Fear: (noun) a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.
Anxiety: (noun) distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.
In today’s world, anxiety has become a commonplace word. More people than ever are on prescription medications for anxiety disorders. There are people who experience a panic attack nearly every day. I am not here to say anything terrible about anxiety, but instead to tell my story of anxiety and fears, many of which, are not substantiated.
I come from a long line of relatives who struggle with anxiety. I am no different. From as far back as I can remember I have always had a fear related to death. When I was a little girl, I feared that my mom would die during the middle of the night. Now, as a mother, I have great anxiety about dying while my children are young. Sadly, my children also have inherited the ability to worry. I have five children, three of which, worry about me dying. Why is death such a fear for so many? What will worrying now about dying do for me today? The truth is, yes, I may die while my children are still young…however, not living life because fear of death steals my joy in the current moment isn’t what God would desire for me, or anyone.
One of the silliest things that I have had anxiety over is the stomach flu. Yes, you read that right. If we were around someone who ended up with a stomach bug, I would lose sleep worrying about if/when my children were going to get it. Then once it hit one of my kids, I would panic about what child was going to get it next! Silly right? But it downright terrified me!!! I think for me the fear came from having no control over where or when my children would end up throwing up. My kids were terrible at making it to the bathroom…laundry would pile up…and I would go into a downhill spiral. Now that my kids are older, I look back and can laugh at that anxiety, that fear, but in the moment, I was paralyzed.
So, what do I do to not let fears and anxieties get the best of me? I offer my anxieties to God. I lay them at the feet of his cross. Many times, this is so much easier said than done for me. I know the right words, I know what I should do, but even when I say the right words I still hold back. I realized that I needed someone to intercede for me. I needed a saint!!! I have begun a wonderful friendship with St. Dymphna. I depend on her intercession every…single…day! She is a saint that our entire family has adopted as our own. Her story is quite a sad story. She lived in the 7th Century, her father was a pagan, her mother a devout Christian. Her mom died when she was fourteen years old, and following the death of her mother, her father did a downward spiral into mental illness. Dymphna had fled her home and began a hospital ministering to the sick and suffering. Through her father’s mental illness, he chased after her, tried to capture her to make her his new wife, and when she refused, he cut off her head and killed her. Today, she is the patron saint of those who struggle with mental illnesses.
I ask for her to pray for me and my family several times a day. When I begin a downward spiral into these thoughts of death, or even simple things that I cannot control, I plead for her to pray for me. I feel her presence in our house often and I know she is praying for our family.
Our anxiety is not perfect, but it is much better than it used to be. I am not saying that Dymphna will replace medication for anxiety because there is value and merit to medications if we need them, but she will plead for us for God to help us in the midst of our anxiety.
I know that our world is in an interesting place right now. Fear and anxiety has never been higher according to many studies out there. COVID has scared many people who had never struggled with anxiety before. It is important for those of us who are Catholic to know about the saints who are on our side. Saints who want to pray for us and saints who know what we may be feeling during our fears and anxieties. The next time you start feeling anxious…remember that Dymphna is here for you.
St. Dymphna…Pray for us!