Rochelle Weinstein

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Hi {{ subscriber.firstName | default('Friends') }},
This month’s newsletter comes to you on our 25th wedding anniversary. Coincidentally, we spent the weekend at our friends’ son’s wedding at beautiful Saddle Woods Farms in Tennessee. Watching P and Z—radiant and wholly connected—it gave me some time to think about my own wedding day—the expectations, the newness of it all, beginnings, and journeys. It also had me thinking about the guy I chose to spend forever with.
This may be a strange anniversary recap for many to read, but this is the truth. My truth. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from writing is that experiences are great storytellers. And great stories come with great lessons, and sometimes, great pain.
This tale begins when I turned eight. That was the year I had begun to suffer from waves of emotions I couldn't explain. These moments of doom would appear, randomly striking, leaving me terrified and alone. There wasn’t a single person with whom I entrusted this dark secret of mine, so I learned to ride it out, block out the scary thoughts, manage the physical symptoms until I felt safe again. Oftentimes, that meant leaving a friend’s house in the middle of the night with a stomachache, counting, avoiding triggers, and writing in my diary: please let this pass.
This went on for years. Episodes of crippling dread thread through the joy of adolescence and young adulthood. My life, from the outside, appeared normal and rife with fun jobs, friends, Florida sunshine, boys (a sadistic way to lose yourself), and I was a master at hiding my insecurities and shame.
Until my senior year of college.
We were in the midst of finals before Christmas break, and these scary thoughts grabbed me by the neck and squeezed. After twelve years of suffering silently, I didn’t have the strength or courage to fight anymore. I knew something wasn’t right. When I got home to Miami, I tearfully told my father that I thought I was going crazy. Oddly, I couldn’t share this with my mother, the primary caregiver in my life, because I was too worried it would break her. Together, my estranged parents sent me to a psychiatrist in town for the first of many visits.
Finally, there was a name for my discomfort. I remember the words anxiety disorder, deep-seated emotional issue. The attacks left me depressed. Immediately, I was placed on medication and seeing a therapist three days a week. My holiday break was spent losing ten pounds I didn’t need to lose and eating applesauce because nothing else would go down.
When I got back to school, I felt better. Meaning, the acute symptoms had subsided. I turned twenty-one, there was an understanding boyfriend, a slew of caring girlfriends, a forthcoming degree in journalism, and plans to move to Los Angeles. I stopped seeing the therapist. I tapered down on the medications.
And the years were kind. When you live with anxiety, you know how to run. And I don’t mean quick jogs around the block. I mean, running, metaphorically, from old, uncomfortable feelings. It’s no surprise that some of the most successful people in the world have suffered from some form of anxiety disorder. I used to think my diagnosis was a curse, but in many ways, my anxiety drove me to greater heights. Anything to avoid the ugliness of my feelings.
And then I met Steven.
Graduation passed, and I walked into my mother’s living room—unshowered and exhausted—after a sleepless night on the auto train. He said he was smitten on sight, nudging my brother, “Who is that?” And my brother, nudged back, “Stay away. She’s my baby sister.” But Steven was persistent and charming. Bold. He said he was going to marry me, and when I mentioned how I needed a computer to craft resumes, his way of flirting was offering me access to his Mac.
When I showed up at Steven’s apartment to use his computer, the first thing he did was wipe the lipstick off my lips. “You don’t need that.” That line made it into my first novel. He took me water-skiing, for French fries at Wendy’s, and I attended the first of many firm picnics. But I was restless, still in a relationship with my college boyfriend, and eager to leave Miami and some of the pain that resided there. I once told a friend, “If I could just put him in a freezer, let him fall in love and get hurt, meet him again in a few years, thawed out and layered, I’d be ready.” But what I meant was great love wasn’t possible without some pain, a variation of being found out: I don’t deserve someone who loves me this much.
So I left for LA and began my exciting career. Dabbling in therapy, I was skilled at avoiding triggers and tamping down uncomfortable thoughts. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was still running, the old threats dormant, waiting to pounce. Returning to Miami several years later, Steven and I rekindled our friendship. We were both getting out of relationships, and we took it slow. I was working in the music business; he was a lawyer at a reputable firm. We eventually made it official.
I could easily say I fell in love with Steven because of his charm and positivity and smile, but it was also his selflessness, devotion, and sense of humor. When he asked me to marry him, it was an easy answer. He would make a terrific husband and father, my mother loved him more than she probably loved me, and he had a way of lifting me up that no one had ever been able to do before. I loved the way I felt when I was around him. I loved him.
Only, I was damaged. And not even Steven’s love could fill me up. As plans for the wedding began, I noticed old anxieties surfacing—thoughts I believed I had put to rest. My parents’ estrangement made planning difficult, challenging, and while I imagined a small, intimate celebration, our guest list quickly grew to 300+. Chair covers and invitation wording became grounds for heated exchanges, and I quickly receded into the background as self-doubt cropped up.
