Due to the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder, I have always approached the subject with extreme caution when telling a potential love interest about my condition. The last thing I want to do is drop that bomb when things are going great with a guy.
“Hey, I’m bipolar, like for real.”
Suddenly, he’s a deer stuck in headlights. Just like that I go from being the coolest girl on Earth to a potential psychopath. Seriously dude? I won’t stalk you, set your car on fire or burn down your house – unless of course I miss a dose of my medication. Just joking.
I used to struggle with how and when to spring my deep dark secret. I would spend lots of time getting to know someone and telling the person everything about me, then try and figure out how to downplay my condition. As an adult with bipolar disorder, it is a big part of who I am. It’s not something that can be minimized. I take daily medication and visit a doctor every 8 weeks, and I will do so for the rest of my life. At some point I will have an episode of mania, so I want my future partner to know what he’s in for.
How do you break the news? Here is some advice on how to tell the guy you’re dating that you are bipolar.
Don’t spring up the bipolar conversation.
You don’t want to bring it up while he’s driving to an outing with friends, or right before you go to bed. Have this conversation in the privacy of your own home, where you feel comfortable speaking without interruption. You want his full attention and you want adequate time to answer any questions he will have.
Do not downplay your condition.
This is the time to be open and honest. Don’t hand him a generic flyer on bipolar disorder from your doctor’s office. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Tell him that you will require daily medication, like billions of other Americans. Tell him that you have your life under control.
Be prepared to give him some space.
This is the part which makes me most uncomfortable, but it also shows me if a man is worth keeping. Your guy may need a few days or weeks to process the fact that you have bipolar disorder. This isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a shock for many. He could read up on the disorder and find out that it is completely manageable.
On the flip side, based on his reaction, you may not want him around. Take some time for yourself to process the way he handled the news. Was he kind and compassionate? Can you envision him caring for you during an episode? If he was a dick, let him go. You cannot compromise when it comes to your mental health. You didn’t choose to be this way and you need an understanding partner. He doesn’t have to love puppies and babies, but would he take a minute out of his day to give a dollar to a homeless person, open the door for an elderly woman, or help a woman carry a baby carriage up the stairs? It is very important to select a compassionate partner. That way he is compassionate toward you and your bipolar disorder.
Regardless of the outcome, we need to be open about being bipolar and show people who we are. Take me or leave me, I am who I am. I am bipolar and I own that shit.