The corridor on the main floor of the library felt impossibly long. It was flooded with people, hustling and bustling to the next class or sitting at the round tables chattering away with an intimidatingly extroverted energy.
I had been in the library hundreds of times before, but suddenly I was consumed by anxiety—I felt like a curiosity on display, encased in something akin to sugar-glass, threatening to shatter into smithereens at any moment and leave me defenseless and exposed.
It was the beginning of my fourth semester at BYU, and every sense of security I had previously held seemed to dissolve into the air around me. Suddenly, campus terrified me. I felt scrutinized at all times. I was sure that my face was incessantly flushed red from embarrassment or that people could see the sheen of nervous sweat on my face glistening from miles away.
From the moment I left my apartment each morning to my return in the evening I felt a nagging distress. I felt self-conscious. I struggled to retain a facade of composure. I felt embarrassed to even be breathing. I would frequently dart into restrooms in order to reign in my unyielding panic as well as to evaluate the abashed redness of my cheeks.
Every day was emotionally draining. On particularly hard days, I was grateful to make it back through my front door before the panicked tears began to spill over.
Seeking Relief from Anxiety
As the days grew into weeks, and the weeks into months, I grew increasingly discouraged that I’d never have a “normal” day again. I prayed night after night, sometimes sobbing to my Heavenly Father to help me feel okay again. That’s all I wanted—simply to feel okay. I prayed constantly, begging for relief and reprieve from my burden. Eventually, my prayers lent themselves to a feeling of despair as I continued to struggle with a sort of anxiety I had never combatted, despite my pleading.
And Heavenly Father didn’t lift my burden. Instead, over time, He gave me the strength, the understanding, and the patience to soldier through my struggles and to heal. Of course, this was not how I wanted my myriad prayers to be answered; however, the strength I received, if only incremental, was enough to keep me going.
In a 2014 devotional address, family life professor Jonathan Sandberg said, “In order for healing to occur, we have to be courageous enough to move forward when we are afraid” (“Healing = Courage + Action + Grace”). I was afraid. I was afraid of each day. And I was afraid to keep trying. But I continued to pray, and I continued to embark on my daily quest to have a normal, peaceful day where I could just live.
It was through prayers—each and every day, day after day—that I found a shred of courage to carry on and to keep trying, despite my growing sense of hopelessness. And as I tried, I somehow found solutions and friendships that made each day a little easier. I found outlets, such as yoga and meditation, that helped me to ground my thoughts and find peace and solace. In those moments, I felt a reprieve from the hard things; I felt the comforting embrace of the Spirit.
As I turned to my Heavenly Father in humble, pleading prayer, He helped me find the courage to face my difficulties. Eventually, and little by little, I was strengthened. Through the grace of the Lord, I began to find peace. Sandberg explained:
“The scriptures teach of Him reaching out to His people at their breaking point and providing strength, patience, joy, comfort, assurances, peace, faith, hope, courage, and determination and even wiping away the tears from their eyes. The grace of Jesus Christ, His bounteous mercy and love, is available to us if we but have the courage to reach out to Him.”
Through my burden, Heavenly Father gave me an opportunity to rely on the grace of my Savior.
Sometimes walking through the library still makes me feel small. Sometimes I sit in class clutching a banana peel for 37 minutes, too afraid to walk to the garbage can that is 9 feet away from me. Sometimes, I catch myself feeling encased in fragile sugar-glass like a curiosity on display.
But then I remember my Savior. He is the Master Healer. Through His grace, I can do anything. Through His grace, I am healed.