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 fiancΓ© 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 fiancΓ©, 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?

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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 πŸ™‚

      • 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 πŸ™‚

  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 πŸ™‚
      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! πŸ™‚

  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 πŸ™‚
      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 πŸ™‚
      Hugs to you, and I hope you have a wonderful wedding with a great guy πŸ™‚

  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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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! πŸ™‚ 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!

  10. I am so with you, my fiancΓ© is great too! It all started when we were first dating and my roommate at the time told me he wasn’t right for me and that I deserved better. Well fast forward four years and while I have my plan he does not have one, no job aspirations, no idea where to start looking for what he even remotely wants to do. This I tell my self is normal for someone just exiting college. He is a great guy, but sometimes my anxiety points out all the flaws, all the ways we are different and I panic. He is my first boyfriend, he was my first kiss, do I love him? Absolutely. Will he support me, be a good father someday, and work hard for our relationship and our family? I am positive he will. I think the real problem is that I am not afraid of what he will do but of what I will do as a greedy human being. Will he for all his wonderfulness stop being enough? This is where I choose to commit myself to him and remind myself that he is not my sole source of happiness and that he will support me in all the ways I need him too. It is not his job to be my everything, but rather to support and love me through everything, and that is what helps to quiet my anxiety. I know that he will be a strong companion no matter what life sends our way.

    • Oh, I so understand… My anxiety also has a tendency to focus on any flaw with him (big or small) that might be real or even grossly exaggerated by my bad thoughts. But then I remind myself that these things come from me (or the dark thoughts from my brain) and that he has a million times more great qualities and reasons to marry him πŸ™‚ And I remind myself to tell him about those too.
      I am amazed and so grateful that great people like our SOs exist out there πŸ™‚

  11. “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.”

    I have never heard someone put this into such accurate words! My anxiety attacks usually take the form of a small argument with my fiancΓ©, followed by an incoherent mix of my logical thinking (I am just frustrated, it is probably just because I am stressed, am hungry, haven’t slept, etc.) and a recitation of EVERY SINGLE THING I HAVE EVER BEEN WORRIED ABOUT – or worse, everything I forgot to worry about that I definitely should have… What if I shave one of my eyebrows off? What if the drywall in the house cracks and the TV falls off the wall? What if my cat becomes ill? What if my cat’s spay didn’t stick and she’s pregnant? What if my fiancΓ© is just catfishing me? My upcoming nuptials (14 days, holy shit) are only making this inconvenient juxtaposition worse.

    The worst part of anxiety is the fact that you cling so precariously to reality while the rest of your mind spirals deep into the depths of worst case scenarios.

    Thank you for this — I feel far better knowing you are out there (and all of these commenters, too) and knowing that there is a light at the end of my tunnel.

    • Hugs! Good luck with your wedding, I’m sure everything will be wonderful, and even if some things don’t go according to plan, you’re still marrying your guy!

      I agree that one of the worst things about anxiety is the feeling that your sanity is slipping away while at the same time knowing you still have the capability to be sane!

      I cannot explain how happy it makes me to hear from all of you guys and hear how much we can relate to each other. I really think it helps us all to know that we’re not alone, and that all of our fears and feelings might be quite “normal” after all πŸ™‚

  12. Hi all!

    I cannot believe the amount of responses and the incredibly supportive and positive nature of all your comments, thank you all so much! It feels amazing and conforting to know you’re all out there and handling your anxiety and your lives so well, and that there truly is a good way to live with this πŸ™‚

    A small update – I have begun the process to get a referral to a therapist, but it takes some time and I first need to “prove” to my physician that I need a referral (otherwise the price is too high for me). Danish doctors are quite nice about stuff like this, so I’m hopeful. And mr. Superman is happy that I will talk to someone else, so he does not have to listen to all of it all of the time. He is very supportive of all of this.

  13. I started getting anxiety attacks when I changed birth control a few years ago. I’ve changed again since then, and I rarely get the full on attacks any more, but I can’t unsee the anxiety. I was always a worrier, but now I’m a worrier with symptoms.

    Some days it creeps up on me, like “going home to see my beau, hope my beau’s at home, he hasn’t replied to a text since lunch, what if he’s not at home, what if he’s dead, oh god why won’t he answer a damn text,” and other days it just slots itself into other things so I don’t even realise why I’m freaking out, like “counting change, counting change, here’s what the beau would look like if I got home to find him dead, counting change, counting… why is my heart racing?”

