How to Tell People You Have Bipolar Disorder: Part 2 – Dating
Dating and New Romantic Relationships
When you’re starting a new relationship or dating, one of the questions that hangs around for a while is “is this going to be something serious?” There’s an argument for telling a romantic interest about your bipolar disorder soon after you start dating – if it’s going to be an issue for them, you’ve saved both of you time and heartache. However, it’s probably the kind of thing that would be best brought up right about in the middle of the “is this getting serious” phase.
Personally, the thought of telling someone I’m dating that I have Bipolar Disorder, only to have them run screaming for the exits, is a bit paralyzing. I anticipate rejection, despair, anxiety, and extreme vulnerability. Before bringing it up directly, I recommend testing the waters.
During conversations with your new potential significant other, you can sneakily gauge what their feelings are about mental illness. You could always talk about celebrities who’ve had Bipolar disorder. If talking about music makes sense, you could mention Sinead O’Connor, Frank Sinatra, or Chris Brown, and say that you admire their achievement. You could talk about Carrie Fischer and her experience with electroconvulsive therapy, or Patty Duke, or Richard Dreyfuss. There are a bunch of lists (best not to choose someone who is also an asshole, since it’s easy for people to assume that someone is a jerk because they have Bipolar Disorder). The topic might not faze your date at all, or might make them uncomfortable, or (hopefully not) could evoke ridicule or hostility. Whatever it is, you have some idea where you stand if you decide pursue the relationship and tell them about your own diagnosis.
If your date reacted well to your probing, great! Keep in mind that they still might not react well to your telling them about yourself, though.
If they seemed uncomfortable, it’s extra important to bring the topic up casually when you talk about your own experience, as if it’s no big deal, and to make sure you leave a lot of space for them to ask questions. This is unfortunate, but they may feel insecure about it and you’re the only one who can address that.
You might want to cut someone out of your life who’s mocking or outright hostile towards people with mental illness. If you think it’s just bluster however, and that they would react differently when it’s someone they care about, go forth. Their hostility might mask fear or confusion, similar to someone who’s uncomfortable with the topic. Instead of starting the conversation with you, try bringing up one of the well known people with bipolar disorder again, and when they react with a joke like before, you can say “actually, I have bipolar disorder,” and see how they react. Remember that you have nothing to apologize for or be ashamed of. Tell them that you’re really interested in pursuing a relationship with them, and you wanted to make sure that they understood about your illness.
How to Talk About It
I go over this topic a bit in part 1 of this series. There are a few key things to remember, though.
First, don’t start off by saying “I have something to tell you.” That creates an atmosphere of anxiety. Instead, settle down into a semi-private or private relaxing environment, and say “I wanted to tell you something about me – I have Bipolar II disorder.”
Second, make sure to leave plenty of room for their questions and whatever they have to say. A great way to do this is to follow your statement with “do you have any questions?”
Finally, remember that if they have a problem, it’s their problem.