About a month ago I got married. I was so prepared for that day. I had spent months stressing and planning and I was ready for it. And you know that part of the ceremony where everyone is coming down the aisle, then they all just pause, and you know that next up is going to be the beautiful bride in a gorgeous dress, accompanied by her very proud father? Well at my wedding everything was going smoothly until exactly that moment, bridesmaids were out at the front, groom standing there nervous…. and then the doors closed back up and nothing happened for probably about 5 whole minutes. It probably felt like an eternity, especially to my groom. What not everyone knows is that just outside those doors I had slumped into a chair, sweating from every pore in my entire body, my vision going black as my dad fanned me with a program. Yeah, I had a full-blown panic attack at my own wedding.
Let’s talk about why this matters. As anyone with anxiety can tell you, even very positive things can be stressful, sometimes even more stressful than the positive things in your life. Sometimes your body doesn’t know how to handle all of the feelings rushing through your body, so the only thing it can think of to do is to give you a panic attack so that you are forced to acknowledge your emotions instead of pushing them away. It’s hard to let the feelings in. For days I had been worrying, but I just kept telling myself that it was a good thing and that I’d be fine and everything will go smoothly. I didn’t let myself acknowledge that being in front of people freaks me out. I don’t want to be the center of attention. I don’t want to be trapped at the front of a church where I can’t run away. That just isn’t me. And that’s okay.
Some panic attacks take you by surprise. Maybe the first one, or the first one in a while. And some panic attacks you can see coming a mile off, but there really isn’t anything you can do about them. Maybe that’s the point. Desperately trying to maintain control when I felt like I was being forced into this role that is very outside my character and makes me uncomfortable didn’t help me get through it. I wasn’t able to avoid the panic just by telling myself that my wedding should be happy, that only made it worse. Knowing I was feeling a way I shouldn’t be feeling right now made me more worried about what I was feeling. And fearing my own emotions is what makes it all bubble over.
Pushing away your feelings never helps. Feel the emotions. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to be worried. It’s okay to be scared on your wedding day instead of just plain old “nervous”like everyone else assumes. They don’t know the difference between your anxiety and regular nerves. It’s okay. They don’t have to understand.
See, not every wedding is going to go smoothly. No matter how much you plan, something will go wrong. And stressing about making everything perfect won’t make it happen. When that moment comes to walk through those doors, you will feel a whole range of emotions. For me, it was excitement about getting married, eagerness to see my groom, fear for all the eyes being on me, worry about being afraid, and then helplessness as the anxiety overtook me and I felt like I was about to faint. And nothing I planned for could have stopped that.
Luckily for me, everyone around me was amazing. My wedding coordinator fetched me a glass of water while my dad fanned me with a program. My organist just kept looping the song he was playing while everyone stood there waiting. The pastor came out to make sure I was okay, and someone let my groom know I was just having a fainting spell. And most importantly, my groom knew of my panic attacks and instantly understood. Having a panic attack at the moment my wedding was supposed to being didn’t mean I was having second thoughts or backing out. It didn’t mean we are clearly not supposed to get married, like some sort of bad omen. No, all it meant was that I was feeling overwhelmed by all of the emotions I was feeling, and needed to take a moment to acknowledge them.
In the end, the panic subsided. I wiped the sweat from my face as best I could, and gave my dad a hug. He didn’t know I struggle with anxiety and panic until that moment, and he didn’t love me any less because of it. Even on my wedding day, I was still his little girl, and when I needed him, he jumped into action. Then he offered me his arm, I gave him a firm squeeze, and we opened the door and walked down that aisle together just like we had always planned.
When I used to imagine how my wedding would go, my anxiety definitely wasn’t a part of it. I didn’t know that on the day of my wedding I would be standing at the altar trying to casually wipe the sweat off the back of my neck. I didn’t know I would feel like I was having an out-of-body experience, or that I wouldn’t remember the words I said in my vows even a moment after saying them. I didn’t know that while there is supposed to be a space between me and my groom as we stand there saying our vows, that I would be reaching across to grab his hand because I needed him to steady me and reassure me that everything is okay on what is supposed to be the happiest day of my life.
And even though none of this was what I had planned, it was still a beautiful wedding. There was so much love and support all around us. No one cared that I took a few extra minutes to compose myself before the wedding started. No one cared that there was sweat making my hair stick to my neck, or that there was snot dripping from my nose during prayers because I was crying.