    (originally, I obsessed about us breaking up, especially that the anxiety would destroy my capacity to love him and I’d have to leave for his own good – I’m sure a lot of posters here know the “being tense because of worrying that feeling anxious can cause random freak outs over the effect that anxiety has on your life” rabbit hole – but then he had developed epilepsy, so now I mostly obsess about coming home and finding him dead)

    It took me about a month to tell him after it started, and another couple of weeks to figure out the cause, and another couple of months to work up the nerve to tell the doctor. It took about a year for the full on attacks to stop, but I still have a cycle of anxiety which is broadly hormonal (but I have PCOS, so it’s more of a wild spiral than a cycle). I usually get the stomach churning, cold sweating, heart racing symptoms first, then my brain starts looking for something to explain the feeling. We’re preparing to buy a house together, and I can feel the anxiety start to claw its way back up from the dark recesses, especially with relation to us breaking up.

    One thing that really helped when it was at its worst was this site. The whole variety of relationships on display really hammers home that there isn’t only one way to be happy. If one doesn’t work, try another. Everyone gets more than one shot at it. Nothing is insurmountable, and success doesn’t always look the way we expected it to. Sideways is as valid a direction as forward. We’re not planning to get married – buying a house is our big relationship step – but the reminder that anxiety can’t separate us on its own is really useful right now.

    • Thanks for sharing, and awesome that you’re buying a house together! In my mind, buying property can be a much bigger relationship step than marriage, so congratulations to the both of you.

      I can so completely relate to the whole anxiety spiral of doom! Worrying about worrying about anxiety etc etc… It’s so horrible that when you’ve tried it just once, it never really goes away. And I can so understand your fears about your boyfriend, it must be hard with his epilepsy. It is fantastic that you’re sharing with him (and us!) and facing your anxiety everyday by making scary decisions that might set of your anxiety, that’s true bravery in my head.

      Our anxiety has the possibility of ruling our lives and every action we make, but we can also accept its existence, accept that our brains work the way they do, and then work with it and sometimes around it so that we can still do the things that scare us and set off attacks. Anxiety always has an impact on our lives, but I get really mad if I think that I should let it rule me and ruin all the good things I want in life! I don’t have a choice about suffering from anxiety, but I have a choice in what the consequences of my anxiety can be on my life.

  14. THIS, so much. My FH and I just came back from talking to a counselor. I have some general anxiety but never this bad. I had a massive panic/anxiety attack from Saturday to Tuesday about his family arguing about suit rental vs buy for the same cost! SUITS! And all the phone calls, and conflict, and passive aggressive horribleness threw me over the edge and I couldn’t go to work yesterday cause I couldn’t stop crying. His mother called him asking if I was crazy and if this would affect our marriage. Yesterday we wrote a letter to his parents discussing boundaries and what is not acceptable and how we feel. Today I feel good.

    Funny thing was, the counselor focused more on my FH and his family situation than my anxiety episode, saying that conflict is difficult and that FMIL and FBIL are trying to control us, and we need to give ourselves down time to accept our emotions before jumping into the next phone call. We never thought of it that way, cause they are passive aggressive emotional controller and not direct and outspoken “you must do this” type. This article helped me a lot, this wedding planning is bringing out the worst in everyone and sometimes it is not your fault for being so stressed.

    I am also sick of all the people that always say to “just let it go and don’t let it get to you”, horrible thing to say to someone, it just makes me feel that much guilty -er for having anxiety attacks.

    • It is not our fault that we feel the way we feel, and “just let it go” is totally useless when dealing with anxiety! But it’s good to focus on all the outside factors that can create an attack, it makes it a little easier to remember that the stuff in our heads is not always true πŸ™‚

      Good for you and your FH that your seeing a counselor, that’s brave and a good step for dealing with this!

  15. Thank you so much for this article, my only difference is I’ve always wanted to get married, which makes this so much more confusing. I’ve lucked out with an extremely understanding man, who is so very understanding when it comes to my anxiety, so hearing this from some else who is as certain in their love as I am is so so helpful. Thank you.

