I went to the temple today and I only helped one person-ME.
It’s a gorgeous fall day in Utah, the sun is warm like summer and the leaves are brilliant like fall. I got a lot of work done today so I decided head to the temple. I have absolutely adored that place since I first went 2 years ago, but I sometimes forget that it’s one of my greatest anxiety triggers. I didn’t go with the object of doing an exposure.
An exposure is any act, purposely done to move closer to the threat which OCD/anxiety is convincing your body is real.
I went into the temple feeling excited and was surprised to feel peace. I genuinely wanted to be there, which hasn’t happened in an absurdly long time. But as I changed in the dressing room the anxiety hit me like a sudden stomach flu. Tight chest, heart racing, head pounding, all the usual dumb stuff anxiety pulls. It became clear to me that I had to take this opportunity for an exposure. So I found a hallway across from a painting of the Savior and stood, right where every person coming in or out of the dressing room could see me and wonder why I was just standing there.
It had the desired effect-the threat was very close and my anxiety was skyrocketing. The thoughts tripped over each other…
Everyone thinks I’m dumb. They’re wondering what’s up with me. I’m not worthy to be here. Mistakes I’ve made in the past are still with me. Repentance is a fantasy. I look silly. I want to scream. What if I pass out?
This pure mental agony is unlike anything I’ve experienced which is why it’s so hard to describe. Being careful not to be presumptuous or sacrilegious, I have often compared it to the Savior suffering the the Garden of Gethsemane. At least on the cross his pain was caused by the nails and the crown and the scourges. In the garden, outwardly everything was fine. The pain came from inside and no one knew exactly what he was experiencing. It was the pinnacle of hidden human suffering. Second to His pain in that moment, mental illness is the greatest example I know of suffering without a visible cause. That’s why HE is the only one who can understand how we feel.
I was only there for about half an hour but it seemed to be days. My body clenched and my chest heaved as I willed myself not to neutralize (run out of there as fast as I could.) I had to continually remind myself that I love the temple more than I hate that pain.
And then, in an instant, it was gone. I was a drowning person gasping for the first breath of real air. I was free. My shoulders softened and my body relaxed and my mind changed from pounding pain to soft lullaby. I felt for the first time in 2 years the true peace of the house of the Lord.
And that’s when I knew I had won.
I waltzed out of the temple that day with a giant goofy grin plastered on my face. I knelt down right on the sidewalk and thanked the Lord for His goodness. I breathed in the world and appreciated everything around me because I was finally free. Just like my homeboy Alma in the Book of Mormon, “nothing could be so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains…on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.” I WAS ON CLOUD NINE.