When Good Things Happen, Why Do I Feel So Bad?

It is not uncommon to have something great happen and,
instead of feeling joy, to be filled with consuming dread, fear, or sadness.
Even suicides are as likely to be triggered by a positive event as by a
negative one. As counterintuitive as this seems, I would bet that you have had
a negative reaction at least once when you least expected it, and this
experience probably felt significant, shameful and isolating.


For me, I think of the day we found out a birth mother had
chosen us to parent our second child. What an honor for us to be
chosen…again…to raise someone’s child! But instead of feeling joy and
excitement, I felt a deep, crushing dread pile on me. At first, I was ashamed
of this reaction and started to worry that it meant something important…like I
wasn’t meant to be this child’s mother or I wasn’t fit to be an adoptive mother
at all. Luckily, I put the brakes on that line of thinking pretty quickly. From
experience, I know that labeling and shaming myself never lead to somewhere
pretty. Had I stayed there, I most likely would have sabotaged our adoption in
some way.


Instead, I took a deep breath and decided to let it marinate
until it made sense. Eventually I figured out that I was just anticipating all
the hard that comes with adopting. I was anticipating the birth mother’s pain
in letting go and my own feelings of insecurity at ever being enough to fill
her shoes. You see, this wasn’t my first rodeo with adoption, and I knew what
to expect. I knew that I would learn to love this woman who was giving us this
remarkable gift and that seeing her in pain (especially while I was on the
receiving end of so much joy) would be excruciating.


But I also needed to remember that this was a new adoption
and would therefore be different to our first experience. I needed to remember
that while I could be supportive of our second birth mother, I could not and
should not assume responsibility for her pain in making the decision to place
her child for adoption. Once I had sorted all this out, it was like I had opened
up a floodgate and all the joy and excitement was able to get through. The pain
and worry were still there, but I chose to just leave it be and embrace the
joy. How might our lives be different if we all had the skills and support needed
to avoid labeling, sit with uncertainty, and fully process through the events
in our lives? 

Traci W. Pirri, LCSW

Traci W. Pirri, LCSW is a top anxiety therapist, depression counselor, and adoption therapist in Austin, Texas. She is also licensed in North Carolina. She is passionate about working with people whose lives or professions have caused them to struggle, but still desire a life worth living. She helps people find the connections they want with their relationships and daily lives.

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