As my wedding was nearing, my mood swings and panic were all over the place. I wanted to share this because of two things: first, it’s a lot different than the normal bride panic and anxiety. Also, I’m sharing because it helped me to realize not every panic attack or little anxiety is caused by my disorder.
So as most of you know, weddings are stressful. They are about happy things that make it worth it, but it’s also a major trigger of many with anxiety and panic illnesses.
When I first got engaged, I was naturally ecstatic, but the day after being engaged, the night panic started. Basically, this is when I trigger a panic attack in the middle of the night. They don’t always make sense and most of the time I don’t remember the dream that caused it. I just wake up out of breath with my dog, Bella, laying on top of me, usually licking my hands and face to wake me up.
I struggled a lot and didn’t want to tell people because those first few weeks should be happy. In all honesty, I was afraid this would only get worse. My then-fiancé, Andrew, was amazing. Every step of the way he took in stride. Sometimes, coming up with things I didn’t even think of to ease my anxieties.
Me on the other hand, I shut down and took to my Facebook world of friends. One of the best parts of having a service dog in the social media and blog generation is the support system. I honestly have so many whom I count as friends, even though I have never met them. My blog also helped me to connect with friends who I didn’t know where struggling with the same things.
With the service dog groups, I found realized I wasn’t alone and even learned some coping strategies and shortcuts that made the months before my wedding a breeze. I honestly got better at controlling it after some tricks, which is good because Andrew can attest that the first month was our own mini hell. (I cried because of colors. I yelled because of food. I cried because I was getting married, and I yelled because it wasn’t fast enough.) I seriously am amazed I didn’t scare Andrew off, but it made me love him more.
Here are some strategies I learned to lessen the anxiety, which honestly are good for any bride to hear:
1. “No,” is a wonderful word.
If you can’t do something and it gets to the point where you’re making yourself sick over it, then saying no to ideas or even traditional wedding things is a great way to lessen anxieties. Granted, remember your groom has a voice and you can’t just veto everything (I tried that. It didn’t go well.) Saying no to the many suggestions you get is good. An example? I was so stressed out about flowers and bouquets, I decided not to have flowers.
2. Take a break.
Weddings are exhausting. Planning a wedding over the span of a year is a good time to remember that once you get the initial important stuff (food, venue and pastor, oh yeah, a groom is nice, too) it’s OK to take a break. I stopped planning for a month. It gave me time to breathe and remember getting married is fun. Even our dogs got tired!
3. Lists are the best things ever.
I wrote a to do list every week. Andrew and I would cross off what we’d accomplished during the week. It helped space things out.
4. Panic and anxiety happen.
Even if you are the calmest person ever, you will get stressed. If you have any sort of panic or anxiety tendencies, then remember they will be amplified. It is important to learn how to handle that.
5. Practice coping skills and getting help.
If you already go to a counselor, then know you might need to up your number of visits. If you don’t, then find someone (not family) or even some of your closer friends to talk to. Having an outside ear really helps. Luckily, if you are getting married at a church, then mentors are available.
6. Take your time and do things when you need to.
It is OK to be selfish sometimes. This one is hard to explain, but sometimes you have to make important choices to make things easier. This definitely calls for major open communication between the couple.
7. Take more breaks.
As the wedding nears, take breaks from planning often. Find something you can do that the wedding is not involved in. I painted. I painted so much I think everyone in my life has gotten a painting whether they liked it or not. I decorated the house to focus on other things besides the wedding.
8. Have fun.
Do little things with your groom to take breaks and have fun while planning a wedding. We took a vacation in the middle of planning just to get away and have fun. We went to the aquarium in Minneapolis and went to Legoland. It was great!
9. It is your wedding, so do whatever you want.
Find the unique part of your life and make it part of your wedding. We are obsessed with Legos. So naturally, they will be at the wedding.
10. Last, it’s OK to panic.
If you have a disorder, then remind yourself all this anxiety is actually normal for a bride (and groom).
I had a smart person in my life remind me while my anxiety was amplified, it was so normal that it’s not even funny. A lot of girls experience anxiety leading up to weddings.
Now, I am not going to tell anyone to relax because these situations control your irrational mind. While your rational mind says relax, your irrational mind can not control the fear. It is an ugly monster that holds you in its clutches until you can’t breathe. However, remember what the wedding is about. It’s about celebrating the marriage to your best friend. It’s about combining two families to join in your celebration, but most of all it is about being happy.
This turned into more of a how to survive a wedding, but I wanted to write that it is OK to feel this way. It is OK not to want a wedding. It’s OK to feel alone when you aren’t or overwhelmed at the little things. It is OK to panic and be anxious. Just remember it’s worth it.
Wedding photo via Mad Photo & Design.
This post originally appeared on The (Service) Dog in the Room.