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia?
About five months after meeting the man who would become my husband, I tried to explain my depression.
I had never been formally diagnosed or treated, but intermittently from the age of 10, I had experienced a slow, dark sap moving through me, a dull ache in my frontal lobe making it hard to even open my eyelids. My energy waned, my thoughts conspired against me, contorting logic until I knew I would be better off dead.
When you’ve been dating long enough to start talking about the future, it’s time to have the crazy talk. Three possible reactions follow:
1) He denies or minimizes your illness.
A common response when I tell people I have depression is, “Really? I don’t see that in you.” Exactly. Because depressed people don’t meet for coffee or go to parties. Sometimes they can't even play tennis.
Mark Lukach’s story of his wife’s mental illness, “My Beautiful Wife in the Psych Ward,” offers a harrowing description of how bad it can be. Ask your partner to read it.
When he reads the story, he’ll say, “Yeah, but you’re not that bad.”
You’ll say, “Not today.” The next question is, "What if I were that bad? Then what?"
2) He understands, and accepts you.