Or Why Things Are Good, But I Still Feel Stressed

Some years ask ques­tions and some years yield answers.

2020 and 2021 were ques­tion­ing years. Not just because of the pan­dem­ic, though that cer­tain­ly col­ored my expe­ri­ences. But because it was a 24-month men­tal ill­ness cri­sis in my house. It was two years of online ther­a­py, pan­ic attacks, can’t‑get-out-of-bed depres­sion, and med tri­als that made every­thing worse. 

And then, mirac­u­lous­ly, when I had just about lost all hope, we got a diag­no­sis that actu­al­ly made sense. We found a ther­a­pist that could help treat this very spe­cif­ic ill­ness, and we found a med­ica­tion that actu­al­ly worked the way we hoped it would work. It took over two years of real­ly hard ques­tions, but 2022 is final­ly giv­ing up some answers.

And as my fam­i­ly set­tles into a sea­son of rel­a­tive calm, I find myself feel­ing… twitchy. Having final­ly got­ten the break I so-long prayed for, I notice how I’m strug­gling to be present with grat­i­tude and trust. Instead, I find myself on edge, wait­ing for the oth­er shoe to drop, Chicken Little star­ing wor­ried­ly sky­ward. All I want­ed was my world to feel sol­id and steady. So why am I con­vinced every­thing will fall apart at any second?

I am ter­ri­fied that noth­ing will ever be this good again. I’ve got­ten so used to trou­ble, my ner­vous sys­tem can­not trust a life with few­er tri­als and tribu­la­tions. I always said we need­ed to lean into the calm times, know­ing that this par­tic­u­lar ill­ness is a life-long strug­gle. So why am I assum­ing it’s all down­hill from here? Maybe I’ve exist­ed in a hyper-vig­i­lant state so long that my body has sim­ply for­got­ten what feel­ing good means. I no longer remem­ber how to turn off my body’s alarm system. 

Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison

I don’t believe that every­thing hap­pens for a rea­son. Good things hap­pen to crum­my jerks and awful things hap­pen to good humans. Life takes a ran­dom, chaot­ic, cir­cuitous route. It’s our moral imper­a­tive to make sense of those happenings. 

It reminds me of a sto­ry I heard about Thomas Edison. By his late six­ties, he was our nation’s most suc­cess­ful and cel­e­brat­ed inven­tor. In 1914, a fire broke out in his research lab. The stored chem­i­cals quick­ly accel­er­at­ed the fire, turn­ing what could have been a small flame into a bril­liant green and pink infer­no that engulfed the entire build­ing, shoot­ing over one hun­dred feet in the sky and over­tak­ing five city blocks. As they watched the enor­mous blaze, Edison calm­ly put his hand on his son’s shoul­der. “Go get your moth­er and all her friends. They’ll nev­er see a fire like this again. It’s all right. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish.”

The next day, Edison stood amongst the ash­es. Decades of price­less research had gone up in smoke, yet Edison seemed unper­turbed. He told reporters that he would rebuild. “I’ll start all over again tomor­row.” He actu­al­ly took two days off to make sense of the tragedy and then start­ed rebuild­ing, despite the fact he had lost what would be 23 mil­lion dol­lars today. 

Edison is a phoenix.

Maybe I’m just in a sea­son of mak­ing sense, exist­ing in the tran­si­to­ry state between fire and recon­struc­tion. I’m stand­ing shell-shocked in the ash­es of who I used to be, not quite ready to ven­ture into rebuild­ing a new nor­mal. No longer in the fire, but not yet a stronger nor smarter phoenix. I’m going to need more than a two-day vaca­tion to retrain my ner­vous sys­tem into trust­ing the answers, but I’m work­ing on it. Praying that soon I will fly.

  • Erin Skinner Smith

    Erin Skinner Smith wants every­one to slow down, eat real food, move their bod­ies, go out­side, and hit the pil­low a lit­tle ear­li­er for a more pur­pose­ful exis­tence. She is a pub­lished writer, yoga teacher, and mind­ful­ness coach. When she’s not stand­ing on her head or typ­ing on her trusty lap­top, you’ll find her read­ing, play­ing gui­tar, enjoy­ing a glass of bour­bon, or snug­gling on the couch with her peo­ple and pets. Send her a dig­i­tal high five at erintheomplace.net.