Category Archives: Anxiety

What I Learned From Dress Fitting Stress

[This is a post that is going to talk about weight, specifically me worrying about my weight and body size even though I am a thin person. So you might not want to read this if you struggle with disordered eating or body image problems or even if weight talk just makes your eyes roll. But it does have a happy ending.]

I bought my wedding dress in August. It fit snugly when I bought it. I weighed myself and I took my measurements and I said, “Self, if you are bigger than this, your dress won’t fit.”

Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for neurotic disaster? It was, and I wish I’d never done it.

Do you want some overly detailed background on my body image? I hope so, because you’re getting it: I think I’m probably a couple standard deviations right of center when it comes to body satisfaction. A big part of that is because I am thin, so society isn’t constantly telling me that I’m lazy, unhealthy, or a bad person, even though I’m usually at least one of those things. In my adult life I’ve weighed thirty pounds more than this and ten pounds less than this and at all points I felt great about how my body looked. [Granted, thirty pounds more than this at best puts me into the “in-betweenie” category. This isn’t that remarkable a feat of personal body acceptance, but sometimes it seems like any woman who loves her body has a supernatural resistance to the kyriarchy].

Losing a lot of weight was weird for me, especially because I didn’t try to do it. I was simultaneously terrified that I was sick, delighted by all the positive attention weight loss brings, guilty because I didn’t “earn” that praise, excited by my new clothes, mournful for my lost DD boobs, fearful that the weight would come back and I wouldn’t love my old body anymore, and immensely irritated because, really, what is so praiseworthy about being thin that a possibly sick person deserves credit for shrinking? [See also]

I wasn’t sick, at least not physically (anxiety can make you lose weight because you burn more calories when you are panicking. That stress is so much more likely to kill you than fat is. Thin != healthy). My weight settled into a happy place where the Wii fit doesn’t make my avatar flop like a wet noodle and I get fewer “eat a sandwich” comments (Sidebar: don’t say shit like that! You don’t get to tell other people what they should eat or their body should look like).

But weddings make you do the wacky. The spectre of my snug sample wedding dress made me worry about my weight in a way that felt foreign and wrong. I went on a new antidepressant and almost immediately gained five pounds. Five pounds which no one but me and the waistband of my jeans noticed. This brought on a minor freak-out that involved a lot of internet research about how much seams can be let out and trying to convince myself I could always buy a new dress (those attempts at rationality always ended in tears). And then, and understand I feel like a traitor when I confess this: I tried to lose those five pounds. I upped my cardio [I already exercise almost every day because a) It tremendously relieves my depression b) I like being reasonably “fit” such that I can lift heavy things and run up flights of stairs without getting winded c) I am mostly unemployed and have a lot of time to kill] and tried drink more water, less beer, and to snack on fruits and veggies instead of cheese and crackers.

I avoided weighing myself to try to hold body hate at bay. But with two weeks to go before my dress fitting, I stepped on a scale: I had not lost one pound. And I cried. I’m ashamed of that, but it is true.

But I somehow snapped out of it. I wore a really tight dress on my birthday, one I’d previously intended to return for being too small, and I felt like a million bucks in it. Maybe I actually was a little slimmer even though my scale number stayed the same. Maybe not. Maybe I just let go and got to be the person I normally am, the person who loves her body, so I felt the dress looked sexy instead of too small, even though nothing had changed.

I realized how much I missed the feeling of loving my body and feeling sexy without subjecting myself to judgment and fear. So even though putting myself through more cardio and dipping carrot sticks instead of pretzels into my hummus might have, possibly, made my dress fit when it otherwise would not have, it doesn’t matter. The moral of this story is not “I worried about my weight so I exercised a lot and then my dress fit, hooray!” The moral of this story is after finding out my dress fit, I realized the stress and the bad feelings about whether or not the dress would fit were not worth it.

I’m writing this and sharing this (with trepidation, because the last thing I want is to perpetuate diet culture and body hatred) so that I remember that over these next two months. I want to look good on my wedding day, sure, but I want to love myself for the rest of my life. So I need to let myself love my body regardless of what clothes it fits into.



