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How to open up to your partner about mental health

Mental Health
 Be direct and honest about your mental health. [iStockphoto]

In Africa, the stigma around mental challenges makes it almost impossible to open up to anyone or seek help. In relationships, it gets even more complicated. You do not know how, when, and if you should say anything about it for fear of how they may react.

Daunting as it may be to face your husband or wife, this should not be something you need to hide. Like any other medical condition, you must disclose this to avoid future misunderstandings that can be resolved with communication, honesty, and transparency.

You may be surprised at how compassionate and understanding they may be leading to a much deeper bond. By revealing this to them, it helps them know you better and love and care for you. Once you are comfortable with sharing, do not wait for the symptoms to play out.

By now they have already seen some changes in your behaviour and it may be ideal to open up. Timing is key but do not feel rushed. You need to feel secure enough that your partner will have your back and offer the support you need.

Once you are ready to have the conversation avoid fishing. Do not ask them leading questions to hear their opinion because this may end up badly. Be direct and honest about your mental health.

Explain it to them in a manner they will understand and state how it impacts your life. Give them an example to help them see exactly what you go through during one of those episodes. For instance, you can let them know that "when I get too stressed, I isolate myself or pull away.''

This will lead to some questions on their part so do not get offended when they raise their concerns. If at that particular time you do not have the answers, let them know that you will discuss them further after you wrap your head around them.

Some experiences may not be comfortable sharing and you may leave those details out for now until you get to that space you can talk about them.

If you are super nervous about how that conversation may go, you can have a close family member or your therapist present to help you articulate and gather the courage to share.

This is not an easy thing so give yourself some grace and go with the flow. Once you are ready, you will know.

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