When I was young and still Catholic and still fully believing in the Jesus and the God that the Church had fully encased in its teachings, I used, at night, when I was too full of anxiety and dread to get to sleep by imagining that I was held in the cupped hands of an angel. I was old enough to know that such was not the case, but the imagining still helped and I would gradually relax enough to drift off to sleep.
Later, when I was older and in my teens and had discovered cynicism, I couldn’t quite do it — I could not believe in the hands of angels, not even enough to go to sleep. At this point, I found out that sleeplessness lies on the other side of cynicism, but had not been offered an acceptably sophisticated substitute for angels. The over-the-counter Sominex that I snuck into the house was not very strong, and left me both sleepless and stupid. I had also decided that suffering made me noble, like Lord Byron with his club foot. Nobility did not relieve insomnia, but at least I was suffering like the poets of ages past had done, and I was unique in that suffering because nobody I knew was as good a poet as me. QED and all of that sort of thing. It would be another twenty years before I would get proper training in the basics of set theory and the mechanics of a formal proof. By that time, I had long since left home and the insomnia that that place tended to induce in me, and was sleeping well and soundly in another house surrounded by my real family.
But I never forgot that one lesson: that when you really need them, angels don’t help.