Telling somebody about your mental illness for the first time can be nerve-wracking, whether it’s bipolar disorder or another diagnosis. It’s hard to know how people will react, and there’s often the worry about stigma.
There are a few things you should bear in mind when you are planning to tell someone about your mental illness.
1. Remember you don’t owe anyone that information
The first thing to remember is that you should only tell them if you feel ready and if you want to. You don’t owe anyone the details about your diagnosis. That’s your personal choice. Never feel pressured to disclose if you don’t feel that’s right for you.
2. Only share as much as you feel comfortable with
Likewise, you don’t have to give all of the details about your diagnosis. There’s no requirement about how much you share. You can decide how much detail you want (or don’t want) to go into.
3. Practice beforehand
If you’re really nervous, it can be a good idea to have a practice beforehand. You could practice what you’re going to say out loud, or if that feels a bit ‘silly’ you could go over what you want to say in your head. You might not stick to it exactly, but it can give you an idea of where to start.
4. Do so in a place you feel safe
It’s always a good idea to start any serious conversation in a place you feel safe and secure. This will vary for everyone. For some people, they may feel more comfortable having the conversation at home where the surroundings are familiar and comforting. For others, they may prefer to talk about it in a public place so that they can leave when they want to.
5. Be aware they might not fully understand at first
It’s important to remember that even if the person you’re talking to is someone you love very much, they might not fully understand at first. That doesn’t mean they’ll react badly or negatively, it simply means they might not know much about your diagnosis or about mental illness in general. Bear that in mind beforehand so you can control your expectations. They might not know what to say or how to react appropriately, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care about you or want to learn.
6. Pinpoint them to resources to learn more
If the individual you disclose your mental illness to doesn’t know much about the topic, it’s a great idea to have resources that you feel explain your condition well ready. That way you can pinpoint them to resources to read or watch so that they can educate themselves and know better how to support you.
7. Offer them the opportunity to ask questions
If you feel comfortable doing so, you could offer them the chance to ask questions once you’ve finished explaining. This allows them to ask things that might be on their mind, but they might not want to ask for fear of offending you or not saying the right thing.