Anna & Bean

*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

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  • Awesome, awesome post, and I am sending you massive hugs from the states. Depression can be so isolating, and there’s so much pressure to act “correctly” around big events like weddings. Way to let yourself be joyous amid despair (since lord knows that’s when you need it most.)

    I will say from my own experience that when one member of a couple is struggling with mental illness, it affects both, no matter how much we wish we could “protect” our partners from what goes on inside our heads. If he’s not already, it might be helpful for Bean to see a therapist, at least every once in a while, to learn how to be a partner to all of you, not just your happy bits. (Okay, happy bits sounds like I mean your na-na, but you know what I mean.) It’s really fucking hard sometimes to be depressed, and it’s really fucking hard sometimes to be the partner of a depressed person. But you get through it, and you love each other, and you make a life. So, pretty much like everyone else, really.

    I wish you both much luck and love on your journey.

    • Thank you, it’s definitely something I will mention to Bean. He is incredibly understanding but it certainly wouldn’t hurt for him to know more. Ax

      • Kim

        A lovely and honest post, but I do agree with Meigh. A friend of mine suffers with depression and one thing her husband said to me a few years ago is that people do forget that he’s going through it too and could sometimes do with some support. Big hugs x

  • What an absolutely stunning wedding dress! I am incredibly fussy with wedding dresses but this one is so beautiful and it really suits your shape and has such a classic vintage look.

    Your writing style is so eloquent. I am planning a wedding myself whilst recovering from debilitating depression that has taken over my life since my early teens and your story reeks of bravery and strength.

    I wish you the happiest of marriages.

  • Karen

    Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. And for the reminder that joy and happiness are allowed. We have a right to happiness, even when depressed. I wish you peace for your journey.

  • Dear Anna,
    Congratulations on writing a beautiful, well-written, brave and true post. I applaud you for speaking so eloquently about the complicated emotions that surround us not only during weddings and celebrations, but throughout our lives. Thank you for having the courage to share about living with depression, and for reminding everyone that depression is an illness, and those who suffer are not at fault.

    Sending you many blessings and hugs as you continue on your journey.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful wedding day photos and wise words.

  • Celesta

    Anna, thank you so much for this post. It gives me hope. I am in the pre-engaged state with someone that battles with panic attacks/anxiety and the resulting depression. And suffice it to say, it is HARD. For him especially; for both of us. But it helps to know that there are people out there that are brave enough to write about their experiences and know that you’re not alone.

    You look so happy and beautiful in your photos. And you deserve that.

    Thank you Anna.

    • Snap! It always seems so much harder to talk about the anxiety for me. I want to talk about it more because it can be so overwhelming.

      • Celesta

        Anna, I can understand that (having gone through some depression myself, tho not in any measure that can compare), but, for me at least, talking about it gives it less power over me. So I applaud you. And send you hugs. :o)

    • Elissa

      Celesta, I’m in a similar situation to you. My partner has panic attacks and anxiety, and is extremely anxious about getting engaged. The wedding and kids bit further down the track is all sorted, but we’re stuck at “getting engaged”. It’s very hard for him, but I’ve found it incredibly frustrating and distressing for me too. I guess I just wanted to say you’re not alone (yay, I’m not alone!), and make sure you’re look after yourself too :)

      And Anna, thanks for telling your story – we need these stories out there, to help people who haven’t experienced depression/mental illness to understand what it’s like – some of my worst times during my depression were because of people who just didn’t understand.

      • Celesta

        Elissa, thank you so much! We are not alone! My partner isn’t afraid at all of getting engaged, but does have a fear of having children in the future because he’s afraid that he will pass his condition on to our children… my fear in that aspect is that our children will grow up in an unstable environment. But that can’t be something that we will know for sure until it happens. And if/when it does, we will work thru it, just like we have everything else. In the moment, when we’re discussing these issues, it is extremely distressing. But it all boils down to making the choice to love that person no matter what.

        Take care of yourself, Elissa. :o)

  • Copper

    This was so perfectly timed. I just got engaged last week, and found myself at the bookstore yesterday purchasing one wedding magazine (the only one that looked useful and practical, not one of the big glossy wedding porn ones), and one fat book on self-esteem. And I was afraid that the store clerk would judge me and think I shouldn’t be getting married if I also needed self-help books. Seriously, who the frack cares about what the store clerk thinks of me?! I just wanted to say that I can relate to your fear of letting yourself feel the joy, and it’s a comfort to hear from others who are trying to piece themselves together while also beginning this new adventure with their partner. Thank you.

