How To Tell A New Partner You Have A Mental Illness: Oasis featured in Huffington Post
We are honored to have Oasis Therapy Center's Dr. Krieger included in this meaningful piece by Gila Lyons in the Huffington Post. What an important issue to bring to light that so many struggle with in silence.
I cried in his arms our first night together. I’m not good, I kept repeating, tears falling into my ears as he caressed my face. I knew what love required, and I knew that, time and again, I’d failed at giving it because of the ways my anxiety distorted my thinking, and my panic disorder made me alternately dependent, selfish, and needy.
I wanted to write him a guide for loving me, so he could understand that when I tried to break up with him when one thing went wrong, when I changed plans because I didn’t feel like I could leave my house, when I criticized him much too harshly, it was because of faulty thought patterns and neurochemical flare-ups, not because I didn’t love him.
Love is hard for nearly everyone. But for those with anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses, love can be a minefield. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 18.5 percent of adults in this country live with a diagnosed mental illness. That’s roughly 1 in 5 people, or 44 million total.
For years, my relationships would end abruptly because I hadn’t prepared the men I loved for the ways I’d lash out when I became claustrophobic; how I’d become distant and cold when panicked, and suddenly clingy and hot when the panic had passed; how I’d pick them apart against my will, obsessing over perceived shortcomings and imperfections, burning with embarrassment when they held forth at dinner parties or cowering with shame when I deemed them too shy.
After I ended my last relationship, I worked with a therapist on how to prepare myself and my partners for being in a romantic relationship not only with me, but with my anxiety and panic ― and how my partner could support me, himself, and us through it.
Dr. Ayelet Krieger, a psychologist who practices in the Bay Area, believes disclosing a mental illness early in a relationship is crucial.
“I like to talk about striking when the iron is cold,” she says. “You don’t want to tell your partner about your diagnosis when you’re in the throes of a crisis. It’s more productive to talk about it when you’re calm.”