Bats instead of butterflies in your stomach? Let’s talk about pre-wedding anxiety attacks

Guest post by Tess
Bat sweater guards from Etsy seller AbbiesAnchor
Bat sweater guards from Etsy seller AbbiesAnchor

I never thought I would want to get married. To me it was something people did because of children, and I never thought I would want those either. Then I met my boyfriend. It was immediately apparent that it was going to be a serious relationship, so we had all the serious talks early on. I sat down and considered the life I thought I wanted, with the life I might have with this man, and realized that I want the whole package with him. On a three-hour drive around the countryside, we eventually talked about almost every detail about wedding planning that we could think of. We were giddy and in love.

The first time my anxiety threw a wrench into our happiness was because of the ring

My boyfriend had bought the engagement ring, and I was so afraid that I wouldn't like it, that I starting getting really dizzy and had to sit on the kitchen floor until he, slightly amused by my perfectionist tendencies, took pity on me and showed me the ring. His laughing comment: “It's just a ring, silly.” (Yes, there's one of reasons I'm marrying this man!) Funnily, I didn't actually like the ring. But it calmed me down to see it, and I soon grew to love it, because it represents a fiancé who accepts all of me.

So all the pieces were lined up:

The girl with a history of anxiety, the small precursor attacks, the big life decision. Then our beloved pet hamster Bobby Singer got sick. We went to the vet and tried everything. So now, sadness and constant worry entered the equation.

I can see now how all the pieces add up nicely and show the inevitable outcome of this cocktail, but it's impossible to predict while you're in it.

…in that state of mind it feels like every thought that enters my head must, by its very existence, be true, no matter how much I love and want to be with him.

The final piece came on New Year's Eve. Alcohol enhances whatever feelings you're already experiencing, so when I went to sleep that night, the full force of a proper pre-wedding anxiety attack hit me and I spent hours shaking and freezing.

My anxiety attacks me where it will hurt the most — my relationship

Anxiety attacks feel like you're being split down the middle, with one half trying to hold on to everything that you know to be true, and the other half screaming every scary and irrational thought you've ever had at you with the force of concert loudspeakers. It is a difficult voice to ignore because it sounds exactly like yourself.

This time around, everything related to relationships scared me to death! Great state of mind for a newly engaged person.

It makes me question my relationship, and now it added crushing doubt about whether I truly wanted to marry the man lying next to me. The very existence of those thoughts crumbled whatever defense I had left, because in that state of mind it feels like every thought that enters my head must, by its very existence, be true, no matter how much I love and want to be with him.

I am still scared that my own mind will ruin my future life and happiness.

Over the first couple of days of the new year, I got worse. As my appetite disappeared, I could not focus on anything but the thoughts. Our hamster was also getting worse, and we had him euthanised. Some of the worst of my attacks went away with Bobby. But once an attack has occurred, it does not just go away. The aftermath can last weeks. I am still scared that my own mind will ruin my future life and happiness. The attack and the thoughts will pass as they always do. But it always leaves a bitter-tasting memory.

I have found a Superman of a fiancé, whom I can actually talk to about my anxiety

He listens and does not hate me or leave me for having these doubts about our relationship. He can see that it breaks me to have those thoughts, so he knows they do not represent how I actually feel or what I want. But it's not easy for him to hear things like that.

I don't take him for granted. Although I do push him to the limit, where he can get so frustrated that I'm not getting better, that he does — in his darkest hour — doubt if I really want to marry him. I do fear that one day he'll be too tired to be gracious and accepting anymore. I hope that day comes after our wedding day, so he will be stuck with me. I truly know how lucky I am.

So why am I writing this?

I guess I'm reaching out to hear if other people out there have tried to combine anxiety with marriage. I want to hear if there are others out there who doesn't fit the stereotype where any kind of doubt is met with the mantra “doubt means you should leave!” I also want to let others know that life comes in many different flavours, and one of them tastes like anxiety and feels more like bats in your stomach than butterflies. But it also means fighting for what I want, even though it might be harder than most people make it sound like, and I want to marry the man who accepts me, bats and all.

Anyone else suffering from pre-wedding anxiety? How does it affect you, and how do you deal with it?

Comments on Bats instead of butterflies in your stomach? Let’s talk about pre-wedding anxiety attacks

  1. “He listens and does not hate me or leave me for having these doubts about our relationship. He can see that it breaks me to have those thoughts, so he knows they do not represent how I actually feel or what I want. But it’s not easy for him to hear things like that.”

    Do you have a therapist you can bring your doubts to? I live with anxiety as well, and like you say, it can hard for a partner to hear your dark, upset thoughts without taking them personally, especially when your relationship is the subject or catalyst. I still talk to my husband about our relationship, of course, but my therapist is there to help me clarify my sometimes-muddled thinking so I don’t have to ask my husband to do that heavy emotional lifting.

