Since we are now technically in Saturday (GMT 0.00), it is official. I am getting married exactly two weeks from today.
This is a big step for most people, myself included. Mike and I have been together for eight years, will be nine in April 2013. I don’t need to detail the obstacles and adversity we’ve dealt with both individually and together. All I will say is that we are pretty much very sure that we want to be together and as long as we still love each other, we will survive anything.
Considering that when we became an ‘official’ couple we both swore against marriage, it is actually an extremely big deal that we’re having a wedding ceremony. The truthful, and obvious, explanation is we’ve grown a lot together and our feelings about what it means to be committed have evolved. No religion involved, just a simple civil ceremony with our loved ones. A day that is about our relationship and where it is at. Looking towards the future, based on the decision we’ve made to move on from our painful pasts and become stronger. Together.
So many people warned me that planning a wedding was trying. They warned me that it would test our relationship to the extreme and we would question whether we were doing the right thing. They were right about the trying part. But for the most part, we have embraced this new and frightening stress as a unit. He didn’t know about my history with clinical depression when we met, but he does now and this has always been a defining aspect of our strength. In my Time to Change Blog, I put a lot of emphasis on the importance of a good support network. This stands now more than ever.
What I am trying to say is that the dreadfully droll cliche of people showing their strength in hot water like teabags is actually true. I’ve been accused of a lot of things that can be put down to my clinical depression (my actual diagnosis in 2006 was severe clinical depression) and general anxiety disorder. But these are diagnosed illnesses that I am undergoing treatment for and it’s normal to be dealing with elevated stress given we are planning a get together for around 100 people. Selfish is a word that irks me a great deal. I say, here and now without hope or wanting, I dislike myself. To me, I am weak, paranoid, neurotic and obsessive. Coincidentally these can also be listed as characteristics of a person with the aforementioned conditions. Luckily, I am aware of this and take comfort in the fact that treatment will help me overcome these traits, as I know I have not always been this way. To take an active interest in wanting to overcome these demons, yes, is selfish. I want to be a better person, for myself. I want to like myself. For the most part, I’ve been encouraged to pursue this. For another, smaller part I have come against some of the most hurtful responses imaginable.
The root of this is unimportant. What’s important are the questions that I am being forced to ask myself as part of therapy. “So what if that did happen?” and “What is the worst possible outcome?”. It all comes back to recovery and the bottom line is I need to like who I am before I can expect others to do the same. I’ve over-compensated hugely in recent years. Throwing my time, heart, mind, body, soul and even money at those I care about in effort to ensure they feel important, because I am terrified that given long enough, they’ll look at me and see what I see – a broken half-woman with few redeeming qualities. It’s not self pity, I don’t want anyone to tell me I am worth their time. I don’t want VALIDATION (that one’s for you, Alex). All I want from those I love is patience. I’m working to be a better person, to become what I consider to be a woman. Part of that was accepting that our wedding is about two people. Myself and my partner. One day, that is truly about two individuals. One day where we can be forgiven for being completely self-absorbed. For a while, I became SO concerned about other people enjoying the day, I almost forgot why I am getting married in the first place. Love and acceptance.
I am open about my experience with mental illness because I do not believe it deserves a stigma, good or bad. I don’t think that those speaking out about it deserve a bravery medal, but they should be respected, mainly because of the adversity that is usually faced. Mental illness isn’t a get out of jail free card, either. I know where my feet fall and I know when they slide over a line that shouldn’t be crossed. But there are things that genuinely can be put down to the way I process things in my head. I know it happens, it happens just as naturally and simply as you would pull your hand away from boiling water. A reflex, if you will. My reflex about our wedding was “Make sure everybody else is happy with the day and what’s happening. Other people must enjoy themselves”. Of course that’s a big part of sharing the ‘big’ day with people. But if my partner and I aren’t happy on the same level, then what’s the point? I could write another couple of paragraphs about external stresses that are completely unrelated to wedding planning, but the bottom line is I feel that we are entitled to a completely self-absorbed day with our names, entwined, in flashing lights. Metaphorically of course, neon signs are fucking expensive. This doesn’t mean my opinion of myself has changed entirely. It means I am trying to find out who I could be when my demons are put to rest.
Please remember that.