Scared and Crazy

1 Apr

I’m spoiled. We go to a nice restaurant, the first one a man has ever taken me to without my asking, simple, but yummy. He tells me how nice I look, how he likes my hair, even as I’m snarfing mucus and making it clear without saying that se is the last thing on my mind. He tells me illness does wonders for my completion.

He puts a goofy, silly grin on my face. My heart, literally, feels like dancing, and I struggle to remember when I was ever this happy or simply content. He uses the we word while we talk about my backyard and plans for the summer.

So why am I so afraid to tell him all of my truth?

***

He’s driving me home while describing someone in one of his classes. She’s crazy-”she talks about how she tried to kill herself, twice, how she’s been on the psych ward-and she’s not embarressed! Not one bit!”

I mutter something about how it’s just an illness, and nothing to be ashamed of. I find myself tongue tied, scared. I say nothing about how I could be her, and her I. I think about how lonely it was on the ward, so isolating to be *just* sane enough to know how crazy I wasn’t. How scared I was then, how fucking awful it was to sit on a gurney, wondering if I had indeed done myself in.

I think about how I wonder how much a shitty relationship made me crazy, now that I’m med free over 3 months, and feeling fine.

I wonder if it matters. I wonder if I need to tell him-I feel that I should, if we keep seeing each other much longer. I feel like it’s a truth I need to share. I feel like I’m lying by not just sitting down and having the discussion.

But how do I? “Dear person I really dig-hey! I used to be crazy and tried to kill myself and stuff but it’s ok! I’m all better now!”

yeah, no. Somehow, no.

I know that likely what’s at play is the bias society has against mental illness, the stigma I’ve spent time arguing and fighting against-as I said in the car the other night-it’s no different than having cancer-no one would fault the girl for talking about that. I know that what’s said isn’t even meant maliciously.

But goddamn, I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t say it hurt like hell to hear him say what he said the other night. Because I know the people on that ward are no different than anyone else. They’re just sick. Or sicker.

I know I should level with him and just let it out. But I’m terrified. I became so tired of being looked at like I was defective before. And now, having someone look at me and just see goofy, geeky, bacon loving me-I’m frightened that this could change all that. And I don’t want to run that risk.

I’m scared of my truth this time.

17 Responses to “Scared and Crazy”

  1. Cecily April 1, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    Oh, honey, I can only imagine. That sucks! Wow. He couldn’t have said anything about that woman that would have been harder to hear. Sheesh. Sorry you are facing such a hard choice.

  2. Kelly O April 1, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    UGH. Okay, here’s what I’m thinking: he gave you and excellent opening, a way to say, “You know how we were talking about mental illness the other day? I think you have some unfortunate misconceptions that I’d like to clear up, and here’s how I know what I’m talking about….”

    A lot of how people react to you is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. Stay strong, stay calm, don’t be defensive, be matter-of-fact. You can handle this. And if he can’t handle it, then you need to know now.

    We both know how hard it is to be in a relationship where you are not fully yourself, where you bend yourself to someone else’s expectations. And that must never happen again. xoxo

  3. magpie April 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    Oh, hon, I’m sorry it’s so hard.

  4. Jennifer April 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    I would take it really really slow with the mental illness talk. Seriously, just bits here and there. If he REALLY loves you, cares for you, sees a life with you, then it will be something that you can discuss further – down the road.

    There is NO POINT in discussing it with him now, I mean, I’m sure he has some secrets from you at this point that he won’t be sharing any time soon. Right now you’re exploring and seeing if this new relationship is something that has possibilities.

    I mean not every new relationship lasts longer than a few months. You’re still in the first blush, when its fun and sweet and wonderful. Just being honest here, don’t take me the wrong way. If it DOES go beyond that, and it really looks like something is being built between you, then bring it up. But not now.

    Till then, enjoy being happy. Enjoy being loved. Just enjoy it.

    I’m happy that you’re happy!

  5. Jennifer April 1, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    Oh, and I wanted to add, that his response about his student/fellow classmate? Typical for someone not touched by mental illness. He was likely using it as a conversation holder or whatever.

