Chronic Illness & Wedding Anxiety

This may be an unusual blog I guess for a wedding photographer, but I was inspired to write this from a post in a Facebook group for brides wondering how they will cope with their chronic illness on the day and their fears and worries about it. After researching a little, there’s not a whole lot of information out there. It’s especially sad and frustrating when this is actually a fairly big worry for some brides who have enough to cope with in the run up to their day. 

So the diseases that were mentioned the most were Endometriosis, PCOS and Crohns disease. I am going to write about periods so if you are squeamish, here is your warning! This blog post will focus mainly on Endometriosis and PCOS but some of the points can be adapted or useful for any chronic illness or even anxiety.

So why am I inspired to write on this topic? Not only have I attended a whole lot of weddings as guest, a bridesmaid and many as a photographer, I also suffer with Endometriosis and have done for twenty years. Thankfully I’m in a good, healthy place and have been for a few years after trying everything to see what works, so I feel I’m in a fairly good place to recommend some things. Now I’m not a medical professional so please consult your GP over what works best for you. Health is wealth and information is key.

Endometriosis is a horrid disease. It’s listed on the NHS’s top 10 most painful diseases to have so it’s understandable why so many brides have major fears and anxieties over their wedding day and if they get a flare up. Symptoms include painful periods, heavy periods, severe bloating (to the point of looking pregnant) as well as chronic pain, nausea, stomach upset and fatigue. 

So if you are a bride, groom, part of the bridal/groom party or simply a guest, I hope these little tips will ease some anxiety for the big day. I’d even say you could use them for any public situation that makes you nervous!

1) Talk to your GP. 

It goes without saying this should definitely be your first port of call. You know your body best and they know the best medicines and help out there. If you feel like you have an unsympathetic GP, go see someone else. It took me ten years to get diagnosed after a series of doctors not listening to me before seeing some amazing GP's and consultants. 

With regards to medication, there are some routes to go down if you really don’t want your period on your wedding day so please do get in touch with them. They can also recommend some non-drowsy painkillers. 

2) The ‘Back-up’ bag

I always take a little back up bag with me everywhere I go. Why? It really helps ease any anxiety of ‘What if I flare up on the day?’ There’s literally nothing worse than being in public and starting to feel ill, hence I made up a bag of what I need. It usually includes anti-inflammatories (non-drowsy), any other medication I need, cooling spray (ladies we’ve all had those hot flush moments), chamomile and/or peppermint tea bags (to help with sickness/nausea), peppermints, water and sanitary products. I only take what I need for the day to keep it small and discreet. If you are the bride, ask a trusted friend or family member who knows about your illness to keep it with them at all times. It’s much easier to find a person on the day than a small, misplaced bag!  

3) Make an excuse

Yep that’s right. It’s your day and we don’t want you panicking if you feel ill. So if you need some air or just a few moments to yourself think of some ready-made excuses to leave the room. Some ideas could include a secret code word or phrase. You could also use your photographer as an excuse and say there’s a nice spot outside and that you should go and take some photos in this light, or you need to check on the catering, or you left something (a card?) in your room. If you use a code word/phrase, make sure the other person truly understands it! 

And don’t worry for a moment about doing this. At weddings, people are usually having in depth conversations and catching up with family and friends. They expect you to disappear for photos so won’t notice if you’ve left the room.

4) Preventing a flare up

Sadly we all know that there’s no 100% foolproof way to stop flare-ups but there is a huge amount that can help your chances of dodging them. 

Diet – Yes, I’m sure this has been in every piece of literature you’ve ever read but it is vitally important. I tried the ‘Endometriosis’ diet a long while ago and I just couldn’t get on with it. I found it massively restricting and it was pretty hard to have a social life of going out for meals and drinks on it. So another medically approved diet you could try is FODMAP so you’ll learn your body’s trigger foods. Avoid that particular food group for at least a month before your wedding and you’ll see an improvement. Again though, I must stress to talk to your GP about this first!

5) Anti-anxiety calming techniques

There’s podcasts, music, massage… a whole array of ways to tackle anxiety, far too many for me to go into here. 

But remember it’s normal to have some nerves. You’re human. But you are going to have an absolutely magical, wonderful day full of love. Love wins over fear – every single time.

6) Bloating and the dress.

There are a number of styles (and underwear) to help flatter tummies and your seamstress or bridal shop will be the best place to ask. They’ve seen thousands of brides or all heights, shapes and weights so they are definitely in the know to advise on what will work for you. 

Plus there’s always Spanx… and you don’t have to keep them on all day. Get your bridesmaid or mum to help you take them off if you feel like you’re bloating on the day – no one will know! 

7) So what if I have my period on the day?

There’s a great article on Hitched about different protection and underwear you can use on the day. 

Be vigilant about taking any medication you need on a regular basis and have some handy in your ‘back-up’ bag. 

If you love your hot water bottle and heat is the one thing you can’t go without, try something like cura-heat pads that you can stick on your underwear. You can always nip to the loo to put them on later in the day if you feel like you need that extra bit of help. 

Pocket hand warmers are also nice and small if you need a bit of extra heat and don’t want to risk leaks from a hot water bottle. They are perfect for when you’re sitting down for the wedding breakfast – just keep them on your lap.

8) Schedule in some downtime

If you need regular breaks, schedule them in. If your budget allows organize a magician or some other form of entertainment to keep your guests busy. Ask your venue if they can set aside a quiet space close by so you won’t have to trek too far. 

I hope you’ve found some of these helpful 

Please do share this article with anyone who you think might benefit and remember....

You’ve survived 100% of your bad days so far. You got this.

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