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.
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