How A Church Community Helped Me Face My Social Anxiety And Depression

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.  

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