When Does She Tell Him About Her Depression?

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Question: Loveawake,

I’ve struggled with chronic depression/anxiety on an off for 10 years and have been aggressively treating it, but it’s never completely receded. I’ve been dating someone whom I adore and dated 25 years ago when I was 18. He came back into the picture and I’ve been dating him for six weeks. I adore him, and the feeling is mutual. I’ve never been so happy and comfortable with anyone and he’s been quite clear that he feels the same. My depression is moderate,not severe, so I’ve been able to put on a front, and being with him improves my mood to an extent. For some odd reason, my depression and anxiety completely clear the day after I drink alcohol,which we do often, so between my acting ability and the drinking, he doesn’t suspect anything. My anti depressant is in the form of a 24 hr patch, and in the first week, he asked me what it was. I was taken off guard, and wasn’t yet comfortable enough to open what could potentially be a Pandora’s box, so I told him it was an antibiotic. He does know that I take prescription sleeping pills, and immediately asked me what kind they were, but didn’t seem to find it offputting. I’m not combative or tearful, I’m just lethargic, have a lot of trouble concentrating and have trouble experiencing pleasure and I don’t expect this to resolve soon, or maybe even ever. He’s very kind supportive, but I fear that telling him this may overwhelm him.

We are becoming serious, and I feel that I have a responsibility to confide in him about my depression issues, so he can break things off now if it’s an issue, and before I become further attached, which is happening fast.  However, I also think that the closer we become and the more invested he is, the more understanding he’ll be, but I also don’t want to wait too long, as he might be upset that I was withholding somewhat important information from him. Needless to say, I’m absolutely dreading this conversation, I’m terrified that he’ll reject me and I simply don’t know how to broach it. It’s weighing on my heavily and I am fraught with anxiety. It’s a sensitive situation with an uncertain outcome and I don’t want to botch it. What’s the right thing to do here? I feel like there are no good options. When and how do I tell him?

Addendum to my last post: His ex wife did suffer from postpartum depression, and has suffered from depression intermittently over the years, so he’s not entirely unaware. However, he didn’t really provide any details so i’m not sure how he handled it.

I think the only way the news will overwhelm him is if you present it as this big thing. As you mentioned, depression is extremely common. Plus you live in NYC, where pretty much everybody is on something or other. I don’t think this is the huge deal you believe it is. It sounds like you’ve built this up in your head as something insurmountable when it really isn’t.

In fact, I’m not even sure why you have to tell him at all, other than you’ve already created a situation where you now have to either keep up a ruse or come clean. Of course, there’s a third option, and that’s to not explain it again. If he asks, then you can tell him what the patch is really for. But since you initially lied about its purpose, you’ve made the explanation bigger than it needed to be.

As I’ve mentioned before, I suffer from chronic depression and anxiety, too. I chose the supplement route, which has been a life saver for me.  I keep all eight of the bottles in a pretty box I bought at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It sits next to my laptop on my desk so I know to take the pills first thing every morning. I don’t hide the box away when I have company, mainly because most people are polite enough not to go snooping around my apartment and ask inappropriate questions. So, one morning a few weeks ago, I was putting together my little supplement cocktail and the guy I’ve been casually dating asked what they were. I take them at the same time every day, and I wasn’t not going to do that just because he was here. He and I have been seeing each other long enough that he gets to ask questions like this without coming off nosy.

“Are those vitamins?” he asked.

“Supplements. They’re mostly preventative.”

Turns out, he takes one of the supplements I take, one specifically for anxiety. He said it very casually, too. I didn’t blink. Life is fucking hard, man. It’s stressful. It doesn’t surprise me in the least when people mention using medications or treatments to combat anxiety and depression. I totally get it.

I didn’t feel the need to go into some long story about why I take those supplements.  Not because I’m embarrassed (duh, I’m writing about it) but because I don’t like making these things bigger than they need to be. He’s seen me enough to gauge my moods and energy levels to know that what I might be dealing with isn’t too concerning. Now, if I suffered from an illness – mental or physical – that affected my day to day life, that would probably be a different story. Like you, my depression is moderate. Other than the now occasional bout of fatigue and lack of concentration and, yes, issues with getting sexually aroused (which has been AWESOME) this condition hasn’t crippled me enough that I feel I have to unload this information on him or any guy I meet. Trust me, guys are not unfamiliar with women who have trouble reaching orgasm. They’re not thrown by it.

I realize I sound dismissive, and I apologize. I just do not understand this need to disclose something that, for the most part, doesn’t affect anybody else around you. My biggest reason for not launching into an explanation about why I take those supplements is because then I run the risk of those reasons defining me, and I’m just not about that.

You seem to really, really want to explain yourself to this man, and so I have to ask you why. Everybody on this planet has good days and bad days. You are not some freak.

If you do choose to tell him, and I have a feeling you will, just be very direct about it. “I use this patch to balance out my energy levels because I sometimes suffer from depression.” Boom. Done. If you start having issues in the bedroom, say it’s partly due to the patch. Again. Boom. Done. It doesn’t need some monologue. If you seem okay with it, he’ll be okay with this. When you speak of it, do it confidently and be self-assured.

Before you say anything, ask yourself why you feel compelled to share this information. Do you feel obligated in some way? Because you shouldn’t. Your body and how you care for it is nobody’s business unless you are somehow contagious. If you’ve got everything handled and under control, then you don’t have to disclose anything. Not now, at least.

The most important thing for you to realize is that this illness is just a part of a very big puzzle. We all have something that we think we have to get off our chests, like a crazy family, or a DUI, or a past addiction, or bad credit. We usually feel that way because we have allowed these “skeletons” to define us.

Don’t let your depression become who you are. It’s only a slice of your identity.

Good luck.

Thoughts?

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Alex Wise served over 5 years as relationship expert helping women from around the world figure out the men in their love lives from an honest, male perspective. Alex is one of the contributors and editors for Loveawake.com dating website. He is passionate about thought leadership writing, and regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and online dating communities.
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