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'Fessing up - When to tell someone about your Mental Illness

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

Telling someone you have a mental illness can be scary. You can feel judged, anxious and more. It's not easy having difficult discussions, but when it's important, it's necessary.

We'll talk about some of the whens, whys, dos and don'ts of having those conversations when it comes to talking about your mental condition to others.

two women talking to each other

Also disclaimer, remember, YOU don't have to disclose your diagnosis to anyone if you don't want to. That's your choice. The power is in your hands.

Let's start off with the why.

Now there are different kinds of folks in the world. You will have to decide what will bring you the most comfort. Some people feel better sharing their story with many others. Meanwhile others only feel ok with telling a few select. Once you find your why, that will lead to your how. Some reasons people share their mental health with others:

  • They want honesty and need the support from others they trust

  • They want to share information on how to get help

  • They want to reduce stigma

  • They want to explain certain behaviors

For me, though I am not my diagnosis. It is a big part of who I am and how I operate. The reason why I share my story is because it helps me to feel honest with others and own my mental illness instead of it owning me, hence Color Me Crazy. It alleviates my anxiety around the subject and allows me to continue being me meanwhile having this sometimes debilitating mental condition.

Now okay, to the good stuff...

When should you tell someone about your mental illness?

two people talking with each other

If you ask me, it's simple. When you feel comfortable.

If that's a few days, a few hours, weeks, months or even a year or two. It's when you have a why and you can feel safe to share with that person.

Also, being well and calm during difficult conversations helps. You want your mind clear of any other residual emotions and to introduce that person to your illness at a time when you can think clearly.

Who are the best people to tell?

When you tell someone you have a mental illness, you want them to be receptive. Who are the people in your life that are caring? Who would be there for you through thick and thin? Who understands? These are the questions you want to ask yourself. Even making a list of names helps.

Some people, by no choice of their own, will be neutral to your healing journey. Unfortunately, not every knows how to support and be there for a person with an illness. They may learn of your condition and slowly fade. However there are those that stay and those are the ones you want to keep around.

They see and accept you for the real you with the condition. That's the support circle that's priceless.

Lastly, the what.

What do you say during this conversation? How that person can support you. And don't feel obligated to share everything as well. You can have boundaries around this, whether disclosing only what you want to or setting some kind of time around this.

The power is all up to you to decide! You got this!

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