*Anna & Bean*
I don’t know about you, but this time of year is always both really joyful and kind of hard for me. I relish getting to spend quality time with Michael and our families, and I cherish the traditions that we partake in each year (and the ones we’re building ourselves). But it’s also the time of year when I start to feel the pressure mounting: projects that aren’t completing themselves, the end of the year looming, and a push to be the best version of myself around the people I love. So for this short week (it’s Thanksgiving here in the States) we thought maybe we’d take the opportunity to talk a little about valuing ourselves for who we are in this moment, and perhaps more importantly, finding joy therein.
First up is Anna, who you may remember as Anna and the Ring, the lady with style for days who married a man fondly known as Bean and who now shares her wedding wisdom over here. But today Anna is taking a break from all of that to share an honest perspective of what it means to plan a wedding while battling serious depression. I don’t have any personal experience to draw on for this post, but suffice to say, thank you Anna for allowing us to have this conversation here. Because as Robin of HitchDied once said in her own post about planning a wedding while battling depression, “We’re all worse off if we suffer silently and alone.” So now, accordingly, I’ll leave you to Anna.
—Maddie for Maternity Leave
I want to say I got married and now things are good. However, I guess that would be a lie.
Maybe I should just tell it like it was. How I got married despite being overwhelmingly clinically depressed but was still actually happy.
Bean and I met eleven years ago in our university halls, and despite “meeting” him over a game of spin the bottle, I think I knew I wanted to marry him within a month. One could say it was youthful exuberance and a desire to be loved, but Bean and I just clicked. Fast-forward seven years later, I was a doctor and I was diagnosed with depression. Not that I accepted it, of course; depression is something the soldiers suffer from, not the generals. I thought (and to some extent still think) I should be tougher. I’m a relatively clever woman; I shouldn’t let myself succumb. (Though I think I am finally realising that it is no different from a broken limb or Alzheimer’s dementia—it’s not my fault.)
Two years into my diagnosed depression, Bean proposed. Honestly, I was so just relieved. Happy (whatever that means), but relieved. My friends, who were in far shorter relationships than me, were getting engaged like flies. (Who doesn’t love a mixed metaphor?) It was obvious to everyone including us that we would get married. I just wanted it to happen already. And get married we did. Being the centre of attention was hideous but deliciously fleeting. It snowed, and in the UK we are just not prepared for snow. It meant we almost didn’t get married and it did mean that some of my closest friends and family couldn’t make it. But almost two years on we are still married and dare I say it, happy with each other. Not happy with life, oh no, life is a b*tch right now, but we have each other and that is good.
Here comes the less than rosy bit: Depression.
I want people to know that depression can be all consuming but then there are the glimmers of hope. Sure, I’ll admit there was a fair bit of crying, oft with no reason, but I did laugh too. Bean is wonderful and witty and I could go for weeks without seeing another soul. However the tears and the smiles were only specks of a mood, blips in a timeline of nothingness. A fog which was all encompassing. A numbness that wouldn’t let me feel anything when it was at its most anaethetising. So callous a disease. I withdrew; I withdrew from my friends, my family, my life, my job, and more importantly, Bean. I became a shell. A shell which was completely devoid of joy, the shell that became my home for the next few years. A shell that is only now beginning to bloom again, very slowly.
Yet perhaps more harrowingly, throughout this time I had powerful controlling thoughts about suicide. I was isolated with continual thoughts of suicide and at the same time pretending I was fine. I was exhausted. So how could I enjoy my wedding whilst such thoughts were so potent? Part of what I want to say is that there comes a point where you do find your wedding zen. Honestly. The zen found the power within me to overcome my depression for just a few short hours, but they were some of the sweetest hours because of it. For me, despite the snowy issues leading to relative chaos and many of my friends still four hundred miles away, it was when I stood at the bottom of the stairs about to meet my almost-husband. Oh and I breathed in every second. The carefully orchestrated moment you may have predicted may not be there. There may be empty chairs and people missing but you don’t see that. What you see is your almost-spouse standing there, waiting for you. There is no one else at that moment. Just the two of you. It is magical.
What I want to say is that even if you are depressed you are still allowed moments of joy. You don’t have to fear them. I did. I didn’t want to fully embrace them because I felt people would judge me and say I couldn’t really be ill. I want to say that your depression can be all encompassing and pervasive, but situational happiness is possible. You are so loved—why else would you be getting married? (Although that’s a tale for another day perhaps?) So embrace that moment of pure love when you say, “I do,” or whatever words are right for you. It means you have a future despite your past. If you are judged, then let them judge. They are wrong. You are allowed the joy.
This is for those who love those with mental illness. I don’t talk that much about my depression to Bean. It’s not that we ignore it, it’s not the elephant in the room. It is certainly not a reflection of how little I care. It is in fact because I adore him so very much that I wish to spare him the horror of my darkness. So if your loved one wants to talk, try and be a listening ear, but if they don’t want to share with you, make sure they are sharing with someone professional. They need to know they are not alone and you can help them realise that reality.
For me, life is probably harder than it was meant to be, but it is getting better. I have love and that means almost everything, doesn’t it?
Photos by: Emma Case Photography