    • Being certain that I love the guy really helps me through the attacks where I doubt even that, because then I can at least try to hold on to the thought that just a couple of days before the attack, I was looking forward to marrying him! It doesn’t always make the bad thoughts go away, but it gives me something to hold onto πŸ™‚ The bad thoughts are SO confusing, but the best thing we can do is to learn how to deal with them. For me that means accepting their existence (so I don’t drive myself to schizofrenia trying to “seperate” myself from my anxiety) and being able to distinguish between what is an anxiety thought, what is a normal worry-thought, and where am I in all of that. Then I can relate better to all of it together, ie. ME! πŸ™‚

  16. I only just saw this article, and it has helped me so much to feel less alone and somehow “deficient” as a bride-to-be!
    I have been engaged once before, and was dumped very suddenly, in a way that blindsided me. Having up until that point in my life managed to escape any genuine heartbreak experience (at 28, it was I who was the heartbreaker; I had been dating for thirteen years, had had numerous long-term relationships, but had never loved that deeply, and never planned before to marry), my friends were shocked and worried by the degree to which I went into many tiny pieces. It was six weeks before I ate my first bite of food, and three months before I was having anything that could be described as “meals”. It took just under two years for it to stop affecting me entirely; I just woke up in the middle of the night, one night, at the twenty-two month mark, suddenly realised I hadn’t even thought about him in weeks, and the realisation that I was finally free of the grief rocked my world with relief and gratitude.
    And now, some time and relationships later, there is A-Bomb (name changed to protect the shy). Long-time close friend, short-time lover, but we both realised within the first few months – with no prior plan on either side, in general – that this was “it” for both of us. We have been engaged a few months, now, and the wedding is just under a year away (we thought a long engagement would help reassure those friends and family who were concerned by the shortness of our courtship). And I can say honestly, I love him *even more* than I did my ex-fiance, whom at the time, and for so long after, I could never imagine loving anyone as much as. He’s perfect for me; he’s blindingly smart, snarkily funny, endlessly kind, meltingly sweet, and *he gets me*, in a way I didn’t expect ever to be gotten by anyone (I have Alexithymia, so am used to feeling like a bit of an outsider amongst humanity). I am overjoyed that someone so incredible thinks the same of me, and every day, I feel happier and more comfortable and more relaxed than I ever have *in my life* in our shared home, and in the knowledge that soon, we’ll be sworn to stand beside each other for the rest of our life.
    Except when the anxiety hits. I have had social anxiety for many years, but I have only had romantic anxiety since The Breakup[tm]. It made me make some terrible relationship choices in the partners between my ex-fiance and A-Bomb. And with A-Bomb, to be in such love, to have things feel so much righter than they ever have before for me, to be planning such a joyous commitment with such an incredible person that I cannot believe how lucky I am…*I am terrified*. The last time I loved someone anywhere near this much, I lost them and it nearly destroyed me (I was literally suicidal for the first five or so months, and then episodically for some time after). I know I can’t go through something like that again, and whenever I think of it happening, even the concept shakes me to my core. I start to physically tremble, and to sweat, and then to think myself in circles until I descend into a hysterical black-hole where that happening seems *inevitable*, and all my survival instincts are screaming at me to get out now, to protect myself. I hyperventilate, which kicks off my asthma, and I tremble, and I bawl – sometimes for hours. And for days after an episode, I feel frightened and insecure, and can be thrown back into it at the drop of a hat. Sometimes these episodes come out of nowhere – sometimes, they come in the middle of *a beautiful, romantic moment*, when I’m so happy I feel I could just burst – but most often, they’re triggered off by incredibly minor disharmony – say, a small disagreement about where the soup cans go in the pantry, or who should unload the dishwasher – that my brain then gets ahold of, and spins into this whole, “It’s only a matter of time until he stops loving you and hurts you!” delusion, and then down, down, down into the panic-hole I go (I was seeing a therapist for a while, who described it as “the closest thing to romantically-induced PSTD [she’d] ever seen”, so….yeah. :-/)
    Fortunately, one of the other things that makes A-Bomb so incredibly special is that he is unconditionally empathetic, and limitlessly patient. Because we were already close friends, and had been for years, when I went through The Breakup, he knows the history behind my trauma. When I am like this, he just wraps me up and talks me through the fear, sometimes for hours, until I eventually calm down and stop crying, and then takes extra-attentive care of my headspace for days afterwards. I feel terrible that he has to live with this, but you know what? I am slowly, the longer we’re together and the closer we get to the wedding, starting to see the panic-attacks get further and further apart, so that gives me hope that eventually, I’ll feel safe enough in my subconscious mental space where all my terror is stored, to stop having them altogether.

    But, of course, I can’t *tell* anyone, because they won’t understand that it has nothing to do with him, and has no reflection on how sure I am about our decision to marry. And since we had such a short courtship before both just feeling that it was right, my social anxiety makes me already hyper-aware of not wanting to give the doubters any fuel for their fire, whatsoever.
    It has been so helpful to read this article and to see that I’m not alone, that it’s not something uniquely wrong with me – that lots of other people go through engagement anxiety that actually has nothing to do with their partner. And for me, the sense of aloneness was a big part of the trigger, so thank you so much, OP, for this. I hope, in time, you are able to move past this anxiety you are having, and enjoy your relationship fully, without these horrible interruptions from your own brain.
    I hope we all are.

