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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Taking a Walk Down the Aisle While Affected by Illness

When I’m unwell, the world seems to shrink in size. When I’m in a state of meditation, I become hyperaware of the smallest things — the hair on my arms, the peeling cuticles on my hands, the steam rising from the bathtub — and lose track of time. It was no different on the day of my wedding, which took place in September 2013. As I moved toward my husband, I saw the gentle curve of the pink flower petals in my bouquet and felt the blades of grass tickling the tips of my sandaled toes.

Our guests utilised programmes to screen their eyes from the sun as it set over the Nashoba Valley in Massachusetts as we gathered beneath the huppah for the reception. I, too, felt the warmth of the light. However, under my warming skin, vapours of medicine rushed through my body, propelling me through the rest of day.

I had been in a chair across from a psychiatrist in July of that year, pleading for medicines months before. “I’m not going to be able to get married like this,” I informed him.

This was something I was previously aware of. My weight loss, nausea, and weakness were the consequence of something other than general worry, and I had spent the previous half-year attempting to persuade a slew of specialists that they were the result of something else.

“You’re just anxious about your wedding,” remarked the first doctor I saw, back in January 2013. “You’re just nervous about your wedding,” he said smugly. I consented to go back on Prozac for a second time. Following considerable persuasion on my part, she consented to order a monochromatic antibody test. It came back with a favourable result. The nurse who phoned to notify me suggested that I take a two-week break from work. I followed the instructions, but my body refused to cooperate. I didn’t feel any better after taking the Prozac, either.

That spring, I went to doctor after doctor, with the majority of them dismissing my relentless symptoms, which by that time should have subsided by then. One doctor eventually listened to the various reasons I had discovered after hours of internet study and agreed to evaluate my B12 levels. I was grateful for his cooperation. As a result of my deficiencies, I had injections to get them back up to par. I was excited that I had discovered my remedy, but my optimism was quickly shattered when I didn’t see any significant improvement. At the age of 32, I started to despise my physical appearance.

Friends were deafeningly quiet about my unreliability, and my future husband was obviously unsettled by the prospect of what our marriage might look like with my worsening health as a factor. The concept of delaying the wedding was overshadowed by the shame of the time and money that had already been spent by relatives, and maybe overshadowed by the hope that my body would come to its senses just in time for the ceremony. However, I continued to be a burden, an aggravation, and a disappointment.

Instead of flinging myself at the psychiatrist’s feet and clutching to his ankles, I burst into tears in front of him. Up until that time, I had visited no doctors who had given me anything to alleviate my problems, and I was in severe need. The physician consented to put me on Wellbutrin, an antidepressant that claimed to give me more energy as well as reduce my depression.

A modest room on the top floor of our wedding location, where I got ready, was a white farmhouse with a blue door. Instead of Champagne, my three closest friends and I sipped ginger ale from tall glassware in the kitchen. Before heading to the ceremony, I dined on a banana and chose mints from a red Altoids can, smiled for photographs, and relaxed on the room’s day bed before heading to the ceremony. I was able to get through the day thanks to a mix of Wellbutrin, Imodium, and non-drowsy Dramamine that I had taken, as well as some adrenaline.

In the following minutes, my husband and I entered the reception tent to the rhythm of the Black Keys’ “Everlasting Love.” With one of his hands on my lower back and the other gripped in mine, we began to dance. Our laughter was muffled by one other’s bodies when the singer’s voice broke on the high notes, me pressing against his chest and him pressing his hair into my neck and crotch.

We were thrown into chairs for the hora, with the only thing that tied us together being a linen dinner napkin that we clasped between our fingers. The two of us sat at our own private table for supper, with my husband savouring his farm-to-table steak while I pretended to savour mine, which consisted largely of tearing chunks of bread apart with my teeth.

I’m focusing on being more in tune with my body, taking breaks when I need them without feeling guilty, and adopting a type of anger management toward myself. Because he comes with me to therapy sessions, my husband, too, is learning to have a better understanding of my body and his own responses to its volatility. Our daily efforts have focused on forgiving one another for our faults, our anxieties and resentments, and our natural human tendency to be critical of one another.

So we’ve devised a strategy. We plan to go to Vermont for our 10-year anniversary in 2023, which will take place somewhere in the spring of that year. A field, our two girls, relatives, and the people who have stood by me, as well as cheeseburgers on a grill, come to mind. I fantasise of being entirely present this time — in love with my spouse and glad for the solidity of my body on firm ground — and being truly present.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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