I had been warned that there would be a bit of a comedown after the wedding. Like the average bride, wedding planning had probably been the single biggest occupier of my mind for over a year. And what a great day it was! My feelings of achievement and emotional satisfaction were sky high, surrounded as I had been by loved ones for 48 hours. Hugs, champagne, and feelings of immense satisfaction all mingled together in a heady cocktail of giddiness and joy, and even once the confetti had been shaken from my shoes, I was smugly loved-up and married to the best person in the world.
But once the tan from the honeymoon started to fade, and I could no longer keep up my determination to smile in the face of the sharp-elbowed businessmen on the morning train, I began to hear myself asking, what next?
All my life, I have been an acutely anxious person, the type who can’t completely relax when getting a massage or attempting meditation. Planning a wedding, I was able at least to channel this nervous energy into something that I could articulate. While the plethora of decisions did keep me awake at night, and I did become obsessive over shades of white (on that note, apparently, 25% of women have an extra colour receptor that allows them to see more nuances in colour- I KNEW it), at least the decision-based anxiety in relation to wedding dresses, colour schemes, and floral arrangements was easy to explain to people, and to a certain extent, socially sanctioned.
But the wedding was just one day.
I had pretty fixed ideas of what married life would be like. I imagined evening walks and pots of stew bubbling away on the stove. Weekends spent on charity bike rides. Attending parties at art galleries with my husband. Mostly, I imagined I would never be alone, which I have always despised since childhood. These are the times when my mind has begun to spiral out of control, when feelings of insecurity and loneliness have mingled with irrational worries, and tasks like putting the clothes on the radiator away have become insurmountable. In that mood, all tiny decisions, from what to have for dinner to which toothpaste to use, are overwhelming and emotional.
But my husband is a comedian, he works most nights, and can be away filming or traveling at weekends. Why did I have this unrealistic expectation that once married, I would never again be alone, or that these feelings of isolation would go away?
My evenings were dauntingly empty again. I was no longer overwhelmed by the minutiae of wedding planning, but the anxiety and loneliness had returned, aggravated by the purposeless of post-wedding life, and tinged with an additional sad, hopeless feeling. Sam was still working almost every night. Evenings spent making lists, arranging seating charts and fielding emails from difficult, clueless relatives (“What breakfast option should I select at the hotel?” Which taxi company should I book from the airport?”) were now curiously drama free, and those Friday afternoons of emailing Pinterest pages to my florist would have to be spent working on those dull admin tasks I kept putting off. During one lunch break, I walked back and forth between Holborn and Leicester Square for 34 minutes, overwhelmed, and nauseous over the monumental choice between the Moroccan meatballs from Leon or the crayfish and Avocado salad from Pret.
So, I decided to fill up my time with as many projects as I could. I registered for a legal professional development course. I signed up for the London Marathon. And I emailed about a thousand estate agents. I figured that I’d rather be overwhelmed and busy than be alone with myself and my thoughts.
Reader, it worked!
These things did indeed fill up a pretty portion of my time and brain space, and predictably, there was no time left for my mind wander to those dark places.
Coursework soon started, and work simultaneously became busier. I was consumed by a frantic, nervous energy to find a new flat, and soon I was spending most lunch breaks arranging viewings and talking to estate agents. I got up most mornings at 6am for 1 to 2 hour long runs. I became obsessed with nutrition and ‘fuelling’.
Unsurprisingly, colleagues and friends began saying I should ‘slow down’, and that I seemed ‘stressed’, (someone even said I was ‘deteriorating’) and maybe I was. But wasn’t it better than the feeling of sad, lonely, emptiness I felt before? It was great. I had stuff to do. No more lonely nights at home twiddling my thumbs watching the One Show and sinking into a pit of anxiety and sadness about nothing in particular. I had things to plan. Things to research. Things to talk about. Mostly, I knew how to define myself again. I was the marathon-running- law specialist- soon to be home-owner. And when those unwanted feelings started to creep up on me again, I ran faster, studied harder and booked more viewings.
By the time exams rolled round (happily coinciding with the final weeks of training), I was an exhausted, nervous, weepy wreck. But this is how things are supposed to be, right?If you’re unhappy, isn’t it best to just embark on more and more new things until you can barely remember who you are when you’re not planning/studying/making/doing?
I don’t regret my projects. I am pleased I ran the marathon, and happy I have more qualifications. We’ve even now bought a flat. My life is full, and I am grateful for everything in it. But this obsession with ‘projects’ was not satisfying, and they really didn’t fulfil me the way I imagined they would.
I did well on my exams, but I sort of didn’t care. Flat-hunting, which I had always looked forward to, brought up old feelings of moving around too much as a kid, and was never really any fun. And crossing the marathon finish line was probably the biggest anti-climax of my life.
They say you need to take time to settle in to married life. It’s a cliché, but there is probably something in that.
The thing is, despite marrying my soul mate, building the life I’ve always wanted, and despite all of the things I’ve ‘achieved’ since the wedding, I’m still suffering from periods of loneliness, anxiety and unexplained sadness.
I’ve decided it’s time for me to take some time to sit quietly in myself, and forget about doing the next thing. It’s scary, and I don’t know what will happen. But it’s been a year since the wedding, and it’s time to ban the projects.
I will keep you posted.
Main image by Ellie Gillard