BALANCING THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF MAJOR LIFE CHANGES

Oh my god – I’m engaged!

The man I love so much proposed on our dream holiday to Malta with the most perfect yellow diamond ring. I didn’t stop smiling the entire day, or the day after. A few days later, it was time to head home – and that’s where the problems started.

Let’s be honest, it’s no secret that I work hard to keep my anxiety at bay, but I thought it might give me a break for the time being (how wrong I was).

Pre-proposal, I wrote a blog post for Scottish Wedding Directory on how important it is to look after your mental health when planning a wedding. I actually wrote the words, ‘if you had a broken leg and got engaged, you wouldn’t wake up the next morning with your leg miraculously fixed’, yet I totally didn’t expect my anxiety to hit full-force just a matter of days after the happiest day of my life. As if getting engaged was going to just magic all negative thoughts away forever.

I write about weddings every day (for work, not just like some sort of wedding-loving lunatic), I excitedly chip in with advice to my friends on their wedding planning and I’ve always dreamed of getting engaged one day, so what the hell is wrong with me?

The day after we got back from Malta, I couldn’t shake the feeling of unease. Of frustration, anger and sadness. Not at being engaged, but at my anxiety for not understanding that this is meant to be a time of happiness, celebration and all things joyful – not doubting everything in my life.

By Friday evening, I got a migraine whilst I was out for a celebratory dinner. Heading to my bed, I couldn’t help but cry. And then I cried a bit more. Then I woke up on Saturday and it was as if I wasn’t ever going to stop crying. Sobbing on FaceTime to my new fiancé, then came the guilt. I don’t deserve him. I’m ungrateful. We can’t get married. If I can’t be happy during this happy time, I’m never going to be happy. The more negative thoughts that popped in my head, the more the tears came.

I did what anyone does when they’re in the middle of a crisis: I Googled. And I found so many other people who were the exact same as me. I felt relieved. So me and Brian don’t need to split up and call off the engagement. It’s actually just a really emotional time. But why does no one ever speak about this? I thought – and still think to a certain extent – that I’m a horrible person for not skipping around in some sort of fairytale, but is this just something everyone gets and keeps quiet about?

I had never really thought before how hard it can be to accept a life change for the better. I’m a daughter, sister, friend, writer, blogger, girlfriend – I’ve never been a bride-to-be before. Suddenly, everything feels so real. So grown up. Like everything has changed and, even though I wanted this, it’s surprised me how utterly overwhelmed I feel.

The last time something this life-changing happened was that fateful day, just over three and a half years ago, when I found out my amazing dad had died. When Brian asked me to marry him, I felt the shock hit me like it did that day in January 2015. Isn’t it weird, how your brain reacts to the happiest and the worst news in a similar way? I guess I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was that feeling once again of ‘things are never going to be the same’. Of course, getting engaged is a pretty great thing, but my anxious nature has led to a horrible confusion. Fear is what fuels the anxiety and, unfortunately, my poor brain has experienced so much fear that I don’t think it knows what to do with so much happiness so it reacted in the only way it knows how and that is to try and run and distance myself from what’s causing me the intense fear. Not really ideal when you’re meant to be a smiling bride-to-be whose dreams have all just come true.

I should probably also mention, the day before we got engaged, we also finally got the news that we were waiting on: a move in date for our house. Again, something I’m so excited for, but also a massive change and all in the space of two weeks. Without my dad, everything is bittersweet. It’s time for Brian and I to have our own home, but leaving my mum is one of the hardest parts. Leaving my childhood home for the first time hasn’t really sunk in yet. Not having my dad to help with all the dad things hurts more than I can say. He’d have been there, winding me up about the amount of clothes I was having to pack up and telling me DIY tricks that I would never, ever remember. I know how proud he would be of Brian and I. I know how happy he would be, but that doesn’t take away from that heart-wrenching pain that he’s missing this. Two of the biggest life milestones I’ll ever experience and he’s not there. Some days I can handle that, but others it just feels as raw as when we first found out he was gone.

Today is the first day since we got back that I’ve been able to start looking at the positive future. There’s so much pressure on us to be ‘happy’, but what exactly is happy? How can you truly measure it? I was really honest about how crap I felt on Instagram stories over the weekend and the response was so surprising to me. So many people feeling the same and it made me realise how much emphasis is put on everyone to be happy, be positive and have the best. time. ever.

I wanted to write this for any person, especially any fellow bride-to-be, who is freaking out that you aren’t happy enough following something amazing happening in your life. A few days after I got engaged, a major blogger also posted that she too had said ‘yes’ to the ring and it looked like she was legit the happiest person there ever was. It made me feel even more of a fianceé failure. It was weird to then look back on my own social posts from just after Brian proposed to see that, to the Instagram world, I too was the happiest I’ve ever been, with not a hint of the panic or anxiety I came to face. It really shows that, no matter what is posted on social media, you never really know the full story – you just see the good bits.

I’ve spoken a lot to those closest to me about how I’ve felt this week and it’s made me realise that, actually, this is all incredibly normal. It’s taken me a few days to digest, but I’m starting to rise to the surface again and see that my happiness doesn’t need to be all-singing, all-dancing to be happy. The day I got engaged was an incredibly high, high, but that’s not going to be real life every single day, but it wouldn’t be ‘normal’ if that was life every single day.

One thing I’ve taken away from all my highs and lows is the constant that is always there – the support. Along with my friends and family, it’s Brian who pulls me through the hardest days. It’s him who, no matter how hard everything seems, manages to get a laugh out of me. I showed him this post, which I had originally wrote just for myself to get my thoughts in order, and he told me to post it, in case it could help anyone else. It’s a new chapter for us after some really tough years and, although it is overwhelming, I couldn’t have a more supportive person by my side.

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1 Comment

  1. Yasmin
    August 31, 2018 / 8:24 am

    Rachel, I’m so incredibly proud of you for writing this post! It’s so real and moving and I’m sure will touch a lot of people. xx

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