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Anxiety and the Church

When Latter-Day Saints hear the phrase “anxiously engaged”, many people think about doing good works. Or how it would make an excellent title for a Nicholas Sparks movie about a Mormon couple, who have to endure the stresses and trials of a lengthy five week engagement.

This summer, the phrase took on new meaning for me when I experienced my first panic attack, and I soon became “anxiously engaged” in a different way, worrying about situations and events that never would have made me anxious or fearful before.

For instance,

* What if I meet The Hoff and he professes his deep, unadulterated love for me?
* What if my branch finds out I don’t scrapbook or have a Costco membership? Will I be shunned?
* What if someone pokes me on Facebook? Can I get cooties?

Along with those very logical and rational worries, came a fear of being in situations where I would feel trapped. This really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. My family has a long history of anxiety, including a grandfather with extreme claustrophobia. Anxiety usually creeps up for women in their late 20’s-early 30’s (even though I am clearly only 21), and it usually only happens to extremely hot and attractive women, so I was like a human Petri dish for anxiety and worry.

Being a social worker for the past 10 years (yes, they let 11 year-olds work for DCFS!), I am probably better equipped to deal with a mental health crisis than your average person. I know that anxiety disorders are extremely treatable with counseling and/or medication, and I don’t feel any of the stigma that often comes along with seeking treatment. Although, I will say I look stunning in the dark sunglasses, wig, and large overcoat I wear while walking into my therapist’s office.

Being a lifelong member of the LDS church, I have also heard some of the well-meaning advice that church members sometime give:

* “You probably need to pray and read your scriptures more.”
* “You aren’t going to the temple enough.”
* “I think it’s all in your head and just a trick of Satan.”
* “You just need to talk to your bishop and everything will be fine.”
* “You need to add more green Jell-o to your diet!”

I have yet to encounter someone who would say these things about cancer or a broken leg, but when it comes to a broken heart or mind, many people seem to think these things can easily be fixed by a prayer or an episode of fasting.

While I have sought much help and guidance from the Lord and my Father in Heaven, including receiving a blessing from my husband, which helped me tremendously, I have also sought help and guidance from a professional who has been able to give me earthly tools and coping mechanisms. I am also appreciative of the fact that I belong to a church that understands that we may need a little extra help from therapists and mental health counselors, and has provided a treatment option in the way of LDS Family Services.

I have chosen not to take prescription medication.

I haven’t had a panic attack in over six months, and while I still feel anxious in some situations, I now feel better equipped to deal with my anxiety. I also have my own Stuart Smalley “Daily Affirmation” of, “I’m a smart, confident woman who has worn a Snuggie in public, on numerous occasions. I can conquer my fear.” And now, I can go back to being anxiously engaged in a good cause. Gosselin kids, here I come!


Kristina lives in Utah with her husband and her well traveled Snuggie. Kristina is a full-time social worker, bringing joy, rainbows, and metaphorical unicorns to all the people she works with, on a daily basis. In her spare time, she can be found reading blogs, knitting blankets for disadvantaged hairless animals, shunning Twilight, and wearing high heels while vacuuming. Kristina's dream job is to write for Conan O'Brien, or to move to Alaska and work on an oil rig. She'll take whichever one gives her squeezy cheese for lunch. She blogs at Pulsipher Predilections.

Photo by twnklmoon

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