It can be extremely difficult to plan a wedding if you struggle with depression or anxiety. With all the potential for extra stress its important, now more than ever, for you to pay attention to being good to yourself. Lauren McMillan, who writes about life, the universe and mental health on her blog lifebrew.co.uk is here to talk to us about how you can get through it and still plan the wedding of your dreams.
Whenever anyone talks about self-love, the 13-year-old that governs my sense of humour guffaws. Images of funky smelling bedrooms and sticky tissues. Yes, that type of self-love is encouraged and encompassed by the term, but there are far more wholesome aspects too.
Before a wedding was even on the horizon, you may well have found me at intervals throughout the year having fallen arse first from the self-love wagon, dazed and crying in my pyjamas at midday. If you ordinarily struggle with depression or anxiety, a wedding can be just the thing to heighten the effects. Weddings and the planning of them can be fucking stressful and, in turn, stress can cause you to self-neglect.
As a child, I did not really dream of that special day, the one all little girls are supposedly born to prepare for. I would dream of being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and having a boyfriend with a motorcycle instead.
In my early relationships, I longed for commitment, love and partnership but my expectations were about as high as ‘don’t cheat on me’, ‘call me your girlfriend’ and ‘buy me a present at least once a year that isn’t stolen, illegal or lube’. If someone achieved one or more of these things, part of me would freak out. I always yearned for commitment when it was an unattainable goal but when it was in my grip, the weight of it felt burdensome.
Just before I met Mike, my future plans were ‘be single forever’, ‘rent a nice flat with a pink and mint colour palette’ and ‘have a pug named Shelby’. We were both at a place in which our previous relationships had diminished our desire to settle down and we were learning to be single again. Rather inconveniently, we fell in love.
We talked about marriage fairly early on and we knew we would do it at some point but both felt it wasn’t necessarily a huge deal to us – our ongoing relationship was what felt important. Not giving too much of a shit was a relief. Then, a year ago, he proposed.
I had no idea, literally no idea. In fact, he was down on one knee on Brighton beach with a ring and I still didn’t suss it out. I was too busy trying to light a cigarette in windy conditions and moaning about pebbles in my shoe. Then, I noticed shiny diamonds and loudly shouted, ‘WHAT?!’
To those around us, it must have seemed like it wasn’t going well, but it was. We wanted to be married – that was the easy part. I said ‘yes’. I then walked around for three days in a confused state of bliss, shock and what I can only describe as paralysing fear.
Marriage doesn’t scare me. Our relationship has stood strong through both mental and physical illness and all the other curve balls life can throw at you (not to mention all the bloody marvellous times). I know exactly who he is, even in his darkest hours. I have no doubt he is the one I want to grow old with. I can’t wait be his wife. I feel like we already have the marriage, we just haven’t had the wedding yet.
So, here we were, engaged. The very real prospect of our wedding suddenly felt less Pinterest and more ‘upcoming cervical smear’. I have been to so many beautiful and wonderful weddings but, for me, being the bride would be a whole different experience. I once cried at my own birthday party, overwhelmed, whilst blowing out my candles. The thought of 200 people in a room staring at me freaked me the fuck out.
After you get engaged, people will keep asking how the planning is going. I find myself responding by laughing manically, making some attempt at saying something vaguely ‘weddingy’ and hoping they don’t mistake this for my not wanting to be married.
If you find yourself engaged to someone you genuinely want to marry and still feel freaked out, don’t worry – you’re not alone. After I got engaged, I felt like the weirdest person in the world for not having immediately purchased my dream dress, assigned a bridal party and planned a hen do that would require all attendees to re-mortgage their homes. I have realised now that the fact that these rituals seem to make others happy doesn’t necessarily mean it would do the same for me.
I am no self-styled guru (and you have my word I don’t walk around imparting advice like I’ve got it all figured out). However, here are my self-care tips for those who, like me, find wedding planning as delightful as the prospect of gouging your own eyes out.
When you are overwhelmed by all the things, you don’t need any additional pressures. Sometimes, you just have to cut yourself some slack. If ‘loving yourself’ becomes just another entry on your bursting to-do list (one that you’re already failing to keep on top of), it will transform into another blunt object with which you can bludgeon yourself. So, start small.