Last week was busy. How busy? Collin’s parents were in town. My aunt was in town. Five of Collin’s high school/college friends were in town and staying at our place on various evenings. My future brother-in-law graduated from law school. Bridal Hootenanny member Liz had a birthday. I had my first wedding dress fitting since I bought it back in October. We had to get the invitations for our wedding ready to mail. Collin ran in the Pittsburgh marathon. All that, and a circus. [That’s not a metaphor.]

I was tired all the time and hit my emotional limit at least once every day. I popped my anxiety pills like breath mints and got too drunk on Friday night. I had random crying jags. I snapped at Collin a bunch of times. I looked like shit. I developed an ugly rash on my arm (I think its the same kind of
atomic eczema I had after the bar exam). I slept fitfully even though I pretty much collapsed into bed each night.

I don’t want to feel that way the week of my wedding.

But it will be very much the same kind of week: many people in town, a full calendar chock-a-block with social obligations, a lengthy list of tasks to be accomplished, and emotional energy running high.

I need to develop a strategy to deal with these pressures with more aplomb than I did this week. And I’m too tired and worn down at this point to develop it properly. I know I need to get as much done ahead of time as possible. I know I need to get more comfortable delegating responsibilities and being assertive about my needs. And I know I need to schedule downtime during wedding week. But even with these strategies I feel less than confident I’ll have the wherewithal to withstand wedding week.

So, marrieds: how did you hold up during your wedding week and do you have any crucial tips for me? People I know in real life: Will you slap me in the face if I need to snap out of it during wedding week? (Without leaving a mark that might show in photos?) Everyone else: what strategies do you rely upon in stressful crunch times?

On Cold Feet

I probably should have ignored The Hairpin’s link to an article on women who marry the men they don’t love as soon as I saw it was from Marie Claire, but I do stupid things all the time.

The article tells us some women marry men they don’t love for various women-are-dumb reasons (they’re excited to have a wedding! they are about to turn 30!) even they know, in their gut, they shouldn’t marry him.  And then a few years later they get divorced. Thesis: cold feet? Abort engagement!

I think that is crap. Maybe I’m kidding myself because I don’t want to end my engagement or end up divorced, but I am no stranger to cold feet and I still think Collin and I should get married.  And again, maybe I’m kidding myself, but I’m guessing I’m not alone in that.  I think we’re just afraid to talk about it because of divorce statistics and the “you’ll see”s and the responding chorus of “but we’re different! I am one hundred thousand percent sure we’ll be this blissfully happy forever!”

Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe everyone but me is one hundred thousand percent sure. And maybe my marriage is doomed. But let me be perfectly clear: I get cold feet.

Sure, I don’t have the “in my gut I know this is wrong” feeling described in that piece. But I don’t have the “in my gut I know this is right!” feeling either. I don’t think that has anything to do with Collin. It has everything to do with me: my depression and my pessimism and my anxiety.  If I had to be absolutely sure, I’d never get married.

The best I can do is “really pretty sure” and “I really want this.” That gives me a leg up on the women in that Marie Claire article who don’t really want to marry their partners. But it doesn’t make my marriage failsafe.  And I’m tired of hearing the message that doubts = doomed, because, well, that just makes me doubt more.

So maybe you’re one of the “sure you’re sure” people and you think I’m fooling myself. Maybe you’re a marriage cynic and think anyone getting married is fooling themselves. Maybe you’re Future Robin the Jilted or Divorced Woman and you’re reading this through tears of regret. But the truth is the truth: I am not sure my marriage is going to work, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. So if there is anyone else like me, you’re not alone, and at least as far as I’m concerned, you’re not a fool.

When Possible, Make a U-Turn

One of the “things only a wedding planner knows” that I already knew was to actually try out the driving directions to our venue before putting them in our invitation. So on the way back from the airport after my task-tackling trip to St. Louis, I programmed my GPS to make a stop at Station Square.