    • Hi Shannon,

      I had a therapist who helped me a lot some years ago, but she is not active anymore. I have considered finding a new one, but right now I am at the end of the anxiety cycle, so hopefully this attack is over soon. If not, then of course I will find a good therapist so I don’t overload my guy 🙂

      • Honestly, I would advise you to find someone during your down time (if, as it sounds from your post, this is a recurring problem for you). Just like I would much rather trust a mechanic who has been changing my oil for years when I need major engine work, I find it much easier to develop a report with a counselor while I am not in a period of crisis, that way when and if I need more serious help I already have a trusted confidant with whom I feel safe and I am not just pouring out my deepest fears to a stranger. You don’t have to go all the time, but a monthly appointment is covered by my insurance at least so YMMV so it couldn’t hurt to find someone BEFORE you really need one. Plus, if you find someone good, they might be able to teach you techniques on how to have fewer attacks or how to recover from one faster.

        I hope this helps and I wish you luck on your journey.

        • I completely agree that the best time to find a therapist is during down-time, which is what I did last time. She gave me a lot of tools to stop the anxiety spiral from even beginning, but sometimes I just can’t stop it.
          I will of course seriously consider getting one!

    • I can talk to my fiance about my anxiety too, and I do, but it’s also SO helpful to have a pretty-much neutral person. I’d recommend it. Mine and I had been out of touch for awhile, but I’m so excited to see her again this week

  2. Of course no two anxiety-ridden people are the same, but for me personally… Cognitive Behavioral Therapy turned my life around. My anxiety was so crippling that leaving the house was more than I could handle some days. I took an 8 week course in CBT and WOW. While I still deal with some anxiety every day, it’s not crippling….more like a slight drag on the day, and it’s something I have the tools to work through if I remember to take a few minutes and actually do it.

    It is such a relief to be out from under the weight of all that…I hope you find your way out soon too! Nobody should have to suffer like that.

    • Thank you for your advice, it is nice to hear when people find things that actually work!

    • I had never heard of CBT before, but after you mentioned it on here I had a look and I think I’m going to do a course also. Thanks 🙂

  3. Have you ever come across the work of Sheryl Paul? I found her blog to be soooo helpful when I was going through severe attacks of relationship anxiety.

    • No, never heard of her? Are you talking about the blog Conscious Transitions? I will definitely have a look then.

  4. Unfortunately, you’re likely not magically cured of your anxiety after the wedding. Marriage is a big life transition, and it’s a big commitment, and a lot changes, and things you expect will change might not. It’s a lot of uncertainty, so some anxiety I think is normal.
    I’m also an anxious person. And I’ve been married for 4 years. In my experience, there’s also a lot of anxiety as a married person, choosing day after day to STAY married to this person. “‘Til death do us part” is always a part of the relationship. At times, that feels really overwhelming, too. It sounds like you have the most important piece of it figured out though, that your partner is there to listen to your fears and validate your emotions.

    • It’s just so nice to hear from people who are actually functioning in a marriage along with their anxiety 🙂
      I do keep thinking that after the wedding it will all “magically disappear” because now we’re committed… But I know it won’t. There will always be things to consider and stuff for my brain to go haywire over, but it’s nice to know that I have a guy who’ll stay, and that others have guys that stay with them and their weird brains! 🙂

  5. Yeah. For me, it started when we got engaged, and there were things I was Supposed To Feel. I was supposed to be happy and excited, for example, when actually I couldn’t manage the excited due to being anxious that it was expected of me, and that made me a little unhappy. It’s not a great look!

    Now there’s the wedding planning to grimace about, and that seems to be socially acceptable, so I feel a lot happier. Sometimes I even feel excited. Yes, I have doubts, but these tend to be as a result of over-reactions to fairly innocuous situations (oh, the Dark Thoughts I have had because of plastering gone slightly awry at ceiling level), which is another joyful feature of my mental landscape. My wonderful other half talks me through it, and makes me feel better. He is the one for me, and although I don’t necessarily feel excited about the wedding, I do generally feel contentment and “rightness” about our forthcoming marriage.

    I’m mostly just trying to accept that I will probably always go in and out of mental health problems, to a greater or lesser extent, and I just need to live with it. It’s possible to get along fine, so that’s what I’ll do. I hope. When there is less stress in my life (i.e. when I am not working full time AND renovating a house AND planning a wedding), it will get better. I have decided. And if not, I shall just endure some more. (I really am a bright little bundle of joy.)

    • Haha, I call them my Bad Thoughts, so quite close!

      I can so relate to everything you write, and both me and mr. Superman agree (when my brain is not tripping me up) that I need to try and take it one small thing at a time. Sometimes it helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I can joke and laugh at my anxiety, which actually helps a lot! Makes it feel less frightening.

