I know I always need my faith. All day, every day, at every time of day. But it’s those middle of the night wakings with a newborn when I need it the most.
I have struggled with anxiety all of my life. I was an anxious little girl. I was an incredibly anxious teenager. I was an anxious young adult. But some time around 30, things started to fall into place. I found coping strategies. But mostly I surrendered to God, developed a strong prayer life, and became comfortable with who I am and where I am. (I’m also a huge advocate for getting the right medication for yourself when you need it.)
I was in a good place. I was in the best place of my life. I became convinced I had things under control. Maybe that was the problem. I had things under control. After all, I have always known that control has always been my biggest issue, my most significant trigger, and the way God has frequently chosen to reach out to me, teach me, and help me to grow closer to Him.
When they pulled my son from my body and held him up for us to see, he was purple. He was not breathing. They poked and prodded him, and he remained unresponsive. He was rushed off to the NICU. I lay back, numb and immobile, as they sewed me up, and knew I could do nothing to help him, had no way of saving him. It was all beyond me.
After a short NICU stay, he was fine, I was fine, and we came home together and healthy. It was ideal. You could not have asked for a better end result. That’s what I tried to focus on. And yet, buried deep inside me was such overpowering fear, inexpressible and indefinable, fear of everything, terror for what might happen and for a future over which I have no control.
All day I would go about my life caring for my children, cooking our dinner, doing the writing and research that comes with my work as a historian. I felt confident in my decisions, grounded and sure about my life and my place in the world. But all that would change at the cries of my newborn son in the darkest part of the night, when all the world was asleep, and I was alone but for him. At 3 am all the terror came in waves, pounding over me until I struggled to breathe. I rocked him and tried to pray, tried to believe that my words mattered, that I wasn’t alone, even in that lonely hour.
Every single bad thing that had ever happened or could ever happen came to me and drowned out all the good, all the beautiful moments of our lives. At 3 am, the darkness was winning. I feared for the future—job loss, money problems, supporting our children, accidents, sickness, kidnapping, death, and some things too terrible to even put into words, that must remain unspoken and unwritten.
I downloaded the Laudate app and started to get back into my old, wonderful habit of the Liturgy of the Hours. Welcoming God into every part of my day and taking regular time out to pray had always helped me before. I would turn to this solace again. Yet it seemed I was just going through the motions. The words were so lovely but I felt dry and unmoved. What was the point? Was this even doing anything? I needed help. Real help.
Then one morning while praying I read words that made it all better. It was almost instant. I had never experienced anything like it.
This was where I was. This was what I needed to say, and what I needed Him to hear.
And then, further down, an answer. A true consolation that moved the depths of my soul.
I still have anxiety. I still struggle. But I don’t wake up in terror at 3 am, gasping for breath and drenched in sweat.
This is why we pray, even when we aren’t feeling it. This is why we sit in communion with Him even when we may be feeling spiritually dry or abandoned. He is always there. He is always with us. Just when you think it’s all over, that you can’t take anymore, He reaches out and lifts you up. He will carry you through it. He is carrying you.
Personal prayer to God is important. It is crucial that we come to God with our own words. But equally important are prayers, psalms, and readings that come to us through the tools the church gives us, like the Liturgy of the Hours. We discover so much about ourselves and our God through them. Turning to the Liturgy of the Hours, the psalms, the saints, and the prayers of our Church are ways of surrendering control, of recognizing the truth—we can’t do it ourselves. We need help. His help, the help of the saints, and the help of our Church.
I was never alone. I felt alone. But I was never, not once, alone.