Friday, February 8, 2013

Disclosure and Relationships

By Linea Johnson

This blog also appeared on Strength of Us, an online social community from NAMI designed for young adults living with mental illness.

Having hard conversations in a relationship is never easy, but when you add a mental health condition to the list it can be even harder. This blog is going to talk about how to maintain healthy relationships when your friends and partners already know of your mental health condition, but may know nothing about it in your life. To learn how to disclose read this post on dating and disclosure.

Once you have disclosed your illness it is important to start building a safe space where you and your friends or partner can discuss personal things. In order to build a safe space you need to work on disclosing personal information about your condition that may help them better understand your struggles and needs. This can be done in small steps whether it is building the strength to feel comfortable telling them when you have doctor or counseling appointments or being honest if you have to pick up medication for your condition. These are small things in your life that will begin to give them an idea of how this is a part of your life, but also that you are willing to take the time to take care of yourself.

[Check out Linea talking about finding hope in her video for NAMI's You Are Not Alone.]

The next step is getting to the point where you can discuss how much you want to talk about your illness and how you want to do it. You may just feel comfortable letting them know you have a diagnosis, but may not yet feel comfortable telling them all the gritty details. It is important to not only talk about your illness but to lay some ground rules for how much you feel comfortable sharing. It may be good to tell them that they can ask you questions but that you may not feel comfortable answering them all.

The important place to get to is to be able to tell your loved ones when you are having a bad day due to your condition and to let them know how they can help you. By being honest you can begin to be yourself on the days when it is hardest to cover up your illness. This can make it okay for you to have a bad day without having to act strong or to act like what you may see as your version of “normal.” In building a safe place where you can begin to tell small things about your needs you can finally start feeling comfortable being yourself and build stronger lasting bonds with the people in your life.

Linea is a recent graduate from Seattle University, with a major in English and Creative Writing. She is a national speaker and author of Perfect Chaos, a memoir that captures her experiences as a young adult with bipolar disorder.



Anonymous said...

it is tough to disclose your illness to any new person in your opinion is that if they won't at least try to understand and deal with it, they probably wont be a good match overall

Anonymous said...

I have trouble talking about what's going on when I'm in a depressed state because I get the whole "poverty of thought" thing, and I can't figure out how to put it into words. My partner often takes it personally, like I don't want to talk to her. Any advice?

Anonymous said...

I am new to utilizing Nami tools and sharing my personal experiences. I just testing the waters here and I am intrigued by the poasts. I think relationships is a very tough area for Bipolar people because it is very heartbreaking to find out the person you love never has been for you. Dealing with the pressures of this reality, coping with the hurt of betrayal, and the deception of professionals is upsetting to anyone. But being bipolar makes it hard to not take this to an emotional extreme. Sometimes your loved ones feel like you are emotionally draining them. When you're rightfully upset so use positive optimistic channels as an outlet... I am following the professional advice of respected official to participate in Nami associations. I believe personally, you both have made a strong good step. I hope that it works out in your health, relationships, and other lawful pursuits of life and liberty.

Anonymous said...

During a depressive episode, my ex-husband told me how it was convenient that I had "chosen" to have it during summer vacation and asked me how long I "planned" for it to last. He then asked me if I'd ever have another episode. We'd been married over five years at the time. Some people never get it. Hence, one of the reasons he is an ex-husband. My boyfriend takes medication for depression and has a few other health issues, so he understood right from the beginning of our relationship.

Anonymous said...

Well, I feel for your x-husband. I have been married 40 years and, believe me when I say, there are 'still' times when I 'still' "Don't Get it". At times I still have difficulty understanding why she doesn't "just shake it off". Logic always seems to fail me. But I am still here and so is she....
We have managed many good days, and some berry bad.

Anonymous said...

I was compassionate about my boyfriends condition. He was diagnosed schizoaffective. I tried my best in every way to support him with positivity but it didn't work. He is very abusive and it was destroying me. I finally had to get a restraining order on him because he is very unpredictable. He claims he does not have anything wrong with him and he refuses to take his medication. We live right next to each other and because I reached a limit, I had to move out of my home. He gets irrational and extremely nasty. I don't knowI was becoming a nervous wreck and there is no help. Legal agencies just tell me that they can't force him to take medication. I don't know what to do and we have a baby on the way. I'm now afraid he will hurt me or the baby...either now or later. I still love him, but I can't be with him until he finally decides to treat his condition. He's in denial for sure.

Anonymous said...

I have a one time fiance now family friend that has battled schizophrenia later redefined as schitzoaffective disorder since he was 21. We met in college when he was almost 30. At 50, he has learned that acceptance of his mental health recovery is a matter of survival but this brain disease has destroyed our solid chances of ever marrying, him finishing school and now for him to live independent in the community in the foreseeable future. With both of his parents gone, I am one of the last safe links to his medical history and my advocacy last year got him back on Cloziril. We never had a a child but your choice to move further away is, to my guess, the safest choice. Again, you are in my thoughts and remember you are not alone in this struggle.