By: Kudakwashe Banda
In all relationships, honesty is probably one of the key components and an integral pillar in the growth of a relationship. When one has dealt with mental health issues either in the past, or is currently facing mental health challenges, when you meet someone you like, it is important to be open about these challenges from the beginning. This is by no means easy. As it is there is still such a stigma attached to someone who struggles with their mental health, and in large parts of society, it is still taboo to openly discuss such issues.
I’ll give an example here, when I faced the worst periods of clinical depression, I literally did not want to see anyone; I kept my phone off and was unreachable for long periods of time. Now this will naturally not sit well with someone who you are getting to know and wanting to build a relationship with. Or perhaps you are already in a relationship, it will not sit well with your partner because they were not aware that at times you have these challenges which will result in you literally shutting out the whole world. It is therefore important to be open about your struggles early in a relationship so that no one is caught unawares.
It is definitely not easy to speak up about this especially when you meet someone you really like. There is the fear that you may scare them away! And unfortunately this is a reality. People here the words “mental health struggles” and they want to bolt. And in many cases they will. It will hurt, but it will also be okay. You will heal from this. It is better to realise early on than later into a relationship that this person was not going to love you unconditionally. When you do decide that you would like to open up to your partner/future partner about these issues you have experienced or sometimes still experience, choose a time and place where you are both comfortable and have no distractions around you. Be as open and honest as you can regarding what exactly is going on with regards to your mental health. Give specific details regarding for example, if you are on treatment, the type of therapy and treatment you are on. Discuss with your partner how your family and friends around you have dealt with and supported you with regards to this. Understand that this may be a lot for your partner to take, so allow them the room and space to process all this without pressure or judgement.
My advice to partners who are dating someone who struggles with mental health issues, is to normalise having honest conversations with your partner as to how they may be feeling. It does not always make for comfortable conversation but it goes a long way in keeping the relationship strong the more open you are about this. Feel free to ask even those questions that are difficult so that you have a clearer understanding of what is going on with that person you are dating.
Dating someone who understands your mental health is so important. There are people who will make you feel terrible for things you cannot or don’t know how to control yet. At the end of the day, the most important aspect is dating and falling in love are beautiful things. There is definitely someone out there who will love you just as you are.