Do at least one thing each day that makes you feel good (and this one thing should not be remotely wedding-related). I’m not talking bikram yoga and fifteen orgasms. I’m talking basic shit – eat breakfast, drink more water and take your vitamins. Decide on what your ‘thing’ is and go for it. If you miss a day, meh, move on and get back on it tomorrow.
Know your people and talk to them
Whether it’s your partner, sister or friend, you have to have someone in your team who loves you no matter how annoying you become. You need to feel comfortable to talk about your fears and anxieties regularly. I remember having such disabling fear about telling people that we are not inviting friends to our wedding. After months of feeling awkward, I just started to tell people straight out and almost everyone has just been so cool about it. The anxieties I held on to began to fester and grew into bigger issues than they were. The reality wasn’t nearly as bad as the thought of it. Other people can bring a valuable perspective, especially when yours is so close that things have become blurry.
Don’t be afraid to go your own way
Early on, we wrote down the three things that were important to us as a couple about our wedding. Ours were, ‘keep it relaxed’, ‘family only’ and ‘ignore convention’. It is so easy to get carried away by people’s opinions and the glossy images of others’ big days. If something doesn’t feel right, if you find yourself trying to please everyone else and forgetting about each other, return to your three aims. If it doesn’t fit, don’t be afraid to say no.
Feed yourself how you would want your children to eat
I still struggle with food. On the worst days, when busy at work or exhausted, I can spend over 12 waking hours without feeding myself. On the flipside, if I am sad or mindlessly seeking comfort, I can inhale a packet of Jaffa Cakes quicker than you can say ‘comfort eater’. I am trying to eat well and foster an approach to food that I would want my imaginary children to follow: Healthy, balanced and one that doesn’t make food an enemy (or an abusive friend).
As much as I hate to acknowledge it, eating right helps generate brain power which will mean you can navigate what you have to do with the energy and sharpness you require. When your mind is sharp, getting that seating plan done will feel less like personally negotiating Brexit.
Talk to yourself like you would a friend
I refer to ‘mucky-self-talk’ a lot because I know the effect it has on my own self-image. Those little voices in our heads, criticising and diminishing us, are not friends. So instead, try to start questioning them and what their motives are. Understand it’s all coming from you. You, reading this – you deserve happiness and love. In order to achieve (and accept) it, you have to start telling yourself that.
If I find I am living in my head too much (as I do, all the time), then I have started to try and push myself into my body and the present moment. Take a gentle walk, clean your kitchen, do a little dance. Whatever you can talk yourself into. I promise the benefit of doing it is worth the push it takes to get yourself there.
Treat yourself like a new lover
I swing from the depths of despair to elevated notions of self worth – this one appeals to the latter. If today is a stressful day, run yourself a bubbly, candle-lit bath and soak in it until you’re wrinkled.
If you don’t like baths, feel free to substitute this with whatever helps you relax. Whatever your thing is, make time for it and make it an occasion. Light some incense, put some lippy on – whatever is necessary to make you feel like the special fucking snowflake you are.
Buy yourself a little gift when you can
One of the biggest pressures of a wedding can be budget, but I assure you it really brightens a month of eating beans on toast if you have some pretty nonsense to look at. I figure out what I can afford and I treat myself to a couple of things I want. If money is tight, it works equally well on a shoestring. Sometimes it’s fun to give yourself a £5 budget and go shopping for the best thing you can find. The things I have adored the most have been from when my comfort fund was minuscule.
Whatever I spend, I make sure that I buy is something that will make me feel good, and you can do the same – a book, a candle, a new dress or a six-foot glittery dildo (if that’s your thing).
Celebrate your achievements
It’s important to acknowledge that you are getting through the day as well as planning a wedding. Write down your milestones and achievements. If you’re super organised and have a wedding journal, write them there. If you are lazy, like me, just take pictures and whack them up on Instagram. Revisit these achievements when you are having a day where you feel like you haven’t got your shit together.
Check in with yourself every so often and give yourself a little cuddle. You got this.
About the Author
Lauren is the writer of lifebrew.co.uk, a blog about life, the universe and mental health. She spends most of her time drinking tea, staring at her cat and googling baby sloths. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @LifeBrewBlog