    • Thank you so much for also sharing your incredible (and very sad to begin with) story! First of all, YAY that you have found A-Bomb πŸ™‚ Everyone deserves a great person to share the good, the bad and the ugly with, and you seem to have found an awesome one.
      Secondly, I am in counselling now and I am really optimistic about it. She used to work at an anxiety clinic, so everytime I explain a feeling or thought or something I feel is crazy, she has already heard something like it before and can tell me the theory behind anxiety! We talk about theory and tools and it all makes me feel more normal, so I can stop beating myself up and asking “why me, what’s wrong with me” and “why can’t I just stop these thoughts”…
      Essentially, a lot of anxiety is our fight-or-flight response gone haywire. Our bodies/thoughts cannot distinguish between real threats and normal stuff that’s going on in our heads, and so every little thing sets off our triggers and alarms. Pretty exhausting stuff… There is no cure, but there are great ways of relating to your anxiety and to handle it much better than if “untreated”. And one way of relating is exactly this – Reaching out and talking about it and letting other people know that we are not alone or screwed up or crazy! A lot of people deal with this, and we get through it and have nice, normal lives like everyone else πŸ™‚ We just think more about our own thoughts than others probably do, but that’s not necessarily bad. We might never be 100 % sure of anything, but we are always in touch with our minds and are good at checking to see if we are okay on the inside πŸ˜‰
      So if you have good friends or family, let them know a little about this (if you are comfortable with it of course). Your anxiety attacks have nothing to do with A-Bomb, and I can tell you that it feels much better to be getting married when you stop worrying about how engaged people are *supposed* to feel and act! Not all of us are fluffy and floating on clouds, because that’s just not how we deal with life situations. And that’s completely fine too πŸ™‚ Enjoy it your own way, and forget words like “should” and “ought to”, they don’t help you.
      I truly hope you will enjoy your engagement, your wedding, but most of all your marriage πŸ™‚ Because that’s the end goal for us after all.

      • Thank you, Tess, and the very best of all happiness to you. πŸ™‚

  17. I just want to give all of you hugs – what a wonderful community on here! We’re not with each other, but we’re together. Thought I’d share another thing: I’m taking the Thursday and Friday before my Saturday wedding off and I scheduled a THERAPY APPOINTMENT. Not typical when we think of bridal prep, but it seemed like SUCH a good idea. Also remember, anxious ladies: there’s nothing you HAVE TO DO. There are something you’ll be pressured to do, and not all pressure is you, and it can be hard to access what we want (my indecisiveness blurs it out sometimes), but somewhere you know in your gut.

    Love, laughter and a good night’s rest – SW

    • That is actually a fantastic idea! I got a referral for 10-12 appointments (my doctor makes a referral and the price per session goes down to 1/3) and will make absolutely sure to have one or two left for just before the wedding πŸ™‚

  18. I may be very late to this conversation, but the relief I feel at finding this has me pretty close to tears.
    This over-thinker with PhD level Worrying Skills was only able to see an abusive relationship for what it was a year after it ended. Just as I was coming to terms with that, I became a Medical Zebra. I have… Something. This Something means my career is over, I can’t live independently, & a plethora of other Fun Stuff.
    My New Human said “I love you” for the first time a whole 4 days before the Something began.

    The combination of the pre-existing anxiety, the breakup & abuse scars, & the Something has created a very complex web of anxieties. I’m finding new things I didn’t realise were problematic all the time. I can’t pull my weight around the house. I can’t earn. Stress makes me worse. Is my Human going to be my equal party spouse, or my carer?
    Fun things like that.

    We’ve had to delay our wedding a couple of times because of my health. The planning & the inevitable backlash are reducing me to a ball of terror.

    Hearing that others have similarly vitriolic Jerk Brains… I will be revisiting this thread & unpacking the different potential solutions frequently.
    Thank you, thank you; I cannot say it enough. Thank you for being so open. Thank you for tackling this topic head-on. Thank you for being so supportive.

    Peaceful thoughts to you all.

    • There are more jerk brains out there than we all think, and it helps so much to know that neither of us are weird or “too broken to function” πŸ™‚
      Enjoy your New Human and your good times together, and then give the bad times a middle finger and just remember we are legion!

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