I have lost count of the amount of times I have written and rewritten this post but never actually published it. I’ve had a real rocky road when it comes to mental health and this was especially prevalent when I was planning our wedding. This past week has seen lots of people taking to social media to talk about mental health and break the taboo that surrounds public admissions of mental illness in honour to World Mental Health Day. It is this taboo that has prevented me publishing this post for too long and finally I have found the confidence to share my experience.
So why share this very personal experience? There are some people who might say I’m over sharing. That I should keep these things private and personal. There are also those that will feel uncomfortable about this open and frank discussion of mental health. To all those people, your opinions are your own and you are more than welcome to stop reading now. I, however, believe that mental health is not something to be ashamed of and the more we talk about it, the more we can understand it and help those who desperately need to be understood.
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety off and on for the past 10 years but it wasn’t until about 4 months before our wedding that I experienced my first and worst mental breakdown. The wonderfully explosive cocktail of work and wedding stress that had been building up over the preceding months finally became too much for me and something had to give. Turns out that was my brain. It was actually another wedding blogger, Louise Baltruschat Holli of Whimsical Wonderland Weddings, that helped me deal with my wedding anxiety. Reading about her experience and talking to other brides on the wonderful Love My Dress & Rock N Roll Bride Facebook groups who were going through the same thing gave me the strength to keep going and not postpone our wedding (which up to that point had been a very real possibility!)
I’ve learnt the power of knowing you’re not alone when suffering from any form of mental illness, especially when planning a wedding and hope that by sharing my experiences it might help another bride in the same way Louise and all the other brides helped me.
A DIY wedding often means that you quite literally have to DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF. This can be one hell of a job to undertake and if you’re like me an addicted to Pinterest you can sometimes end up with a to-do list longer than you! When I told people how I wasn’t coping with the pressure I would get so frustrated when they would tell me to just stop. While their intentions were good and I knew they were only trying to help it made me feel more and more isolated. What they didn’t realise was stopping just wasn’t an option for me. I had a vision in my head of what our wedding was going to look like and if I just dropped everything and made do with what I had done so far it never would have been the wedding we had planned or dreamed of.
However, there were those who also responded with “What can I do to help?” These six words became my saviour as I finally began to share the work load and delegate things I had unrealistically planned to do on my own. Not only did it seriously shorten my To Do list it also gave me an opportunity to be with other people, even if we were just watching a movie together and cutting ribbon. There were weeks when I would completely isolate myself from the outside world and I managed to reconnect with my closest friends and family through crafting together.
This was probably the biggest lesson I had to learn. I am naturally someone who will expect more than is physically possible from myself and my expectations are often unrealistically high. I had to give myself one of the hardest reality checks when it became apparent that I was not going to be able to do everything I had planned. Sometimes you just have to become brutal with your to do list and force yourself to stop when you are tired. I made myself take rest days and the day before the wedding, when I knew my anxiety would be at an all time high, I booked myself and my bridesmaids into a nail salon so I knew I would have a couple of hours to myself, away from all the chaos to just collect my thoughts and mentally prepare myself for the next day. It was in this time that I wrote my speech and had some time to ground myself enough to be able to actually enjoy the next 48 hours. Granted I then didn’t get to bed until 2am but if I hadn’t taken that time out I know I would have probably exploded into a thousand pieces. Not a great bridal look….
The anti-depressants I was prescribed caused me to put on a lot of weight very quickly and I began to dread having to put on a dress and try to look beautiful. I was very fortunate in that my dress was being designed and made for me by my Step-Mum. She was nothing but supportive and worked with me every step of the way to make a dress that made me feel incredible about myself and confident in front of all our guests and cameras. My advice would be do whatever you need to do to feel happy in yourself. If that means you wear your PJs down the aisle then do it! Talk to your make up artist/hairdresser, bridesmaids and photographer about your insecurities so they can work with you to make me feel as comfortable in your own skin as possible. I found by sharing some of my insecurities about myself it became a lot easier to deal with these unhelpful thoughts. You deserve to feel beautiful, because you are. You’re so beautiful someone wants to spend the rest of their lives with you.
There’s a reason they say ‘in sickness and in health’ people.The most important lesson I learned was just how important the love and trust of your future spouse is. It took me a long time to open up to my fiancé about what I was going through but when I did it was like a tonne of bricks had been lifted from my head. Try and be as open as possible with your other half and, this is the hard bit, try not to take your anxiety out on them. They will want to support you in any way they can but they can only do that if you talk to them and tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s important to discuss what you can both do together to make things easier. Whether it’s off loading some of the wedding jobs onto them or scheduling break time together – it’s vital you deal with this as a team. You’re going to be Team Us for the rest of your lives so you may as well start now!
When you’re struggling to love yourself it’s even harder to accept the love of someone else. This is not something you can fix overnight but try seeing yourself through your fiancé’s eyes. Although I still struggle to truly accept his love my fiancé gave me more support and strength than I have ever had from any therapist or pill. His vows say it all:
Words have never been my forte but I can promise you this:
I promise to help you see the beauty I see in you every day.
I promise to push you out of your comfort zone and support every step you take.
I promise to always trust and seek to understand you and accept you for who you are.
I will always have your back and be there for you no matter what.
I wish I had the answer to dealing with depression, anxiety and wedding planning but I don’t. All I can do is share my experience and hope that it some way it makes sense to someone out there. Whoever you are and whatever you are going through please know this:
Always yours, Fran
Photos – Jessica Raphael
Artwork – Til I DIY