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Do you want to know what anxiety is like?

From a New York Times piece:

In a way, the desire to be rid of anxiety is neither unique nor difficult to understand. Like any other affliction, psychiatric or strictly physical, anxiety hurts. It is uncomfortable. If you suffer from emphysema, you will wish to be able to breathe unimpeded.
If you suffer from eczema, you will wish for clear skin. And if you suffer from anxiety, you will wish for a mind that does not spin every slightest situation into catastrophe — a mind that approaches everyday life with poise, reason and equanimity. Why wouldn’t you want such a thing? Why shouldn’t a person’s ideal be the very absence or opposite of that which torments him? It’s only natural.
With anxiety, however, there are two glitches to this desire. The first is that anxiety is not the kind of affliction that can be eradicated. This is because anxiety is not merely or essentially psychiatric. Even when it swells to the level of a disorder, it remains first and foremost an emotion, universally felt and necessary for survival, not to mention for a full experience of human life. Toss aside the bath water of anxiety and you will also be tossing aside excitement, motivation, vigilance, ambition, exuberance and inspiration, to name just several of the inevitable sacrifices. Get rid of anxiety? Even if you could — and you can’t — why would you want to?
The second glitch is more complex and has to do with the nature of anxiety itself, which for all its attendant discomforts and daily horrors has at its heart a vital truth, even a transcendent wisdom. This truth — which, confusingly enough, doubles as the source of anxiety’s pain — is of the essential uncertainty and perilousness of human life. Its fragility and evanescence. Anxiety emphasizes these aspects of existence with an almost evangelical fervor. It hisses them, hour by hour, minute by minute, into the sufferer’s ear. “Anything can happen at any time,” anxiety says. “There is no sure thing. Everything you hold dear is at risk, everything is vulnerable. It can all slip through your fingers.”


  1. I know anxiety all too well. My mother (now deceased) was a poster child for anxiety. Every little change in life stopped her cold with fear. She was obsessive-compulsive and a germophobe. We were never allowed to eat at friends' houses, because they might not observe the proper "precautions" in preparing and serving the food. I could not go to the pool with friends, because I might drown. (As a result, I cannot swim. I CAN float, though.) Mother never learned to drive; she might be in an accident. (I've never had a license, but I'm working on it.) Just some of the proscriptions I grew up with: "Never use public bathrooms" (So, I wet my pants the first day of school.) "Get under a table or the bed during a thunderstorm; if you don't, you'll be struck by lightning. And don't touch scissors or anything made of metal." "Never_____ .(fill in the blank) You'll get sick." I once half-joked that if mother could have poured boiling water on my brother and me and put us in sealed containers without physically harming us, she would have. Dishes were boiled, clothes and linens were bleached to destruction, every piece of wooden furniture and walls and woodwork were painted hospital white. The very worst, though, was the fear of God (not the God I now know loves me and Whom I love); an angry God who saw me all the time, and who would punish me for doing wrong. My teen years were spent in dodging those prohibitions any way I could, and in challenging the fear-disease which I had contracted. I began "curing" it, one fear at a time. Splash in a friend's pool without drowning; check. Stand outside in thunderstorm, holding scissors; check. Eat at various friends' homes, without ill-effects; check. One by one, by God's grace, I've done the thing I feared, and He has helped me to overcome it. The last two, fear of swimming and fear of driving, I'm still trying to uproot. And I am over 60 years old! Anxiety is powerful, but we serve a God who is more powerful than fear, failure, and human frailties. By His Grace, we can overcome - one small step at a time. ~ Rosemary in Ohio

  2. It would be funny if it wasn't so serious! Thanks be to God we now have good meds and sound therapies to cope with anxiety disorders. Thankfully, mine is not as crippling as your mother's, but its still no joke!

  3. The first is that anxiety is not the kind of affliction that can be eradicated.


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