Running from RCIA in fear?!?!

I signed up for RCIA waaaay back in February this year. Looked forward to it all year. Now I have missed it all three times. When I go to the Basilica, I see this big place and it looks like a giand furnace and it feels like I start to not be able to breathe, the closer I get and I start to hear myself say, “I can’t, I can’t” but I can’t tell if I’m saying it or thinking it and then I think somebody sees me doing this and they will think I have a demon and then I think I’m being attacked by a demon and I just get out of there and when I get back to my car or on the bus, it feels like I just escaped with my life.

Now I have to say that I do have anxiety disorder and I take meds for very small hallucinations like a shadow or something but I have never experienced anything like this before and i feel like I’m not going to make it to RCIA. I don’t know how many you can miss before you don’t qualify. I can’t get it together, I’m recked with fear. It is troubling me that I may be walking in saying I can’t and someone hears me talking to myself but I might be just hearing it in my head. I didn’t know where to out this but…I want the Eucharist but I’m afraid of old Catholic demon possesion like the excorsist. Help me plead with God please!!!

Greetings Rturner76,

I will indeed keep you in my prayers. Have you talked with your parish priest about this? That is my best counsel that I can counsel you with.

I would suggest that you go to as many Masses as you can. And to perservere in RCIA classes as well.

God Bless.
Anathama Sit

I am happy to hear that you want to come into the church, and you will of course be in my prayers. However I think you understand that what you are dealing with is not demonic so much as it is psychological. Please don’t think I am trying to make fun or call you crazy, you do not sound crazy to me, but you do sound a bit disturbed. PLEASE go and see your doctor about this and be honest with him. If for some reason you cannot attend RCIA at this parish, please keep in mind there are many others. Also if you contact the parish, maybe the priest or deacon will be able to teach you outside of parish if it is really needed.

God bless and know that you are not alone.

Surely you can take instructions some other place. RCIA is taught all over the place.

I have anxiety disorder as well and I understand perfectly what you are experiencing. I don’t go to some big churches for this reason but I still go to church and receive communion. Be assured it is not a demon but plain old anxiety that is explained by how our body reacts to stress in some people. A priest should understand, especially those who have a medical background.

Don’t beat yourself up just find a better place to do what you need to do and talk to your spiritual adviser about how you feel.

Is it possible that you are having panic attacks? Personally, I would contact the priest and tell him about this issue you are having. Maybe he can make some sort of arrangement with you that would be less stressful for you but that would still allow you to become Catholic. I would also recommend that you tell your psychiatrist/psychologist about the issues you are having. It could be that a change in medicine or some therapy would help you to deal with such fears and things.

That is called a panic attack.
It has cure. Better see a psychiatrist and a good and reliable one.
Mos of the time is cured with beahovior therapy but you need to have someone close to you to help you.

Meanwhile forget about demons and the like. Your guardian angel knows very well how to take care of them…

You need help. Alone, it will be difficult to get rid of this and priests have not time enough for that for it takes some time, not long but some time.

I see you are already on meds and you have probably had counseling so you understand about your problem. Since you have not become a Catholic yet and you mentioned exorcism maybe you are scaring yourself about things coming out of Hollywood and not true at all. I saw the movie, The Exorcist" and took it for what it was. Exaggeration from Hollywood to sell a movie.

You can be assured by a priest on this subject. Being possessed is very, very rare so I would not even worry about it. What you are experiencing is purely physical. In my opinion most Catholics do not think about possession by demons very much at all. It won’t even occur to them that is what you are experiencing.

No,. the priest cannot help with your counseling for anxiety but he can take more time with you with RCIA and get you through it more slowly. You do not need to rush. RCIA is done each year. Do as much as you feel you are up to and you will eventually get through it. Thinking you need to do it now will only make your stress worse.

I had problems going to church for awhile but when I went back and told the priest he told me God understands better than we to. God is patient and kind so be patient and kind to yourself.

