I met James when I was 21. We were friends for many years before we started a relationship. I believe I had suffered undiagnosed episodes of depression since my early teens. Before meeting James I had a series of bad relationships, choosing the wrong type of guy and throwing myself into the wrong type of relationships. I had been hurt and eventually on the advice from my GP sought counseling. I began on a road of self discovery and spent 3 years being single and learning about myself and what I wanted for my future.
James was a constant presence in my life and after a couple of years our friendship evolved into a relationship. I never disclosed to him that I suffered with mental illness. Because life was good I don’t think I ever thought about telling James. I was convinced that it was behind me and with medication and counseling I had worked through my problems. With hindsight I think I was just scared that he would look at me like I was broken and that he wouldn’t understand and tell me like many other boyfriends - to “pull myself together”.
After being with James for a year I accepted a new job and things were great but soon enough I began to feel low. I understand now that the job wasn’t right for me and I felt like I was constantly fighting against the tide to keep my head above water. I don’t think I wanted to admit to myself what was happening and as a result I started to do things that were typical of when I am depressed. I would erratically spend money, becoming secretive about my spending habits and not being truthful to those around me. I lied to people at work about things so I wouldn’t let them down but, when they found out Id lied, that’s exactly how they felt. It was all because I was trying to hide what was happening to me from my friends, family, colleagues and most importantly myself.
It all came to a head when the lies I had told at work became exposed. Someone at my work became concerned about me and rang a friend of mine. That friend then rang James and he confronted me with what was happening. I was so scared of him finding out that I broke down and was physically sick and then continued to deny all knowledge of my behavior. I went to the doctors and she diagnosed me with general anxiety disorder and depression and suggested I seek counseling. I could no longer hide from James and had to tell him everything. It was one of the hardest conversations I have had in my entire life. I had already convinced myself that James wouldn’t understand and that he would want to leave me once he found out. As soon as I told him I felt a big relief that I was free of the lie I was living.
James didn’t run away. It was something he hadn’t experienced directly or indirectly but he researched things on the internet, did a lot of reading and told me that he loved me and accepted that it may or may not be a part of our lives together. He told me he was always there to talk and wanted to help and understand what I was feeling and going through. It was a huge turning point in my life as I had never been with anyone who wanted to support me through my low times. I had always been with people who didn’t want to understand and just wanted it to go away. Being around people like this just enforced my idea that nobody would understand and it was best dealt with privately because if anyone found out I would be negatively labeled and misunderstood.
The fact that education on the subject is more readily available and that campaigns like Time to Change exist helps with being more open. I’m sure that having the conversation with James was by far the best thing I have ever done. My relationship is stronger, more secure and closer than it ever would have been had I kept this from him. He is more informed and I feel like if things are going wrong I don’t have to cope on my own.
Or find out how talking tackles discrimination.