Alivia McKenzie: Relationships & Depression: When to Tell and How to Do It

Hi all! I'm going to start this series of blog posts with a quick disclaimer: I am in no way a professional when it comes to mental illness. I am not a doctor or a psychologist. Everything that I write is simply based off of my personal experiences and it is nothing but my opinion. 

16 months ago I entered my current relationship, and one of the first things on my mind was 'how the hell am I going to tell this guy about my issues....' In my past relationships that's exactly what my anxiety and depression had been labeled as, 'issues'. Because of this very isolating title, I saw my quirks as something to be ashamed of, something to be concealed, and something I was in no way proud of. Therefore I was dreading the ominous conversation, that I knew needed to happen at some point. 

   I didn't want to tell my new boyfriend about my mental illness and scare him off, and I honestly had no idea how he would take it. So far our relationship had gotten off without a hitch. He was caring, he made me laugh, this guy understood me in ways no one ever had, so it's easy to understand my reluctance when I realized I needed to share my story with him. The biggest worry in my mind was that my mental illnesses would be too much for him, and I would lose my dream guy to my depression. 

 My moods tends to worsen with the darker, colder seasons, which is typical when you're diagnosed with SAD. We had been dating for three months when my SAD (seasonal affective disorder) really began to kick in. There were times when we would be together, laying on his bed & I would be crying all night - with no explanation. Or moments when I was so wrapped up in my own mind I wouldn't speak for hours. After a few of these instances I was certain I had scared him off for good & that I wouldn't be able to explain my situation to him. I was already so in love with this boy that the thought of losing him over my own internal battles was heartbreaking to me, but I knew it was time to tell him. 

I remember sitting on his bed, not being able to look him in the eye & mumbling halfheartedly about some of my past issues. For days I had been building up this conversation in my mind, expecting the worst possible outcome.

After avoiding his gaze for quite some time I finally worked up the courage to address him head on. I looked up and saw not disgust or disappointment in his eyes, but compassion. In that moment I knew it was the right decision to be sharing my struggles with him. Over the coming months I continued to open up to him about my past. When I would be up till 4am doubting myself and my purpose on this earth, he would reassure me that I was right where I needed to be. The first time I came to him after I had self harmed, he didn't get angry with me, but rather held me tight and told me how much he loved me. I had countless moments where I felt like he didn't deserve to deal with me, that I was too much of a burden on him, and each time he would tell me that he loved me & he wasn't going anywhere. There hasn't been a moment in my relationship where I have felt guilt about my mental illness, and I have my boyfriend to thank for that. He has turned my shameful diagnosis into an experience that has helped me grow as an individual and that has strengthened our bond as a couple.  

 For anyone who has just entered a new relationship and is debating how or if they want to tell their partner about their mental illness, ask yourself this question; do I trust them? In my opinion, trust is the hardest thing to build but the most sacred component of a relationship. For many people, mental illnesses of any kind are highly personal and a very private matter, therefore sharing them with someone new can be very nerve wracking. If you wholeheartedly trust the person you're with, it will make the tricky conversation that much easier, knowing that you have trust instilled in them.

I find the best way to do it is in an environment where you feel the safest, preferably somewhere where the two of you can be alone. Giving yourself plenty of time is also something I have found to be beneficial. Just as it was hard for you to talk about your mental health journey, your partner can find it difficult to receive. Some people need some space to process it all, others may have many questions. Patience and clarity are two things that seemed to be essential during these conversations. I took the time to answer all my boyfriends questions and made sure to explain things as clearly as I could. If you decide to reveal these things to your boyfriend or girlfriend, it's important to understand that you are also opening up to any questions or concerns they may have. 

I can't promise that anyone else's conversations will go as smoothly as mine had gone, but please remember that no matter how your partner takes it, or how it impacts your relationship, mental illnesses are not faults. They do not make you weak or any less of a person, they build and improve your character. 

You were given this life because you were strong enough to live it, and no one can take that away from you. 

Until next time,

Xo Liv