Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Planning a Wedding with an Anxiety Disorder (or, Adventures in Irrationality)

Let's play a game. I'll give you a wedding planning scenario and some choices for how one could respond, and you choose the one that sounds closest to how you would react. Fun, right?!

You are scheduling a meeting with your caterer to discuss details like timing and linens. In order to make sure you pick a time that works for everyone, you start an email to those who will probably attend the meeting. You:
A) CC your partner
B) Send it to your dad and stepmom, who have been active in the planning process
C) Have a mild panic attack. Should you include your younger sister so she doesn't feel left out? What about the family friend who offered to help with the menu? And should you really send this to your dad and stepmom? What if they feel pressured to come and it ends up being a big hassle and they don't really want to go because who really cares about this stuff unless it's your wedding, it's NAPKINS. But if you don't send it will they think you're not taking their opinions into consideration? Maybe you should include a disclaimer that you totally understand if they don't want to come. But then it might sound like you don't want them to come, and you do want them to come, and that would hurt their feelings. Forget it, you'll deal with this later--just add it to your to-do list. Omg you have a 74-item to-do list. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a snapshot of what it's like to plan a wedding with an anxiety disorder. There are lots of stereotypes about crazy brides who freak out about peonies v. dahlias (dahlias, obvs) or which fabric to use for their aisle runner, but so far my anxiety has nothing to do with the actual wedding and everything to do with FEELINGS. I spend more time thinking about people's feelings than I spend actually planning the damn thing.

I should have seen this coming. It's not like before proposing I was a particularly zen person. I once called the national office of an NGO my sister traveled to Kenya with because she didn't update her blog for 4 days. I also called my dad and stepmom's boutique hotel in rural Italy (three times, while furiously typing "I need to speak with my father" into Google Translate) because they weren't able to email me and say they got there safely. My anxiety is probably one of the first things one would think of when asked to describe me, though I'm sure it would be euphemistically packaged as "extreme concern for those she cares about" or something social work-y like that.

So even though my "extreme concern" is not a new phenomenon, it shouldn't be surprising to me or anyone else that "extreme concern" + major life transition + event involving lots of people = raging hamster-wheel-inside-my-mind anxiety.

And it sucks, because it's not helpful to me or to anyone else. The ruminations and thought circles don't actually improve anyone's experience; we're pretty nice people in general, so it's not like a panic attack is the only thing stopping us from being assholes. I'm making a lot of assumptions about people's needs and reactions that might be (probably are) completely off-base, and also probably assuming that people care about the wedding and their involvement with it more than they actually do. But even though I'm probably not giving people enough credit the worries feel extremely real to me. I want to be the zen bride I read about on the indie wedding blogs and see in most of my engaged friends--focused on nothing but the marriage itself. I am counting down the weeks (31!) until I can promise my commitment to Lindsey in front of everyone we love, but I can't get out of my head long enough to really enjoy them.

I'm in therapy. I'm working on it. I'm trying this new thing where I remind myself that everyone is in charge of their own experience, not me. I'm trying to laugh at myself. But like any other mental health issue, it can't just be turned off or wished away. I'm hopeful that at least on the day itself (if not far sooner), I can let go of it all and just enjoy the moment. Until then, I'll be the one writing four drafts for every email.


  1. Diana, you do such an amazing job here of capturing how profoundly unfair it feels to have anxiety in the midst of these events that everyone else gets to so blissfully enjoy, without a seeming care in the world. To hear your experience is really helpful to me, so thank you.....

    1. Cute, funny, smart, caring, loud (in a good way) are words I would pick to describe you......anxiety is something you have not what you are.