When Do You Tell Someone You Have Bipolar?

I’ve recently re-entered the dating world after a divorce last summer and then an unstable mood fall. So I gave myself until after Valentine’s Day to be stable and then start online dating. I could have started earlier, but I didn’t want to be perceived as THAT girl looking for a V-Day date. 🙂

The question arises, since I still live with symptoms, when to tell a date that I’m bipolar. It’s kind of a big part of my life since I don’t work because of it. It’s hard to answer the “What do you do?” question that comes up in online chatting, and even in your profile. I say I’m a professional volunteer and mental health advocate.

When I was volunteering at a few places I could still say brain disorder and I could call off if I wasn’t feeling well. I could tell them I’m on disability.

Now, I don’t necessarily want to tell dates that I’m on disability or have bipolar, even though they structure my days. It’s a lot to process and a lot to take on as a potential partner. I like to think I’m a lot more than bipolar and being on disability and should have more to talk about. So the question remains, when do I tell people? It is still a big part of who I am, and the main reason I’m a mental health blogger and advocate. All the good literature and blogs say you tell when you feel comfortable telling. That’s not the most helpful advice.

15 responses to “When Do You Tell Someone You Have Bipolar?

  1. Deb, when the advice columnists get asked this kind of thing, whether it’s that the person doesn’t want to have children, or has MS, or you name it, the answer is always to disclose when the relationship seems to be getting serious. Certainly more than the first several dates, it seems like. That makes sense to me. You are NOT your disability! You’re much more than that. I hope you will again meet someone who is interested in all your other quirky, smart, snarky and charming attributes. At the point you choose to disclose the “and,” then you can find out what it means to the other person. But I don’t think it’s necessary to sort of throw out the challenge early in the getting to know one another stage.

  2. I’d say split the difference. Certainly not on the first date, but when/if you sense that this is a person you want to see more of. Maybe that’s three or four dates. As to other topics of conversation…you are very well versed in current events and culture and so much more. No need to overthink this– you’re a good conversationalist and a pleasure to be around…

  3. I agree with Jennifer. About 4 dates sound good. If you tell too soon to a person who doesn’t understand bipolar, that may end it. However, if you wait a few dates, they will get to know the wonderful person you are and hopefully it would lead to a nice open discussion of what having bipolar is all about.

  4. I’m in the same boat. Have been reluctant to enter the dating world after spending nearly eight years being unemployed and struggling to get stable. I have been stable for better then a year, so I figured now is a good time to look for someone to have fun with and possible a partner. I too wonder how and when to disclose and what to say to the ultimate work question. On top of that I have not lived on my own for nearly the same amount of time. I currently live with my sister, so that is another issue as I look for a place I can afford. I welcome any advice you and the readers may come up with. Really have enjoyed your blog.

  5. I struggle with this issue as well. I don’t think the answer, “when you’re comfortable” is good enough because there’s never a point where I want to say, “yeah hey I really struggle with controlling my mood” out of fear of scaring somebody off. This is just a big problem with mental health stigma. It’s just an illness, but people want to make it a “problem” part of your personality and, from my experience, most people don’t want to take the time to work through the symptoms with you.
    I feel your pain.

  6. I am also bipolar and started to date online or shall I say look for potential partners after being single for two years. I had gotten out of a severe domestic abuse situation so in every way possible knew I needed to be careful about everything. I was especially nervous about that time when I would have to say something about my mental health. I also suffer from a terrible panic disorder. In my prior relationship she used my mental health against me and would call me crazy among doing other things. So in that relationship I also began to feel a lot of shame. So came the time when there was that person I would consider being with. We talked for a bit online and eventually began to call each other and get more and more personal. I however knew with everything in me that I needed to wait for her to make the call on a personal issue of hers then I may be able to gauge how far I could go in telling her my mental health issues. I also knew that from things she could have said or would say would be my indicator that she would not be a right match for me. What I mean, making snide comments toward the issue of mental health and so on. She never did and eventually opened up to me and I knew that was my in. It really doesn’t help when people say when you are most comfortable that is when you should tell, but in many ways it does make all the sense. You can do it when you’re uncomfortable and unsure of how the person will react or can wait till you feel confident enough to let them know and be comfortable with the fact that they may not be the one if they have issues with your bipolar. I learned over many years that we may be upset to lose that potential person but if that person does not want all of you than you probably don’t want any of them.

    • Thanks for your story. I’ve been honest sooner rather than later with a few people. My default is brain disorder and being on disability for it. And needing med adjustments when I have to go in the hospital for suicidal plans. I guess I’ll be more honest the longer I know someone.

  7. “brain disorder” is a good way to put it…I will use it to explain to people next time…

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