I will break here to give those of you who don’t live here a primer in Pittsburgh geography. This not-very-accurate map should cover the basics:

Basically, to get from the airport to Station Square, it looks like you should be able to take one highway (the orange one on the map) for 20 miles and magically arrive.  But the trouble is, in that last couple of miles there’s a big honking mountain1 in the way. If you stay on the highway, you’ll go through the Fort Pitt Tunnel (the left green circle). This is the route recommended by Bing maps, Mapquest, and my Garmin GPS. On the plus side, you’ll get through the mountain. And you’ll get to experience the wonder of seeing the Pittsburgh Skyline when you pop out on the other side.

Unfortunately, you’ll also exit the tunnel directly onto the Fort Pitt Bridge, and consequently end up on the wrong side of the Monongahela River (as far as our destination is concerned. It’s not like, “the wrong side of the tracks” or whatever). And then you’ll be Downtown, known to Pittsburgh historians as “The Golden Triangle” but known to people who have trouble with directions as “The Bermuda Triangle.” One-way streets that don’t alternate! Mysterious turn restriction at intersections! Perpetual construction! A multidimensional road map that makes GPS units cry blood! Making a u-turn in Downtown Pittsburgh to cross a second bridge is an ordeal I really don’t want to put my guests through.

So the next time I was south of the city I tried a new approach: I just followed the road signs. [An aside: the highway between the airport and the city was recently renamed. It went from being 279 North to 376 East. Yes, I realize those are not the same direction. Does the city? I don’t think so. As an added bonus, this meant all the exits were re-numbered. I think these changes were made under the “Make GPS Units Worthless Act” of 2010.] According to the signs, I should take Exit 69B to get to Station Square. Awesome.

Except when I took Exit 69B (putting me on the purple road) I discovered that I had two choices for how to get to Station Square: #1: The Wabash Tunnel (the right green circle with the red X), which is HOV-only some of the time, completely closed some of the time (hence the red X), and generally a mystery wrapped in an enigma.2 #2: The road my GPS suggested when I was forced to drive past the closed Wabash Tunnel, which goes OVER the mountain with a serious of hairpin turns that will surely kill one of my guests if there is even a little rain, and ultimately ends with a complicated detour to avoid a road closed for construction.3

Back to the drawing board. This time I looked up the “official” directions recommended by Station Square. This requires driving past the exit that is designated for Station Square, to an exit for Route 51 North. A road which is not part of the directions to Station Square at all. You see, Route 837 West pops up right after the exit despite zero signage to that effect. Fortunately, Route 837W is exactly where people want to go. So if they’ve made it this far, they just have to get on that road. Oh, and not turn at the first sign that says Station Square, because that’s the wrong entrance. Sheesh.

So I’ve found directions that work! Sort of! Hooray! Yay for me! But I’ve also realized how easy it is to get lost in this area, even for someone who lives here. Who is paying really close attention to the directions. Out of town guests trying to figure it out on the fly or just relying on MapQuest or their GPS are going to get lost. And that’s a terrible start to the weekend, right?

Anyone else have to deal with complicated directions to a venue or lodging? How did you work out this problem? Should I make the directions insert really flashy? Should I set up a “get un-lost” hotline? Should I personally drive everyone from the airport? WHAT DO I DO?

1For those of you who live west of the Great Plains, let me clarify it is actually a large hill.  For those of you who live on the Eastern Seaboard? It’s a GIGANTIC MOUNTAIN!
2I looked at the Wikipedia page for the Wabash tunnel to try to find out why it is so restricted, and found some blatant editorializing that I hope is not flagged for editing until it becomes outdated: “The Wabash Tunnel is a former railway tunnel through Mt. Washington in the city of Pittsburgh. Constructed early in the 20th century by railroad magnate George J. Gould, it has never been of much use.”
3What’s that you say? “The construction will be over before the wedding”? HAHAHAHAHA. Clearly you’ve never been to Pittsburgh. When we put up detour signs, we GET OUR MONEY’S WORTH on ’em. My marriage will be OVER before that detour ends.

Moment of Panic

Walking out of a diner with three members of the bridal hootenanny, I gasped and screamed, “OH MY GOD!”

Abby thought my car was stolen.

John thought I saw a dead body.

Liz, an arachnophobic, thought there was a spider.

