Four weeks ago, I woke up utterly depressed. I had just married the love of my life a few days earlier so why did it feel like I was grieving?
My husband and I had managed to stay totally present on the day itself. Our married friends had warned us that it all goes by in a blur so we made sure to savor as many moments as we could. But no one gave me the heads up that I might feel deep sadness afterward.
I consulted my favorite oracle: Google. A number of articles popped up on my computer referring to post-wedding depression, the post-wedding blues, and wedding withdrawals. There are even message boards where new brides talk about their feelings with other new brides. As one article title put it, Post-Wedding Depression is a Real Thing.
The post-wedding blues is described as withdrawals after the high of the big day, accompanied by a feeling of “what next?” There may even be a sensation of emptiness, now that there is no more wedding planning to take up so much time and space. And the blues doesn’t just affect women. My husband was hit by them, too.
That first week after our wedding, we lived in a pink cloud of newlywed euphoria laced with malaise. You wouldn’t have thought we had both just experienced the best day of our lives.
My husband and I processed our feelings by recapping our favorite moments with each other, over and over. When we exhausted our list of what we loved about our wedding, we proceeded to nitpick about what didn’t go right, over and over. I hated my bouquet. How could the DJ have forgotten to turn the microphone on!? Why did I improvise my speech instead of use notecards?! All this talking and obsessing, I now realize, was our way of trying to hold on to the day.
When we were done sweating the minutiae with each other, I called girl friends that had been at the wedding to talk about the day with them. What did you think of the food? Did you like the flowers? Did you have a good time?
Driving in traffic aggravated my senses. Running to the grocery store left me feeling drained. I kept losing track of time, arriving 45 minutes late to my chiropractor. I had no appetite, except for leftover wedding cake. I was weepy at the slightest provocation.
“It’s our first time back in our house as husband and wife,” I told him, sobbing in his arms. “I’m so happy!”
Five-and-a-half hours, which was how long we had from the start of the ceremony until the last dance, was just not long enough to take in everyone and everything. For every moment that my husband and I got to savor, there were twice as many missed. If only we could have cloned ourselves. We could have attended cocktail hour and snuck off with our photographer for pictures. Instead, we had to choose just one—the photos—and miss out on the other.
And then there were all the people who came for us. To have our families and friends from the different eras of our lives seated across from us at the reception made me feel like—to quote an old Belinda Carlisle song—heaven really is a place on earth. It’s also emotional overload and a bit of a teaser because good luck having a real conversation with any of them.
I understand that weddings are not set up so that the bride and groom can spend quality time with anyone but each other, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel lousy about this at the end of the night. I still do.
The day after the wedding I tried to steal more moments. I woke up at the hotel at 6am, rushing from one relative’s room to another for a few minutes of conversation. I sent a long email to an old friend that had come from across the country whom I hadn’t seen in years until our wedding. I apologized, lamenting that we didn’t get any concentrated amount of time together. He responded graciously, saying he was just happy to have been there.
“Let’s get married again,” I said to my husband, teary-eyed. “That way, we can spend at least another two minutes with everyone and hit up cocktail hour.”
A few of the articles I found on the post-wedding blues provide strategies for dealing with this type of depression and its side effects. Plan a trip, advises one psychologist. Focus on your life with each other. All good advice, but maybe these particular blues are supposed to be felt and sung.
Granted, not all newlyweds suffer from wedding withdrawals, but there are plenty who do. So why not embrace this as part of the process and make space for it? For my husband and I, singing the post-wedding blues has been unavoidable and necessary.
It’s been a month since our wedding. I’ve taken to calling my husband by his new title every chance I get. Husband, what time is it? Husband, can you pass the TV remote? Good morning, husband! It’s as if we’re in the honeymoon phase of our relationship all over again except that we’re married.
Yet there are still some days when I just can’t seem to help myself, and I break into my now all too familiar refrain:
I miss our wedding… I wish we’d had more time with everyone… that damn bouquet.
I saw a woman at the bank the other day. A bank teller. She had the same kind of liver spots on her face that my grandmother used to have, right on the side of her cheeks by her eyes. She had laugh lines like my grandmother did. The shape of her face was almost exactly like hers. So was the texture of her skin. I wondered if the woman’s skin, like my grandmother’s skin, is what old lady Filipina skin is supposed to look like… like a coconut but not so hard, smooth even though it looks rough.
Seeing this woman was like looking at grandmother again, as if she were standing in front of me even though it wasn’t really her. The teller also had drawn in eyebrows, except my grandmother never used black eyeliner to pencil in her eyebrows. She always used a brown pencil. (Although when my grandmother was in her seventies once, she drew one of her eyebrows in blue because she was in a hurry and didn’t notice. When my sister pointed it out hours later my grandmother laughed so hard that she had to put her hand over her mouth to keep the rest of her laughter from spilling out all over the floor.)
I wanted to touch this bank teller’s face. I wanted to press my face next to hers and inhale deep to see if she smelled like Pond’s cold cream and Johnson’s baby powder, just like my grandmother. If I could have stood in front of the teller window longer I would have looked at her hands to see if they were wrinkled in the same places where my grandmother’s fingers had been wrinkled too.