    When he SEES that he has been in a relationship with someone who has suffered from mental illness his belief will change. He is speaking from ignorance and no personal experience. Don’t take it personally.

  6. jen April 1, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    I have been thinking about it and wrestling with this back and forth. On one hand, your experience with depression, suicide attempt, and hospitalization *had* to be a pinnacle event in your life. (And I am so sorry I did not know about this before, but based on my first marriage, I can totally relate).

    However, there is also a question of intimacy: How much? When? And I think that is at the heart of Jennifer’s comments. My first impulse when I read this was that you should enjoy this a bit longer before you tell him. And I don’t think that this is the same as being dishonest– it’s a matter of timing.

    How long have you been seeing him? And where do you (ideally) see this going? I think those are all determinants too. If he is potential long-term relationship, then eventually, you will probably want to tell him. But I think you can also trust your gut instincts of being afraid to reveal yourself just yet.

    My problem is that I am a person with too few filters. I probably would have told him on the first date (and undermined myself in the process). And that isn’t because there would be a stigma about mental illness, depression, hospitalization and suicide attempt– I don’t think there should be stigmas, and knowing about your past doesn’t change my opinion of you one iota.

    However, if it was something that you told me upon first meeting me, I would wonder WHY you felt you had to tell a stranger something so intimate. And the act of revelation, rather than what you had revealed, would be a bit of a red flag for me.

    Case in point: Sadly, in my life, I have had the occasion to meet many many women who have been sexually assaulted. I have heard so many stories now that I am no longer shocked by them, and I find that horrifying. However, I have always viewed the women who feel they can blurt that out to me upon our first meeting (and it has happened more than once) as in need of something greater than I can give them. These women have not, as it turned out, been looking for friendship so much as a lifeline.

    I think the time will come when it will be appropriate for you to share this– either with this man or another one. I also agree with Jennifer’s comments that he was making conversation. He wasn’t being malicious. What did he say to your murmured comment about it being an illness? It doesn’t seem that he said anything negative, if he heard you. It’s a charged issue for you, but not for him. Perhaps what he meant by the fact that his classmate was not embarrassed was that perhaps he was uncomfortable with her revelation to a group of strangers. He has boundaries that make that unnerving to him, and he is commenting on that. There is no real way to know though (for me) because I don’t know him. But you have seemed very happy since you have started seeing him.

    Just as you wouldn’t give a baby a steak, let your relationship cut some teeth first. Perhaps have a few test balloon conversations about the topics of: depression, mental illness, hospitalization, and suicide attempts in a variety of contexts to see how he responds. He doesn’t sound like a jerk– but if he IS one, then better to have him express it toward a theoretical situation than let yourself be hurt. And because I am assuming he’s not a jerk, it’s a gentler way to introduce the subject. It’s laying the groundwork, it’s foreshadowing. And it’s providing a context and an education for him to respond appropriately to your human experience, and to you as an individual, rather than just springing something huge on him.

    If you were just to spring this on him, on a car ride home, in response to a throw-away remark on his part, I think anyone would be entitled to be startled by that. Again, not because of the content itself, but because of the way it is revealed, the timing, etc.

    Eventually you will share stories about giving birth and how disgusting some parts of it are– but probably not yet. Why not? And why not wait to share other intimate details?

    Finally, a little self-protection goes a long way.

    No, actually, finally is kudos to Kelly O’s comments: If you think that this man will think less of you or leave you because of your past, then I’d walk away right now. He is not worth one more second of your time.

    “And if he can’t handle it, then you need to know now. [MY CAVEAT HERE IS THAT I DON'T THINK THAT HE NEEDS TO KNOW ALL OF YOUR SECRETS IN ORDER FOR YOU TO GET INFORMATION ABOUT HIM AND WHAT HE CAN HANDLE AND WHETHER OR NOT HE CAN LOVE YOU FOR YOU.]

    We both know how hard it is to be in a relationship where you are not fully yourself, where you bend yourself to someone else’s expectations. And that must never happen again. xoxo”

  7. Andrea April 1, 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    God I’m making a habit of telling you what to do lately. “Don’t introduce him to your kids! Get a lawyer!” Sorry about that.

