Talking About Mental Health With Others

I don’t like to talk about what happened. On an ordinary day I choose not to tell people. Only in my blogs, books, and public speaking engagements will I be open.

I’m trying to meet a love interest like a lot of women in America are. Even in this arena I don’t want to reveal too much information about anything, even about non-mental health things.

To empower readers I would like to talk about this:

When is the right time to tell your romantic partner about your mental health history?

I say: it’s after you’ve gotten them to swallow your bait and you’ve reeled them in on your fishing line.

The bait you should be dangling is who you are apart from your illness.

The first date or even only the fifth date is not the time to talk about any liability if you ask me.

If you agonize and obsess over whatever your mental health diagnosis is, constantly thinking about possible stigma and expecting stigma wherever you go, this might just become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It’s going to influence how you interact with other people.

My memoir Left of the Dial exposed the early mindset I had that I didn’t want to be viewed as “crazy.”

Yet discontinue your medication and get sick, and you’ll be farther away from attracting a romantic partner.

The reality is–to quote a shrink–“A guy will be impressed that you take medication because it shows you want to be healthy in the relationship.”

In my early fifties I decided I wanted to try for love. The diagnosis is off the table as a conversation starter.

First I might slip it in little-by-little by talking about how Kanye West has told people he has bipolar.  Then by talking about a real person in my life who has a mental health issue.

Send out the information like a canary in a coalmine. See if it kills the canary.

The point is people who lack compassion, who are going to get spooked because you have an MH thing, are really messed up themselves. They’re not so great candidates for living in love with.

When you do talk about what happened it’s OK to keep embarrassing details to yourself. Keep private of course the things you don’t want to tell others.

You can tell others the bare-bones if you’d like and only that. It’s your right to tell others only what you’re comfortable revealing.

My signature poem “What She Said” talks about how I’ll only give others parts of the story. It’s worth buying Left of the Dial to have on hand this poem that starts off the book.

Like it or not (it’s a fact), revealing your diagnosis is going to color and influence what another person thinks of you from that moment on.

It’s far better if you ask me that you tell your love interest when you’ve established a connection with them linked to who you are apart from the illness..

Lastly, I’ll give readers this counterpoint:

You have to realize that it can be a burden for another person to process what you’ve told them. This has nothing to do with stigma.

They should be told in a way that considers their needs too.

The person you want to get intimate with should be told at some point.

What to do if you’re rejected, if the person stops calling, if they ghost you or disappear?

Think of the good times you had up until then.

Remember the adage:

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Every experience you have in life with another person gives you the skills, abilities, and strength you need to succeed in the future.

 

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Author: Chris Bruni

Christina Bruni is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Left of the Dial. She owns a resume writing and career help business. She contributed a chapter "Recovery is Within Reach" to Benessere Psicologico: Contemporary Thought on Italian American Mental Health. As well as an author and activist, Bruni is an artist and a fitness buff.

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