How to Enjoy Your Wedding Day When You Have A Chronic Illness

I’ve received a lot of requests for this post over the last year, and figured our first anniversary would be a good time to answer those questions. Here are my top 5 tips for enjoying your wedding day despite a chronic illness.

  1. Make time for yourself. 

    Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
    Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

The morning of our wedding was absolutely gorgeous. I spent some time alone in the morning before everyone arrived at the house doing yoga, sipping on a cup of coffee and writing a letter to my soon to be husband. (Instead of sand or candles, we decided to write each other a letter and to put it in a box together to open on our first anniversary. Every anniversary after we will write another letter and open the one from the year before.) I watched the sun rise over the river, wrote in my journal a bit and basically gave myself a few moments to just be.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

I knew that if this short hour to myself would likely be my only alone time, and I savored those moments and gave my body some well deserved self care and relaxation. It really helped me get present for the rest of the day and to make sure I was focusing on what really mattered. This step is important throughout the wedding planning process also. It can be so challenging not to get wrapped up in the pinterest boards and the details and trying to make everyone else happy that you forget about yourself and to pay attention to what you need.  When you’re fighting against your body, you have to listen to what it says while it is whispering instead of waiting until it is screaming at you to stop and make a change. Make it a habit to make time for yourself.

 2. Surround yourself with people who lift you up. 

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

Ain’t nobody got time for negativity. I’m so blessed to have the most amazing tribe of girlfriends who all bring their own unique character traits to the table. My girls balanced me, kept me grounded, supported me and kept me smiling. My husband’s guys kept me laughing and everyone was troupers as it started to rain moments before we were about to walk down the aisle.

My family that day was amazing. My dad particularly went above and beyond to make sure everything was as it should be and that everyone was having a great time. We were overwhelmed by the love and generosity by every guest and were surrounded by love all day.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

I know that not everyone has this type of environment or support systems. If this is the case, consider who you really want to be surrounded with when you make the biggest promise of your life. What kind of energy do you want to bring to your day? Physical energy is flaky with autoimmune disease, and I find that when I’m surrounded by people who are at a lower vibration (or who don’t enjoy life), I lose zest.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black PhotographyInvite the people who bring light in your life. Make them a part of it. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t invite your coworkers dog-sitter or your mom’s cousin’s kids that you haven’t met, ever. This is about you and your husband and who you love, and who loves you best. You won’t regret surrounding yourself with awesome people, you might regret inviting Debbie Downer.

3. Put someone else in charge on the day of. 

Whether you hire someone, loop in a friend or family member, or get the DJ to take over, get someone to take the lead on the big day.

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My best friend from high school was my hostess with the mostess, and even while pregnant she took charge and smiled the whole time. My cousins were in charge of pouring champagne, and my stepsister served drinks with the help of her friend. My in-laws were in charge of clean up the next day. “People want to help you, and you should let them,” was the persistent advice of my future mother in law.

This was probably the hardest advice that I had to take. I’m big on “No thanks, I’m good,” and can handle everything on my own. I know I can handle it, but sometimes you just shouldn’t have to. Particularly on days like today where the celebration is about you. Pass the torch and let someone else take over making sure the centerpieces are all set and that the guys have their boutonnieres and to make the decision on whether to continue the ceremony in the rain or take an hour to move everyone inside. This is your time to enjoy all the things you created, not to think or stress.

4. Whoooosahhhhhh

Breathe. And be grateful.

Not everything is going to go exactly as you planned.

And those moments are the best ones. Let go of expectation, and just enjoy every moment for what it’s worth. We had the most relaxing morning at my home getting ready, and all of a sudden I was supposed to meet my future husband for our first look in 15 minutes and my makeup wasn’t done and I wasn’t dressed and we had taken zero bridal party pictures and everyone was asking if I was okay. I felt myself rushing and getting tied up in freaking out for a minute and then took a breath and remembered that the show can’t start without us. We’ll have plenty of opportunities for pictures, for everything little.  We’re getting married today. I’m alive. Nothing else really matters. So I took a deep breath, let it go, and went back to enjoying myself.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

Things are going to happen that you don’t expect or maybe didn’t want to happen. But in the end, these moments will be the best and you’ll look back on them again and again throughout the years.

