Getting Through Church With Anxiety

I have known Brett Ullman for a number of years, ever since we went through the Arrow Leadership Program together. Brett has an incredible speaking and writing ministry. I have long respect the work he has done to help others, but I have come to respect him more with his willingness to share about his own mental health. The following is a blog post that originally appeared on his blog. In addition to reading this post, I would encourage you to check out his resources. You will also want to check out his speaking site.


It has been about 4 months since I have been able to sit in a full church service. My anxiety has been high for this last season of life. I was asked the other week what my anxiety feels like when I have to leave. Last week I decided to journal a full service.

My goal in this is to let people who are also struggling with anxiety know that they are not alone. My second goal is to help people understand a little more about anxiety.

8:30 AM:

Here I am in church again

30 minutes early so that my anxiety can get a chance to slowly calm down

Pray that God will grant me peace in my body and mind

Look around at the people around me

Feeling dizzy again

Church starts

Music begins

Say to myself my goal today is to just survive the music portion of the service without leaving

Take a step forward and start holding tight onto the seat in front of me

Keep breathing

Pray

Feeling shaky all over

Remind myself to deep breath in stomach and not chest

Remind myself I am ok

Still don’t feel ok

Tingles moving through my arms and legs and around my back

Start to wonder if I need to leave

Anxiety seems to grow for no reason

Take a drink of water

Take some big breaths

Remind myself I am ok and anxiety is just feelings

Music ends, I survived

My mind questions if surviving is good enough. Not really the goal of a musical worship set

Feel frustrated that this is the situation I am in

I am a 44 year old man who’s only goal is to survive 4 worship songs in church

Remind myself this is my struggle, the thorn in my side

Remind myself I am doing everything I can about it

Time to stand and shake hands

Quickly wonder if I will be dizzy when I stand

Stand anyway

Sit down again

Glad to sit

Preaching starts

Everything is really quiet now

I feel anxiety and panic beginning to grow in my stomach

New goal

Survive the sermon

Suddenly feel sad that this is my goal

Open up my bible on my iPad

Look up at preacher

Wave of dizziness sets in

Should I leave

Shift in my seat

Cross my legs

Breath

Breath

Pray

Pray

Panic is rising

Heart is beating fast

Tell myself it will pass

Tell myself again it will pass

Nothing really passes

Pray

Still feel horrible

Take a drink

Try and concentrate on what is being said

Wish I could concentrate on the sermon and not the conversation in my own head

In my anxious state hard time focusing on the preacher

People in the audience laugh at something preacher says

Feeling envy at people around me.

Wish I could laugh

Wish I was someone else

Tell myself to stop going down the rabbit hole in my mind

Sermon finished

Survived

2 frames of mind after a morning like this:

1st Frame of mind

1. Wishing I could enjoy a church service

2. Wishing it was not so hard

3. Wishing I did not envy people around me

4. Feeling frustrated how my life has become

5. I don’t know how I will survive this

2nd Frame of mind

1. I came to church

2. I talked to some people

3. I made a choice not to just stay at home.

4. I will survive this




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3 thoughts on “Getting Through Church With Anxiety”

  1. Thanks for writing this, especially the two frames of mind at the end. Church anxiety is surprisingly common, and I think it’s helpful to build ourselves up and congratulate ourselves with the second frame of mind, rather than continuing to shame ourselves with the first.

  2. Wow….this is exactly how I feel when I go to church. I pray every week that I could get through. Thank you for this. I, too am so envious of the carefree people around me. I’m tired of getting dizzy and not being able to focus. I will just keep praying.
    Pat

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