    OK. So, I’ve been separated for 3 years living alone for 2 1/2 and divorced for two. In that time I’ve had … five boyfriends, and I couldn’t tell you how many guys I dated and wondered if there was “something more” developing. I’ve also watched a bunch of marriages fall apart. So here is my Collected Wisdom:

    1. This guy is almost certainly not The One, because the first guy you end up w/ after a separation/divorce is usually just the opposite of your husband, and it’s good and healthy to let that pendulum swing, but in a couple of months there will be things about him that drive you nuts and you’ll realize that not EVERYTHING about your Ex was evil and some of those traits you even want in a partner.

    2. If he is The One, he’ll look just as good in six months as he does now.

    3. This means you can afford to take your time and protect your heart. Don’t rush intimacy–period. a) You’re vulnerable. b) You’re still getting to know who you are as a single person, what you want in your future and from a relationship, etc. c) You’ve got two little people along with you now and I guarantee that if anything about this relationship compromises them, including just by making you a weepy emotional mess and not the mom you want to be, you’ll regret it. I did.

    You don’t owe him that intimacy–but that only counts if you are *not being intimate* (and I’m not talking about sex). If you are talking about your future, building a life together, sharing all kinds of other secrets, then the “it’s only been x months and so I don’t owe him this truth” thing does not apply. (I have been on the other side of this. Boyfriend felt after three months he did not owe me truth about his financial situation, which was a disaster, and that’s true except that he’d already been talking about getting married. When I found out the truth at nine months, I was PISSED. And I dumped him.)

    Plus, if he’s going to be judgmental about your mental health, then he’s an asshole and not worth your time, and you’re better off getting yourself out there and finding someone who will love YOU for who you are. Do not expect that you can make him fall in love with you and then tell him and he will change his beliefs and his mind for you. That is just a recipe for heartbreak. Yours.

    I know it’s hard, but try to look at this guy as practice until it’s been enough time and you know each other well enough and he knows YOU well enough to know that it’s more. People make disastrous decisions in their first year after the end of a marriage. (Current boyfriend is suffering from the effects of this policy of mine, as I have told him many times that IT IS STILL EARLY DAYS UNTIL I SAY OTHERWISE AND WE WILL NOT TALK COHABITATION ETC. UNTIL I AM GOOD AND READY. But he’s a good guy and is very patiently waiting for all of my checks and balances and trials and errors and whatnot to run their course. That, too, is a good sign.)

    To me, this comment of his looks like a huge red flag. A good boyfriend for you is someone who can share this journey. What if your drug-free period comes to an end and you are struggling with depression and wondering if you need professional help? Would having a boyfriend who doesn’t know and would judge you for it prevent you from getting the help you need?

    If you want to flush him out a bit more about this without exposing yourself, talk about mental health issues more in more general terms–celebrities, friends, acquaintances. See if there’s any hint of tolerance or the ability to develop it. He needs to prove himself to you, you know.

    Email me, eh?

  8. Missy April 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    Wow. Great advice from everyone here!

    If you tell him now, and he acts like an asshole and bolts, he was an asshole anyway. If you don’t, it will come out anyway (you and him), eventually.

    I also agree with Andrea that you’re having a great time but…give ALL of the relationship bits a little more time, since you’ve just come out of a marriage that lasted a long time and left you shell-shocked.

    And…in general, I’d say go with your gut.

  9. sweetsalty kate April 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm #

    What amazing advice from everyone. Nothing more to add. You’re in good hands. xo

  10. Meredith April 1, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    Anyone who knows this has been taught by someone that people in this situation aren’t broken or someone to fear.

    Maybe you are his teacher?

  11. Marcy April 1, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    Lots of good thoughts here. If it festers, find a way to get it out… don’t swallow a festering sore for the sake of maintaining the relationship. If it hurt to the touch, but isn’t festering, perhaps as others have said, it’ll be safe to bring it up more gently, more slowly, and / or more indirectly.

