I have been wanting to write the post for about two or three years. I am not quite sure why I haven't, I was probably to afraid back then, and to be honest I am right now. Mental health has slowly been pushing its way in to the media (sometimes for better or worse) and on to political agendas, whilst I think there is still a stigma associated with mental disorders, as a society we are on the right track. I know that this post may be breezed over by most, it may be sneered at by others and ignored completely by some. I am writing this just for that one person, that one person who is so crippled with anxiety that the thought of their wedding day terrifies them. And I am here to let you know, that it will be ok.
Main Image by Laura Babb
I didn't realise it but I have always been an anxious person. People don't make me anxious, I can meet new people, I can public speak to thousands etc. It's places I hate, new places or more specifically places that make me feel trapped. Mentally and physically. I won't go in to all the details because if you get it, you get it. If you don't you never will unless you experience it yourself. I am agoraphobic. I am not housebound. I have a comfort zone and I like to stick within it. Whilst in CBT I realised that I had 'fled' from situations I deemed as panic inducing most of my life such as a tube trip to the Houses of Parliament for Politics A-Level, and leaving half way through singing with the school choir on stage. I though I just felt ill, but I now know it was panic. I can tell you first hand, I know what anxiety is like, I have been sat on the side of the A1 having panic attack after attack.
Naturally and completely rationally (ha) I was afraid of having a panic attack on my wedding day. My main concern was that once I was in that church, I couldn't leave until I was married. It was that mental feeling of being trapped. So planning my wedding, on top of the usual stresses meant I had to be in control of everrrrrrything. I chose a venue I knew, I was comfortable with. I was going to get married in Stamford regardless, it just so happened everything was within a nice 15min walking distance. My anxiety leading up to the day was actually ok, the excitement and adrenaline kind of took over. Whilst your body is so used to the flight mode, when there is more excitement, or more in it for you, the fight mode takes over. Fight mode is an anxious persons best friend.
Family and friends made snide comments such as "how will she even get to the church if she can't leave the house?". You will always get this, just ignore it. People don't understand, and that is totally OK. As long as you prepare, you got this. For me, it is always a case of over thinking and "what-ifing". The situations are never as catastrophic as I plan them out to be, but planning for the worst always helps me actually go through with things.
Image credit - Sam and Louise Photography
What helped me:
Go to the doctors - some people are v anti medication. I sit on the fence. I take beta blockers daily and have done for eight years or so. I also have diazepam for situational anxiety (usually for travelling). If your wedding is still some time away you have enough time to find out what works for you. If it is soon and you feel you are not coping, talk to your GP, see what your options are. Diazepam is amazing, it can become a crutch/addictive, but for one day, even just knowing you have it, will help you. I dished out 5mg to my bridesmaids so I knew that if I had a panic attack, I could find them and it would calm me down within 10 minutes. (I didn't end up taking any btw.)
Talk to people - this is something I wish I had done more of. If you can, tell everyone, tell the vicar/registrar, tell the driver, tell all your guests, tell the venue, tell everyone. If they know that you have anxiety/agoraphobia/any other mental health issue they can expect you to perhaps be late, be nervous, to run out for fresh air etc. Unless they are a complete f*cking arsehole, they will only be warm and caring about it. Though I did freak Michael out a little the night before. We all went to a bar, and as people arrived in Stamford they came to meet us there, I could feel me anxiety rising (all these people here for me, trapped bla bla bla) and Michael came over and asked if I was ok. I said I was feeling really anxious, and it was starting to overwhelm me. I left after saying "if it gets too much and I don't turn up tomorrow, it is not because I don't love you'. Big mistake, we got stuck in so much standstill traffic on the way to the church that we were so late, Michael was convinced I wasn't coming!
Have whatever 'crutches' you need - your therapist will tell you that crutches are the devil and you do not truly progress if you have them, but f*ck it. For one day, have and do whatever the hell gets you there and makes you feel comfortable. For me, it was mints. I walked down the aisle with a small pack of Trebor Extra Strong mints tucked next to my bouquet. I remember getting to the end of the aisle and taking Michaels hand, he looked at the mints and smiled. Instantly calmed.
It is your day, you have complete control - just remember that if at any point you need a break then you can have it. You can stop the entire wedding if you want, there is no pressure.
Times - This was something we did in CBT. I wrote down the times of everything, how long everything takes and where I will be. I knew that my house to the church was 15 mins. Car to church - three mins. Service 45 mins. Church to venue - 10 mins etc etc. Then, if I could feel myself getting anxious, I would look at the time and say to myself "in 20 mins time this will be done" " in five mins time we will be halfway through" that kind of thing. Not only does it distract you and bring you back to the now, it puts a little perspective on racing thoughts.
Breathing - Yup. This one again. I am sure you have read it on every "coping with anxiety" blurb you've ever seen. It really does help. You just have to remember to do it! Four in, four hold, six out.
Image Credit - Matt Horan Photography
I am not sure if this will be of any help, I hope it is. I just wanted to write this to let you know that I am where you are, and I have been through it and out the other side. The day is so overwhelming in such a positive and lovely way that I was the least anxious I had ever been. You are so mentally tired and occupied that your brain doesn't have time to overthink things and make you anxious. I still am anxious and agoraphobic, I think I always will be, it is just a matter of overcoming, managing and coping. I have good weeks and bad weeks. As does everyone.