I have an irrational fear of being in weddings. I fainted during a ceremony a few years ago when I was a bridesmaid and ever since, the thought of being a bridesmaid brings back that blurry vision, wobbly knee feeling.
It’s irrational, I know. The reason I fainted in the wedding a few years back was because the wedding took place outdoors, in the Texas heat, and the ceremony was long, and, it turned out, I was sick. The perfect storm for a fainting bridesmaid.
This past weekend I was a bridesmaid in another wedding. It was in Portland. It was indoors in an air-conditioned church. I was not sick. Yet, I was terrified I would faint again.
All day I saw visions of myself falling to my knees in front of everybody, ruining the vows. I saw myself being carried away by groomsmen, unable to fulfill my bridesmaid duties, and forced to lie on a couch in the back (this is what happened last time).
To add to my fear, the bride had asked me to sing during the wedding. Singing in front of people typically would not be a huge deal for me, but singing as a bridesmaid? This was concerning. During my rehearsal, the pianist warned me, as if she knew my history, “Don’t faint. Singers faint.” So do bridesmaids, I thought.
I walked back to the bridal room feeling queasy. My friend, the bride, asked if I was ok. I told her I was fine. What bride needs to worry about her fainting-inclined bridesmaids on her wedding day?
We circled up to pray. When we were done, I felt like I should ask someone to pray for me. To pray that I wouldn’t faint, but I didn’t. That would be stupid, I told myself. No one needs to know I’m afraid right now. No one needs to know about my little, irrational fear. Best to keep quiet.
So I said nothing. I sat in the corner and sipped water and tried to have positive thoughts. The hour turned to minutes. The minutes turned to seconds and suddenly, I was walking down the carpeted aisle in three-inch heals, a pink dress and a fake smile.
As soon as I stepped on stage, my heart began to race. My legs began to shake. The room felt hot and stuffy, and my little irrational fear felt huge. I was feeling faint. I needed help.
I hate asking for help. I hate asking for prayer. I hate asking for rides to the airport. I hate asking for help when I move. I hate asking for anything in general, and if I am 5% capable of doing it on my own, I will. But I learned a hard lesson this weekend as I stood trembling at the front of the church. My fear had overcome me, and I was not going to make it through this ceremony alone. So in desperation, I asked for help.
I scooted to the bridesmaid closest to me, who happened to be a nurse practitioner, and I told her I didn’t feel good, and I held onto her arm. I held onto her arm. In that moment, I needed someone to literally hold me. I was not going to make it by myself because making it by myself would mean literally falling on my face. No, I was not going to be Independent Andrea today. I was going to be needy and fearful and desperate Andrea. The Andrea I know all too well but rarely reveal to others.
Though I had only met this bridesmaid the night before at the rehearsal dinner, she let me hold onto her. She told me it would be ok. She reminded me to breath. She didn’t shove me away or gawk. She was understanding of my little, irrational fear and she talked me through the ceremony.
And guess what. I didn’t faint. Not when I sang the song. Not during the sermon. Not during the vows. I made it, standing the entire time, and it’s because I had an arm to hold onto. It’s because a nearly complete stranger was understanding and kind and gracious. I made it because I admitted I couldn’t make it, and I asked for help.
If you’re like me—fiercely independent and ashamed of your secret neediness—I hope this story encourages you. I think if we independent types reached out to others more often and confessed our own inadequecies, we would find what I found in that bridesmaid: a gracious, kind and understanding response. We would find that our weakness brings out the strength in others and that fear cannot often be conquered alone, but it can be conquered with a little help.