In reality: my engagement ring wasn’t on my finger.  This provokes in me the kind of shocked horror that you’d expect in a victim of or witness to a major crime (to Liz, spiders are a crime).

I ran back into the diner, searching our booth desperately. Then I emptied my pockets with shaking hands, finally finding my ring tangled up in my keys inside my right coat pocket. I have no idea how it got there. I’m just glad it’s back on my finger.

Abby said, “That’s the right reaction to have. It means you really love Collin.” I think it means I really love my ring, but I also really love Collin, so I’m not gonna split that hair.

This ever happen to you? Did you keep your cool better than I did (I hope?)

Looking for a Pause Button

Time, you are a friggin’ jerk.  What with your progressing steadily, marching forth, carrying on.  Making the space between today and the wedding smaller and smaller.

Less than six months to go? NOT COOL, TIME. Not. Cool.

How is my list of undone wedding things supposed to keep up with your relentless pace?  It’s like you want me to be organized and dedicated and committed to planning my wedding.  I am only those things in cover letters! [Potential employers: I’m just kidding! As you know, I would never use such cliché descriptors in a cover letter.  Hire me! XOXO!]

Look, sometimes I have more important things to worry about than my wedding.  Sometimes I don’t have more important things to worry about, but whatever wedding task is at the top of my list is boring/frustrating/scary for me to take on right now.

Time, I’ve heard you wait for no one, but can you maybe make an exception? I’ll give you a plus one to my wedding! I know you’ve been looking for a chance to make the moves on Tide.

Questions Arising as I Address Save-the-Dates

Why have I allowed my handwriting to get so atrocious?

Why did I ever think I should use Sharpies to write out these addresses? Why didn’t I realize it would just CLASH with the marker font we used and would exacerbate my handwriting issues?

Should I be putting the names of the unmarried/unengaged plus ones on these? I liked when my name was on Collin’s invitations back in the day.  But what if these people break up before the real invitations are sent? Do I then need to grant a generic plus one? Or invite the rebound?

Why do unmarried people have to be listed on separate lines? Why didn’t I know that before I ordered postcards with only three address lines?

Should families be invited as “The Guestenbaums” or as “The Guestenbaum Family?” The more I think about it, the more I like the second option. Do I need to re-do the ones that I already addressed to “the Guestenbaums”? Did I order enough extra postcards for this?

Why am I inclined to put the man’s name first when inviting a married couple that shares a last name? Wouldn’t a feminist put the woman’s name first at least half the time? Wouldn’t a slave to etiquette refuse to separate the man’s first name from his last name?

Is it creepy that I am using Google to fact check my mother-in-law’s guest list?  Is it possible there are two [NAME REDACTED]s operating medical practices in East Kansas, and one spells his name with one n and is invited to my wedding, and one spells his name with two n’s and is not?

Does that “MO” look like an “MD”?  Is there a St. Louis in Maryland?

How do all these wedding bloggers DIY stuff while drinking wine? Am I the only person who starts to make noticeably more mistakes after just one glass? WHY DID I ORDER SO FEW EXTRA POSTCARDS?

Is it really pathetic that I am lumping “addressing postcards” in with DIY?

From Collin: “Couldn’t we hire someone to do this for us?”



New Year, New Fears

I had a great New Year’s Eve, but because everything that happens in my life a) relates back to my wedding and b) can be twisted into a source of anxiety, I now have a few new concerns about my wedding day:

1. My dress won’t fit. My body weight fluctuates.  I know this.  But now I’m extra scared because a dress I bought Tuesday was, by Friday night, so big on me that even with the help of safety pins and boob tape I couldn’t get it to look presentable.  I assume this is because when the dress fit on Tuesday I was only a couple days’ out from my brother-in-law’s constant supply of frosted beer mugs and my sister’s constant supply of new recipes designed to prove her worth as a daughter-in-law.   So the dress that was cute on Tuesday looked like a droopy tent on Friday.

