I woke up the other night and I couldn’t get back to sleep. That doesn’t happen so often now and what I had to do was work out whether it was a curry before going to bed, or something on my mind. As it happens it was the curry! But worries that keep us awake are usually really difficult to deal with. Fears that seem very small at breakfast are really bad at three in the morning. Most of us can just about deal with it most of the time, but for many, perhaps one in five, something in our mind and brain and soul becomes a real problem, and anxiety, depression or other mental health issues attacks us. Then everything becomes overwhelming and we need really good help. Mental illness is just illness, no more or less bad. The problem is that it often does not involve physical signs and people with mental health issues become stigmatised, isolated, ignored and that makes them worse.
Nearly half of the people in Great Britain experienced high anxiety during the early days of the coronavirus lockdown new figures suggest. Some 49.6% of those surveyed between March 20 and March 30 reported levels of anxiety that rated between six and 10, where 0 is “not at all anxious” and 10 is “completely anxious”. This is the equivalent of more than twenty-five million people feeling high anxiety, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which compiled the figures.
I’ve spoken about my own issues with anxiety before and I’ve begun to understand more about it and come to terms with it. Among other things, I have come to see how helpful it is to talk about God loving us even when depression shuts us off from every emotion and hope. God’s love is a love that does not change even when the person loved does change - now that is something fantastic! We are the very image of God – the imago Dei. We inhabit a Christian tradition that sees each and every person as unique, irreplaceable and beyond valuable - all of us made in the image of God and loved infinitely.
Simply by sitting there turning oxygen into carbon dioxide, we are an amazing, unique reflection of the image of God on the earth. Where there should be only the vacuum of space, we intrude magnificently in three dimensions, in glorious manifold existence. God not only loves us, but values us enough to go through the agony of the Cross to redeem us. The work is already done. Our work is to retrain our inner voices and take steps to manage our anxiety during these challenging and difficult days. God put in us a desire to see goodness in our lives, otherwise, how would we know to seek Him?
My own experience is, whether I do well or badly, whether life is hard or easy, that I know I am loved by Jesus regardless, and that is what gets me out of bed in the morning – even during a lockdown.