Friday, April 3, 2009

Going to the Chapel

I'm already married. We 'eloped,' so to speak, on December 22, 2008, surrounded by our families, reciting state-sanctioned vows in front of a justice of the peace.

We'd planned on a slightly more traditional wedding in July, on our anniversary, but my lack of health insurance and my sporadic freelance work worried my husband, so we married, and I became his spouse.

The panic attacks started again on January 4, 2009. I hadn't experienced this in more than 4 years. I'd been discussing my sudden marital status change with a friend and suddenly I could not breathe. I felt as though the constriction in my chest would crack my ribs. I was terrified and sweating, my body flopping like a fish as I fought to take a breath. My tortured brain screamed an alarm: "Sharon, you're going to die. You are dying. Dying. You're going to die, right here."

In the hospital (paid in full now by Aetna), the doctors and nurses quickly ascertained that physically, I was in excellent shape. My heart, my lungs, my brain and my circulatory system weren't to blame. I was sent home, exhausted and confused, my hair and clothes still plastered to my body with sweat, rank with sickening terror.

The next attack woke me at 2 a.m. I choked out screams, dragged myself out of the bedroom and curled naked on the bathroom floor, pouring heat and sweat and fear. I covered myself with icy bags of frozen vegetables in a vain attempt to stop the pain. (I'm sure I looked both hilarious and mortifying when my husband found me that way.)

My doctor prescribed Zoloft and Ativan, diagnosing me with an anxiety disorder. I was grateful for the sweet, numbing relief, but I didn't tell her was that my anxiety was laser-focused on anything related to the party we were planning to celebrate our marriage. The party during which I'd wear an ivory dress and carry a bouquet, flanked by my best friends and my sister. During which I'd walk down a makeshift aisle at my in-laws' gorgeous home to meet my husband and repeat our vows.

I went last week to the bridal salon to have my dress (bought for $68 on eBay) fitted. I carried my shoes and a small hat. I looked in the mirror and saw A Bride. It felt as though I was looking at a Photoshopped picture of myself, my body layered over with heavy cream silk. I saw a terrifed girl peering out at me, at 7 years old, 12, 17, 23, shreiking in alarm that we'd ever give ourselves up so willingly.

I saw my mother shelving her dreams, trapped and morose, staying at home to raise two daughters in a tiny two-star town, only to be abandoned 35 years later for a woman who was everything my father had insisted she herself give up.

I smiled the smile of the condemned, and dutifully took pictures to send to my mother, my sister and my mother-in-law. Halfway to my car in the parking lot, the sweat poured out of me, my throat closed, and I doubled over as my chest collapsed in on itself. I burned and boiled, I tore off my sweater, my t-shirt and my shoes. I huddled in the car, gasping, choked down two Ativan.

I've already done it. I've already pledged to love this man for eternity, exchanged the rings, cut the cake. And truly, he is my soul mate. He knows me better than I know myself and he loves me in spite of it. He's just fucking incredible. I'm so grateful and blessed and full of joy every fucking moment.

Why, then, am I so afraid? Why does the fear take control? Why does going through these motions paralyze me? I don't have to repeat these patterns. I can create the marriage that I want, where two independent, self-sufficient equals share responsibilities and contribute to a whole, satisfying life together.

Yes, I do know the answer, believe me. I just fervently hope I can convince myself before I slide into that dress and walk down the aisle.

1 comment:

  1. I think your fears are perfectly sound and quite common. But you already did the big part...the upcoming ceremony is a formality, so to speak. You have found your (geek...yay! :) soulmate and that truly means someone who complements the individual you are, not someone who hinders or compromises your individuality. I know you will be fine...and beautiful as always!