    • Laura

      I just wanted to reply and say that I work in a library and I have seen people take out some eyebrow-raising combinations of books: a book on how to finding a spouse alongside a book on getting divorced; a guide for newly diagnosed diabetics accompanied by a cupcake cookbook. But the way I see it, I don’t know the person’s circumstances and even if I did, what business is it of mine? You know best the circumstances of your life, and your coping mechanisms are your own. :)

      • Cleo

        This sounds like a game my friends and I like to play on road trips: weirdest combination of two items to purchase at the grocery store.

        Example: Oysters and powdered sugar

      • Ceebee

        Errrr to find a spouse after getting a divorce?
        A last sweet supper before going on the full diabetic diet?
        Or a cook book to occasionally surprise your non diabetic sweetheart on Sunday for having gone through the whole diabetic diet with you 6 days a week.

    • Cass

      “…who are trying to piece themselves together while also beginning this new adventure with their partner” – THIS! Thank you for finally putting words on how I’ve been feeling about the last whirlwind year of getting engaged, moving, moving again, wedding planning, fulltime school, all while try to piece myself back together after a devastating second half to the year last year. But the best of it? Togther (my partner and I) are piecing together the life that we both want, and are getting ready for our next adventure. Hard as that may be, its one of the best things that I’ve ever done. Also wanted to pop in and say congrats on your engagement and best wishes to you on your new adventure!

    • Dawn

      Ha, my method of dealing with most stress/depression/personal issues is to research the hell out of it — a couple years ago when I was dealing with a really horrible bout of depression I went to the library and checked out close to 30 books from the library all on depression, anxiety, panic attack, antidepressants, coping with stress, etc. I basically cleared the shelves in those sections. Then I went to another branch of the library and did the same thing. Only when I got home and saw my bounty of books all stacked on the coffee table did it occur to me to think what the librarians thought of me.

      • Copper

        I love it. And the difference in our reactions perfectly illustrates that my core issue is self-esteem. That’ll make for fun wedding photos and dress shopping, sure.

        • Dawn

          Oh trust me, I spent way too much time staring at the pile of books wondering what was so wrong with me that I needed so much help to just function as a human being (starting that game of why am I so messed up that I need 50-60 books just to function). Going into hyper-research mode is my way of convincing myself that I have more control than I probably really actually have.

          And I hear you on the wedding photos and dress shopping. If my guy and I ever do get married we’ll be able to save lots of money on photography because I hate pictures of myself and I’m already starting to worry about dress shopping as I almost never dress up and have that problem where I feel like I’m being judged if I try too hard in terms of my clothes and hair and make up — if that makes any sense? Like oh why is she trying so hard to look nice when she just looks awkward.

          Ha, how messed up is it that I’m seriously already worrying about the details of a wedding that we’re not even planning. I’m pre-stressing about my pre-engagement.

          • KH_Tas

            Well, you’re certainly not alone. I’m pre-engaged as well and I’m already trying to figure out ways around my hatred of photos of myself, and lack of desire to fork out thousands for them. I’m not looking forward to dress shopping either, but part of that is that I am a good enough seamstress to know when I’m being ripped off, but not good enough to make my own wedding dress. (The remainder is low self esteem).

    • Alexandra

      I see your Self-Help books and Wedding Magazine, and raise you this: A Practical Wedding (the book) purchased with “The 5 Languages of Love”, found under the “Relationship self-help” section. I still wonder what that clerk thought of me. But hey, let the clerks think what they like. They’ll have great stories when they talk to friends later.

      And congratulations!

      • meg

        That actually sounds like a smart combination of books (and not because one of them was mine). But if we all bought relationship strengthening books with our wedding books, the world might be a wiser place, eh?

        • Alexandra

          Oh yes, it was a brilliant combination of books (I was buying 5 languages of Love because someone in the comments here recommended it even). But I was just picturing an outsider watching me stand in the “Relationship Self-Help” section with wedding books, thinking I was deluding myself into believing marriage would save a poor relationship or something along those lines.

          • Lynn

            This reminds me that my husband and I need to get back to our Five Love Languages Daily Devotional. *sigh* After the new year. We were really good about it during the four months before we got married. And then we fell off the wagon. We got back on it but then slid off again. It was helpful when we were taking the couple of minutes each day to talk about the topics raised. We just seemingly got busy…although “busy” really just means “football season”.

    • That’s what keeps me going. Knowing that I (probably) have a future with Bean.

  • Amanda

    Thank you for sharing your story. It takes a lot of bravery to be so honest. Thank you!

    As a side note, where did you get those beautiful bridesmaid dresses?

  • Big big hugs lady. I admire your strength and openness. Xoxo

  • Oh, my. Thank you for this. Although I’ve never been on your side of this, I have been on the other side. My wife has struggled with depression and anxiety for most of her life, and it’s been a hard road. But nonetheless– congratulations, on your gorgeous, joyous wedding and for soldiering on.

