I wrote a series of 3 posts over the last 6 months that talk about how scripture study has changed my life on multiple, critical occasions throughout my life. I published them over at MormonLifeHacker.com mostly because they’d get more exposure there, and I wrote them hoping to help others discover the same secret that I have.
What I didn’t tell in that series was “all of this has happened before….” Those events I described, where I struggled spiritually and then realized that my lack of scripture study was the key failure causing my regression, were a repeat of my own story a little over a decade ago. I won’t go into lots of detail here but want to make it clear how important scripture study is, and how I’ve had to relearn this lesson more than once.
I have suffered from social anxiety most of my life, though it’s rare now. One summer when I was home from college, a bad social situation followed me for most of a week. Now understand, it was “bad” by my social-anxiety-twisted perspective. It wasn’t ugly, or wrong, or anything that would bother people who don’t have social anxiety. But for me, at that time, it put me in a constant state of severe anxiety extending for longer than I’d ever experienced it.
It all came to a head when I was asked to talk to a bunch of my extended Washburn family about George Washington at a 4th of July celebration. Now I’m used to not having much of a real birthday “party” because everyone’s celebrating the 4th. It’s been that way since I was little, and so doesn’t bother me. But somehow it being my birthday made it all worse. It was my birthday! I shouldn’t have to endure this situation and anxiety on my birthday! Well, with social anxiety, anything that puts you in the spotlight brings anxiety. So after several days of continuous, extreme anxiety, I was suddenly the center of attention at a gathering of 40 or 50 people whom I knew and respected. It pushed me over the edge. I started crying and blubbered my way through what I had to say.
I think most of my family assumed I felt the Spirit as I talked about our 1st President being preserved to lead the armies of the Colonies, and later as President. A lot of Washburn’s cry when they feel the spirit. It’s genetic I guess. But some asked my parents and other people afterward: “is he okay?” So it must have shown through as something more than the normal feeling-the-spirit-and-crying. And it wasn’t: I was completely overwhelmed by the anxiety. Something snapped.
As the tears dried, so did my emotions. I was completely numb. I felt no joy, no purpose, no longing or passion or love. I was just numb. I couldn’t seem to cope. In a strange way, the feelings of anxiety were gone, but the numbness that replaced them was even worse. Anxiety goes through lulls and leaves with time or after the situation has abated. This felt like I was trapped. Like there was no way out, no way to feel again. And it was more constant. This new numbness seemed to have no end, it didn’t let up for a moment. It influenced everything, keeping me constant within it’s 2 confining limits: no highs, no lows. It was its own kind of low, but one that existed outside the normal range of emotions I was familiar with.
I was broken and I didn’t like it. That’s about all I really knew or felt. The situation abated, but the numbness remained. I tried increasing my exercising to just completely exhaust my body. Often that helped with anxiety. But it didn’t do anything. I still could hardly sleep. Now my body could hardly move, but nothing else changed. I didn’t really care. The apathy remained. I wanted to care, to feel, to get out of it. That was the only real emotion I felt: fear that I was stuck, that I’d never feel anything other than that fear again.
I prayed. I don’t remember how the answer came. But I remember that it came. It’s the same one I described in the 1st post in my series. Only this was a decade previous: “I’m here Tevya, I always have been. The problem is you’re not doing your part to keep this relationship growing.” “What is my part?” I begged. “You already know the answer to that.” And I did. I knew my scripture study had waned into almost nothing, and along with it, meaningful prayers. And so I did the same thing I would repeat almost a decade later: I started to really study the scriptures. I did it every day. I don’t remember how long it took for the numbness to let go of me. But it did. Slowly, but surely I began to feel again. One of the first things I felt was my Savior’s love and atonement working in my life to heal me. But He couldn’t do that until I did my part to invite Him into my life. I hope this helps you. Here are those posts: