The National Health Service defines anxiety as “a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe”. At this present time of pandemic, I would imagine that more people than ever before are probably familiar with how that anxiety feels and how it manifests on a day to day basis.
I, too, know how it feels because I have lived with anxiety for several years now, long before the word ‘pandemic’ was a regular feature on the nightly news.
I believe my version is what would be called ‘generalised’ – it is not specific to a particular event or situation or anything else; instead, it is like a little moth which flits from one thing to the next, constantly on the go, never stopping and just about impossible to capture. Always there. Always. And for several months its presence has been particularly intense.
Anxiety is mentioned reasonably frequently on my social media, which is predominantly Catholic is nature. It is very often coupled with advice from people responding to the original poster – when advice has been sought – about prayer; prayer heals it, takes it away, removes it, brings peace. That may well be the case for many people – indeed, I have read notes from a lot of people who say precisely this has been their own experience, and I am deeply glad for them.
The trouble is, that is not my experience at all.
Now, that is not because I don’t believe in the power of prayer – I most assuredly do. And it isn’t because I don’t actually pray – again, I do.
And yet despite this, my anxiety persists.
Believe me, it isn’t easy to constantly feel enormously on edge, to worry relentlessly about things which the non-anxious part of my mind reminds me are really not likely to happen. And when I say ‘constantly’ – that is exactly what I mean; from the moment I awaken to the moment I finally gain sleep, which comes neither quickly nor easily.
Prayer does not remove my anxiety nor even lessen it in the least. But it does do one thing – it allows me to bear it as well as I am able to do so. It allows me to focus it, to put it to some kind of ‘use’ which is positive. Catholics will understand what I mean by that. Perhaps, then, that is part of the reason for my living with it – to do something with it. Prayer makes that possible for me in a way it would not otherwise be.
And so, while I pray that one day it might be lifted from me, I have a sense which tells me that day isn’t too near. In the meantime, then, I will keep praying – not for it to go, but for the graces I need to bear it well, with some degree of fortitude and humility.
Please know that if you, reading this, are in any way experiencing something similar, that you are in my prayers.
And I would be very grateful if you would remember me in yours.