Being a Bridesmaid in Recovery
Happy Saturday Friends!
I’ve put off writing about this topic for a long time......so.....here we go!
If you asked me what was one of the things I feared the most during my recovery I would obviously talk about weight gain...duh. But, no joke, one of my biggest fears was having to be a bridesmaid while gaining the weight in recovering.
I’m not kidding!
I am in my 30’s so you might think that this was an unnecessary fear. What you may not know is I have three younger sisters, two of which were single and in their early 20s when I started recovery. They are both awesome, gorgeous and likely to get scooped up quick. (Also, my mom who is in her 60’s was just a bridesmaid so you just never know guys!!!).
Why did I fear being a bridesmaid?????
Being told what dress to wear. I mean, I was in the stage of wearing leggings and anything stretchy because of swelling. (I honestly have barely come out of that stage because, well, it’s comfortable! haha) Having to wear a dress in a body that was not my own was terrifying...oh and also....finding the right size...ya.... screw THAT.
Walking down the aisle. Do you want to know what NO ONE in recovery wants?? To be looked at! Walking down an aisle in front of people while recovering in my mind was a worse case scenario.
PHOTOS. I mean, do I really need to expand on this one? Fine, I will. I don’t need long term evidence of my weight gain in recovery that will also most likely be shared on every social media platform for a month or two. NO THANK YOU.
Seeing people I haven’t seen since pre-treatment. Weddings attract all the family and friends. I mean, they really come out of the woodwork for a wedding, am I right? Most of these people I hadn’t seen since the previous wedding. Ya, the one where I was anorexic and was wearing a two piece mid-drift formal gown showing off my “abs.” The size difference between these two wedding’s was something that could not be hidden.
I had no choice. What? Will I tell my sister no to being a bridesmaid because I don’t like my weight?! I’m not that shallow but I also wanted to be that shallow.
Food. If you are in the wedding party you sit at the head table where it seems like everyone is watching you eat. Fun times. I don’t know about you but eating in front of people during recovery is the WORST. Although there is probably very little judgement, my brain certainly isn’t telling me that.....
TRIGGERS EVERYWHERE! Name a trigger....it will be at the wedding. Food, comparison, family, diet talk (because there is cake there will always be the person that says, “I can’t, keto, noom, sugar...”), photos, bad angles, exposure of the arms....you know what I’m talking about! haha.
This list could go on, but I’ll stop.
As my sister Rachel’s relationship grew more serious, so did my dread and anxiety.
I would get REALLY angry at my body. I wanted it to just recover already. Lose the overshoot weight. I would yell at God to please, please, don’t make me go through this. I would drop hints that if she got engaged I would love to photograph her wedding since I’m a photographer! Save her money!! Keep me behind the scenes in leggings! Nope. That trick didn’t work.
There was no ability to get wedding ready. You know what I mean. People do their little wedding crash diets so they look their best/hottest. Well, my body was doing it’s own dang thing during this time. Even thinking about wanting to look good would make my body swell up.
I had ZERO control in a situation that I really wanted and needed to have control.
Whelp....as you guessed, the inevitable happened. Rachel got engaged and I was asked to be a bridesmaid. Yay for her!!! NOT FOR ME! SH%*&$*&%*&%!
(Just a note: my sister knows I’m writing this blog, she has read it before I posted it, she knows I had all these feelings and knew exactly what I was going through so don’t worry, we are good!)
I truly was hoping the issue would take care of itself. Maybe they would do a destination wedding and only like three people would be able to make it! Maybe she would want me to photograph it and not be in it! Maybe I would suddenly and drastically lose all the overshoot weight in a month! Maybe the color red would all of a sudden be called purple! That’s how outrageous my thoughts were during this time.
Thank the Lord Almighty that He promises to give us a way out and won’t let me be tempted beyond what I could bare. Although, this was really pushing that line of what I could bare during recovery.
My idea of the way out of this situation was to be struck with illness and not have to do it! I also thought lipo could have been a good option. God’s way out of this situation was to go freaking THROUGH it....with His help of course.
So, this is how I got through being a bridesmaid in my sister’s wedding during one of the hardest points of my recovery.
