By: Natalia Beiser
After a serious depression, I was declared to be legally disabled and experienced extreme social phobia. I was rarely able to go in public, except in the middle of the night. I was afraid that I would be seen by people that I had known in my career and I was immobilized by fear in the thought of seeing them. The chances of running into those people that worked the day shift was unlikely. However, the sense of community that I developed through a local church helped me overcome many of my fears.
Largely because of the anxiety, I quit attending church in my faith community. However, I lived across the street from a church of another faith tradition and occasionally found myself walking there to pray and light a candle. As time went on, I began praying and lighting candles several times a week.
As time elapsed, I found myself going to church services in the evening on a fairly regular basis, while sitting isolated from everyone. Someone I met approached me and noted that I came to church often and did not participate in communion. Why not formally join the church and thoroughly experience it?
After much soul searching, I made an appointment to meet with the person in charge of guiding people into entering the church. The formation guide encouraged me to participate in church activities. I knew that I could not emotionally handle partaking with the level of isolation that I was experiencing.
It all began slowly, being strong enough to meet my weekly obligation and to be around a large group of people. There were times that I was paralyzed with fear and had to stay home. I talked to the priest about this and he gave me ideas about how to adapt. As I became stronger, I found that I could participate each week, while always thanking God in my prayers.
I was made aware that the church needed lectors to read during church. As I felt somewhat stronger and felt that I was not giving of my time, talent, and treasure, I volunteered to lector. I started off slowly. I would read in front of an audience of approximately fifty people every six weeks. This was such a huge move for someone that could not leave her apartment during the daytime just a few years earlier! I was terrified and was told that it was obvious. After several years, I began reading each Monday evening. I became proud of lecturing. It was a benefit to the community, but more so to me.
It took several years to begin participating in parish activities, such as assisting with feeding the homeless and being a part of a woman’s group. I am still unable to go to social functions where there are people that I may not be familiar, but I have made progress.
While I still have room to grow, if it were not for this sense of community, I may not be functioning as well as I am today. I am able to shop during normal business hours, and am able to see people that I used to know without issue. I am grateful for being welcomed into this community and for their giving me a chance to bloom.