You might cut your foot open 5 minutes after wearing your shoes and have to change into flip flops right before you walk down the aisle, but at least you’re comfortable.

It might be sunny until the moment you have to walk down the aisle and then it may decide to rain. But you’ll get the greatest picture with your dad in an umbrella.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

You might not get all of the pinterest-worthy golden hour photos you anticipated, but you’ll have some hilarious moments with the bridal party as you are stuck in an old ice cream parlor.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

The best man might swear in his speech and it may go on for a while, but you will laugh and it will be one of your favorite memories and something that will be talked about forever.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

The flower girl and ring bearer might not want to walk down the aisle. But they are absolutely adorable so it doesn’t matter.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

The dog might follow you everywhere all night and even interrupt the daddy-daughter dance, but you’d rather have him there with you than not at all.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

Those unplanned, unintentional moments are the best.

    5. Pay attention to your hands. 

 Weird advice, I know, but hear me out.

You will look at your hands every day of the rest of your life. Likely they’ll now have a ring on the left hand to help you remember this day, but if you focus on your hands, you’ll remember more of the moments.

With chronic illness, our hands often go through a lot. They are constantly being washed to prevent infection, sometimes they are being poked with an IV for medications, and sometimes they are squeezing or clenching in pain. Our hands hold a lot of memories. Having good ones when you have to go through something tough can make it a little easier. Here are some of my favorite memories:

I think about the mimosa I held and the piece of turkey my future cousin-in law handed me while my makeup was getting done.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

My hand tapped on my future husband’s shoulder when we met for our first look.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

My hand gripped by bouquet that was made by my cousin, wrapped with my great grandmothers brooch she wore to her wedding. My fingers touched my necklace that was made from diamonds from my other great grandmothers ring.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

My hand linked through my dad’s arm as he walked me down the aisle.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

My hands met my husbands as we stood in rain, looked into each others eyes and stated our vows.Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography

My hands were lifted as we were married and ran together down the aisle out of the rain.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

My hands wrapped around my friends and family as we laughed and took pictures.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

My hand was covered with my husbands as we cut our cake.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

My hand held a glass of champagne as we said cheers, and held the hands of others as we prayed.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

My hands wiped away tears as both sets of my grandparents danced as they shared the dance for the “longest married couple.”

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

My hands held more hands as we all danced and laughed and danced.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

And most importantly, my hands were held, by my best friend, my forever partner in life

and were promised they’d always have another to hold.

Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography - Millers Dairy Farm - Phil Black Photography
Eaton Rapids Wedding Photography – Millers Dairy Farm – Phil Black Photography

Hope in Paper Flowers

I’m getting married in June.
At my recent doctors appointment, my PCP asked , “So, you’re working full time, planning a wedding yourself, trying to stay healthy, workout and stay in remission all at the same time? Aside from every other life task,  am I missing anything?”
No, Dr. Miller. You’ve got it.
It’s overwhelming sometimes  managing your own care and trying to have a life at the same time. I’m constantly checking in with my body and asking myself a million questions about my physical and mental state. It’s like one of those questionnaires at the doctor :
Any bleeding today?
How many glasses of water did you drink?
How many hours of sleep did you get last night?
And then, add the wedding planning on top of that…
When are we meeting with the officiant?
Are we having a brunch?
Where will we buy our wedding bands?
How can I pay for this and pay my medical bills too?
And add on top of that all of the other stresses that come with planning a wedding (future in laws, bridal party organizing, pressure from outside sources to fit a certain mold etc etc etc) I could go on and on but I think you get the point.

It’s hard.

Over the next few weeks I’m sharing what I’ve been doing to manage my autoimmune disease and get this wedding how my fiancé and I want it to be, simple, beautiful, and about us. (Duh). If you aren’t planning a wedding but just living your life with with a chronic illness these tips may still be able to help. They are tidbits of what I’ve found to help me along the way.

