14 July 2016

One Family Occasion at a Time...

With my family dispersed all over the country, seeing close relatives is a rare, yet hugely special occasion. Recently, I have had the pleasure of making the journey down south to see two sides of the family for two separate events. Now when I say that seeing my family is a special occasion, I am thrilled to say that both of these instances were made all the more joyous, as they were for two very beautiful weddings.

Being invited to witness the marriage of two exceptionally happy couples was a wonderful experience and something I am incredibly thankful to have been asked to attend. It has been a long time since I have spent a weekend away and it be filled with nothing other than happiness, laughter and love- then two happened within the space of two weeks! Yes, there was the usual challenges that cropped up, but I am recognising now that I have the strength to push them to the back of my mind and enjoy the moment. This was made all the more easier as I was greeted with some very kind comments about my appearance, my personality and my presence. Hearing positive remarks about myself is something that I do find difficult to absorb, but with my recent realisation as to where I was both mentally and physically this time last year, I allowed myself to accept the compliments as apposed to fighting them off.

The anticipation of the first wedding was a little overwhelming for me at first. Of course I was excited about the day’s events, however, there was lots of niggling thoughts that I found very difficult to ignore. Unsure of the timings, food situation and the setting, I decided, along with my family, that it would be best to be very prepared for the occasion. To make me feel as comfortable as possible, we did take with us an array of snacks and even a sandwich, just to make sure that I was well nourished throughout the day. I was initially very concerned about what people would think about me bringing my own food, but deep down I knew that it was the only way to make certain that I was going to sustain my energy levels throughout the day. Unsurprisingly, the anxiety built up in anticipation was far more significant than the anxiety throughout the duration of the day- as I am coming to realise is always the case! However, with this being the first wedding I had attended in a long time, let alone since I have been ill, I was not prepared to take any chances. As everyone queued up for the hog roast, I collected my sandwich from the cooler bag and placed it on my plate to eat with the other guests. I do not eat pork anyway, so the hog roast would not have even been an option, but as I made my way to the salad bar, I did see a variety of vegetarian options that I would have been more than happy to try. I think that after attending this event, it is important for me to realise that people really do not care. I sat and ate my sandwich alongside everyone else and not once did anybody comment, ask questions or make me feel uncomfortable. Granted it may have been because everybody knows about my condition, but in all honesty, I really do not believe that people are bothered about what everybody else is doing. When you are sat in a beautifully decorated teepee, with wonderful music and family to talk to, even I can say that the food I was ingesting became a seemingly insignificant factor.

As day rolled into night, I remember becoming incredibly relaxed. I do not know if it was because I felt as though the main challenges were over and that I could enjoy the rest of the evening, but I recall experiencing very limited negative thoughts. In fact, they were so limited that I did something that at any other time would have probably had a substantial impact on my mood and behaviours- I accepted a piece of the wedding cake. Lovingly made by my cousin, this beautiful cake had sat in prime position at the entrance of the teepee and as it was cut, I was excited to try a piece. It was delicious and although I experienced some guilt, as soon as the band started and the music captured my thoughts, the negativity just seemed to drift away. Gazing at the dance floor and watching everybody enjoying dancing away, an element of the ‘carefree Jess’ stepped in and I made my way over to join them. I had a truly wonderful day and am so grateful to have been asked to attend such a special day. I learned so much from the event, not only with regards to dealing with my problems, but more so that there is nothing better in life than experiencing love and happiness.

As the weekend of the second wedding approached, I felt surprisingly relaxed. After a very positive psychologist appointment earlier in the week, I realised that I had so much more to look forward to in life than dwelling on what should be a lovely weekend. The problem is, my frame of mind means that I always see the negatives that could potentially occur. I constantly think about the worst-case scenarios, even if I know that there is nothing I can do to ‘solve’ them. Again, this wedding was the perfect opportunity to reconnect with family, possibly meeting some relatives that I have never seen before, which although I was incredibly excited about, I was worried about how I looked and how I would behave. I knew that there were going to be a few occasions where, if I were just with my close family, I would typically deal with the situation by shutting down and completely avoiding conversation; becoming totally absorbed in my thoughts. However, as usual, the anxiety built up through the mental preparation for the potential of some ‘horrendous’ scenarios had no presence during the entire event.

Boarding the beautiful vintage double decker bus to make our way to the church, I was incredibly excited to by immersed in another magical wedding. Unaware of how long the ceremony was going to be and having had breakfast a few hours before, I recognised that this journey would be the perfect opportunity to eat a snack. I glanced around the bus, quickly realising that nobody else was consuming any food and the fact that I had even considered a snack did encourage feelings of guilt and greed to ricochet through my mind. After a lengthy debate within my own head, fighting between the thoughts of why I need the nutrients and ‘why I do not need the calories’, I asked mum for the snack bar that was in her clutch bag. As per usual, once the battle was over, I was absolutely fine whilst consuming the snack- even engaging in conversation. I knew I needed it, I could feel my body beckoning for the sugar as my hands started to shake.

A particular moment that I realised this may become an issue was during the reception when the three course meal was being served. The anticipation of the social situation, being around people that may not know my problems, being presented with a plate that contained food that I had not known about prior to it being served- in my head it became the foundation for an exhausting battle. However, I found that this was not the case. At this point, I was genuinely hungry and I think that had a huge impact on how I confronted the dish in front of me. Instead of having time to debate about what to choose, what is the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ meal to pick, analysing what everybody else was eating; the decision was made for me. I am not saying it would have been what I would have necessarily picked, but I ate it because my body needed nourishing. No nasty behaviours crept in- I still engaged in conversation, I still made eye contact and if I am honest, I was looking around for the next course! The main was a struggle, as it was meat that I do not like, but as I cannot stress enough, I already had a back up plan prepared. When the fantastic speeches were over and the room was cleared for the band to set up, I headed back to the room for a replacement meal- cereal and milk. Maybe not the nutritious and wholesome substitution, although, it was something I was comfortable with and in terms of calories, it was enough to fulfill its purpose. As we headed back down to the party, I felt refueled, calm and, as much as I believe the word doesn’t exist, normal. With my body nourished, my mind became clear of all eating disorder related thoughts, which had a hugely positive impact on me socially. I spent the evening chatting away to family members and learning about my past- it really was a special night.

Attending these beautiful events has truly made me think about my personal goals for happiness. Seeing two couples wonderfully content in each other’s company was inspiring. Saying their vows, it was as if they were encompassed in their own bubble, seemingly oblivious of the witnesses present in the room. It was a magical spectacle- free of judgment, uncertainty or fear. They have found their perfect match- somebody that makes them feel special and worthy, somebody to support them and encourage their dreams, somebody to make and share beautiful memories with. I can only hope that one day I may find somebody that will be the perfect match for me.

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