Slowly and Painfully, The Vicar’s Wife Learns to Cope on SundaysPosted: October 8, 2012
In the past I had
lamented about commented on how I found field work very difficult. At the time I thought it had to do with how far away we lived from the church–distance and work made it impossible for my husband and me to integrate ourselves within the church family. Our hope was that our vicarage church could become more like a church home and I could once again attend church without feeling uncomfortable.
However, it appears that something more than distance was causing my unease at field work because many of my church discomfort “symptoms” have worsened here. At field work I found it difficult to talk to the members and generally felt nervous during social hour. Now, I still find it difficult to talk to the members, my heart starts pounding when I walk into the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, standing in line after service and seeing all the people happily greet one another (and me) makes me tense and shaky, and trying to figure out where I should sit during social hour causes me panic to the point that I want to run home and hide. To make matters worse, the members have been kind to me, they do invite me to sit with them (which leads directly to the problem I have talking to congregation members), they haven’t done anything wrong. What I feel is completely in my head and completely my fault.
There are many possibilities for this intense reaction to Sunday mornings–introversion, shyness, social anxiety, incompetence. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that the one morning a week that used to bring me joy now fills me with trepidation. I fear the people, I fear that I will say or do the wrong thing, and I fear that I will somehow reflect badly on my husband. The fear twists my thoughts and I can’t function in church. Last week I found myself at an all-time low–I barely got myself to church and couldn’t bring myself to attend Bible study.
I realize this fear isn’t healthy and I can’t spend the next 10 months behaving like this. Consequently, my husband and I started talking about a new way to cope on Sundays. I wish this problem had a simple fix, a do-this-and-everything-will-be-hunky-dory cure, but it doesn’t. We researched social anxiety and found some “home remedies” that pertained to my situation. I should exercise and eat balanced meals, I shouldn’t over caffeinate myself, and I shouldn’t quit doing the things that cause the me anxiety. From this we decided on our grand plan: get through this Sunday.
I managed today. I found a spot to sit in church, I navigated my way through social hour, and I was able to stay for Bible study. Since I find it extremely difficult to try to carry a conversation in a crowded room with people I don’t know very well, I decided to sit by myself (a trick I learned in college lecture halls). It meant I had to decline some very well intended offers to join other tables and I realize this is a very odd choice, but I knew I couldn’t face making painful small talk in a room that sets me on edge. I finally talked to the pastor’s wife after trying to avoid her (and everyone else) for the last several weeks and we arranged a lunch date while our husbands are attending the district conference. I pretended to function like a semi-normal human and smiled when people said hello. The panic and apprehension still lurked in my mind but I achieved my goal: I got through this Sunday.