I Lied To My Fiancé About My Mental Illness

I thought he wouldn't marry me if he knew I suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

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I lied to Rick, my fiancée, about my mental illness. I told him I took pills for depression because I got the blues. I didn’t tell him I was a paranoid schizophrenic — that I had a chemical imbalance, a genetic curse that rendered me dependent on Navane and Cogentin to live a normal life.

I wanted to be married. I wanted Rick to love me and I believed he wouldn’t want me if he knew my true mental illness. I thought no man would want me with the "defect" of schizophrenia.


I met Rick in the mid-80s. There was a party at his apartment and I was introduced to him. I told him I worked at the Jackson County courthouse and that my father was a lawyer who got me the job. He told me his father was a lawyer and when I put my cigarette to my lips, he lit my cigarette. Rick was tall, over six foot with black hair and a black mustache and beard. His voice was deep. I was intrigued.


RELATED: Why My Psychiatrist, Counselor, And Family All Hid My Mental Illness From Me

Time passed and I saw him at the local grocery store. He was checking out and I commented on his purchase. “The guacamole’s too expensive,” I said. I felt foolish at my attempt at small talk. He checked out and went on his way.

A week later he called me. He wanted to take me out to dinner. I accepted. We became lovers and he respected me in the morning. We dated for a year then a proposal. It was as if I had the Hope diamond on my finger, I was so elated. I was ten feet tall. It was official — I belonged to Rick. He found me worthy enough to be his wife. 

We talked about having children and said I would like to adopt. I didn’t want to pass on my genetic curse and the medication I took for paranoid schizophrenia caused birth defects.


The schizophrenia was my dark secret, and my lie continued.

We would go to the theater regularly because being a journalist he got free tickets. On Sunday I would cook breakfast and we would read the Sunday paper. We both read about local and national politics. He was a political reporter and loved a well-written editorial

RELATED: I'm A Schizophrenic — And You Might Be One, Too

While we were married, I stopped taking my medicine. I became withdrawn, fearful, and intense. My hands shook constantly. I was a raw nerve and stopped taking my medicine because of weight gain.

I lived with my husband for only six months. He betrayed me with infidelity. I left him and moved in with my parents and filed for divorce. I committed myself voluntarily to the psych ward at St. Mary’s Hospital. I was crazy, sick, and paranoid. I slapped a nurse because I thought she was trying to get me to drink piss. She had a dropper and was going to place opiate drops on my tongue for my ulcerative colitis. The male nurse grabbed me and gave me a shot of Trazadone that sedated me. I was given new meds, Haldol and Artane. The black filter lifted from my mind and I was normal and happy again. I was at the hospital for a month.


I called Rick from the hospital. He didn’t know I was there.

“I’m at St. Mary’s.”

Silence on the phone. Then, “Get better Julie.”

“What do your parents think of me?”

“They only want the best for you,” he said in a voice dripping with sympathy.

RELATED: I Had A Debilitating Reaction To Psychiatric Meds At Work

I still lived the lie and didn’t tell him he married a paranoid schizophrenic.

Rick didn’t find out my true mental illness until the early 2000s. He referred to me as Zelda. We divorced in 1989 and he remarried and I remained single. I never trusted men in the same way I did before my marriage. He burned me and I wasn’t going to let a man fool me again.


If I had it to do all over again, I would have told my husband the truth. “I’m a paranoid schizophrenic,” but I wanted to be married and have acceptance from Rick and his family.

I have now lived with paranoid schizophrenia for forty-one years and own my mental illness. I’m no longer ashamed of it. I can’t change my brain chemistry. I was in the mental illness closet for many years and it wasn’t until I went on disability and joined a support group in 1997 that I revealed to people the truth.

My life would have been sweeter and better if I had told and embraced the truth that I was a paranoid schizophrenic and I want to apologize to my ex-husband for the lie: Forgive me, I’m sorry I lied. I just wanted to marry you.


RELATED: No Shame: What You Need To Know About People With Mental Illness

Julia A. Ergovich writes from Kansas City, Missouri. She holds a BLS in English from the Jesuit school Rockhurst University and is leading an artful life.