When you come from a divorce, you wonder if you’ll carry the gene for destroying relationships. When you’re aching inside from earlier wounds, and when you don’t believe you deserve the joy that is coming your way, you dwell in self-defeating prophecies. In typical Rochelle style, hard-working and diligent, I accepted a last-minute business trip to Kansas City a week before the wedding. I was already feeling the strain of this next step, and my family urged me to consider my mental health, but I didn’t want to disappoint my boss. Or myself. So I went. Still running. And I fell.
Sitting in a strange city miles away from loved ones, the darkness descended, and I suffered another crushing panic attack. Adding to my shame and regret, I missed the important meeting. I sat in the hotel bathroom alone and crying, vowing to never return to Kansas City. When I arrived home, there was uncertainty as to whether or not I would be able to physically or mentally make it down the aisle. My parents asked if I wanted to postpone. I refused. I loved Steven. That had not changed. Only my demons were striking at the worst possible time, and I would not let them win.
All that to say that my wedding day, a week later, was not the happiest day of my life. They say timing is everything, and fate made me fight for this relationship, this union. I spent the night medicated with a weak smile, mostly oblivious to the gravity of the moment, embarrassingly not present. Only when we stepped inside the limo at the end of the night could I let out my breath. I had survived.
When I watched the happy couple this past weekend, I was filled with emotions. Seeing marriage from this lens—twenty-five years later—there was a lot to unpack. And while I wish my wedding day was as bright and cheerful, and I was as wholly present as this young bride, I knew our own wedding day would come to mean something else if we reframed the narrative. I believe we have.
My father said, “Sometimes people have the best wedding day, and it’s all downhill from there. Perhaps your experience will be the opposite.” I made vows to Steven that day, but I also made vows to myself, dedicating years to healing old wounds. I had him to consider, and eventually children, and I knew I did not have the luxury of hitting rock bottom, to let this disorder paralyze me as it already had. There were bumps along the way, and it was excruciating, hard work, but when I ultimately committed myself to wellness, there was no stopping me.
Our wedding day wasn’t like most, but I believe it was the day when I began to realize that I deserved to be loved. Steven could have easily walked away from this unstable woman; he could have easily questioned my love and commitment to him. My brothers told him they’d understand if he walked away. But he believed in me, and he believed in us, and that belief kept me going those first few years. I don’t know many men who would have stayed.
My husband loves to surprise me, he’s generous to a fault, and thrives on overt displays of affection. My way of expressing myself is often quieter, deeper, capturing our emotional bond, the gratefulness for what he has given me and our boys. I admire him daily for being the upstanding guy who stood by my side, for being my rock, my biggest supporter, and for being so blind he still thinks I’m beautiful. There’s no one in the world who I could have stripped this vulnerable and naked with. Our weaknesses made us stronger than I ever thought possible, and he continues to provide me with a haven from life’s curveballs. What he gave me April 12, 1997, and what he continues to give me, is nothing that can be seen or heard, only felt.
I know our wedding day is still a sore spot for him. Understandably. You often hear how marriage is a journey, but you don’t fully comprehend it until you're years into it. Until you've had some time to look back. We were babies that day. Essentially strangers. So on our 11th anniversary, I wanted to give Steven what I had taken from him: a wedding. This time, it was about us. Small, intimate, at our home surrounded by our closest friends and family. And our boys. It is our real wedding day. Our P and Z moment. The bride, I was told, was radiant, and not just from being in love, but from understanding self-love.
I don’t know that words will ever convey how much I have enjoyed and cherish our life together, but I hope this sheds some light. When people tell us how lucky we are, they really have no understanding of what we've been through, how difficult the first few years were, how maybe you do need to experience some pain to fully understand love. I don't regret a single thing. Those darkest hours served as a foundation for trust, honesty, and strength, and I know this: we are richer, stronger, and wiser for having endured it.
I did end up traveling to Kansas City again. Only through the pages of This Is Not How It Ends. The couple. That’s where they fell madly in love. I purposely made it a happy, romantic place, one that which turned difficult memories into love and light. Just like my wedding day.
Today is much more than an anniversary. It’s the day I found myself. Found him. And he continues to be my light. My home. My person.   
Happy Anniversary, Bear! The first shot is from Round 1. The below shots, Round 2. I hope if any of you out there read this and relate in any way, you find your way back. Look deep inside yourself. You have the strength. You have the courage. You got this. And you're never alone.
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What I've been reading and loving... 
(I know, not much of a transition after that heavy stuff)

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My latest column is up on Barbara Bos' Books By Women site. Click here to join, and don't forget to follow on Facebook. 
If you missed the most recent round-up, click here.

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So grateful to Kristy Woodson Harvey and her beautiful blurb! 
WHEN WE LET GO releases May 17, 2022. 
Pre-order here

Do you follow Nurse Bookie on Instagram? You should... 

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 …because on Wednesday, April 13th, we are doing a joint giveaway that you're all going to LOVE! Stay tuned for the details.

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Please excuse any typos. Sometimes I make mistakes!