First and foremost, I accepted the situation. I wasn’t going to be struck by lightening and get to bale so I needed to accept that my sister was going to get married and I was going to be asked to be a bridesmaid. It is what it is.
What was truly helpful was that my sister handled asking me to be in her wedding well. If you are the bride asking someone in recovery to be in your wedding follow my sisters lead please. She asked me because I’m her sister and she wants me to stand up there with her as she gets married, but she also gave me an out if I truly couldn’t handle it. She was not going to force me to be in her wedding while I was going through this if I would have panic attacks or relapse, and she also made it clear that she wanted me in that wedding as I was and even though it would be hard she wanted me there.
I know I’ve preached about leaning into your values about a hundred times in my blogs, and here is a hundred and one! I leaned into my values to make this decision. Not into my body image, not into the number on the scale, not into my eating disorder, I leaned into my values.
When I made a list of my values when it came to being a sister at my treatment center none of them were to be thin. They were to love my sisters, be a solid and Godly example to them, support them, be there for them.
So I said yes to being a bridesmaid. Not because I thought I would look or feel amazing and my ED voice just suddenly hit the road, but because it meant something to my sister that I was there to support her in this way. So that’s what I did.
My first plan was to use coping skills to get through each triggering step of the process and if that failed my back up plan was simply going to be wine. HAHA! I’m kidding....kind of.
First there was the dress situation.
Thank the heavenly Lord above that brides these days are all about color schemes and not about matching dresses. My sister gave us a website*, a color, a few guidelines (like not too much lace please) and said pick a dress. (Rachel, I can never thank you enough for doing this....seriously.) I went on the website, which was SIZE INCLUSIVE CAN I GET AN AMEN, and picked out a few dresses that I thought would hide my insecurities but not make me look like a dowdy frump. I ordered those dresses, I kid you not, in four different sizes each. I had no idea what size I was and I was not about to take out the f’ing measuring tape for this. No thank you. Also, thank you for free returns.
The dresses came and now I needed to get through my second hoop, trying them on. Now, I don’t believe in catering to our eating disorders and insecurities, but I’m also not going to torture myself. I chose to try on my dresses first thing in the morning when I was less swollen, alone, not mentally drained from a whole day and I also would NOT look in the mirror. I went off of how I felt in it first, then looked in the mirror to see if it was tolerable. Oh, and trust I picked the mirror in my home that was the most flattering. Some were immediate no’s. Like, immediately NO! haha! But, I refused to dwell. I took it off quickly and onto the next. Bam Boom Done. Once I had two I was cool with I sent photos to my sisters and asked for the truth. If you know my sisters, this is a BRAVE thing to do! It also was the right thing to do! They told me which one looked best, I said ok and called it a day. Mission accomplished, MOVING ON!
My next biggest fear was being in photos. I’m a photographer so you would think I wouldn’t care as much. WRONG. I care very much. The only good thing about being a photographer is that I know when I see that wide angle lens to make sure my butt is toward the center of the photo and please God shoot me from a the right angle!
This is how I got through photos. This may sound weird but I truly tried to just have an out of body experience. I told myself over and over in my mind that yes, this is awful and I kind of want to die right now, but I will pretend that I am sexy as hell and will smile and do whatever that photographer tells me to do for my sister’s photos. You want a hip out with a sly smile...you got it girl. You want me to walk towards the camera like a runway model...I will crush that model walk. I mean, fake it until you make it! I hated every second of it, BUT, I will do it for my sister and it is what it is. Also, to be honest, it worked! My mind was screaming the whole time but I truly did have fun and was able to be present! I figured I will worry about actually seeing the photos at a later time. Oh, I also pulled the photographer aside, told her my situation and while my sister is THE most important thing in the photos, if she could just place me in places that didn’t make me look like a whale that would be really cool too :)
The next two things that I feared kind of went hand in hand. One is seeing people I hadn’t seen since beginning recovery and the other was walking down the aisle. In this situation, it basically happened at the same time.
