Social Anxiety Sunday

First off, let me explain: I love Jesus. I love my church. I love the people. But here it is Sunday, and I am having my usual anxiety about going to services this morning.

One of the reasons for this is that I have social anxiety. This is in addition to regular anxiety. And in addition to my generalized anxiety disorder.

What’s the difference?

Well, anxiety in and of itself is not pathology. Maybe I’m running late. Maybe I don’t know what to wear. Maybe I don’t know who I am picking up. Even extreme anxiety is not abnormal. It can occur when you haven’t started your Christmas shopping and it’s December 21st. And the in-laws are coming, and you haven’t even planned the menu. A “normal” person who celebrates Christmas would feel that way. It is not a disorder and in fact can motivate the person to get the work done.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is another story altogether. Per The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it is “characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things.” It’s when you are feeling as if you haven’t started your Christmas shopping and as if it’s December 21st, and as if there is a Mac truck bearing down on you at 100 miles an hour. Then again, this feeling would more likely invoke a panic attack. Symptoms can be “shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, vertigo, feelings of unreality, numbness of hands and feet, sweating, fainting, and trembling. Some people describe this experience as feeling as if they’re losing control or going to die.” (AADA)

Anxiety disorder can be of any varying degree in between; not necessarily extreme. But the point is that your body is acting as if there is a real danger. That feeling can exist whether you are merely showering, or working at a routine job, and there is no actual threat. You feel nervous x 1000, but there is no particular reason to feel that way. Anxiety provoking situations can exacerbate or trigger your anxiety disorder symptoms, but sometimes your body just doesn’t care if there is anything there.

Social anxiety is one aspect of generalized anxiety disorder, although I imagine sometimes it could be the only aspect. The ADAA says that social anxiety is “the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations:” It’s when it is nearly impossible for you to bear one more second at the Christmas party, or you can’t finish your shift at work. It’s not necessarily that Mrs. Snowflake is talking your ear off, or that the boss is giving you a hard time. It could just be a normal, everyday interaction, and suddenly you feel like the ground is going to swallow you up.

Some of us can’t even bear to leave the house to perform the activity. Or we sit in the car outside, talking ourselves down. I have even driven by my workplace, though I was dressed and ready to go in. I just could not do it, no matter how many times I had prayed or how well I had prepared. Social anxiety is one of the main reasons I am unable to work, although I have other mental health issues as well.

How does this translate in light of my faith? As I’ve said before, there is a verse that says “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). And doesn’t that apply to things that are within God’s will? After all, He’s not going to give me the strength to sin, obviously. So how could it be that I could be hampered from even attending church? That’s within His will, isn’t it?

Well, there are days! I get up for church, even get ready, and still I can’t get in the car. Or, I get in the car and I can’t drive off. I have even picked up people, dropped them off at church, and gone home. I just can’t do it, no matter how nonsensical it is that I can’t. And talk about being “scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations:” Who is in more of a position to judge and scrutinize than God? It makes me feel so ashamed.

Oh I suppose that I could take a chill pill and still be able to do it. Or call a friend and say “this is the situation, please walk me through it.” But I have addiction issues, so the chill pill is not an option. Call a friend? Supposedly that whole church is full of friends! And I still can’t sometimes.

I do have ways that I can adjust my situation. I am in the choir, so sometimes that is a major source of anxiety. But I can opt out if I must. I can just listen from my seat in the sanctuary. Sometimes that is a real treat! And stepping back from it is enough to help me bear the symptoms I’m experiencing, and still attend church.

If I’m unable to go to services at all, I can watch them on my computer. Or maybe I can only attend the evening service, which is not so populated and more than likely just my church family. I feel like I am copping out, but at least it’s something.

And sometimes prayer and preparation is enough.

But I tell you what, come Monday, I have what I call “my Saturday.” It’s a time to recover and recuperate, take deep breaths, and thank the Lord that once again I was able to do as He asks, and something that I actually do enjoy. It is just hard, sometimes.

Should I feel ashamed? or less than? I hate to say it, but I do. And I know I shouldn’t. It is just another thorn in my flesh, I guess. Unfortunately, too, this pricks my pride. After all, I “should” be better than this. I “should” be just like everyone else.

Oh, really? Boy I could write a few more blog posts based on that paragraph alone. One thing I have learned since becoming a Christian is that there is no place for shame when I belong to God. I am His child! How about pride? That would be worth two blog posts. What does pride mean in everyday terms? How can pride be a true sin against God? But as to having my mental health issues? It is the bane of my whole recovery that I don’t accept that I have them, and that I feel ashamed of them. If I could jump that hurdle and be at peace with it, I’d be golden.

And there are good things about having this disorder. For example, having it does make me more dependent on the Lord. And, there are ways to minister to others who have my condition. I do, when I’m able. And that’s a huge blessing!