    • We keep on going just like you. It’s hard but our partners make it worth it.

      • Ceebee

        Knowing that it is the depression throwing you out of whack, not your real self throwing a wrench around… Is already half the struggle won.
        When you know it’s depression, you get treatment, you look in its face.
        It’s when you don’t know where these stray weepy tears come from that rip you apart, and makes it so much harder for the partners to handle alone because they don’t know what’s wrong too.

  • Laura

    This post was very beautifully written. As someone who has struggled with depression several times in my life, I honestly think the worst part is telling people. Just because they act so strangely afterward, and they react so strangely to YOUR reactions. And you start to second-guess your every emotion. Argh.

    I was so moved by the beauty and eloquence of your post. You were an absolutely beautiful bride and I am now going to go read all your other posts.

    • Copper

      That is the downward spiral right there, when we start second-guessing how we feel. Once you don’t trust your own perceptions or interpretations of things, every little interaction just gets so difficult.

    • Yes to this. I lost a few friends because tjey just wouldn’t believe in depression (although I guess that’s doctors for you!)

      I do find it hard to make friends. Perhaps I never really will?

      • KEA1

        You will make friends. And you deserve them: people who enrich your life, rather than drain the life right out of you; people who can see your light but acknowledge the clouds when that’s the reality; people who can see who you are and where you are on your path. I am so grateful to you for your post, and I wish for the road ahead to include good people to bring into your circle. And, of course, for the road ahead to bring you some peace and light. LOTS of good wishes to you and Bean!

      • Diane

        Hahaha, you need friends who are psychiatrists! Then you can at least join in the b&*@h sessions about the doctors who don’t believe that mental illness is real. ‘Cause of course people really WANT to be depressed, schizophrenic, etc. Doctors can be such smug bastards (disclaimer: I AM a doctor).

      • Laura

        It’s too bad that people are so poorly educated about depression. There’s a really great series of commercials about depression on in Quebec now, where I live. They’re in French, but they translate to something like:

        “When your coworker gets cancer, you don’t say, ‘He’s just doing it for the extra vacation time.’

        “So why do you say that when your coworker gets clinical depression? Depression is a real illness.”

        The first time I saw those, I wanted to cheer.

      • Sam

        Me too on the friends thing! I beat myself up pretty regularly for not being able to make friends. It seems like you get past that mid-twenties mark and that adage ‘all the good ones are taken’ seems to apply to friends too. Everyone has their tight groups and breaking in seems impossible. Plus, almost nothing about our society makes it easier (read cell phones, facebook, cars) to truly connect with people. But I try to just make tiny steps. Tiny inroads with people I think I could connect with. I keep telling myself it will come. Eventually. But then I get impatient and wonder what on earth is wrong with me that these people won’t be my friend! And the cycle begins again… At least we have our partners to bring us up.

        Thank you for the post and for shedding light on this all too often hidden subject.

  • Thank you for writing this. Mental illness is hard. As someone who’s currently trying to simultaneously finish planning our wedding and writing my thesis with a panic disorder, I found myself nodding along with so much of this- the attempts to protect my partner from the very illogical, confusing, and frustrating things going on in my own mind, the overwhelming feeling of being overwhelmed, and the struggles to come to grips with the fact that I can be overjoyed and perhaps even in some semblance of normal one day before tumbling into terror and despair the next. Your post is so filled with hope- a reminder that things do get better and that even in the midst of this it is possible for a wedding to be full of true joy. Thank you for sharing your journey so openly and eloquently.

    • Just keep going. It’s hard but you’ll get there.

    • AnnDee

      This was me a year ago. Planning a wedding, finishing a thesis I thought would never end, fighting off the depressions and panic attacks, flailing around and feeling so lost and overwhelmed. A year down the track my marriage goes from strength to strength, we had a beautiful wedding, and my Thesis Of Doom? Has one final round of revisions and then I’ll be awarded my doctorate. I’ll always be dealing with my internal darknesses, but I’ve managed to push through them, and so can you!

      • KH_Tas


  • S

    First off, that first photo and last photo (and even the in between ones) ARE FABULOUS.

    I suffer from depression and anxiety and sometimes forget other people do too. Thank you for sharing. It’s a good reminder that we’re not alone.

    • That’s the worst part, the isolation. You feel like you are crazy because you should be fine.

      Group therapy was the weirdest but also the best thing I ever did.

  • Pingback: Did I have “A Practical Wedding”?()

  • KateM

    I wish I had half your style, amazing wedding love the pictures. The wraps for you and the bridesmaid are STUNNING. I need to wear feathers right now.
    Secondly, I completely teared up through the whole post. You know that song, “life ain’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful life”? That is what this post made me think of. Neither my partner nor I suffer from depression or mental illness, but the moments of happiness when things are HARD, and the underlying peace from being with your partner are applicable to all of us. The “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” really strike home more some days than others. Thank you also for the glimpse into living with depression.

