Dirty Little Secret

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Dear Dr. Darcy:

I spent my childhood in and out of hospitals and therapists’ offices because I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The amount of medications that I was on is too high to count. There were times when I was so drugged up that I was literally drooling and hadn’t noticed.

When I went to college I met a therapist who thought I was misdiagnosed and with his help I came off all my medications. That was 10 years ago.

I’m now in my late 20’s and in a very loving relationship with a man who has no knowledge of my former diagnosis. The problem is this: In the last year, I’ve come to think that I probably do have bipolar disorder, but I’ve been managing it by making sure I don’t give in to the manic impulses (I make sure I sleep even if I’m not tired, I don’t spend money I don’t have, I don’t cheat on my boyfriend even when I’m feeling super sexual) and by making sure I take really good care of myself during the dips in mood (I eat even when I’m not hungry, work out regardless of how I feel, never miss work).

I recently learned that my boyfriend is going to propose to me. My question is this: Do you think I need to tell him about my diagnosis? Even if I’m managing it OK?

ANSWER

Let me start by saying that what you’re doing to manage your disorder is 100% spot on. It takes enormous self-love and self-discipline to do what you’re doing without the help of medications and I’m deeply impressed by your commitment.

With that said, there is no shame in being properly medicated. If you’ve come to believe that you truly have this disorder, I would suggest seeking out a psychiatrist who is very conservative in what they prescribe (I can give you names in NYC if you’re local) because a rogue cycle could really put your relationship at risk. Which brings me to the boyfriend.

I think it’s bad for your self-esteem and for your relationship to keep this a secret. The message it sends to your self-esteem is that having bipolar disorder is something to be ashamed of. And it pretty much sends the same message to the boyfriend, who will eventually learn of the diagnosis, probably after you’re married – at which point he’ll feel lied to. Trust in him enough to tell him. He deserves to know your medical history. If you’re going to marry him, it’s his right.

Writer’s stats: Female, Straight.