Anxiety sucks. I wish I didn’t have to deal with it at all. I envy people who can do the things that make me anxious without panicking. But at the same time, anxiety is part of what makes me me. And my groom decided to marry me despite it. He married me even though I left him standing awkwardly at the altar alone. He married me even though I’m going to continue to struggle with my anxiety probably forever.
And that’s why I know we are right together. He had the chance to leave me when my anxiety got bad. There are a lot of people who would have. But he didn’t. He stayed. He made a choice to live with my anxiety, which is a choice I was never given. And every day we work through it together, hoping tomorrow will be easier, but we never really know. He has taken on my burdens as his own, and together we are fighting them bit by bit, hoping that one day we won’t need to fight anymore. Hoping we won’t need to be afraid.
People have told me he’s lucky to be with me. They have no idea how lucky I am to be with him.
I’ve spent the last year planning my wedding. Unfortunately my family is scattered so I didn’t have my parents, maid of honour or one of my bridesmaids around to help. We are now 30 days away and I thought it might be helpful for other brides to share what I learned while planning my wedding.
- You know more people than you think. When we first booked the reception venue, we were told we needed a minimum of 100 and an absolute max of 120. That isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room! My family is huge, so I decided to make a cutoff of not inviting cousins. We ended up having about 90 people on the list, and figured we could pay for a couple more plates if needed to reserve the venue. Then I asked my parents for the list and all of a sudden our count was about 175. 175?? Are you kidding me? Who are these people and why have I never met them?? Luckily we were able to compromise and reach a reasonable number.
- There is family drama no one tells you about. Apparently even as an adult I’m not privy to the knowledge that there is a spat on my mom’s side so if one of her siblings wants to come, two others won’t. Grow up, kids.
- “Tradition” is a complex and sometimes ridiculous thing. Did you know it’s considered rude to tell people where you are registered? Apparently they are supposed to ask your parents where you are registered, but you can’t just tell them. This is silly. We reached a compromise by putting the registry info on our wedding website, then including the website on the invitation. Not everyone knows my mom or how to contact her. Let’s be serious.
- At the same time, you don’t need to follow tradition. I’ve always found the garter toss to be creepy. I don’t want his hands up my dress. I don’t want the guy’s grabbing for a thing I’ve been wearing on my thigh all day. So, we decided not to do it. And for that matter, we aren’t doing a bouquet toss either, because gender equality.
- Why is everything so expensive?! Most places jack up prices for a wedding. I know someone who booked the venue without calling it a wedding, just saying it was a formal dinner. Well, the venue realized at the last second that it was actually a wedding and made them pay a few thousand dollars more. Which is ridiculous because they would have done the exact same thing for cheaper if there wasn’t a fancy white dress involved.
- Costs add up quickly! My budget included everything related to our wedding day. Yes, I counted the calligraphy pen I spent $6 on for our invitations. Yes, I counted the $12 I spend on material to make my garter. Yes, I counted the $10 we spent for a cake tasting before booking our cake. And you would be AMAZED how these little things add huge costs when you include them all together.
- A good Excel spreadsheet will save your life. I’m a huge fan of Excel. I like that I can include whatever I want, and it will update sums and the remaining budget with just a few simple formulas. If you aren’t comfortable using Excel, there are tons of free wedding planning spreadsheets out there. Whichever you choose, use it and be thorough. If you are working on a strict budget, you will be amazed how much of a headache it saves you. As a bonus, I added a column for the dates all our payments are due so that we don’t have to pay late fees.
- Sometimes weddings bring out the worst in people. My sister is my maid of honour, and we had HUGE issues. Apparently purple is her colour and I wasn’t allowed to use it. (What. You don’t own the colour. And no one cares if we use the same colour. You aren’t even engaged.) And then there’s the shoes… she bought shoes in the wrong colour and now has told me she’s wearing them and it doesn’t matter what I think. Are you kidding me. It’s not even the shoes that bother me, it’s the fact that she doesn’t care how her decision makes me feel.
- But, weddings also bring out the best in people. I can’t count how many lovely well-wishes I’ve gotten. And the generosity oh my goodness! My groom’s parents told us that they would pay for the entire reception, whatever it cost, so don’t even worry about it. They just wanted to make sure our day is perfect. They are far too nice to me. I also decided to invite the group of girls I have been taking dance classes with for the last 3 years, and some of them were so touched to be invited. It makes me feel good to be able to say hey, you’re important in my life, and even though we don’t hang out I look forward to seeing you every week and I want you to be a part of my special day.
