2 years ago my sister got engaged…and for 2 whole years, I have had anxiety about her wedding day.
Knowing I would have bridesmaids duties to fulfil, and knowing that I would have to walk down the aisle to a sea of faces watching me, gave me panic that I simply haven’t felt in a long time. The panic of being watched, in a dress I may not feel comfortable in, in a body I definitely don’t feel comfortable in, and living for a day well outside the realms of my safety bubble was a prospect that was breaking down all the walls of great work I have done over the past 3-4 years.
Isn’t it amazing how one day, one thought, one looming event, can break barriers within your brain, can make weak what was once strong, can challenge all you thought you had rid yourself of. I couldn’t believe I was stepping backwards again. I felt I was falling, back into the sea of anxiety that I pulled myself out of with moments of life to spare. I couldn’t breathe again.
2 years of distractions in my own life (work, university, studying, exams, partner, friends etc) kept me relatively sane during all the planning stages. However there were certain moments that made me panic: hen party planning, wedding dress shopping, bridesmaid dress fittings…it was in these moments that I could not escape my own brain, my own panic, my irrational fears.
And as time continues to move faster and faster as I grow older, 2 years came past like 2 minutes and it was wedding week.
Anxiety building into pure panic for the week leading up to the wedding was truly horrible for me. Especially as my sister is someone who likes a big fuss. In fact, she’s the polar opposite to me. She likes attention, to be the centre of a big fuss and to make everything about her. As a result, she wanted to go out for 2 meals and have a big celebration at my dads house with family and bridesmaids. I had to show up, put on a smile and hide everything I was truly feeling.
What was I even worried about?
- The way I look
- People looking at me
- That I would have a panic attack for all to see
- I wouldn’t cope
- I would let people down
- I would feel body conscious
- I would trip/fall over
- People would notice me and laugh
- I wouldn’t be able to eat
- I would ruin the day
- I would be unhappy
Battling not only with anxiety, I found myself battling the fact that I felt so selfish. It wasn’t my wedding, I was not the centre of attention – why should I allow this anxiety to make this day about me?!
I surprised myself by actually enjoying the two different meals that we had in the run up to the big day. I’ve never “enjoyed” eating out before, I’ve never let myself. I’ve always had disordered eating leading to panic around people watching me and eating in public places. This was a great success for me and something I am so greatly proud of. I ate exactly what I wanted, finished the whole dish, and never even gave time to the niggling feeling at the back of my brain saying that I shouldn’t be able to do this. I conquered a fear!
And this gave me a certain strength to cope with the wedding day itself. The evening before I found myself panicking, unable to sleep, sweating, deep breathing…you name it.
The morning of the wedding arrived and for the first time in as long as I can remember, I vomited through pure panic. I was clammy, stressed, my heart was beating faster than a mouse, and I could not see how I was going to be able to cope.
And then I stopped, and breathed, and took every moment as it came, second by second, minute by minute. I breathed. I remembered how much I have achieved recently and how much I did not want to let my sister down. I remembered that this wasn’t about me. I talked myself through every minute, telling myself I had my own back.
All of a sudden everything felt calm.I walked down the aisle, I was in lots of photos, I stood strong, I ate all my dinner, I drank and I danced the night away. I didn’t panic. And most of all, I had fun.