In the first post of my series “Dating With Depression” I wrote about how you can stand there and be open to meeting someone. I don’t think I would have been able to stand there if I wasn’t ready to take the next step. So I want to move on to the next post in this series – How I Can Address It Talking about mental health to someone you meet with. Of course, every relationship and person is unique, but I’ve learned (and heard from others) some advice on how to better address the mental health that everyone can design for their own needs and relationships. Let’s dive in
Are we ready to talk?
While mostly personal, I have been lucky enough to receive advice that I have given others on how to address mental health in a relationship. Before I start, I also want to make it clear that your schedule for sharing your mental health trip with your partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. is exactly that: your schedule. These tips and advice are most effective when you are ready to share your experience with others. It is important to be ready to share your experiences as you are in a mental state that is ready for the next steps, even if you do not share everything in one night. It is also important to know if your partner is in the right place to have this conversation and to understand their needs in the same way that you need to understand your own. This conversation is a one-way street and you are both equally involved!
Facilitating the conversation
When you’re ready to talk to your partner about mental health (and you think they are ready to hear you), the next step is to focus on timing. At what point in the relationship do you want to be so vulnerable to someone? For some, it is after some dates, while others can take years, but it is usually somewhere in between. I would say that if you have been open and honest about other aspects of your life, you have laid the groundwork for this discussion, especially if you think it is a relationship worth pursuing. If it isn’t … well, this is a conversation for another time!
As soon as you have recognized this timing, you can file notes. An easy way to do this is the content you consume. Whether it’s a podcast, book, music, or something else, try to tell your partner something that has to do with mental health to get him into this arena. Also note that your own advocacy is also an indication. I have pictures of AFSP Out of the Darkness Walks on my entire Instagram page and at the time I didn’t know how I laid this foundation stone. If you’re looking for ways to relieve someone, they may be easier to find than you think.
Having the conversation about mental health
Okay, now we are where we want to be and we will have this conversation with our partner! But what do we say? Honestly, I wish this part wasn’t so personal so I could give better advice, but it’s very personal. When I first opened up to my girlfriend, there was a lot of emotion in the room and although it was easier than I thought, it is not easy. My best advice would be to treat the conversation like any other story you shared before, because ultimately it is information that your partner needs to know. Ultimately, we all deserve to be with someone who knows the important things about us – even the things that are uncomfortable and difficult. And when you’re with someone who understands this, you can remind them that this is just like any other disease. If I didn’t tell my girlfriend about a physical handicap I’ve lived with, I would do both of us and our relationship badly. Why is it different?
One more reminder: there will be a first mental health conversation and it will be important, but it shouldn’t be the last. This is the beginning of a bigger discussion. So don’t keep in mind that you have to share everything at once. If you disclose things in a good way to keep the conversation going, it will be easier to deal with time. Lots of love to everyone who has or will take this step – and send you all the best!