In the early budding stage of our relationship, my boyfriend’s sister invited me to her wedding. Upon receiving this news, I mentally responded in two ways. Firstly I was filled with elation, after all, she was betting on us being together a whole year into the future, a potentially risky move for a bride. Who wouldn’t be flattered by this gesture? The second reaction that seized me was fear, in just one day I was going to be introduced to a multitude of new faces, now that was an overwhelming thought. While my stomach nauseously somersaulted, the honour of being invited to such a special day fought to keep my worries at bay. Heck, it was more than a year away, I’d worry about ‘tomorrows’ problems then… that was my train of thought at least.
As the year unfolded, I began to learn more details. As they say, knowledge is power, depending upon what you learn of course. One leech that hooked itself onto my brain, teeth buried deep, was the fact I would be arriving alone. My boyfriend was asked to be a “bridesman”, yes, that is a male bridesmaid, a sweet tribute to a close sibling bond. When one is bestowed with such a central role, they must also take on duties and, of course, travel to the church with the fellow bridesmaids. My increasingly fretful mind went into a red alert protocol, rapidly acting to soothe itself by relaying reassurances like: “it will all be fine, surely I’ll know other guests when I arrive.”
Just as I had begun to believe these words, I further learned that all the family members I was familiar with would also be at the bride’s side, how fine and dandy? Commence the freak out. Held prisoner by dread, I thankfully confided in my boyfriend, though as it happened, I didn’t need to articulate my feelings, apparently, we already shared a telepathic link. With a sword in hand to slay my dragons, he took action, contacting the only remaining person I knew, who wouldn’t be arriving with the bride. As fortune would have it, she agreed to take me under her wing and meet me at the church entrance on the day. With my boyfriend as my lifeboat and his aunt as the welcoming lighthouse, I could finally breathe again.
Fast forward a year into the future. As the days rolled by, for the most, I managed to mute my concerns, nevertheless, it would be a lie to say I didn’t still harbour a little unease. After a year of somewhat apprehensive waiting, the day graced us and then bid farewell, just as it was always going to. When you think about it like that, time is a peculiar thing. I had spent countless moments with bitter worries playing on my internal jukebox, then, in just twelve hours, it was all over.
Are you ready for the element of surprise? Despite all my prior concerns, it was a breathtakingly beautiful day. I could give you a complete rundown of the entire day, while I am sure that would be a comical read, it would also be incredibly long-winded and I don’t think either you or I has the time for that.
To convey the struggles and triumphs of reality, I will profess, the car ride to the church was excoriating, featuring the peak of my nerves. My heart pounding rapidly; even my organs were desperately seeking to break out of my ribcage and flee. My palms sweating uncontrollably… if I had carried an inflatable lifeboat in my clutch I could have made my great escape paddling in the lake of perspiration. Nausea infected my veins, as though my body was attempting self-annihilation before I could reach my preconceived ‘imminent doom’.
As I began to realise Scotty wasn’t going to beam me up, I focused on deep breathing to maintain some level of calm and sanity. If I said the day from then on was easy-peasy lemon squeezy, I would be lying. There were several points throughout the day where the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as anxiety slyly tiptoed up behind me. Nevertheless, while my foe was in close proximity, I was able to block its cold grasp. Every time I detected its uninvited presence looming, I practised some simple techniques, which I will share with you here.
4 simple techniques to deal with anxiety
Before you continue, please bear in mind, what helped me may not work the same for you. I believe we all discover what works for us in our own time and our own unique ways, but if you don’t know where to begin and you are looking for inspiration these are always worth trying:
Support (let people know how you’re feeling)
From the word go, Joel was there for me, even when he was not physically at my side, arrangements were put in place to prevent me from drowning in the sea of unknown faces. As soon as he could, he was there to hold my hand, to give me a comforting squeeze and remind me how well I was doing. Just as he always does, he kept me afloat, fought the monsters with me when needed, and brought back the sunshine and laughter. Remember, you don’t need to face your anxiety alone, talk to people, they want to help you.
‘Security Blankets’ (whatever makes you feel confident and comfortable)
While support is always important, I wanted something that empowered me, a simple thing to tackle my anxieties and give me a boost. Queue my beautiful dress, since I knew I was going to be arriving alone I wanted to feel genuinely good about myself. This was not about vanity and superficial power, I wanted to exude quiet confidence inwardly, as well as externally. The feel-good factor was the fortified foundation that kept me feeling strong all day long. Find what makes you happy and secure, let it give you that positive power.
Taking A Step Outside (metaphorically and literally)
When I felt that situations were getting too intense, or as though I was socially suffocating within the continuous crowds, I simply politely removed myself from the circumstances. Taking a step back was like an oxygen mask, it allowed me to regain my breath and re-establish my strength. Fortuitously, the reception was held at a barn with grand green grounds. Whether it is woodlands, meadows, fields, absolutely anything green is automatically my happy place and a safe haven for me. Not only was it an opportunity to soak up the sun rays, inhale the fresh air and admire the plethora of vibrant flowers, it was the perfect means to a little space. It is ok to take a break, you are not being unsociable, after having recuperated you’ll be able to mingle better anyway.
Mantras and Affirmations (what you tell yourself matters)
Throughout the day I purposely made it a habit to mentally recite the reasons why I was at the wedding. I could answer that question with several answers: I was honoured to be invited to someone’s special day, it was a chance to meet and get closer to Joel’s family, it was an important day that Joel wanted to share with me, but I was also there for me. I wanted to prove to myself that I can do anything I want to do. I refused to let my anxiety stop me having fun and being a part of beautiful memories, I wanted to be victorious and overcome my fears. I let these motivating words become the logs to fuel my inner fire. Allow your thoughts to inspire and motivate you, it will help in all aspects of your life.
As my tale draws to a close, if you’re going to take anything away from this story, remember nothing is impossible. Feeling social anxious does not have to prevent you from doing the things that secretly excite you, as well as scare you. Anxiety cannot deprive you, if you play around and discover what techniques work for you. Once you have begun to fill your self-help toolkit, practise using these tools in challenging situations. Take it from someone who knows, situations may look challenging or initially daunting, but as long as you are prepared with your toolkit, you can combat anything. Afterall, there is always some fun and happiness to be found, life is too short not to enjoy. What began with the car ride to obliteration turned out to be an absolutely fabulous day. I danced the night away; I walked barefoot across glorious grounds; I twirled in the-dress-of-dreams; I met lots of new people and most importantly, I smiled not only out of happiness but accomplishment.
So dear reader, load up your toolkit, pick up your sword and slay those dragons too… I know you can do it!
Alice remains true to her name; she is sincerely an inhabitant of Wonderland. A born extroverted introvert, Alice always desired to fully experience the world and live fully. Yet, she didn’t feel like she fit within society and spent years retreating into her own bubble. But escaping into ‘Wonderland’ wasn’t the nirvana it may seem and Alice became further isolated and reclusive, feeling as though she were existing rather than actually living. Upon realising how unhappy she was, Alice took positive steps to change her approach to life, eventually finding adventure, companionship and joy. With the aspiration to write and help people, Alice wants to share her experiences to inspire; comfort and support people… or at least just entertain them!