- Despite other people’s input, ultimately it is your day. Make it the way you want it. People have good intentions. This would be a more complimentary colour pallet. You should serve this food instead, people will prefer it. You can’t take pictures at a waterfall your dress will get dirty before the reception (ok that was a good point). Despite it all, it is your day. No one is going to be at your wedding going “she really should have picked the other dress”. What seems like a huge issue now probably no one will even notice. Make decisions, stay true to yourself, and trust that even if everything is a huge disaster, at the end of the day you are still married to the person you love. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
I’m not sure if I mentioned it on my blog, but I’m getting married in… *checks calendar*… 38 days. 38 days?? When did that happen?!?! Really sneaks up on you doesn’t it.
I love weddings. I’m a huge suck, I cry at everything romantic or cute (thanks for the faulty genetics, mom), and I think weddings are a really beautiful way of showing you aren’t afraid of people knowing how in love you are in a world that tends to frown upon public displays of affection.
The thing that bothers me, though, is the statistic that about 50% of marriages fail. I mean, James and I have been together for 5 years, lived together for 2, and we know each other quite well and what we’re getting ourselves into. But somewhere in the back of my mind is the nagging anxiety that maybe we’re in the other half. The half that doesn’t work out. Because, really, does anyone ever go into a marriage and think they WILL be one of the couples that divorces? Of course not! No one ever sees it coming!
Regardless, do any of you have any advice for how to keep a marriage strong? I’d love to hear it!
It’s been a long time since I wrote anything. Let’s catch up.
This past year I’ve been in school doing my master’s degree. I went into this program being told by the time I graduate I’ll have one to two job offers and a promising career ahead. So you can imagine how it felt to graduate and… nothing. I’ve been out on 5 interviews, been applying for months, and I’m still just unemployed. I don’t think people understand how hard it is to be unemployed. As it turns out, finding a job in this day and age is a lot harder than it used to be. See, employed get hundreds (no exaggeration) of applications for every job they post. And we keep hearing about how most of the jobs that exist are never posted. The postings I do see are often full of ridiculous requirements (entry-level job, must have 5 years of experience, 3 certifications, and been to mars, pays $12 per hour). It isn’t like 20 years ago when you could just show up and ask for a job, then start tomorrow. Having strong credentials doesn’t mean you’ll get through the gauntlet of computer algorithms that are trying to turn you into a number based on how many words on your resume match their expectations. And even if you interview for the job and are a great candidate, jobs disappear at the last second, get filled by an internal candidate, or for other reasons disappear and you never get to find out what you did wrong or how to do better next time.
But the truth is that unemployment is really difficult for me emotionally. I’ve spent the last 6 years in school, got really great grades, all to find a great job, and it just never came. Now I’m having to lower my expectations. Look for jobs outside my field, further away geographically, lower my salary expectations because apparently even if a company wants my skills they don’t want them enough to pay a fair rate. Grad school isn’t going to pay off itself, people!
I’ve noticed that my anxiety levels have been fluctuating as time goes on. A month ago I was anxious but confident. Then I was hopeful. Then as the job I interviewed for twice and was exactly what I wanted got pulled from me at the last second, my confidence crashed. I’m no longer confident that I’ll find something I enjoy. I don’t feel like the job offer is going to come in any day now. So despite all of my academic success and the relevant work experience I do have, I just feel hopeless. And it’s that hopelessness that lets the depression in to gnaw away at my heart until I feel so lost and scared that I don’t know what else to do but curl up on the couch in the middle of the day and cry.
Somewhere deep inside I know I’ll find something. I know it may not be the dream job, but it’ll be a start. I’m just scared that it will take another two months, maybe longer. And without work I have nothing to do but overthink and wonder and dig deeper into the hole I’ll soon be able to bury myself in.
I’ve been having a recurring dream lately. In it I am sitting down in class like I would on a normal day. I open my computer, and go to open my notes… and instead I open a bunch of pictures of My Little Pony.
Yeah you know it. The kids show. The kids show with a surprisingly large adult following, especially the male viewers who have been named Bronies. Well, here’s the thing… I am a brony. I watch the show. I buy toys. I have a poster up in my room, and I have a calendar too. I’m quite at peace with it, actually. The show is calming to me. It’s funny and positive. When I’m anxious, I watch the show and just feel… better. The times when I don’t think anything could make me feel better, I watch the show, and I just…do.
