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Panic attack is sign of a changed woman

The bridesmaids wore red.

My tire went flat.

Then the minister said,

To the people, "You may all sit," and they sat.

The ceremony included song and verse.

I thought it would be hard to stay calm, but worse!

Drops appeared though the skies were clear,

During the vows, my own tears appeared.

Afterward, I felt a little new.

I looked at him, and saw that he did, too.

His face looked the same, his eyes were still brown,

Then who, how or what did we owe this feeling we'd just found?

The preceding poem is my attempt at remembering what happened at my wedding reception.

I've tried for two weeks now to write this last episode in the yearlong story of my wedding planning process.

I'm both sad and happy to say that the planning was worth it, but that I cannot recall what I ate that day, whether my mother cried or which bridesmaid said which encouraging statement when I started to get nervous that morning.

I do remember that the sky was blue, that both my grandmothers made it on time and that a wasp was flying around Brian and I as we listened to my father's sermon.

Later, I learned that the wasp was actually a hummingbird circling us, and had looked magical to everyone but Brian and I, who were desperately hoping the thing wouldn't bite or sting anyone.

There were some glitches, like the sound system not playing my cousin's tape with the music accompaniment for her song, my tire going flat during the ceremony and forgetting the petals for the flower girl.

Those things hardly affected me, though.

The day was truly like the best dream I ever had, and it had a very happy ending, and that's about all I remember.

What I can recall more about my wedding day was a new feeling or idea that began to stir in my thoughts.

After we left the reception, which had begun to wind down after six hours, we had an hourlong car trip to the bed and breakfast where we stayed that first night.

Walking around the reception, almost literally attached at the hip to my new husband, had been wonderful. Although I am quite an independent person, and like it that way, I shared every experience with him that day.

During the car ride, I realized I would share almost every experience with him not only during our honeymoon and the following weeks, but also for the rest of my life.

So with my oddly perfect timing, as we drove toward our lovely room in a home built by the canal circa late 1800s, I began to have a major panic attack.

"Brian, we can't change our minds!" I exclaimed. "Everything is changed, and we can't go back. Everything is over. What if we did this too soon? Did we rush into marriage?!"

I couldn't see his face at this point, because it was dark. Looking back, that's probably a good thing.

We stopped at a country gas station so I could buy Tylenol and a cup of hot tea to calm my nerves and head. I'm sure my dress did not look romantic walking down the aisles that featured Pringles and Tums, but I still felt the glow of the dreamlike ceremony.

Unfortunately, I decided to continue the train of badly timed conversation when we got back on our way.

My husband is a patient and thoughtful man, and I believe he stayed quiet for most of my reality attack. Maybe one day I'll learn to filter my thoughts, as well.

He probably knew that losing control of a large part of my life had come as a shock, but that as I realized what I had gained in exchange I would settle down.

He probably knew that I would come to realize that knowing who you will share a cup of coffee with on Sunday afternoon, and knowing who will take you to dinner to celebrate when you've accomplished something great, and knowing who will be making you soup the next time you are ill is a wonderful thing.

Three weeks later, I figured it out.

Being attached at the hip at the reception was definitely a foretaste of what marriage is all about. The change certainly is a drastic one.

Many other married couples told me it would seem odd right afterward that everything had changed so suddenly.

In fact, in marriage women are renamed, you have to consider who's bank to join and begin planning for a possible family.

Giving up independence, or a large chunk of it, should have been harder for me.

But during our honeymoon, I noticed changes that were worth it.

Brian began to hold doors open and insist on carrying my bags. We were not embarrassed to kiss in public anymore. Finally, I let him match his dress shirts to my outfit for dinner each night, which I had never thought I would do. I never wanted to be one of those matching couples!

By the way, Brian had always wanted to hold doors open and carry my bags, but I had never let him.

For some reason, though, it feels OK now to do these things. It finally felt OK to let him do something for me that I can do for myself.

I guess, it's practice for when he'll begin to do things for me that I can't do for myself.

Such as telling me to shut up when I have panic attacks about things that are going to absolutely change my life -- for the better.

Editor's Note: Gail Norheim, a reporter in The Buffalo News' Niagara Bureau, got married in August. In an occasional series, Norheim has shared the trials, tribulations and joys of getting married.

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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