Is a wedding anxiety attack the same as cold feet?
I've suffered from anxiety my whole life. When I was five, I was terrified of the the wind. At eight, I worried about the existence of God. At 10, I had my first panic attack and not a clue what was happening to me. I've had phases of compulsive disorder. I've struggled with sleep — worrying that I won't fall asleep, which causes me not to not fall asleep, which causes me to worry all over again the next night. My anxiety is a classic case of the self-fulfilling prophecy.
That's the thing with anxious people. We worry about worrying. We worry about why we are worrying. We convince ourselves that the most dreaded thing we can think of is happening, no matter what logic tells us. When it came to my pre-wedding freakout, I thought, What if this anxiety means I am having doubts? What if this is a bad sign? Normal people don't freak out before their wedding!
To make matters worse, my fiance was back in Chicago finishing out the work week, while I had headed to my parents' house early to get things in order before the big day. I felt like an old-fashioned bride, sequestered in my parents house, not able to see my betrothed until he lifted my veil the day of our wedding. Just the weekend before we were living our ordinary life together, and now suddenly everything seemed like such a strange and big deal. I suddenly wanted it all to be over with and to be on our honeymoon.
I wasn't anxious about standing up in front of everyone at the church. I wasn't anxious about being the center of attention, which is something I typically don't like. I wasn't anxious about getting married to my fiance. I was anxious simply because I was anxious. Simply because my brain is wired in a way that I can't always control.
Does having a wedding anxiety attack mean your marriage is doomed?
In an attempt to stave off further anxiety, I decided to do what any good writer would do and research. I searched “I'm anxious before my wedding,” “How do get through the wedding when you're anxious,” “How to not be anxious for your wedding when you're an anxious person in general.” Similar to how googling an illness automatically tells you you have cancer, every search I made indicated that my marriage was doomed. “Pre-wedding jitters aren't a thing. They mean you aren't sure,” one article said. “If you aren't excited about your wedding, you're probably not excited about your marriage,” said another. My anxiety got more intense with every article. That awful little voice in my head was telling me They are right, even though I knew they weren't. Wasn't there someone out there who suffered from anxiety and could relate to what I was going through?
So I did the only thing left for me to do: I cried to my parents. I broke down. It felt amazing. Finally, I got relief from the build-up of all my nervous energy.
Then my dad, who has been a witness to my peculiar breed of anxiety for 29 years, said the most powerful thing: “This wedding is going to happen no matter what, so there's no use fighting it.” To normal people, that may seem like an extremely odd thing to say, but let me explain. Anxious people live with a perpetual monkey on their back. We feel responsible for, guilty about and a prisoner to our thoughts. By telling me that this feeling I had wasn't going to ruin anything, my dad had freed me from the burden.
That night, I called my fiance and told him about the last few anxious days. He wasn't even phased. (I would hope at that point he knew what he was getting himself into.) “It's a crazy week, isn't it?” he said. “I'll be there soon.”
Our wedding ended up being beautiful and wonderful and miraculously anxiety-free. But I'll tell you what was even better. Leaving it all behind to go on the honeymoon and then returning to our simple, normal, happy life.
To any of you who suffer from generalized anxiety and are feeling off right now, let me reassure you: Your anxiety isn't sending you any sort of hidden message. If you didn't want to get married, you would have been having nagging doubts for a while, not just this sudden burst in an otherwise great relationship. Let go of the burden and guilt. Know that you're not alone. And most importantly, know that your wedding is going to happen, no matter how much you worry about it.