When is the right time to tell someone about your mental illness(es)?
This question often elicits one of three responses;
1. Be upfront from the beginning,
2. Keep everything private and NEVER speak of it,
3. You just have to “play it by ear”
But to be perfectly honest, we all know life is never that straight forward. After giving all of these options my best try, I cannot say that either is particularly effective. It probably speaks for itself that 1 & 2 don’t leave enough wiggle room for the unpredictable nature of other people, but the broad statement left in 3 is not so much helpful and annoyingly obvious. I would very much like to “play it by ear” but given the fact I have multiple mental health issues currently fighting a turf-war in my mind, that doesn’t exactly seem like a plausible option. You know?
It seems that no matter how much I try and find the perfect solution for this problem, human nature is far too unpredictable to oblige my desire for order. Which, yet again, raises the question of when is the right time? By keeping such secrets to myself I can be seen as secretive or a liar, not to mention putting the other person in an unfair situation. But by being upfront at the start I run the risk of coming of as a “basket case” or “attention-seeker”. Both of these situations tend to end with a strained relationship and a seemingly uneven balance of power.
My current system of sharing as much as necessary whilst also keeping as much as possible secret is honestly just as unhelpful. Funnily enough, the ticks and triggers of a mental illness don’t seem to give a crap that you’re trying to keep everything under wraps. Meaning that instead of slowly integrating the other person into the mine-field that is my brain, I usually end up throwing them into the deep end. Whether that means me crying on the floor or having a panic attack amidst a normal situation, it is a horrible position to put another person in. Yet I find myself doing it more often than I care to admit. Sadly, being aware of the cons to over/under sharing does not give much insight into the initial problem and it manages to surface many more.
Even if I was lucky enough to pin point the right time in a relationship to share the ins-and -outs of my mind, how do I do it? Is there a way to logically explain such an illogical thought process? How am I to explain the fact that people can be influenced by everything from the changing seasons to smell of a room? Should I be honest about the seemingly harmless words that are enough to shake my world to its core and expect the other person to be okay with not knowing why? What about the things that I still cannot explain or am not yet aware of? It just seems impossible to explain something to another person that I am yet to understand myself.
This question has involved many years of testing, yet I feel no closer to an answer. I would greatly appreciate any insight/advice that anyone might have x