“Oh my God, what if I faint at the altar”
That thought ran through my head on a daily basis for about a year leading up to the wedding. Along with many others, but that was the most prominent one.
A wedding can make anyone anxious, but when you already have anxiety, planning a wedding can be extremely overwhelming. I was constantly battling with myself to try and stay calm and enjoy the process.
My issue, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is that I sometimes faint. It was explained to me once by a medical professional that the likely cause is when my anxiety reaches an all-time high, and then I start to calm down, my blood pressure drops so fast that I faint.
This has been something I’ve experienced many times, for a long time. Most of the time it is caused by “medical stuff” I always faint after a needle, and sometimes get light headed and anxious when someone is even talking about graphic medical things. The first time I remember fainting in public, I was 12 years old in grade 7. We were in health class and the teacher was describing in great detail the symptoms of an STI we were learning about. It happened so fast before I knew it, I was on the floor with 2 teachers knelt over me and the rest of my class staring. So fun right!
Now I’m sure you’re wondering, so why was she worried about fainting at a wedding? It makes very little sense even to me. But there have been many times that I felt like I was about to faint because I was just overwhelmed. It hadn’t actually happened yet, but I’ve come very close, and knowing my luck, the wedding would be the first time!
So I googled and googled and googled. “Tips for a bride with anxiety”, “anxious bride”, “how to cope with anxiety on your wedding day”..and so on. Brides were suggested to have a small ceremony, just a few people and then have a big reception with everyone later. But I didn’t want to do that, I had always dreamed of my wedding, and everyone watching me and my future husband say our vows. I wasn’t going to let down the little girl inside of me.
There were also a lot of calming techniques that I found, which I mostly heard before. I never found any advice specific to fainting, anxiety, and wedding days. I also voiced my fears to a few close friends, my fiance, and the people in a CBT group I was in for 12 weeks at the start if 2016. (I will talk more about that later in another post) mostly people kept trying to reassure me that it likely won’t happen, and if it does, it won’t be a big deal, and no wedding goes entirely perfect.
Someone even said that if it happens, it would be a funny story about the wedding. Yes haha! The bride’s mental illness intervened on her wedding day. Hilarious! This is not something I wanted to be made fun of for later on. I already get enough of that from times I’ve fainted previously.
I don’t want it to sound like I am uptight and can’t laugh at myself. This is just something I don’t want to laugh about. It’s not funny. The day before the wedding, my bridesmaids and I were practicing walking in our shoes so we don’t trip going down the aisle. My sister asked me, “would you be mad if you tripped walking down the aisle and I laughed? Because I don’t think I would be able to help it.” Nice eh? I told her I would probably laugh myself, so go for it, but hopefully, that won’t be an issue. (It wasn’t)
I am so glad we had a rehearsal. It helped a lot. One thing I was taught in CBT (Cognitive behavioural therapy) is that the more exposures you have to something that gives you anxiety, the easier it will get over time. So I treated the rehearsal as an exposure. And boy was the first run through hard! As the bride, walking down last, standing in the back waiting for your turn to go is so nerve-wracking! For everyone, not just anxious brides. When we walked up the aisle, I rushed a bit, and then when we were standing at the altar, listening to the minister talk about what all we were doing, the thought hit me like a ton of bricks! “What if you fainted right now?” this question pops in my head at random times, usually inconvenient times. It actually popped up when I was trying on wedding dresses. When it happens, I get suddenly dizzy and panicky. My vision can get blurry and I feel lightheaded.
Usually, when this happens, I can sit down, or if I’m with someone who knows about this stuff, I will tell them I need to sit down. Both when I tried on the first dress and when I was standing at the altar during rehearsal, I couldn’t do that. Not without letting everyone know I was having somewhat of a panic attack.
I wish I could share with you some magical tip I have for getting those moments to pass. I was able to power through both times and just tried to breathe slower and focus on something to distract myself from the panic. At the rehearsal, I started listening really hard and paying attention to Keegan. I grabbed his hands, and just felt more supported. The second time through, I was a lot more comfortable, still a little nervous at the back of the church waiting to walk, but once we started, I was fine. Another thing I learned in CBT, and kind of already knew, the anticipation almost always causes more anxiety than the actual event. Hence the nervousness all brides feel while they are waiting to walk down the aisle.