But at the same time, I feel like I’ll be judged by other adults. Which is a bit funny since everyone has hobbies. Everyone has interests. But if my interests aren’t what you would expect of a young professional, suddenly it’s a problem.
The weird thing is, I’ve never really been judged for it. Some of my friends have seen the toys and other things, and some of them have even gone “oh cool I know that character”. So it isn’t the judging that scares me. It’s the fear that I could be judged that gives me nightmares. And that’s just not logical.
It doesn’t matter what other people think of me. I hoped that over time I’d be able to truly believe that, though, and not just say it. Because as my sleeping subconscious can tell you, I’m still very much afraid that people will judge me for liking My Little Pony. I bet the judgment is even worse for the male fans of the show. So I just want to say to any bronies out there who struggle with it like I do…
Does there ever come a point where it simply isn’t worth it to keep fighting your anxiety anymore?
This is the dilemma I’ve been facing lately. I keep reading supportive messages about how it will get better. About how the panic attacks will end and I’ll be able to cope just like I did before the anxiety took over my life. About how I’ll be able to enjoy my job again, not feel anxious, do the things that scare me and get over the negativity that environment fills me with.
But lately it hasn’t just been those situations that trigger my panic attacks that make me anxious. It’s anything to do with work. It’s seeing those people. It’s feeling like they don’t support me. It’s knowing that I’ve done everything they have asked of me and more, outperformed my coworkers and gotten the qualifications, but still not received the promotion I’ve earned.
This is a part-time job that was great while I was in school, but I really don’t need it anymore. It has been a source of pride for me, though, and I love the opportunities I’ve gotten. I just don’t want to have to live with the idea that I gave in to my mental illness if I leave now.
I guess this is my question to anyone who’s listening:
If you remove yourself from the thing that triggers your anxiety, does that mean you are letting the anxiety win? Or does it just mean you’re taking positive steps to your own mental well-being?
I would love to hear what you think.
I finally decided to get help about my anxiety. Despite how it may seem from my periodic blog posts, I actually think I manage my anxiety pretty well. One day I realized that when I think about my life in the future, I assume I’ll quit my current part-time job with the military. Why? That’s a good question. I mean, I love my job. I love the people I work with, the cool things we get to go out and do, the stories I get to tell, the person I’ve become as a result of my service. The only part that I don’t like is my anxiety. And yet, I want to quit because of the anxiety and panic attacks. And I decided that’s not okay.
I always used to think that as long as my anxiety isn’t running my life then I’m doing fine. I still go to work, I still do my job. I just worry about my job before I get there. I plan a couple of days beforehand to avoid anything that could make me anxious. I eat very cautiously the day I have to go to work out of fear that something will make my stomach upset, which will in turn cause another panic attack. I thought all of this was normal and showed that I’m coping well.
But the truth is I’m not. I want to quit just so that I won’t have to face the situations that make me anxious. If that’s not letting my anxiety run my life then I don’t know what is.
So I called the university health center and asked to talk to someone about anxiety. They told me the first opening was in a month. Side note, this is absolutely ridiculous that people with mental health issues are being asked to wait a month to get help. If others are like me, then they don’t call a month before it needs to be addressed. If I’m actually reaching out, it’s because I need help now.
Lucky for me, there was another counselor I could talk to. So I went, and told him about my anxiety. I told him about my fears and rationalizing behaviors. I told him about the panic attacks, and how I’m scared for a few weeks from now when I will be back in that situation.
My counselor is optimistic. He thinks I’ll be able to make a full recovery and not have to quit my job. We are going to come up with a plan to accustom my body to the symptoms of panic so that they don’t escalate into a full-blown panic attack.
He told me that the situations that cause my panic attacks show a lot of signs of the common triggers for people who are prone to panic. He told me that panic occurs when I am introspective about my body signals, and allow them to turn into disastrous thoughts.
But more than that, he gave me hope. Hope that I would be able to get better. Hope that I wouldn’t have to hide this awful secret from the people I work with. Hope that I can heal, and that my anxiety issues don’t define me. And hope that my nerves will heal and in time I won’t be triggered as easily by my anxiety.
And that hope is enough to keep me going and instead of dreading the next time I’m back in those situations, I’m looking forward to seeing whether I’m truly able to heal inside.