Currently, I can get to church and stay through the services without major symptoms. Often it is a source of peace and comfort, and provides a place to worship Jesus, and be with His children. When it is difficult, I have DBT skills I can use, along with exercising my faith.

And isn’t that what Sundays are all about?

But it’s not just about Sundays. I can exercise my faith throughout the rest of the week, as well: To be where He wants me to be, to do as He wants me to do. And when it seems that it’s not working, I can remember that God says to “Be still, and know that I am God …” (Psalm 46:10). He is with me, He cares for me, even when it feels like that Mac truck is bearing down upon me. He is always with me, whether I feel Him or not. Whether I “succeed,” in my own eyes, or not.

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26 thoughts on “Social Anxiety Sunday

  1. MarthasMakeup

    I have been treated before for GAD (now that I am correctly dx with bipolar disorder and medicated for that the anxiety has been less of an issue but I have my days! and I am truly agoraphobic). So I feel you on all of this… you explained it so well.

    I feel like you might be well off to try and let go of some of the guilt for not being able to attend services sometimes. That is easier said than done. But it sounds like you have a great church family who will welcome you back whenever you are able. 🙂

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  2. pennypinchingpeach

    This is an amazingly clear explanation of anxiety. I used to have pretty major anxiety, especially social anxiety, and triggered the worst by church or other religious social settings. I’d go into anxiety attacks and have to run out of a situation and go somewhere quiet to throw up, try to breathe normally or whatever was going on I needed to calm down from. It doesn’t control me anymore, and rarely pops up without a major trigger. I don’t think it was actually a disorder in my case, just a reaction to long term problems in my life. Don’t feel guilty when you can’t handle something. I remember that feeling, and it’s awful. Just do your best with what you can do!

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  3. peggyricewi

    Love this post! Life is about learning to trust God – to remember He is with us, even with the truck bearing down on us. And isn’t it amazing that He is not the one who condemns us when we fail:(Romans 1:8) “For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and are called according to His purpose.” We judge ourselves harshly – I think many Christians do, perhaps even more so in those of us who have MI. But God loves us and pours His grace on us. We love an amazing Lord!

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    1. kbailey374 Post author

      Awesome comment! and thank you for pointing out that scripture! I do tend to forget – it’s usually me condemning me, or should I say the devil … Lord help me to hear from YOU and not the accuser!

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    1. kbailey374 Post author

      (chuckle) That’s good!

      I didn’t know you worked in a rehab. That was my favorite-est job ever! Then the PTB ($) decided to make it into a dual diagnosis unit divided in half w/ adolescent psych on the other half, but no wall between the two units. CAN YOU IMAGINE!!! yeah that is why I got out asap. Not to mention I was standing all 4’11” of me between two tall young adult males having a punching match over my head. YEAH! Goo-bye!

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      1. blahpolar

        Of course. Also heading rapidly for delusions of grandeur now, methinks. But I’ve sensibly swallowed my little blue sleeping pill and soon I will go and read and hope to fall asleep. I hope the snow is still pretty there … and that you will buy hot chocolate to keep at home to make on days like these. I say that, btw, sitting in shorts and a tshirt, every window and door open – and it’s 10pm.

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  4. tabithapianist

    You summed up social anxiety really well! I can sympathize…I haven’t gotten an “official” diagnosis yet, but I am also a Christian who often struggles with social anxiety/panic attacks when going to church. Your focus on the Scriptures is encouraging to me, and I can definitely relate to the whole feeling of I “should” be better than this. Remembering that I am His child is something I sometimes need to be reminded of in the midst of that. Also, I thought it was really mature how you noted that there are advantages to having anxiety, etc., such as increased dependence on the Lord…it’s not really something I’ve thought of before. Thank you for your beautiful post.

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  5. Jesse Walters

    I recently discovered your blog and I’m really impressed. I feel like I can relate to you in a lot of ways through your writing. I also have a history of depression and even a dark past with Christianity. I’m still a follower of Christ but still struggle with anxiety and trying to find answers to life. Great post and I’m excited to read your future writings!

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  6. Yve's Corner

    This is really a great post! I’m going to blog about my memories of anxiety some day. I never knew I had anxiety issues. People would just call me a worry pot. Pff, if only I knew it was much more serious. My anxiety manifests physically, into illness, I worry myself sick- literally. And it’s all in my mind.

    I’ve had panic attacks- although I didn’t know they were. They were so scary. Thank God it’s not so bad anymore.

    And thank you for explaining it so well. May I link my axiety posts to yours when I do get the time to write it?

    Bless you!!

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    1. kbailey374 Post author

      Of course you may! Glad it was helpful! Just know that I’m not a doctor, so I am mostly talking about my own experience. But the quotes are from what seem to be reliable sources. Big hugs!

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