Why Does Joy Trigger Anxiety?

As a recovering co-dependent, one of the first things I learned was the importance of naming my feelings. For about a month, I carried around a worksheet that I had printed out called the Wheel of Emotions. When I was unsure what I was feeling, I could pull out that crumpled piece of paper and identify the feeling.

Surprisingly, I noticed that I can draw a direct line from feeling “positive” emotions like joy, excitement, and pleasure, to the “negative” feelings like fear, anxiety, and uneasiness.

It was almost as if feeling joy, peace, and happiness caused me to feel anxiety. When I realized this, I felt sad. When did I learn to believe that being in my joy made me unsafe? When did I start to equate feeling happiness with vulnerability?

I don’t know the answer, but I do know that I have the same reaction to my own happiness to this day. It happens less frequently, but  when I am feeling moments of deep happiness or real excitement, something in me says, “be careful.” And then, like a light being turned off, my joy evaporates and dread fills its place.

Glennon Doyle’s new book, Untamed, tackles this feeling. She calls it the Ache. “I don’t know if the Ache is trying to protect me or terrorize me. I don’t know if it loves me or hates me, if it’s bad or good. I just know that its role is to constantly remind me of the most essential fact of life, which is: This ends.”

When I read Glennon’s words, I realized she felt the same thing that I felt, and that I suspect many of us feel, when we begin to get joyful and happy. That nagging feeling that something will go wrong, that the other shoe will drop, sets in and sucks all the fun out of whatever was making us happy in the first place.

Glennon’s book reminds me that none of us are immune to the Ache, because we are all human and we are all suffering through this beautiful, painful thing called Life.

She writes, ” I am in the One Big Ache of lovepainbeautytendernesslonginggoodbye, and I am here with my mother and grandmother, and suddenly I understand that I am here with everyone else, too… I entered this Ache alone, but in it I found everyone.”

As more joy and happiness enters my life, I am coping with more feelings of anxiety and dread. Will this end? When will it end? What will go wrong? Sometimes I start to spiral into a panic attack, and all I want to do is curl into a ball on my mattress (which is still on the floor because the bed frame still has not arrived.)

But I realize – these conflicting emotions are part of being human.

Being human is not feeling like a ray of Sunshine at every second of every day.

Even the Sun sets and gives the Night space to breathe. I can do the same.

Because the truth is, nothing lasts forever, except Love. We will all pass away, and all of our loved ones as well. A great song will end. A great book will reach its final pages. A great orgasm will rise and fall. The flower blooms and fades. Such is life.

And the passing, the dying, the fading – it’s okay to feel sadness about it. It’s okay to grieve and feel longing, and miss something or someone and wish you could just go back to the beginning and feel it all again. And it hurts to realize you can’t.

I feel like the key is to stop avoiding these feelings, these endings, these longings. The answer is to simply allow them to be here, within me. Somehow, when I recognize that I am feeling good and this too shall pass, the anxiety gets less intense. I am human. Nothing lasts forever, except Love.

Feelings are like the weather – they change. Sometimes, they change unexpectedly. Sometimes, they can be brutal. Sometimes, they can be miraculous.

I can try all I want to stay happy, but I have come to realize, that the key is to stay human. And that, my friends, is enough for me. ❤



By justpearlythings

I am a writer, a lover, and a believer in the good things in life. I write about mental health and wellness, along with book reviews and fashion opinions. My blog caters to thoughtful, growth-minded women and men, and offers insights and personal challenges that provide a space for relevant, meaningful connection. The World Wide Web is vast, it contains multitudes, and so do we as people. I believe that through self-awareness and honesty, we create a more loving planet for everyone. Feel free to follow this page and share it with friends and family. Love, Pearl

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s