  6. Thank you for posting this. My wedding is next month and my anxiety has been kicking me bad, especially when alcohol is involved. I’m so relieved it’s not just me.

    • I know, it’s so relieving to hear that there are others out there just like us! Makes me feel less insane anyway 🙂
      It must be hard to be so close to the wedding and have anxiety (that’s one of my big trigger fears), but from what these wonderful ladies are saying, it sounds like it’s completely possible to get through! And even though the fears and doubts are still there, I would keep thinking about something my second therapist told me: “Always keep in mind if you want your guy to still be there when you get out of your anxiety cycle – If you want him to be there when you’re good again, then don’t make any decisions while you’re feeling down.” That helps me a lot!
      And be really careful of drinking while you’re feeling like this! I can do it if I feel like I’m with people I trust, and then only in moderation. Psychological hangovers are a bitch… So I moderate my intake so I only get a slight buzz, and then I go home earlier than I normally would, when I’m feeling good and at the high point of my evening. Then I end on a good note 🙂
      Hugs to you, and I hope you have a wonderful wedding with a great guy 🙂

  7. Please, go see a doctor.
    There is so much help out there, and for some people a mix of medications and therapy can mean the difference between living a happy life and being dragged up and down through anxiety. It does get better, often never going away but it does get better, but you have to work at it.

    Don’t let this sit where it is! You wouldn’t sit around with a serious physical illness without getting help, why do it with a mental illness?

    • I will definitely consider seeing a therapist again, but not medication. I tried it a long time ago, and had such a horrible experience with it. Talking, both with professionels and friends/family/SO, and being open about it all has helped me so much more than the pills ever did.

      • It does help to talk, and talking with a professional can give you way to stop that talk become ruminations.
        Medication has also come a long way in the recent years, and though it can be tricky (trial and error) finding one that fits you, it can make a huge difference.
        I guess I’m coming from a different perspective, both as someone who has worked with mental health, and helped people through it, but also someone who has seen a marriage collapse because someone did not want to get help to get better, and was happy using their spouse as a therapist instead of actually working to get better.

        Every person and marriage is different, so you know what’s working for you and some people can completely manage their mental health without help. But if you do not find things improving, and this is impacting on your life, there is hope and there is help.
        Thanks for bringing this up as a topic of conversation, I’ve really appreciated reading your perspective and seeing people’s comments and your responses.
        I hope you all the best for the future, and your marriage! (which we’ll hopefully hear about/see photos from on here?)

        • I find your comments very interesting, especially if you’ve actually worked with mental health, because the last thing I want to do is let my anxiety ruin anything for me!
          I am “struggling” between 1) logically knowing how good it is to be preventive and find a therapist before an attack might come again and 2) the irrational feeling that it’s a defeat to begin seeing a therapist again. To me, it feels slightly humiliating (although I know it isn’t!) because I build up this image of being strong because I recognise and analyse my problems and deal with them without professional help. I also know that’s not helpful to anything. So I am reconciling the two camps in my head and figuring out what I want to do.
          Thank you for your kind comments, it has really made me happy to see all the positive responses and hear people being so open about their own experiences 🙂 It has made me very hopeful for the future.
          And I might post wedding pictures here, if they turn out good!

          • “I build up this image of being strong because I recognise and analyse my problems and deal with them without professional help.” I know you know this is irrational, but I wanted to give you my 2 cents to maybe help reconcile this thought (it’s worked for me): You are strong when you recognize and analyse your problems… and deal with them seriously and head-on. And strength especially comes from doing what’s best to address your problem without regard to what makes you scared. Being scared to get help and getting it anyway is practically the definition of strength.

            Good luck! Anxiety isn’t something that can be “cured” I know, but you seem like you are in a position to kick it’s butt and keep it under your control, with help both professional and at home.

  8. As someone who suffers irrational anxiety I’ve found this article incredibly reassuring- thank you!

    • You’re really welcome 🙂 It truly feels better to know we’re not all alone with this!

  9. This was totally the post that I needed to see this week. I also suffer from anxiety and the whole wedding planning thing has me so anxious that I’m actually considering looking for a therapist again. Although I wouldn’t wish panic attacks on anyone, it is really affirming to see that I am not alone.

    • I am so glad people are getting something positive from this, that was completely my intention because I’ve often felt wrong/weird/alone with it!
      It could be a good idea to see a therapist, but I also believe in the power of friends/family/SO and that talking about ones anxiety makes the beast smaller and less scary. My biggest first step was being completely open about it to people I can trust, and therefore giving the anxiety less power over me. But therapists have helped me in the past, so if it feels right for you, then go for it! 🙂 It is always good to talk to someone who has no agenda with your relationship.
      I hope you have a great wedding no matter what!

Read more comments

Comments are closed.