Posted by: Scared | 2009/01/22

How to tell boyfriend I'  m mentally ill

Hi Doc

I'  m quite scared. I'  ve been battling with anorexia for some time now and after visiting countless doctors &  being in therapy, I have found out that I have a mood disorder - bipolar. I think there are varying degrees of severity and I think mine is more of a mild case (as per my chat with my psychiatrist).

I'  m trying not to label it because of the stigmas attached to it but I just don'  t know how to tell my boyfriend that I'  ve been diagnosed with a mental illness. He barely understood my eating disorder. How on earth do I explain my condition without sending him running? I know it is manageable but it'  s a lifelong illness!

We'  ve spoken about marriage etc. I'  m scared I may lose everything because he might decide not to marry a "  crazy person"  . The thing is - I'  m still "  me"  - I just battle to cope and I need medication to stabilise me. I'  m trying to justify it but I'  m afriad my relationship is doomed!

It'  s not fair to lie to him - especially if he plans on marrying me! Help, I'  m scared.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Well, it sounds like your psychiatrist has discovered the basis of your problem, and it usually responds really well to treatment. Stigma is a variable thing --- no diagnosis should be treated by you as though it caries a stigma --- that only increases stigma. If the shrink has concluded thast you DON'T have an eating disorder, that's good news to share with your family and maybe your bf ( it depends on how close you two are and what your future mutual plans are as to whether its really any of his business ) ; to then explain a mild bipolar diagnosis should sound like a relief to those who care about you.
And you are NOT a crazy peron --- you're a normal person with bipolar Disorder. He may be a normal persopn with dandruff. And its YOU, with UNTREATED bipolar disorder, apparently, who he has grown fond of --- under treatment, you should be even more delightful. Of course you must tell him the truth, but without making it sound like something awful. If he has questions, as Maria says ( HI Maria, nice to hear from you again !) --- help him find stuff to read about it or indeed arrange for him to meet your shrink to discuss this. And as Maria says, if he then chooses to run away, so be it, he would then not be worth missing. But I suspect he won't do that.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Scared | 2009/01/23

Thank you for all of your thoughtful and informative responses. I have thought about what you have said and I actually told my boyfriend (in the best way that I could seeing as I' m not a medical person). I think I' ll let it sink in but his initial response was so supportive and he just gave me a HUGE hug!!

It' s such a relief to know what the underlying problem is and to have been diagnosed. I couldn' t understand what was happening to me and why I couldn' t function on a " normal"  level. It was disrupting my whole life. I thought that it was a problem with " me"  when in fact it was actually an illness.

As for the eating disorder CS, they haven' t concluded that I don' t have one but my psychologist is certain that the moods have had a huge impact on my eating behaviour. I think the anorexia is symptomatic of the bipolar and it was a way for me to cope with the chaos I was experiencing (which was a result of the bipolar) - if that makes any sense!

Thank you all for your valuable support!!

Reply to Scared
Posted by: Lilly | 2009/01/23

if he is engaged to you he loves you. Tell him you think you could have Bi-polar, he knows you well by know so he should have a good idea of your personality. and will probably be supportive.

lots of love

Reply to Lilly
Posted by: amazing | 2009/01/23

its not a lifelong illness.....only if you beleive what they tell you!!!!

be honest and be brave about your past!

Reply to amazing
Posted by: Sorry my girl. | 2009/01/23

Really sorry to hear about your problem, but good on you for realising it and trying to do something about it, you get full marks for that girl. The problem is when people know they have a problem, but hide it and try to deny it exisits. I would say that you must tell your boyfriend, although if he did not get the anorexia story one wonders how sympathetic or accepting he may be. I would not consider marriage I am afriad. That institution is demanding from both parties and you both have to work at it, it does not just happen. A relapse or two on your part could just be the start of a crack that develops into something big, ending in divorce and believe me if you have bouts of depression and mixed up emotions now, you will not cope with what divorce brings, so better stay out of it, do the treatment and enjoy yourself without getting married. Its the best. Good luck

Reply to Sorry my girl.
Posted by: Disenchanted | 2009/01/23

He is prepared to marry you for who you are, telling him shouldn' t change much for now, but can improve your chances of a succesfull marriage later if there are any future changes in your moods. If telling him chases him away, that is also ok as it means that he doesn' t deserve you or love you enough!
Rather tell him straight out, but maybe print some information for him to read so that he knows what Bi-polar is! Another option is to get a second opinion to confirm Bi-polar, or normal depression as not all docs will agree!
good luck

Reply to Disenchanted
Posted by: Maria | 2009/01/22

Hey there

You definitely cannot marry him without telling him.

I used to tell my bf/fiance difficult things on email, sometimes still do even though we' ve now been married for three years. That gives him time to think and digest what I said before responding. Or maybe you can tell him, give him some information on it to read and ask if he would like to come and see the psychiatrist with you and ask any questions he may have. Tell him what you told us here.

If he runs away, let him go. You can live quite a normal life as a bipolar person but there could be big wobbles. If he is not able to accept that, love you unconditionally and help you manage your illness, then he is not the man for you.


Reply to Maria

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