Bipolar disorder and romantic relationships: how do I talk about it?
Determining when to disclose your bipolar disorder and romantic relationships is quite complex. There is no be-all end-all correct answer. Considering personal preference, timing, what is going on in each of your lives, the direction of the relationship and your level of comfort with the other person will determine how, when and where you will disclose. Being anxious or concerned over their reaction is normal.
Using terms they may understand
When talking with you love interest and to make a difficult subject easier to digest, use terms they are familiar with. Depending on their reaction, you will be able to judge if they want to know more. You might say, “Sometimes I feel depressed.” Or “I have mood swings, but I am in recovery with this.”
If they handle the basic information well, move on up
There will be a time in your bipolar disorder and romantic relationships when you will want to disclose the actual diagnosis. “I have bipolar disorder and it’s manageable.” It is more common than not that people have distorted views of the mental illness, bipolar. The views can even be quite extreme. Once you put out there that you have bipolar, you can then address these false beliefs.
What if they freak out?
Be prepared that your love interest could go off the deep end. They just are unable to handle, for whatever reasons, your illness. REMEMBER: they are not rejecting you. They are rejecting the bipolar. Think of it this way, it is better to find out now than when you are more involved and have more emotions invested in the relationship. Also, better to find out now than when you are needing the extra support from your partner and they drop the ball.
Looking ahead into the future
Once the illness has been disclosed and your relationship has progressed nicely, you can discuss making him/her more involved in your recovery efforts. They can go with you to a support group like Depression Bipolar Support Alliance. Maybe they can accompany you on a therapy session or an appointment with your psychiatrist. This too will help demystify the bipolar and create a stronger bond.
Call To Action
If you know someone with bipolar, what are you going to do this week to help them feel accepted? Please place a comment in the section below. Or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Bipolar Disorder Answer Book” by Charles Atkins, M.D.