My Struggle with Anxiety at Church

“My Struggle with Anxiety at Church,” For the Strength of Youth, Oct. 2022.

Firm Foundations

My Struggle with Anxiety at Church

Firm Foundations: Anxiety at Church

Illustration by Melissa Manwill

I’ve always had anxiety. When I was 17, I noticed that most of my anxiety attacks occurred at church.

I was always told that if I’d read the scriptures, say my prayers, and go to church, I’d be happy. Well, that wasn’t the case for me. I’d enjoy the first few minutes of church, and then a panic attack would begin.

My bishop helped me realize that the spiritual expectations I had set for myself may be the cause. I thought I had to have the same miraculous spiritual experiences I heard about. It made sense to me that this pressure could cause my repeated attacks.

One day someone asked me, “Why do you still go to church?” I was taken aback. Why was I still going to church? I wasn’t forced to go. I didn’t receive any miraculous blessings. But I realized that I kept going because I knew the Church was true and that Heavenly Father wanted me to be there. My love for Him overpowered my desire to be free from anxiety.

Sometimes I wanted immediate blessings from Heavenly Father. I thought He’d bless me with fewer panic attacks just because I went to church. But I’ve learned that it doesn’t work that way. I often have to push through the attacks and attend church before I can see His blessings.

Now I’ve realized I can also ask for help from my parents and medical professionals. I still have bad days, but they don’t control me. Instead, they help me prove to my Heavenly Father that I love Him and that I’ll fight through this challenge with His help.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus Christ asked if His trial could be lifted, but in perfect obedience to our Heavenly Father, He pushed through the greatest trial of all. Because of this, I know He will give me the strength to endure my trials as well.

Heidi L., Hawaii, USA