Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The big day. The day they say is the most important day of someone’s life. I happen to be an avid believer that each day can bring about events and change that are important and worthy in the life course, but I had heard time and time again from friends and films that this was the big one.

It finally arrived on April 3, this wedding that I had been planning for around seven months. I had not been one of those young girls or even teenagers who planned her wedding, or even bothered envisioning a dress. I’d like to think that I was pretty low key about most of the wedding process. My parents were there to help with the steps along the way, to advise and reach out to contacts and essentially plan for me. Bless them. My fiance—er, now husband—and I didn’t have too many particulars. I had some visions but “green and white flowers” doesn’t seem too Bridezilla-esque to my ears.

My wedding-planning experience was impacted by my full-time job and my desire to keep my head above water during this drastic emotional change. Because that is what starting any chapter, or entering transition, truly is. A drastic change. Spoiler alert: Temimah Zucker does not adjust well to change.

I prepared for the wedding by surrounding myself with friends and loved ones, engrossing myself in my work and utilizing my supports when things felt both exciting and overwhelming. The day before the wedding I did not have a large Shabbat Kallah, but instead five of my best friends came over and we schmoozed, played board games and kept me calm. Having my loved ones around me was an essential part of my prep process. They know me inside out and were able to reflect on my relationship with my now-husband, as well as how far I’ve come.

For years I did not think marriage was possible. My mental illness and difficulty adjusting made me believe that I would never feel ready, that I’d never be wanted or find someone who would completely “understand” me. I had been in a relationship years ago that I thought would lead to marriage, but for the most part, it was my eating disorder that got in the way. This made me believe, even after recovery, that perhaps I was too complicated and that my issues would walk into a room before I ever could. My friends were the key people in my life who showed me that I was, in fact, lovable and worthy. This includes the young man I dated years ago who actually flew in for my wedding as an act of friendship and support, as we remained friends even after we realized a different type of relationship would not work between us. And then, of course, Shachar showed me that marriage was in fact possible, as he asked me to marry him, and spoke repeatedly about his excitement to be my husband.

On the day of the wedding, with my family by my side and my friends waiting in the wings to dance and cheer and hug me through my tears—there were many tears—I was given proof of my full recovery from my long-ago battle with anorexia.

While I had so many emotions about this “big day” I had also been told a plethora of things: “Something won’t go according to plan, be prepared” or “It’s going to go by in an instant so just try to be present.” But the thing that stood out most when reflecting on my experience of the wedding day actually related to my body.

Years ago, I would have been terrified at the thought of anyone seeing me, let alone a room of hundreds of people. I refused to leave my house out the front door and would only walk my dog in the backyard, in fear of being noticed and judged. On April 3 I had my hair and makeup done and received a number of beautiful compliments on both. I also designed my wedding dress and heard so many lovely things about how it matched my style and “looked like a fairy tale.”

When I heard these compliments I felt funny, as if I had difficulty understanding. In my recovery process, my brain would have translated these compliments as false, as if the people felt they had to tell me I looked nice. I had such a difficult relationship with my body, that hearing about it from others felt even more alien. Now I believe I have a positive relationship with this body, this shell that houses my soul, and while I don’t feel great about myself all the time—after all, I’m human—I had difficulty understanding the fuzzy feeling that kept showing itself when I received a compliment.

After processing the wedding, it finally hit me. Of course I wanted to look nice on my wedding day. It was not the center-focus for me by any means, but I still made the calls for hair and makeup and had many appointments adjusting my dress. But with that being said, when people commented on my appearance, I had a funny reaction, namely because I had difficulty understanding that I had a physical appearance that they could see. This meaning, my emotions, were at the forefront of everything on my wedding day. Joy, fear, hope, anxiety, love—and many more. I was mindful and present and taking everything in slowly. And so when people told me that they “loved my hair” I think the feeling that surfaced, beyond gratitude for the kind words, was confusion. While I was of course in my body, I was connected only to my mind and emotional experience. It didn’t matter when the photographer told me that my tears were smearing my makeup in the photos; this was part of the experience and what people saw on the outside mattered so much less to me than the inner-workings of my mind and soul.

I have no doubt that I am fully recovered from anorexia, but my wedding day—this big day—was a beautiful proof that my life is no longer lived according to my weight or shape. It is no longer a life of running from my emotions and using behaviors to communicate. Instead it is a life containing a full spectrum of emotion. Containing challenges and risks and tears and smiles and everything in between.

When I think about my wedding day I don’t think of the snafus or my makeup or the way my dress looked. I think about my loved ones—those who were there and those who could not be there—I think about the feelings I had at each stage, and I think about starting a life with my fantastic and exceptional husband.

By Temimah Zucker, LMSW

Temimah Zucker is a therapist at Monte Nido Manhattan, a day treatment program specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. Temimah is also a public speaker and meal mentor in the field of eating disorders.