"I woke up the morning of my wedding with a pimple on my forehead."

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bonnie azoulay
Credit: Courtesy of Bonnie Azoulay

I've struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) since I was 9-years-old, but it wasn't until I started dating my now-husband that I began experiencing relationship OCD. ROCD consists of obsessive thoughts regarding romantic relationships, and compulsive behaviors to alleviate the stress caused by the obsessions. 

Like most people who endure ROCD, my obsessions centered around thoughts about if he was the right one for me or if I really loved him. My compulsive behaviors included repeatedly checking my feelings, comparing my partner to others, and reassurance-seeking. I loved and still love my partner very much, but ROCD tends to latch onto the relationships we care most about when faced with commitment-related decisions—such as marriage.

As I continued to suffer from ROCD during our engagement, I increased my medication and started seeing a cognitive-behavioral therapist. Over three months in CBT, I learned many valuable tools to mitigate my obsessive thoughts before they led to compulsions. One lesson that really stuck with me was to avoid assigning meaning to my thoughts or feelings. Typically, we're told to trust our feelings in a relationship. However, as someone living with OCD for so long, my thoughts and feelings didn't align with my true experiences. 

For example, I was very triggered every time I watched or read something involving a couple who broke up as I thought that was a sign that my partner and I shouldn't be together. When I saw someone attractive on the street, I thought that meant I wasn't attracted to my now-husband. When I "felt" like something was wrong in our relationship—because my OCD convinced me that was the truth—I thought that meant we shouldn't be together. 

My therapist, and others with OCD, told me to ignore my thoughts and feelings because they didn't mean anything. They said my mind was playing tricks on me and that I had to remind myself of that. However, that's a hard pill to swallow when you're about to make the biggest decision of your life. It was difficult to let my thoughts come and go without labeling or judging them, but I tried my best to apply this method to my wedding day. 

Many people are told from a young age that our wedding day is the best day of our lives. People look back at their wedding day and say that it's the happiest they've ever felt, the prettiest they've ever felt. As a bride-to-be, I was already under a lot of pressure as it was. To overcome my debilitating thoughts and compulsions while trying to plan a wedding during COVID was a lot. If I wasn't going to assign meaning to my thoughts, I didn't want to put so much significance on that one day, either.

When I met my husband, I was working at a bridal website. I remember reading stories about brides who put all their effort into preparing for their wedding day. They whitened their teeth, got in the best shape of their lives, and started new skincare regimens. They did everything they could to look like their best self and I, too, planned to do all the things. I bought the whitening strips, I established an exercise routine, I told myself I'd lose the 20 pounds, and I consulted with a dermatologist. However, despite having made those first efforts, I didn't actually use the whitening strips nor did I exercise or stop eating carbs. I sporadically stuck to my skincare routine—which was less of a routine and more of a wash-your-face-when-you-remember regimen. 

I couldn't hold space for one more thing to worry about on top of my relationship fears. To do that, I knew I'd have to accept that I wouldn't look my prettiest on my wedding day. Why, I asked myself, should I pigeonhole my happiness into one day?

People look back at their wedding photos with fond memories of a time when they were thinner and younger—their "best self." However, I woke up the morning of my wedding with a big pimple on my forehead and I wasn't at my goal weight. I felt pretty, but not my prettiest. Don't get me wrong, my wedding was magical—I woke up that day feeling calmer and at peace than I had in months. 

When I look back on that day, I'll remember the feeling of clarity, a feeling I longed for for so long. I won't remember the pimple that's visible in some of my photos, or our sweaty faces glistening under the chuppah, or the band who played all the wrong songs, or my hair that frizzed up shortly after taking a few photos, or the rain that dirtied the bottom of my dress. I won't remember the weight that stuck to me. I'll remember that I walked down the aisle calmly without looking for the nearest exit sign.