    DBT thing for interpersonal skills — when considering an action that could impact a relationship, weigh the risks and benefits of your action on these three things: your self-respect, maintaining or developing the relationship, and achieving your goal (the goal that the action is geared toward).

  12. thordora April 1, 2010 at 4:28 pm #

    Fuck me but you guys are so awesome. Sigh. How lucky am I to know all of you?

    I think I freaked out a little hearing something SOOOO close to my situation. I know it’s not the time to talk about it, but then that starts the “will it be perceived as hiding a few months don’t the road” routine…

    But then I have to step back and think

    It’s only been about 1.5 months.

    I don’t think it’s about him being an asshole. What I think is that he has been thru some stuff (that he’s admitted-depression and what not-he’s only a year out from his own divorce) and this might be his own way of touching on the subject? It made me uncomfortable, but no more than random conversations I’ve had with other people. And he’s not that judgy about it-it really was more of a “shouldn’t that be private?” thing, which might be more his generation than anything. (he’s nearly 10 years older) And admittedly, I tend to respond with “fuck you, it’s nothing to be hidden”-so there’s likely some bias on my part.

    Andrea-as always you give me a good grounding (and I appreciate that!). In many ways he IS all the things about my ex that I did like (having fun, good sense of humour, geeky) and things I wished he was (attentive, respectful of others, including his parents, interested in learning.) I’m being very careful to evaluate things as they go along, and yet trying to not OVER evaluate. It’s a lot….

    Problem is, it’s VERY easy to talk about the future, and that kinda scares me.

    BUT, y’all are right. If he IS the guy I think he is, waiting for awhile won’t hurt anything, nor will educating bit by bit as we go along. I just tend to have the knee jerk honesty problem, and fighting that is…hard.

    But to just be judged for my merits, and not based on any notions…oh how nice.

    I’ve been surprised and delighted to find someone I can have such fun with. And I don’t want to ruin it by rushing the wrong things.

    Again guys. You fucking rule. Cupcakes at my house anytime. :D

  13. ifbyyes April 1, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    You know what? It really sounds like he’s bothered by this lady’s personality, not what she went through. To him, things like depression and suicide might be vastly personal things, not things you tell EVERYONE you meet.

    I think as long as you don’t go “HEY GUESS WHAT?” at a party, you two will be fine.

  14. Suebob April 2, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    You have great readers. I have nothing smarter to say than what they already said. Good luck!

  15. Carolyn April 2, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    I have been hospitalized three times. It’s def something that I dread telling a new boyfriend. But because of that, it’s something I get out there quickly. Not in great detail, but I start the conversation early. With my current bf (we just had our one-year anniversary), I mentioned it about a month into dating. We had a conversation about how hard it is to be a teen, and I brought up that I had a harder than average time dealing, that I was depressed, very anxious, and started on meds at age 13 or so. He was surprised, but I guaged from his reaction that he was sympathetic. I told him that off and on over the years I had a hard time adapting to changes. So much so that I had even needed to be in-patient to try to get my anxiety and depression under control. I left it at that, but a few weeks later, I mentioed it in passing and said that I sympathise with those who suffer from depression because I have been there. I was in the hospital that time I mentioed and again a few years later. I told him about my eating disorder and how that it was very much a part of my anxiety issues, etc…

    The thing is, you can tell by how someone reacts if they can understand and be supportive… and I think it’s better to get it out there sooner because if they won’t understand, better not to waste too much time investing in them. And if you wait to long, they may feel mislead or even tricked.

    My bf said he’s glad I told him when I did, that he would have felt angry if I’d kept it a secret for many months…

    Just my two cents.

  16. ed April 3, 2010 at 8:48 am #

    jeesh! this one is tough. personally, i am not a person who can keep secrets for long – i always feel the need to be honest, even when it really isn’t even necessary, in other words, being honest with a person who really doesn’t need or deserve to know about my life.

    but in this situation, if you are to continue seeing him, i would recommend. yeah, it will be hard and scary, but it’s sounding like he loves you regardless and i think for you, you deserve to have this off your chest. free.

    good luck!

  17. slouchy April 9, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    i think you’ll know when the time is right to tell him.

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