Let me tell you, God was ON. MY. SIDE. that day! We didn’t have to get photos in our dresses until after the ceremony and as per most weddings we were running a smidge late getting to the church. This left me with no joke, about ten minutes to squeeze into my spanx, throw on my dress and shoes and walk down the aisle. I truly didn’t have the time to even consider that I was about to walk by myself down an aisle in the most formfitting thing I had worn in a few years and expose my recovery weight gain to over a hundred people. I just went. While walking down the aisle I kept telling myself to smile, don’t trip, it is what it is and also, it is not about me. After I get to the front people will only be looking at the bride and I can make it through 30 second of terror. It also helped that my extended family was smiling at me, knowing this wasn’t my best case scenario but also this was a BIG WIN for me and my brother was the pastor officiating so I could just look at him if I needed to pretend other people weren’t there! I did it! I walked down the freaking aisle, in my dress, during recovery, in a body I hated. Guess what? It wasn’t that bad and honestly it was freeing. That cat’s out of the bag people! I’m no longer anorexic skinny mini! People see me, it is what it is, lets celebrate Rachel’s marriage.
The last hurdle of the wedding day was the reception. Honestly, once I got through the ceremony and pictures I figured it would be all downhill from there, and it was! I sat at the head table, realized not a single person cares about how much a did or did not eat because they were busy getting free drinks from the bar. The rest of the time I spent in my own little world dancing to the incredible band they hired! If you think I am joking I am not. I literally stood in front of the band and danced with whoever was around me the entire time. I avoided any serious conversation. It was like I was celebrating myself a little too. Being a bridesmaid in my sister’s wedding was a big fear and here I was, singing my lungs out to a Whitney Houston cover, having the time of my life, with the people I love, in a body that I didn’t love but that was recovering.
It was totally worth it!
The last hurdle to being a bridesmaid is the viewing of the dreaded wedding photos when the photographer finally gives them to the bride. I 100,000,000,000 percent did not want to see these photos. I had gotten through the day, I was present, had an amazing time and I didn’t want to lose that memory to a new disordered one about how fat I was or how bad the angle was because a picture wasn’t good or my body dysmorphia would warp it.
So I didn’t :) That simple. I chose not to look at them. I’m not the bride! Why the heck to I HAVE to look at them? I don’t! I can choose to view them when I’m ready to view them. I saw a few safe ones of my sister (the bride) and that’s really all I needed! I got off social media for the few weeks that I knew my sister and family would be posting away and protected myself from ruining the great memories I had from that day.
I did eventually view the photos and it went as expected. Some photos were great and others were less than desirable to look at. There was only one that made me hard core cringe because I had more chins then I thought was acceptable, but oddly enough my sister says it’s her favorite picture of me at her wedding! We clearly have different criteria for favorite photos, but to her it was a photo of me just being myself and enjoying her special day! In that photo she see’s a sister who was uncomfortable, triggered out the wazoo and wasn’t in the best recovery place, but put on the dress and did it anyway. My values won! My eating disorder did not. I, to this day, choose to remember how much fun that day was and I leave it at that.
I encourage you, if you are faced with a situation like this (and you are physically able**), do not allow your eating disorder or recovery to stop you from living life to the fullest. Don’t allow it to rob you of one more day of joy and fun experiences. Don’t let it keep you from celebrating the ones you love. God will always give you a way through it with him.
*The bridesmaid dresses were from www.azazie.com. I truly cannot thank them enough. They are size inclusive, have hundreds of styles to choose from and when I wasn’t sure about my size they let me keep both dresses longer to make sure I was ok. They are fabulous!
** I just want to say that if you are in treatment and are physically or mentally not able to participate in these things because it will be too triggering and put you in danger then don’t do it! During my recovery I also skipped a cousins wedding. No, it wasn’t my sisters but I love my cousin and was sad to miss it. I was not in a good place, physically or mentally and it was better for me to not attend that wedding. I sent my RSVP, a gift and was honest about why I couldn't’ make it. Sometimes saying no is what is necessary. This wasn’t the case for my sisters wedding. I only didn’t want to do it because I didn’t like my recovery weight but knew I was in a place where I could challenge myself and it wouldn’t lead to suicidal ideation or relapse! Choose what is best for you, but always seek recovery and freedom when you can :)