I stopped going to church over four years ago. I didn’t stop going because I lost my faith in God. I stopped going because it became impossible. My illness left me too disabled.
I was bed bound and didn’t have the strength to sit up for long periods of time. When I regained enough strength to go out in my wheelchair my nervous system was still too vulnerable to deal with being in public. People singing, multiple conversations going on in the same room and loud noises were painfully overstimulating. When I finally started healing through mold avoidance my sound sensitivity resolved but I was too reactive to mold to spend time in buildings. I still couldn’t go to church. It was really difficult to feel cut off from God’s people for so many years.
Well guess what? Last Sunday, I went to church!
Brett went in first to check out the building and ask about water damage history. The news wasn’t good. They had been dealing with a leaky roof for quite some time. But I was looking forward to going to church too much to just give up. My reactivity has come down a lot. I was going to try anyway. My heart was pounding in anticipation and dread as we walked up to the doors. I desperately wanted it to work.
When I walked in I felt a little something in my throat. Not dangerous swelling just some mild irritation. I reminded myself that I’m a lot stronger than I was and can handle some mold exposure now. I was determined to do everything in my power to help my body stay calm.
We went into the sanctuary and found a seat. The people sitting in front of us greeted us warmly. It felt so good to be in church again, surrounded by so many others who love Christ. It was like being with your family again for the first time in years.
When everyone stood up to sing, I burst into tears. Brett hugged me and I buried my head in his shoulder and wept. We both understood the importance of that sacred moment. I was worshipping with God’s people again. Oh how I missed this! It was surreal. I didn’t sing even one word because I was crying the entire worship service.
When it came time to sit down and listen to the preacher I noticed that new symptoms were popping up. It wasn’t just a sore throat anymore. My joints were achy and I was getting a headache. I tried to redirect my thoughts but there was no denying it. I was getting worse. Still, I did my best to relax and focus on the sermon. I made it to the end of the service but decided we had to leave immediately so I could go home and take a shower. I wasn’t feeling well and even my mood was starting to go downhill.
When we got home, we both showered immediately. I felt better but my energy was still low and I was feeling gloomy and overwhelmed for no reason. After lunch we decided to spend some time outdoors hiking. There’s a park right behind our apartment complex with amazing air and beautiful trails. I felt much better after the hike and we were able to talk to my family over Skype.
But in the evening something mysterious happened. I had a panic attack. The kind of panic attack where I lose control of my mind. Where I hide in the closet, scream, and become afraid of the people who love me most. It was bizarre. I hadn’t had a panic attack since the beginning of our tent camping journey. Thankfully, Brett knew what to do and I didn’t have to stay in that panicked state for hours like I have in the past. He gently and calmly coaxed me to come out of the closet and decontaminate in the shower. I felt much much better after.
That experience left us a little perplexed. The only thing I’d done differently that day was go to church. Brett and I tried to come up with another theory that could explain the panic attack but nothing else had changed. We can’t know for sure what caused it but it makes sense given my previous experiences that spending time in a moldy church building increased the overall inflammation in my body and left my brain in a more fragile condition than it would have been otherwise.
So, it looks like I’m going to have to wait a little longer to start going to church. We have hope that my reactivity will continue to lessen and eventually I’ll be able to attend regularly. I’m trying to keep my chin up but I’m pretty disappointed.
By the way, Brett and I made a beautiful PDF of my favorite resources for suffering souls. I created the content and he made it look fancy with his superduper graphic design skills. It’s available for free to my email subscribers. Click here to sign up and receive 5 Resources for the Suffering Soul.