Anxiety at Mass


#1

I am not sure where to right this, but I have always have received great advice in this forum. I suffer from social anxiety disorder, and lately it has gotten worse. I am in Catholic Therapy with a psychologist, and an working on my anxiety. But, I have been suffering at Mass with this. When I go to Mass I feel anxious that everyone is looking at me, and I cannot concentrate and start to sweat like crazy. I guess I feel just not good enough. I sometimes have to step away for a while, and leave my wife and daughter in the pews. I am working on overcoming this obstacle. I joined the church in 2009, and am really upset that my anxiety have carrier over to Mass. Has anyone felt like this, or what helped to overcome this.
God Bless.


#2

The "just not good enough" feeling is common, if not standard, among those with an operational conscience. If you believe the best of others and know what you are, this thought is going to occur to you, and that is normal...not meaning mathematically average, but meaning "according to the norm". Consider this thought by Thomas Merton:

*The saints are what they are, not because their sanctity makes them admirable to others,
but because the gift of sainthood makes it possible for them to admire everybody else.
It gives them a clarity of compassion that can find good in the most terrible criminals.
It delivers them from the burden of judging others, condemning other men.
It teaches them to bring the good out of others by compassion, mercy, and pardon.

We become saints not by the conviction that we are better than sinners,
but by the realization that we are one of them,
and that all together we need the mercy of God! *

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

I would explain it this way. If you were a baseball player, and you were batting 0.095 when you're capable of .295, you work with a batting coach. You can condition your reflexes and your mind to do better. This is what you are doing, and that is very good. It may help you to realize this, though: even if that batting coach were to help you along so successfully that you were among the best batters ever, so that you were consistently batting 0.400, you would still be getting out more often than you got a hit.

You cannot reach sanctity without wanting to leave sin behind and advance in virtue, any more than you can be a great hitter without trying to get to base successfully every single at-bat. Being successful 100% of the time, though, is not a realistic goal in this life. They say the saints are not people who never fall, but people who always get up again. So all of us have to live with the fact that we really aren't "good enough". Nobody gets to sit out the Penitential Rite. What God asks is not that we never fall, but that we always seek to have Him help us up, and that we not refuse to offer a hand to others who fall.

Practically speaking, though, maybe you would be helped by being able to attend Mass where the assembly is smaller...either at a smaller parish or by selecting the least popular Mass time offered at your parish. Ask your counsellor whether this might fit in your case.


#3

I've struggled with agoraphobia for years, and mass is definitely one place where it tends to strike.

I've found it helpful, at times, to "parish-hop". (Sometimes just a change of setting can help.) Sitting in the back, especially in parishes with an open door back there can also help. You might try a different, possibly less crowded, mass.


#4

The problem is that I like to go to Mass with my wife and daughter as a family. It just seems that everyone keeps looking at us. I know they are looking at my 15 month old. But, I feel that they are looking at me. I am working through these issues with a Catholic Therapist, but culd use the prayers. I thought of going to Mass alone, but I do not want to do that, as I want to be with my family. I am just so depressed that my anxiety has carried over to the place I used to feel safest. By the time we get up and ready we can only go to the 8:30 or 10:00 and they are both packed.


#5

[quote="mkipp, post:1, topic:214946"]
But, I have been suffering at Mass with this. When I go to Mass I feel anxious that everyone is looking at me, and I cannot concentrate and start to sweat like crazy. I guess I feel just not good enough.

[/quote]

Do you think Satan is trying to use this "not feeling good enough" to drive a wedge between you and God? I'm thinking so.

When it comes down to our irrational fears (and that's what your present fears are), a lot of times we can trace the root to our own deep seated sense of pride (I am not smart like others, I am not rich like others, I am not good looking like others, I have too small of a house, I have too old of a car, and so on...) More often than not our fears, uncertainties, sins all stem from a root, however deep and slight, of the sin of pride.

Our trick, then, in overcoming all this is to focus solely on what God thinks of us and what God ants of us. What does He think of us? Why, no matter what our state in life He loves us completely, totally, givingly. HE LOVES YOU JUST THE WAY YOU ARE. Focus on that. Meditate on that. Delve into that and know that what He thinks and how you love Him is really all that matters in life.

Remember that we always need to work with our own selves in truly being humble and accepting what God wills for us in life. Through our Lord Jesus give your worries to Him. Give your thoughts to Him. Give your life to Him and over time (perhaps even in a surprisingly short amount of time) you will find that life is truly wonderful and that your internal conversation in your head will be directed to God, with God, for God and that you will no longer focus on what others may think about you.

Finally, when praying the rosary, focus primarily on the first joyful mystery (the Annunciation) -- Mary's complete and total humility in acquiescing to God's will, not hers -- and ask Mother Mary to grant you insight and complete acceptance of all that God wills for you.

May the Holy Spirit shower you with His peace and love.


#6

I HAVE felt this friend.

I have found it has to do with my life and things I am feeling anxious about. In my case it was my marriage crumbling, and knowing my husband was seeing a stripper. When I got to Mass it was just so overwhelming.........I sat there at Mass, and it just sorta all flows out.

I found if I just let the tears flow, which they often did/and still do, I feel better.

Your anxiety has to do with the fact there you are, in front of Jesus, His body and blood, and just the fact HE knows you, everything you are facing in your life.

KNOW it's OK. Just rest. Rest in your pew. Cry if you need to.

I often times feel such anxiety, for me, a woman, I found wearing a lace doily, those head things, helps me. It shuts out all neighbors, all distractions. This may sound silly, but it works for me.

I recommend just come before the Lord, without anything. Maybe pray before the Blessed Sacrament a couple times a week, or even before Mass.

Peace~


#7

I won't pretend to know what you're going through and I don't have any outstanding advice, but I offer you my prayers.

I would just like to reaffirm for you that, if you have a 15 month old, people are definitely not looking at you! :p I have a 21 month old and I know that any eyes looking in our direction are directed at him, not me. I can't compete with his adorableness. ;)


#8

It';s good advice that others have offered to perhaps find or go to a smaller church, or maybe a less crowded Mass. I often feel a panic attack come on when I'm in a huge packed and crowded space. When I go to Mass at my church at a less crowded time, I don;t feel it as much.

I struggle to overcome this as I write to you. I take Valium as needed, and many times I need to take one upon entering our huge church before Mass.

Social Anxiety Disorder. YES.GAD.....Generalized anxiety disorder. Yes. This is what my Dr. told me I have. I know though, it's just life, and what I'm going through currently. Which YES, causes restlessness, anxiety, etc.

Perhaps you need something to help you with this for now anyway. Like a drug, or something. To take the edge off. It's probably only a phase in your life you're going through. And it's OK to get a prescription to help you through it. You won't need it forever.

Welcome to the church! You;re a new Catholic and that's awesome!

Peace~

P.S. I ask: is there some problem you're facing now?>??? in your life?


#9

[quote="Corinne3, post:8, topic:214946"]
It's good advice that others have offered to perhaps find or go to a smaller church, or maybe a less crowded Mass.

[/quote]

Maybe even at a nursing home, a hospital, or a college campus Newman Center. This is a legitimate reason to go regularly to a Mass that isn't a "parish" Mass.


#10

Hi Easter Joy!

Your response was funny, but good.

I think we all go through phases in our lives. Sometimes we feel great around people, other times we feel afraid, like everyone is staring at us. I can totally relate to the OP's post.

I at times, was too afraid to even walk my dog, as every car, I felt was staring at me. But I've had this problem my whole life actually. Being self-conscious. I've been told it's because of my long blonde hair. Or my figure. Although I do not dress in anything but modest attire.

I sometimes feel I want to dress in all black at Mass so I am not noticed as much. This helps a bit.


#11

[quote="Corinne3, post:10, topic:214946"]
Hi Easter Joy!

Your response was funny, but good.

I think we all go through phases in our lives. Sometimes we feel great around people, other times we feel afraid, like everyone is staring at us. I can totally relate to the OP's post.

I at times, was too afraid to even walk my dog, as every car, I felt was staring at me. But I've had this problem my whole life actually. Being self-conscious. I've been told it's because of my long blonde hair. Or my figure. Although I do not dress in anything but modest attire.

I sometimes feel I want to dress in all black at Mass so I am not noticed as much. This helps a bit.

[/quote]

The truth is, we'd probably all be stunned to realize how utterly unremarkable we are to everyone else! Days and days go by, and they don't notice us at all! It's like they all had a life of their own, or something! :D


#12

I know at the age of 32 I seem to be feeling worthless. I feel like I don’t know why my wife loves me, or that my daughter would be better off with a richer father than I. Also, I feel ugly and that I am not worthy of anyone’s love. I feel bad that I am not rich and cannot provide for all the luxuries that my wife deserves. I feel that if my wife got rid of me she could get a better looking and richer husband. These are really my thoughts and they did not take control of me until recently.


#13

[quote="mkipp, post:12, topic:214946"]
I know at the age of 32 I seem to be feeling worthless. I feel like I don’t know why my wife loves me, or that my daughter would be better off with a richer father than I. Also, I feel ugly and that I am not worthy of anyone’s love. I feel bad that I am not rich and cannot provide for all the luxuries that my wife deserves. I feel that if my wife got rid of me she could get a better looking and richer husband. These are really my thoughts and they did not take control of me until recently.