1. Do what you can, when you can. It will be enough.

I don’t know how many times I’ve repeated this little mantra to myself over the past few months. I know a lot of people with chronic conditions fight a feeling of guilt when they aren’t able to accomplish all of the things “normal” people seem to be able to do.
Folks, none of us have super powers. Even so-called normal people.
Sometimes you decide you don’t give a flying pigeon about having real flowers and fake flowers are just fine. Or you decide you don’t want a brunch the day after the wedding to your MIL’S dismay because it is just too much work and too exhausting to even think about. It’s okay.
Some days you’re crossing items off your to do list  (one of many) like it’s your job. And some days the most work you get done is venting to your bridesmaids. Sometimes its looking at your bank account and saying, I can’t do anything this week.
All of this is okay.
Repeat it.
It is okay.
Do what you can.
A lot of the time all I can do is take old romance novels and cut the pages into squares and fold them into flowers. It costs me nothing, I think they’re pretty, and it goes with our wedding theme. You might have to get creative on what you can do some days. Some ideas on what you can do when you feel like you can’t do anything:
*Breathe. Seriously. Focus on inhaling and exhaling. It works.
*Pet your dog (or cat) or stuffed animal or heck even a rock if that’s your thing.
*Write in your journal.
*Watch Netflix
*Make lists.
*Color.
*Sleep.
*Listen to music.
*Call/text a friend
*browse Pinterest
Etc. Etc. Etc.

  Whatever it is, know that it is enough.

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There’s a lot of pressure sometimes from what other people think you should be doing. I’ll touch more on this later on, but for now, just know, whether you’re planning a wedding or just trying to get through the day while your body is raging war against itself, whatever you are doing is enough. Really, it is.

Hope in the mental and physical

I had an appointment with my PCP last week. I’m blessed enough to have a doctor that has IBD and can relate to exactly what I’m going through. Not only does she run every test possible and tell me about all the most recent research, she knows that IBD is more than just the physical symptoms.
We talked A LOT friday about my labs (which were beautiful btw) and the mental aspects of this disease.
The thing about most autoimmune disease is that is so hard for a lot of people to completely understand is that there isn’t a cure. Even if we did find a cure for IBD, there’s other existential organs that may surface with problems, she told me. I’m not ever really going to really be out of the woods. But I’m in a pretty good spot. The view is just fine, the trees are beautiful. Remicade is working, and physically were in pretty good shape and just have to keep ahead of it and keep my care managed. I’m getting an MRI to check for bile duct cancer, just to make sure we’re in the clear.
Mentally though, our conversation went something like this:
You wake up everyday and you have a disease. Some days you feel great. Some days there’s this looming possibility that you are going to flare. And some days you are flaring. You just don’t know. There’s a weight on your shoulders as you follow all the rules to take care of yourself and find what keeps you feeling your best, and sometimes that weight is SO HEAVY you just want to put it down and let loose and relax and laugh but you’re scared of what could happen.
I did a quick twitter survey a few weeks ago to see how many doctors talk about the mental aspects of having an autoimmune disease. The results were slim to none. I told my doctor about this and she wasn’t surprised.  Most GI docs are going to focus and getting your physical symptoms managed. And that’s ok. It’s important. But you have to manage the other parts as well. So, how?
You have to figure out how you’re going to face this disease. Every single day. Its not leaving. I’ve seen so much depression, anxiety, sleep disorder, eating disorders, emotional breakdowns and much more out here and on social media resulting from this disease. If you’re one of those people, please know you aren’t alone. I’ve been there. I might even be going through that right now too. It’s a cycle.

All of this being said, my blog is going to turn more it’s focus more i
to sharing how I’m dealing with this in the mental health aspect of autoimmune disease.  Now, disclaimer,  I’m not a doctor. Please don’t take this as advice. But I am a patient.  And I do have ulcerative colitis. And I’m going to share my experience here.
Stay tuned for more to come!