From the information above it is likely that you have a panic disorder, Generalized anxiety disorder or even a mood disorder, but obviously we would need more information. I don’t know you, but make sure that you see a psychiatrist that can help you with this. They will be able to discern what you suffer from and see if you need any medications changes. For instance treatment for GAD vs. Panic disorder, are completely different. For GAD you should be taking something like Buspar, but with Panic disorder and SSRI inconjunction with a brief course of Benzodiazepines or even a B-blocking blood pressure agent like Propranol that will help with some of the somatic symptoms (tremulousness, sweating etc) until the SSRI can kick in (usually 1-2 months.) Bottom line seek some psychiatric help because they can help gets these feelings undercontrol and give you the appropriate psychotherapy so you can defeat these thought cycles. If it is panic disorder you need to get it under control because it can very easily progress to panic disorder with agrophobia which would be very limiting on your lifestyle.

In the meantime until you can get further help, it might be benefical for you to practice relaxation techniques. The first is slow your breathing, in through the nose out through the mouth, you can do this for 10 breaths or so. Also, try progressive relaxation. For instance focus on your toes flex hold and then relax, then your feet, legs, thighs etc working your way up all the way to your head. These might help you relax and calm a bit.

By the way you describe your hallucinations, make it seem like they are more of an illusion. Of course, I don’t know because we haven’t talked but I guess bottom line is make sure you see a specialist, if you haven’t already, who can diagnose you properly. Sometimes, general practioners or internal medicine doctors, do not screen the disorders properly and give the wrong medication. Bottom line make sure you are seeing a specialist who can work with you.

Hope this helps.

I agree with this. A physiatrist will know exactly what meds work for panic and anxiety disorder. Be sure you find one who knows about it though. Like all doctors some are better than others. Ask if they deal with it. An antidepressant seems to control panic very well and propranolol for blood pressure is also very helpful. It will keep your thoughts from spinning out of control and with practice you can control it so much better.

There are also web sites online to help you with it so do a search.

I am touched that so many people have responded. I agree that it must be a psycotic episode or a panic attack. I may as well say, I guess there’s no big secret but it still feels a little embarassing for some reason. People sometimes treat you as if you don’t have command of as much logic or intelligence as you should so many people keep it a secret,

What I “have” is "Major Depressive Disorder with psychotic features and General Anxiety Disorder. When I say all that it becomes obvious what my problem is. I have just not had any psychosis for so long, i guess you are never “cured” just well “treated.” I take the maximun allowable dose of Effexor antidepressant, Topiramate and Risperidone. For all those symptoms and the one makes me sooo sleepy, and that’s the anti-psycotic but it does other things. if I take more, I’ll be worthless all day, people will think I’m on drugs or something’s wrong with me, The best thing like you say is to talk to my med person and see if I need an adjustment but I hope I can just work through it cause I don’t like those meds.

A couple of you said there are other places to take RCIA. I’m not giving up yet but could you share where they might be? Some day classes or classes with monks or nuns? the priest at this place is so busy, I don’t know how they run a Basilica with 1 priest and a couple very part time helpers. I never even want to bother him with an email but it’s a doctor thing anyway. I’m sure the good Lord will may a way for me.

I just really want to be able to take the Eucharist. FOr some reason, making a Cotholic confession and taking the Eucharist has become very important to me, but I have a hard time giving up Methodist ways. John Wesley quadrilatteral and such formulated my thought about salvation (sorry, for another board)

Greetings Rturner,

I would ask your priest for suggestions and recommendations of where to go to take RCIA. Have you talked to him about your situation?

God Bless.
Anathama Sit


Just a quick note, you are taking two sedating medications in effexor and risperidone. It might be appropriate to shift those medications to be taken at night, that way they can help you sleep without sedating you all day. Alternatively, you can ask your psychicatrist if something like Abilify might be more appropriate for you. Abilify is less sedating and FDA approved as an adjunct for refractory MDD. It is still in the class of atypical antipsychotics so it should be able to help you with any psychotic symptoms as well. However, if you have been stable for so long on your regiment you might want to stick with that unless you feel the sedation is too much. If that is the case then possibly lowering the Risperdone by a miligram or two might be warranted a try. It will also help with your metabalism. I assume weight issues are a little bit of an issue and is why you are on Topamax as well, which might again be another reason to switch to abilify as it has less metabolic effects than risperdone, although it is slightly more expensive. Just some things to ponder with your psychiatrist.

