As many of you know, I've struggled for almost 20 years with social anxiety disorder. It's a hard thing to deal with, especially within the church. I've found that I am making progress and have hope that someday I will overcome this challenge, but I've also found that I tend to make progress in very small steps. I'm often overwhelmed with feelings of guilt for not getting over this by now, because I feel that somehow it's a lack of faith on my part. I want to put my complete trust in God and just DO those things that scare me the most, but no matter how much I try to build myself up to it, no matter what I'm told or how much I understand logically that I should be able to, I'm still unable to just do it.
I look back over the past 4-5 years and I'm not sure exactly what steps I've taken to get to where I am now. I know that God has been pushing and pulling me along, guiding me to each path I need to be on, but I couldn't honestly tell anyone HOW He did it. Sometimes that makes it hard to really believe that I will keep progressing, it's so hard stepping into the unknown.
Somedays I think of how easy it would be to regress into the safety and comfort of my old way of life. It's easy to stay at home and just read books or watch tv. It becomes normal to not have friends or go out. And it's especially easy to not participate at church. Our entire church culture tends to revolve around being able to speak in public, and I often feel unworthy to be there because I'm not able to open my mouth and bear my testimony or teach a group of people. I have to remind myself that my self worth is not concentrated in this one inability. But sometimes it's hard to convince myself of that. Too often I'm still nagged by the idea that if I just had more faith I'd be where I need to be now.
On the flip side, though, I've found as I've struggled and worked on overcoming this that I have been immensely blessed. I've made friends that I cherish. I've gained a sense of self worth and have felt truly loved for who I am, for the first time in my life. I'm learning to leave behind many of the negative thoughts and traits that have been my constant companions for years. And I hold tight to the belief that God will continue to bring me through this. I'm amazed at His patience with me, and I'm eternally grateful that He never gave up on me. And I'm so thankful that there are sisters (and brothers) here who will read this and not judge me for what I can't do, but will love me for what I can. You have no idea just how special each and every one of you are, and how many lives you bless every day.
If this is a lack of faith on my part, I'll keep praying that someday my faith will be strong enough to finish the changes that have started. Until then, I'm just going to keep enduring and hoping and believing.