DEAR MISS MANNERS: My boyfriend and I attended the wedding of my friends a month ago, but left before the reception dinner because I found myself having a panic attack.
I suffer from an anxiety disorder and severe depression. While medication usually helps, sometimes I still have panic or depressive episodes that are beyond my control, and it can be very painful and embarrassing. I didn't feel that it was right for me to stay and potentially bring down the mood of a joyous occasion.
While the wedding was large enough that I feel our absence may have gone unnoticed, I still feel horrible for not being there for my friends. I didn't know anyone else there that I would have been comfortable sharing this private medical reason for our early departure, nor would I have wanted to bother the happy couple.
The couple has now returned from their honeymoon, and I don't know if (or how) I should mention my absence, or if I should offer to pay for the uneaten meals.
GENTLE READER: While Miss Manners does not allow illness to excuse rudeness (people are forever arguing that it is fine to be nasty if one has a disability, or even a psychological grudge}, she does allow ill people to be excused from situations they cannot handle.
You were right to leave, and right not to announce it to your friends at such a large, busy event. If you were already seated, you need only have said to your tablemates, "Please excuse me; I don't feel well" and left quickly and quietly before they started asking what was the matter and whether they could help. They will probably assume stomach trouble that would have made you an undesirable dinner partner, anyway.
What you should do now is to write your friends a letter about how lovely the wedding was (the wedding is not the party, as many now seem to think, but the ceremony), only adding at the end that you had to slip out early because you felt ill, and deeply regretted not being able to see them off.
Offering to pay for your uneaten dinner would only suggest that you believe them to be crass enough to weigh that against your misfortune.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)