When Does She Tell Him About Her Depression?

Alias (DO NOT USE A REAL NAME!!): n1982photolibrary_rm_photo_of_sad_woman
Comment: 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.

Age: 42
City: New York
State: New York


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.


Sometimes the love of your life is the love of your life. (R)


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25 Responses to “When Does She Tell Him About Her Depression?”

  1. SS Says:

    I’ve struggled with major depression my entire life and in the past I’ve gone through the same quandary. However at this stage, and mainly because over the years I’ve learned to manage it far better, it’s no longer an albatross around my neck.

    It’s a chemical imbalance, much the same as type 1 diabetes. We don’t judge people for their bodies inability to make insulin. Why the judgement around people’s inability to regulate serotonin? That being said I am only too well aware that stigma still exists.

    Recently I’ve been casually seeing 2 guys; one has no clue whatsoever and I have no incentive to tell him. The other one knows everything (guts and all) because it evolved organically that he’s experienced some of the same.

    Bottom line I agree wholeheartedly with Moxie – it’s only a big deal if you make it a big deal. Make your health the priority. Get to know a guy, let him see that you’re perfectly normal, and then when you happen to breezily mention “oh yeah I have depression” he just won’t care.

  2. Ben Iyyar Says:

    Revealing a medical condition is a tricky thing, all the more so with psychiatric illnesses, but keep in mind that an illness is only that, an illness. A cold, measles, alcoholism, clinical depression, an infection, these are not moral issues or emotional issues, they are medical issues. To make it even more obvious what I am saying, I wonder if anyone would treat a nose job, or a teeth straightening as a moral issue or an emotional issue? Or would anyone be really reluctant to reveal the plastic surgery or orthodontic treatment to a potential partner?
    Your reluctance to reveal this information to your partner probably has more to do with your emotional investment in the illness, after all you did suffer from it, and your partner may well see your past depression as just that, part of your past and not nearly as important as you do.
    Remember that clinical depression is an illness, and a very treatable one at that. I have a very bad aggressive cancer but I am not ashamed or drowning in guilt over it, it is just an illness that is killing me, no more or less. I suggest that you try not to make your illness a moral or emotional issue, everybody gets sick from time to time. I wish you the best!

    • Lisa Says:

      Well, depression is also an emotional disorder. Depression can affect a person emotionally (sadness, irritability, hopelessness), mentally (concentration, memory, skewed thinking) and physically (fatigue, tension, weight loss/gain).

      Problems in any of these areas can impact a relationship.

      The emotional aspect of this condition (which yes, is medical) is important bc in relationships, ppl look to each other to fulfill all kinds of emotional needs, such as to make them happy, make them feel secure, give them a sense of peace, make life exciting. And some ppl tend to internalize the emotions of others around them.

      It also seems like the letter writer’s anxiety is maybe getting the better of her by exaggerating he impact of sharing this information. That’s element of an emotional disorder – inappropriate emotional reactions to situations.


      That said, no one is perfect and these conditions are fairly common nowadays, for all sorts of reasons. Just tell him. I have never heard of someone ending a relationship over mentioning the diagnosis. If the illness affects the relationship, it will be bc of any obvious day-to-day symptoms…which he will notice whether or not you tell him that you have this diagnosis.

      He’s not perfect either, believe that! If you continue your relationship, you will see all kinds of little flaws in him, too. That’s normal.

  3. E-B Says:

    +1000 to Moxie’s advice. I can relate because I have a chronic medical condition, and I used to fret over how it would effect dating, when I should reveal it to a partner, etc. Over time, I realized that my anxiety occurred because I was more freaked out over my condition than I needed to be. After I realized that my limitations existed mainly in my head, that anxiety dissipated because I really didn’t have anything to reveal.
    The biggest revelation was when I realized that there is no “ideal” or “normal” person out there, so there was no reason to think I was somehow “abnormal,” and that the only way people would think my condition is a big deal is if I made it bigger than it actually is.
    I think Moxie words for speaking to your partner (i.e. “I use this patch to balance out my energy levels because I sometimes suffer from depression.”) are spot on. Follow that and everything should be okay.

    • The D-man Says:

      Same here. I reveal my history of depression and alcoholism within the first three dates, often on the first depending on how the conversation goes. They key is not to present it as “whoa is me.” I don’t drink on dates, and if they ask why I say something like “because alcohol is my kryptonite.”

      • ATWYSingle Says:

        I don’t drink on dates, and if they ask why I say something like “because alcohol is my kryptonite.”

        Is there a reason why you can’t just say, “I don’t drink” or “I’m sober”? I would think that saying something provocative like “alcohol is my kyrptonite” would just encourage more questions and concern.

        I just do not understand why people rush to reveal these things other than they like the attention.

        • The D-man Says:

          It was recommended by my therapist. At first I thought it was nuts, but I tried it and found that it’s never caused a problem.

        • The D-man Says:

          Oh and re: encouraging more questions: sometimes it does, but it’s not like it turns into a sob-story confessional. More like bonding over insecurities.