On NYE, I had a backup dress.  I’m not going to have a backup wedding gown.  I have no idea how to deal with this problem.  I think hyper-consciousness of my size, weight, food and drink intake is probably the recommended course, but that sounds very emotionally unhealthy.  Which leads me to fear two:

2. Fear Itself. In case you haven’t noticed, I have anxiety problems.  Getting ready for our NYE party, realizing my dress didn’t fit, running late as I had to take time to iron my backup dress, my anxiety rocketed up.  I don’t want anxiety to get in the way of me enjoying my wedding.  I think maybe I should go back on anti-anxiety drugs near the wedding, but my  experiences with benzodiazepines make me worry (IRONY!) about having my memory impaired on my wedding day.  Plus I’d really like a few celebratory drinks on my wedding day, and booze and benzos don’t mix.  Which brings me to fear 3:

3. I will drink too much. Free party advice: if you have a collaborative effort party, and the person bringing the liquor arrives well before the person bringing the mixers, DO NOT use this as an excuse to just do shots.  Especially if I am there, because I will then hug you, cry, apologize to you for things I did five to eight years ago, hug you some more, explain how much I love you, cry, hug, hug, cry.  [If I am on anxiety medicine, this will either not be a problem, or will be a problem even though I only had champagne during the toasts.]

But don’t worry: my new year’s resolution is CHILLAX.  Because new year’s resolutions are always, no matter what, kept, I am sure that by July I will scoff at all these “concerns”  and roll with the punches like the coolest of cucumbers.

Make it Anywhere

Collin and I had a lovely weekend in New Jersey and New York, where Collin ran the ING Marathon and had his personal best time of 3:20.  I got to see lots of friends, and had a lot of fun, and it was wonderful.

But I’m so, so, so glad to be home.

Look, I know this will forever bar me from the Cool Kids Club, but I just don’t like New York City.  I find it deeply exhausting and more than a little depressing.  It’s exacerbated by the ten-year-old in me feeling left out because by all other accounts New York is “the greatest city in the world,” but when I’m there I just want to go home where I can walk at my own pace and assume strangers are nice and rarely if ever wonder if people sprawled on the sidewalk are dead or alive.  What do the Cool Kids see that I don’t? And am I really such a whiny brat to think that if you’re going to have a massive public transportation network you should make maps of it readily available?

So I said to Collin a few times  this weekend (maybe more than a few times), “Don’t make me move to New York.  Remember we can always live in New Jersey if you have to take a job in New York.  Isn’t this PATH train great? Let’s never, ever move to New York, OK?”  He told me not to worry about moving to New York, as it’s not a big area for the kind of research he wants to do.

But you know where is?  South Africa.  And you know that whole “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” bit? Well, I do not think that people who can make it in New York can necessarily make it in South Africa.  [I suspect they’d also have trouble with rural Montana, or, I don’t know, the Kamchatka Peninsula.]  Really, the line should be “if I can make it there, I’ll make it in other First World cities.”

But that is neither here nor there, because I cannot make it in New York.  Dudes, I can barely make it in Pittsburgh, and it is the most livable city in America.

I’ve told Collin I’ll go where he needs to go when he finishes his PhD program, because his career is looking to be awesome.  He’s told me that he doesn’t want to go to South Africa out of deference to me.  But how many “don’t make us move there” cards can I really play?  Maybe I just need to toughen up.  But I hope I can do it in some kind of trainer hell-metro.  Cleveland, maybe?

Wedding Dreams: Not Just for Neurotic Chicks

This morning, as I was only awake enough to roll toward and hum in response to Collin’s voice, Collin told me he dreamed about our wedding last night, and that it was nice. Then he ran five miles and I went back to sleep.

He came back and kissed me awake. I told him his kisses felt like acid. He told me that was just sweat. I told him to stop sweating acid.

“I dreamed about our wedding!”

“You told me.”

“It was so nice! You looked beautiful!”

“Thank you.” (I’m not sure why I thanked him for a compliment toward dream image of me, but erring on the side of politeness is never a bad idea.) “Did you like my dress?”

“Yes! It had gold things on the shoulders.”

“How did you KNOW?”

Anyway, I’m glad that y-chromes have wedding dreams too.  And I’m glad that not every wedding dream is along the lines of “I’m marrying the wrong person!” or “No one is here and the ceremony is about to start!” or “I can’t put my wedding band on my finger because my fingers are liquid!”