  • Genevieve

    This post is really beautiful.

  • Liz

    Lovely post, Anna. xo

  • Hannah

    Oh, Anna. I don’t have much to say, but my heart goes out to you. May your support system grow stronger by the day.

  • sarahmrose

    Beautiful post. It’s so important to remember that there can be happiness and joy in the midst of struggle, and that we DESERVE it.

    I especially loved this part: ” 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.”

    This is where we have been in one sense or another for the past year, and I find it hard to explain to my family. I got married a year ago at 20, and I’m always a little defensive about trying to say, “Life is hard and sometimes sucks, but my marriage is still good,” because people (mostly older ones) tend to be skeptical of my choice because of my age.

    I’m happy for you that you’ve found a good thing, even if a lot of the rest is still tough.

  • Genevieve

    Also — is that really an AXE in one of your photos? Elaborate, please…. :)

  • Class of 1980

    Oh, my ex was/is chronically depressed. And suicidal at different points in his life.

    It is dark and happiness is just a fleeting thing for him. I wish to God that there was a cure.

  • I’m a long-time reader and always overwhelmed by the amazing women of APW, but I simply had to speak up and say thank you, Anna. Thank you for digging so deep into yourself and sharing the reality of joy co-mingled with sadness, and giving hope to those of us who are struggling, as individuals or partners, with depression. Knowing that someone else (and so many someone elses, really!) has experienced the strange sensation of numbing grief and simultaneously giggling is such a wonderful relief.

  • Thank you for sharing this. Depression can be such a blanket – something that covers and smothers, but also something comforting because that non-feeling of it becomes a normal for the person inside of it. Allowing yourself to feel the moments of joy, can be so scary because you worry about how others judge you as the author points out, sure. But also because if you allow yourself to feel that joy, what pain will come with it? How will you deal without the joy when it’s over? Allowing oneself to feel is sometimes the bravest thing a person can do. I would agree that for those big moments, for those little moments, for those any moments where something makes you laugh, something makes you cry, something makes you feel outside of the anesthetic, it’s worth it. It’s scary and hard, but everyone deserves to feel however they feel, when they feel it.
    Thank you for shedding light on a much misunderstood, and unspoken plight that happens to so many people – including those getting married.

  • Becca

    I don’t suffer from depression, but I have major issues with anxiety, and I’ve been dealing with a terrible onslaught of the stuff for the last six months or so – while planning for a wedding, which is supposed to be a very happy time for me. I don’t have much to add except to thank you for this post, I really needed to read it.

    • Anxiety always seems to be hidden away, perhaps even more shameful than depression. Just finding someone that understands is half the battle.

  • Margi

    Thank you for your brave post. I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety for what feels like has been my whole life, but it has really consumed my life in the last few years. I’m seeing a therapist and trying to get bettter, but it really feels like my life is on hold and that I am never going to get better. Thank you for your inspiring post!

    • I feel that too. Not working is the hardest for me.

      5 years on (and probably being unwell for a good few years before that) it feels like an eternity.

      We will get there.

  • Trisha

    Beautifully written Anna. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Leanne

    I thought this was beautiful. As the partner on the other side of the depression, I absolutely appreciate your candor. And I also know that there can be moments of joy in all the darkness.

  • ItsyBitsy

    Anna, thank you so very much for this post. Beautiful, honest, eloquent, brave. It is so amazing to hear someone so courageous as to talk about the awfulness of depression as well as the (seemingly contradictory) experience of moments of happiness and joy. It’s all very real. I remember once trying to explain to someone that it was like being a lump of coal- I could paint myself orange for an hour or so, and I would really *be* bright orange, but in the end the paint would fleck away and it was back to being cold, dark coal.

    In any case, I’m so glad for you that you have Bean and people who clearly love you. I wish you the absolute best in your journey to health and clearer skies.

  • Thank you all so much for your lovely comments.

    I’m not better yet and my outlook isn’t that rosy but today I feel happy and that, for me, is a huge achievement.

  • Jana

    Thank you so much. I think I may have depression (but haven’t gotten it diagnosed. I tried once, but the doctor was rude and told me off and I’m too scared to go to an another doctor to be referred to).

    Your story inspires me. I need to understand that I’m allowed to be happy. And people with any illness can be happy. Thank you so much.


  • Sara

    I know I’m 6 months late to this party, but I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear (see?) what I feel in my heart laid out on the page. I feel braver facing this just knowing I’m not alone.

    Thanks guys, and especially Anna.

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