Also, if you truly have GAD, have you tried Buspar? That has been clinicaly shown to help with the disorder particullarly if your SNRI is not cutting it.

I don’t know where you live but where I live they have many parishes and all of them teach RCIA, so we have many small classes. Last year we had about 10 people in my parish join the church in all. City wide there are more when you add them all up in each parish.

You are assigned a lay Catholic person to help you through the process. You can ask them questions, etc. Also, some take the classes and decide not to take the next step to join. I think there are steps along the way and at each one you decide if you want to go on. It is a slow process really to make sure that is what you want to do and also to learn what you need to know.

There should be a list of places that teach RCIA so you can ask about that and decide which one would be easiest for you to get to.

I took buspar and it was like taking nothing. It seemed to have no affect whatsoever I’m not sure why they switched off Abilify but they switched to the risperdal and added the topamax yeah for the munchies. I had gained 50 pounds and was sleep eating. Even just rationalizing everything like this and with my doc should help at least with the furnace thing. I’m sure next time it will just be a run of the mill panic attack but I can shake those off too when I just charge through it but it is very horrifying. When I make it through I’m glad but during i will feel like someone is going to call the hospital or 911 or something. A smaller place I’m sure will help. It’s a huge Basilica. The office doesn’t let me “bother” the priest, they always just refer me to the RCIA director. I snuck past them one time and got to him through email ans got an appointment but I could tell he had things to do. I think the days of 1 on 1 guidance is over in the big parishes. they have volunteers and such but no priests are available. The Priest said there is a shortage.

Oh yeah, I do take most meds at night but I have to take half of the effexor in the am because I cant take slow release. I had stomach surgery and I’m not equipped for it.
You have to be a Phychiatrist or Nurse to have such intimate knowledge…What a blessing you are to this community!

Thank you for sharing your experience and your anxiety disorder - that takes some courage and you won’t be judged for having done so. Rather, I’m glad you said it, because it brings to mind an easier solution of finding an RCIA program at a smaller parish with a friendlier-feeling sanctuary that doesn’t trigger your anxiety.

Perhaps consider going to the parish that made you interested in RCIA in the first place - certainly it wasn’t the Basilica, or if it is the Basilica did the anxiety pop up more recently than February? Look at the Church of the Holy Name, or St. Austin, both of which have RCIA programs. You are free to attend Mass where you wish, and are not required to set foot into the Basilica.

Talk with the spiritual director at a parish or the RCIA program director, either will be able to tell you what you need to do to complete RCIA, and direct you to another program at a less-intimidating structure. The Basilica is beautiful but it’s not as bright as newer churches, though I’d think that Hennepin or Lake Harriet UMC are just as intimidating in terms of light and shadows.

I assure you that a church building - consecrated to the worship of the Lord - is the last place you’d encounter a demon. And it’s not just a Catholic belief - spiritual warfare is attested to in the Scriptures, so any Bible-based church would understand the need for defense against the forces of the enemy. Glamorized by Hollywood, sure, it looks like a “Catholic” thing, though the original story on which “The Exorcist” was based involved a Lutheran boy.

I agree with the suggestion that you look for an RCIA program at a smaller parish where you would be part of a small group that might be less stressful for you. In fact, if your problems resurface even in a smaller group, you may be able to receive one-on-one instruction.

Most of your questions could be answered over the phone. Call the church secretary and the person can tell you which parish is teaching RCIA. I would think most of them are anyway.

Don’t be afraid you are bothering anyone. Converting people to the faith is one of their main jobs and they would put you first to talk to about that.

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