The night before the wedding was a whole crazy ball of emotions. Excited, relieved that it would be over soon, panicked, anxious, happy, and nostalgic. I spent the night at my grandma’s house with 2 of my bridesmaids. I had had so many sleepovers in that house, and so many wonderful family occasions. Of course, I couldn’t get to sleep. Who can fall asleep fast the night before their wedding? I began to think about all the possibilities that tomorrow would bring, everything that could go wrong, the major thunderstorm we were expecting for that day, and how tired I was going to be because I can’t sleep. And just like every Christmas morning, I woke up at 5 am full of adrenaline and no chance of going back to sleep for another hour or two. So I got up and went downstairs to talk to my grandma. I always got up early with her when I would sleep over. It seemed like any other day, but I knew it wasn’t. This was going to be a long, amazing, stressful day. I couldn’t wait to get it started and over with but also wanted to savour every second at the same time. Such a strange inner conflict.
After everyone else woke up and my mom and sister came over, we headed out to get our hair and makeup done. On the drive over, I had my first panic moment. I remembered the almost panic attack I had when I had done my makeup trial, and thought, “what if I faint at the salon?” UGH It begins! I started my slow breathing technique, and my mom asked if I was ok. “oh, yea I’m fine” is all I said. Once we got there, I started feeling better. I was probably distracted and had a great time chatting with my bridesmaids, mom, and the hair stylists at The Hair Professionals salon. My makeup was done by a fellow Arbonne Independent Consultant who I definitely had a lot to talk about with.
When we arrived back to my grandma’s house to get dressed, the photographers from BiancoNero Photography were already there (they took all of these awesome pictures!), and so was the rest of my mom’s side of my family. One full house! We had a quick lunch and got dressed and started taking pictures out front.
My next moment of panic was the one that would stay with me right up until the ceremony. We got into the limo to head over to the church. Our driver asked if we would like to stop at Tim Horton’s on the way since we still had a lot of time. (Yes, how Canadian of us) I got a peppermint tea to help calm my stomach, even though it was a thousand degrees out. Even just waiting in the limo for my matron of honour to run in, was nerve-wracking! The whole way there I was just breathing deeply, knowing the ceremony was about to happen, and trying to stay calm for it. I think part of my issue was knowing that I would want to be present for the ceremony and enjoy it, rather than trying to stay calm.
When we arrived, we went down to the basement of the church to our waiting room. Still feeling panicky and being more vocal about it. My bridesmaids all know I struggle with anxiety, so I felt comfortable letting it out with them. I don’t think I could have managed without them. I made sure to use the washroom before the ceremony start time, as I was trying to keep myself super hydrated to avoid fainting, but I was also concerned about needing to use the washroom in the middle of the ceremony. There are just so many things to think about!
When the minister came down to let us know that everything is ready, my heart sunk. OMG this is it! And what I call a “wave of anxiety” pulsed through my body. I kept saying, “it’s the anticipation” over and over again to myself as we walked to the stairs to come up into the back of the church. When waiting at the back with my dad, I just kept breathing, and once my musical cue was about to happen, I took one last deep breath and told myself, you are going to do this, just power through! And you know what? The moment I turned the corner and saw all the faces staring at me, I suddenly forgot my anxiety! Of course it didn’t last, but that walk down the aisle was amazing. I was looking left to right at all of these people that were there to celebrate Keegan and my day. I felt so much love! Then I thought, “oh I better look at my future husband up there at the front” Seeing his face made it all worth it. I made him cry! And throughout the ceremony, I had a few “holy crap I’m getting married” moments, and a few anxious moments, but standing up there next the love of my life gave me the strength I needed to get through.
The rest of the day was just awesome. It was so hot out, and taking pictures in that big puffy dress of mine wasn’t the most comfortable, but I was just so happy it didn’t end up storming. We took so many great pictures, the reception was a blast, the food was awesome, and I had a cute little white dress for dancing, later in the evening.
Our wedding had a few slips and falls, but fortunately for me, I wasn’t one of them. My mom tripped on her way out of the church after the ceremony, one of our groomsmen fell out of his chair and hit his head on a speaker, and there were a few bodies on the dance floor.
Even with the struggles, I have with anxiety and depression, having my husband and my friends by my side, supporting me, I know I can get through anything. It wasn’t a perfect wedding, but it was definitely the best day of my life, and I wouldn’t change a thing!