          Everyone has problems of one sort or another. Being willing to take the risk and reveal my issues first invites the other party to be more open as well.

          I’ve applied this not just in dating but in all my relationships.

      • SS Says:

        Just out of curiosity – do you find that strategy works better than revealing later in the dating relationship?

        I would have thought it presents as a red flag, especially depending on how long you’ve been sober.

  4. Nicki Says:

    I agree with Moxie. I don’t think this or most medical issues need to be made as some mid announcement. Where I do think the OP went wrong is with not confessing to what the patch was when he asked. Now something that could have been such a simple answer has turned into a lie in their relationship.

  5. BTownGirl Says:

    I’m literally trying to think of one adult that I am close with that ISN’T on something for depression or anxiety! I was once at a boyfriend’s house, rifling around in his medicine cabinet for dental floss and managed to knock over a bottle of pills. Here’s how that conversation went:
    Me: Whoops! Sorry!
    Him: Don’t go losing my Xanax, girl.
    Me: Xanax?! Can I have one?! It’s been a rough week.
    I’m telling you, this is not a dealbreaker, LW!

  6. n1983 Says:

    You don’t sound dismissive, you’re advice is right, and I do completely lose perspective on this issue when I’m having a down (anxiety ridden) day. I wish I had just told him when he asked, because now, as you’ve said, I’ve created a situation where I have to address it. And when I’m having a ‘good’ day, I realize that I’m making too big a deal out of it, and don’t worry about his reaction. And he’s going to ask me why I lied, and I suppose I’ll just say that I didn’t feel like having an in depth conversation about why I’m taking them.

    • BTownGirl Says:

      I don’t think he’s going to see it as a Huge Lie Wrapped In Falsehoods And Deception or nothin’, so I wouldn’t sweat it. Many, many people are very private about this stuff and I think he’ll understand!

    • The D-man Says:

      This is part of the reason I started being more open. I hate trying to cover up a lie, and oftentimes the things we think make us undateable are quite commonplace.

  7. n1983 Says:

    I think the only reason I feel obligated is that I lied to him about the patch. I think I’m going to just leave it alone, if he asks again, I’ll simply tell him what it’s for. I take another as well, and when he asks about that one i’ll tell him, and will then mention that hte patch is one as well.

    • SS Says:

      I think you’d be well within your rights to say “we’d only just met, it’s personal, and I don’t really think it’s a big deal” and then let the topic drop. Surely only someone insensitive would make it into an issue thereafter.

      • Lucy Says:

        Yes I also think if you’re genuinely not ready to talk about something when asked, it’s okay to casually say you can’t talk about it now, but will talk about it later or give a slightly coy answer. This isn’t lying and if you’ve just met someone and they don’t make you fully comfortable, then good to exercise polite boundaries.

        But I also agree with above, if seeing someone and it’s getting serious, best to address a situation with being truthful so it doesn’t turn into an unnecessary lie and it also builds the bond if you can share personal insights with each other.

  8. Lucy Says:

    I deal with Social Anxiety and have experienced mental health trouble in the past. As long as I trust the guy, I’d tell him but be matter of fact about it. The wrong guys have used it against me in the past but with enough knowledge, I can spot those guys better. I wouldn’t hide the fact I’m feeling blue one day but I don’t bring up the subject unless it’s topical or someone asks. Anything else would make it sound worse than it is or come across as oversharing. I don’t feel like I’m forcing myself not to talk about it, it just doesn’t come up often.

    After a time of dealing with things by trying to come across as impenetrable to men, I actually prefer now to be straightforward and honest with them about whatever they ask me (within reason). I just see no point in hiding things and they can take me as they find me. Even at 25, I’ve acquired plenty of human baggage and I’m sure many others have too.

    I like Moxie’s advice. It’s pretty sound. As said above, your anxiety about it is probably related to you feeling abnormal but an understanding person will not perceive it that way.

  9. Cat Says:

    Not to thread hijack, but do you mind me asking what supplements you take or recommend? I’m currently taking medication but would like to consider more of a supplement approach. If this isn’t appropriate for this thread I’ll delete.

    Totally agree with your advice here.

    • ATWYSingle Says:

      Hi. That’s not an inappropriate question at all. I actually meant to include the list in the post and forgot.

      I take the following supplements:

      Omega Fish Oil

      I take the Magnesium and L-Tryptophan at night. That’s what helps me sleep.

      I also try to to do cardio exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, which is HUGE. I don’t go crazy intense, but I definitely do activity that gets my heart rate way up (at least 150 bpm, which for my age is high-ish). I also try to avoid eating too much bread and sugar, because the gluten makes me crash.

      I should add that I’m able to go this route because my body responds to it. Some people need traditional meds because their bodies aren’t producing what they’re supposed to be producing.

      Whatever you do, talk to your doctor first before switching. Going off traditional meds needs to be done under a doctor’s supervision.

      • mistori Says:

        Thanks for sharing. I am trying to get off meds under Dr’s supervision. I am taking Sam-e but wasn’t aware of the others, perhaps I can discuss with him. Would you mind sharing recommended dosages?

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