Anxiety is something I’ve dealt with all my life. As a child, I’d convince myself that awful things might happen. I’d avoid trees in case they fell and crushed me and some nights I’d lie awake for hours, terrified to go to sleep in case I never woke up. It was exhausting.
Then, in 2010, my mum Cath, 52, was tragically killed in a cycling accident, and my anxiety spiralled out of control.
I’d constantly have panic attacks and stopped driving because I was scared of crashing.
By November 2011, I couldn’t cope any more and saw my GP, who diagnosed me with anxiety and referred me for counselling.
However, I didn’t really feel it helped, so I taught myself how to control my breathing in times of panic and started yoga, which improved my life massively.
By that point I’d been with my boyfriend Tom a year, and after I graduated from my journalism course at Southampton Solent University in 2013, we moved in together.
For the first time I felt like my anxiety was under control, so when Tom proposed in the Lake District in October 2015 I was over the moon – except that whenever I thought about being a bride, I felt a familiar flutter.
Just thinking about our 150-person seating plan made it hard to breathe
I hated the idea of being the centre of attention, and my anxious nature sometimes made me obsessive when it came to decision-making, so we decided to keep it simple. But then I started spending hours browsing bridal blogs and Pinterest.
The more I saw, the more I convinced myself we had to have the perfect wedding in a stunning venue, complete with Instagram-worthy floral arrangements and a three-tiered cake.
- In England, women are almost twice as likely to sufffer from anxiety as men
- More than half of married Brits regret spending so much on their wedding
- The average UK wedding now costs £27, 161
In March 2016, I fell in love with a converted barn venue in the Cotswolds and impulsively put down a £2,000 deposit.
In no time, the simple ceremony I’d imagined had spiralled into a weekend-long event, with a Saturday church ceremony and drinks, followed by an outdoor blessing and reception the next day.
The cost soon hit £20,000, and as the wedding crept closer, my anxiety rocketed. Tom tried to share the load, but he didn’t know how terrible I was feeling.
Just thinking about our 150-person seating plan made it hard to breathe.
I considered going back to my GP, but I wasn’t keen on taking medication because I was worried about side effects, so there wasn’t much else she could do.
Everything felt so out of control. I found it difficult to concentrate on anything so would push the wedding to the back of my mind, but then panic about how much was left to organise. As I lay in bed that night, eight weeks before the big day, through my tears I finally confessed to Tom how severe my anxiety had become, and how there was no way I could face our wedding.
But he wasn’t shocked – he even admitted that because I’d been so stressed, he wasn’t looking forward to it either.
We decided to cancel all our plans and have a much smaller day. It meant losing £2,000, but the relief was incredible. Instead of the barn reception we booked our local pub, swapping fancy catering for a buffet. When we also dropped the speeches, cake-cutting and first dance, my anxiety melted away.
In the end our wedding on July 22, 2017, cost us around £10,000 – including our lost deposit – but it was brilliant.
Being so close to home meant that after the ceremony we could even pop back for a quick cup of tea and bring our dog Hank to the reception.
As I looked around my local pub, filled with family and friends dancing and laughing, I knew we’d done the right thing.
Anxiety is something I’ll have for the rest of my life, but I can now recognise the warning signs. I still have ups and downs, but for the most part it’s stable. My wedding taught me just how important my mental health is.
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