In June I got married to my best friend of six years. The day was everything I could have ever dreamed of and was perfect right down to the last petal on the ranunculus in my bouquet.Our friends and family came in from all over the world to be there. There wasn’t a drop of rain, and while it was a bit warmer than expected for June in New Rochelle, New York, there was a cooling breeze on the shore of the Long Island Sound. And there on the banks, overlooking the city I was born in, I vowed myself wholeheartedly.
I come from a close-knit Indian family centered around our unwavering love and admiration for the architects themselves…my grandparents. As the eldest grandchild this would be undoubtedly the last family matrimony that they will live to see. And so my marriage was more than just a wedding, it was a full circle, a closure and a new beginning for the Prabhu family. Still, on a day of such joy… I found myself growing heavier as the morning went on, until the weight had me at my knees. Anxiety brought me down on the best day of my life.
There was no reason for it, nothing had really gone awry (aside from the organized chaos expected at Indian weddings). There was no horrible wardrobe disaster, no drunk uncle making a scene. But still my chest slowly cinched tighter and tighter as if someone was lacing my ribs like an internal corset. I could feel my heart extending a limb up into my throat, grasping my trachea. I felt choked and I felt fear. Not the kind of fear negated as butterflies or simple nerves on such a big day. It was an overwhelming sense of panic that I was not in control of my own body, that my mind had subconsciously manifested these physical symptoms without any input from me. Everyone around me watched as the beautiful bride on her day melted into despair, but it was a harmless question from a very loving bridesmaid that exacerbated the situation.
“Are you just nervous about getting married to him?” She asked with a concerned look. At that moment I became horrified that that’s what everyone thought. They thought I was second guessing myself; I was getting cold feet. I wanted to tell her what a stupid question that was. I wanted to tell everyone that I would never doubt for a second that the man waiting downstairs was the one I would grow old with, die with. I wanted them to all know that our love had been tested through time and distance and I wouldn’t be here sitting in this room crying if I was second guessing anything. But I just shook my head knowing that she didn’t realize how that came across to someone having a panic attack. She couldn’t have known that there was no reason, and that trying to justify it, trying to invalidate my concerns when there are none, makes me feel worse. For someone with anxiety, having to explain that ‘ you don’t know why you feel this way’ is…well…it’s embarrassing. But it shouldn’t be.
Weeks later I still thought about that comment and I realized that the majority of people don’t understand anxiety. While sometimes there are precipitating factors that may drive someone into a panic attack, many times it’s baseless. Her words were of sincerity and all she wanted in that moment was to denounce whatever it was to make me feel better. But the reality is, with anxiety, we often just need to ride out the storm. The best medicine for me in that moment was another friend who just came and put an arm around me. A simple gesture remedied a complex dilemma.
Let me finish by saying I am unworthy of everyone in that room. Each and every one of them, especially the one who tried so diligently in that moment. They came in from all over the country without thinking twice and spent every moment of the weekend showing me their unfounded devotion to our friendship. It showed me that surrounding yourself with solid friendships is the best way to keep yourself grounded.