[/quote]

Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi and knowing what I know of him he would take you in his arms, give you a big hug, and say, "my brother, I and the Lord Jesus love you just as you are!"

At the same time I think he would probably also give you a light whack on the head and say, "get a hold of yourself, man, because whatever the state of your and your family's life is right now is according to the will of God -- and the will of God is love and perfection itself."

Why not get down oon your knees right now, pour out your fears to our Lord and ask St. Francis to help you with your doubts. Then, when you go to bed tonight, give St. Francis and our Lord a hug yourself. You'll be surprised, then, at what the Holy Spirit will do for your state of mind over the next few days.

Peace and love.


#14

Have you seen a counselor, or are you on any medication for this? I know EXACTLY what you're talking about because I am diagnosed with severe social anxiety, but I have been to counseling for the past 5 years and have been on medication, and I can tell you, my life hasn't been better than it is now. It really really really does help. Please check that out, because I promise you can get better!


#15

[quote="EasterJoy, post:2, topic:214946"]
*They say the saints are not people who never fall, but people who always get up again. *

Practically speaking, though, maybe you would be helped by being able to attend Mass where the assembly is smaller...either at a smaller parish or by selecting the least popular Mass time offered at your parish. Ask your counsellor whether this might fit in your case.

[/quote]

(Bolded emphasis mine) The statement above is pretty much one of the most powerful things anyone could say.

I just wanted to add that I too suffer from SAD. It's gotten pretty mild overall (with a few recent drawbacks) and I have God to thank for that. For me, it's really a matter of learning how to own my thoughts. If I start thinking negative thoughts about myself, or something along those lines, I stop myself and say, "C'mon Jen, really? God doesn't think those negative things about you, so why should you? You can't be a loving person if you're so busy beating yourself up all the time."

I really think Easter Joy's comment is powerful because no matter how much we may struggle to trust and follow God, as long as we are always trying, that will be enough.

OP, your efforts alone to continue carrying your crosses is enough to show how much you love the Lord. He will reward you and help you through all of this. It just takes perseverance.

I'm sorry I can't be much more help, but just know that I am praying for you and your dear family.

God bless,
Jennifer


#16

[quote="mkipp, post:12, topic:214946"]
I know at the age of 32 I seem to be feeling worthless. I feel like I don’t know why my wife loves me, or that my daughter would be better off with a richer father than I. Also, I feel ugly and that I am not worthy of anyone’s love. I feel bad that I am not rich and cannot provide for all the luxuries that my wife deserves. I feel that if my wife got rid of me she could get a better looking and richer husband. These are really my thoughts and they did not take control of me until recently.

[/quote]

This sounds like you are getting really depressed. I have had feeling like this too but the meds. did not work for me. This is really rare though. You really need to tell your psychologist everything you posted above. They have meds. that really can help for this and they are not bad for you. They add more of the natural chemical in the brain that you are lacking.

In the mean time I think it does really help to know that you are never alone because Jesus is always with you and He loves you so much! My favorite psalm is 139. Whenever I read I feel so much better. Here is the first part of it. I cannot post all of it because it is too long.

Psalm 139

O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me!
Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up;
Thou searchest out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou dost beset me behind and before,
and layest thy hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high, I cannot attain it.

Whither, shalll I go from thy Spirit?
Or wither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend to heaven,thou art there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there thy hand shall lead me,
and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, "Let only darkness cover me,
and the light about me be night,
even the darkness is not dark to thee,
the night is bright as the day;
for darkness is as light with thee.

For thou didst form my inward parts,
thou didst knit me together in my
mother's womb.
I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful.
Wonderful are thy works!

Thou knowest me right well;
my frame was not hidden from thee,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately wrought in the depths
of the earth.
Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance;
in thy book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are thy thoughts,
Oh God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more
than the sand.
When I awake, I am still with thee."


#17

I do take anti-anxiety meds, and they do help. I just feel so worthless, that I think that everyone see's me as worthless. I have a great job, family, but feel all alone.


#18

Hi Mkipp

If you are on meds and still feeling this way, I think you need to have your meds re-evaluated.

I have a close friend who struggles with anxoety & depression, and unfortunately for her, her response to medication had been difficult. Meds & dosages that work fine for most people just don't work for her.

She didn't start to really feel batter until she started going to a Psychiatrist for her medications. A Psychiatrist is an EXPERT on psych meds. I don't know who is prescribing your meds, but if it's not a Psychiatrist, it might help to look into finding one.

Good luck and God bless.


#19

The meds do help, and there is a big difference when i take them.


#20

The meds do help, and there is a big difference since I started taking them.


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