I’m sharing my story in an effort to inspire some hope for those of you still in the thick of things.
I’m Anne – I am 30 years old and live in Chicago. I got married on July 23, 2011, so I am now a wife and newlywed…wow! Something I wasn’t quite sure I could pull off in the throes of anxiety! I have been with my husband for 5 years; we got engaged in February 2011, something I had been wanting for a year or so. Almost immediately I started to panic. Since I didn’t think that response was appropriate, I went into a tailspin from there. The first few months of engagement were so hard (no sleeping, no eating, sobbing, feeling alone, etc.) and then I found this course, which was the best thing that could have ever happened! It allowed me to feel my feelings, to address them directly, to hear stories to make me know I wasn’t alone and to start working on myself.
The engagement was really up and down. I have never done well with change in general and I think in this case the changes hit in stages, which required me to work through each of them individually. First, I was a fiance and I had to get used to that…took a while, but eventually I did. The second stage happened because the thought hit me – “I’m about to be a bride!” ACK! Then I went BAM, back into a spiral of anxiety. I worked through that and eventually got used to the idea of being a bride. Then, finally I realized, “Okay, now I am about to be a wife!” and the cycle continued. Once I realized I was just diving deeper into the transition and going layer by layer into my new identity it helped take some of the power out of the anxiety and I could figure out where it was coming from. Figuring that out was a huge help, because isn’t not understanding WHY you feel a certain way a huge portion of why it’s so scary?
Early on the morning of my wedding day I felt kind of numb…not excited, not terrified, just kind of like a normal day. Then a little later in the morning I got really, really nervous and I thought, “If today is going to feel like this, I don’t know if I can go through with it.” I spent part of the morning with my mom and sister and part of it alone before the bridesmaids descended and the day got going. That alone time was essential to get me through the numbness and then the fear. I prayed, I journaled, I took a walk, I prayed, I read, I did the wedding day meditation from the e-course 3 times, I prayed some more. Then, miraculously, at around 11am, I crossed over. Crossed over into joy and appreciation and excitement and, you know what? Peace. Actual peace. It was the most wonderful thing.
After that point I had the most amazing day of my life. Sheryl and other brides are right when they say it is overwhelminglywonderful when you look out at your guests and see so many people who love you and support you and want the best for you and your husband. I had a session with Sheryl the week before the wedding where I told her I was afraid I would run – she assured me I wouldn’t and I didn’t! You couldn’t have kept me from going down that aisle!
One thing that helped me was that I did not have huge expectations for my wedding day. I knew marrying Michael was a great idea, that he was a solid choice. And I knew I wanted to be married, even if fear told me I didn’t, so I was going to go through with it. When talking to my sister about my fears a few weeks before the wedding she responded with, “So what if your wedding day is tough? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t marry him. Maybe you just get through it and engagement sucks and your wedding day is just okay. You are still making the right choice.” So I went into the day being very open to whatever feelings would come and somehow by doing that, by taking the expectations off myself and not feeling guilty about how I felt, I found joy again. My advice would be the same as Sheryl’s – let any feeling in and don’t beat yourself up about it. Feelings come and go and they are so unreliable that it is always a bad idea to look to them for cues about how to make decisions.
So, we have been married for almost 6 weeks and it’s been lovely. It has surprised me how comforting it already is. There are still anxious times, moments of, “Oh wow, this is big, what have I done?” but they pass much more quickly. I do the same “So what?” kind of thing others have talked about here instead of reading into the anxious questions like I did before. I used to think the thoughts were a sign that something was wrong, that I should run, but that was all a lie. Making the decision to marry even though I wasn’t sure I should or could do it was a huge slap in the face of fear; now we have made the decision and we are going to own it. That is that! I feel little moments of anxiety and I definitely don’t feel 100% like myself, but it’s all a part of the journey and I don’t have to have it all figured out today. My mom told me it is super important to be very kind to myself in these first months/year of marriage. It’s been so busy and there has been so much change so I’m trying to take her advice and not “should” all over myself. My advice is to take the time to heal and get used to things and definitely find the courage to open up to your partner about what you are going through. Talking through fear deflates its power and gives your partner a chance to help you.
I know I am so blessed to have had a wonderful wedding day and good first weeks of marriage – I know not everyone has that experience. Remembering that day does give me joy and hope in moments of fear, but it’s not just that. I don’t have it all figured out, but I do know a few things that work for me. Working through the course and having a session with Sheryl was vital. I still read posts and go back through the exercises in the e-course to keep myself grounded. Finally, I choose to love Michael every day. I just choose it beyond what my feelings tell me to do. Oftentimes, feeling follows choice/rational thought. Sometimes it doesn’t, but what’s done is done (how romantic right?!) and I’ll keep owning this and eventually being a wife will feel as normal as any other role I have had. Until then I’m not going anywhere and because I made a wise choice, neither is he. It’s amazing how people can love us even though we are so broken and messy and ugly sometimes.
Keep hanging on, friends; there is light on the other side of all of this. Going through this is so hard, but as we keep going down the path, we are gaining such wisdom, depth, understanding and love. It’s so hard to believe, but we really are blessed. I am getting through it and you all will too.
- Anne Harman Solheim, Chicago, IL