Q. Hi. I am a 30 year old female. I have been a paranoid schizophrenic for the past 14 years of my life. It is something that I have accepted as a part of my life and to be honest, I cant even remember how it feels to be normal. I was just wondering, in case of ever meeting someone special, how to let him know of my condition. Should this be the first topic of my conversation with him? I am worried that this will scare him off! Thanks for your help. With regards.

A. This is a difficult question to answer. You may not want to reveal this information too early in the relationship-like your first date. I only say this not because having schizophrenia is shameful and something to hide but because many people still do not know what schizophrenia is. Sadly, many people still believe that individuals with schizophrenia have split personalities or are to be feared. I recently saw a famous actress explain in a televised interview how she prepared for her upcoming movie. She explained that she was cast to play a woman living a duel life with two completely different personalities—by day, normal woman, by night, evil villain. To prepare for her role, she says she watched videos of people with schizophrenia having psychotic episodes [where she got these videos I do not know] so that she could see “what it was like to have split personalities.” How foolishly ignorant she proved herself to be with those comments.

I would suggest waiting to reveal your illness to this special person until you know him or her well and feel safe to trust them. When you do decide to reveal your illness to this person, you may find yourself having to explain what schizophrenia is and dispelling common misperceptions about the disorder. While explaining all of this, you may have to reveal more personal information about yourself than you may not be ready to share with someone you only recently met. Ultimately, when exactly you should reveal your illness is a personal choice and one that you will have to make when you are comfortable with each person. Only you will know for sure when you are comfortable enough and ready to share this personal information. I hope this helps.