You would think that when dealing with a medical crisis that good news about your health would alleviate stress and anxiety. Personally, I was very surprised that after the initial elation of good news, a “down” feeling set in. It was almost like the good news was too much. It seemed like an odd response and in thinking about it I was inspired to write this article. Who would have thought that good news could produce anything but good feelings?
Let’s explore the dynamics of bad news and good news. (I addressed what to do when you get bad news in a prior article.)
Anticipation is the enemy because it produces anxiety and stress. When diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening illness the focus is on treatment. The anticipation is that the treatment will be successful or at least there is hope that it will be. But this is only the beginning of the journey. Eventually the doctors will check to see if the treatment is working or not. The anticipation and waiting for that first test is hard and emotional. After all, your family and friends are doing the same thing… waiting. This shared experience might feel like support or perhaps it will feel like you are responsible for their feelings too or something in between. Anticipation builds nervous energy inside coupled with negative projections and a sense of responsibility for how others will feel.
You get good news! The treatment is working. A wave of relief can be felt by everyone. There is happiness, celebration, and expectations of being well. The truth is that the waiting game just begins again for the next test and marker of your health. The next test and results follow. Perhaps it is good news again or perhaps you’ll get bad news. The anticipation rises again. You and your loved ones find yourselves nervous, on edge, and maybe a bit burned out with the process that you now know will continue unless the health crisis ends. The cycle starts again and anticipation gets worse especially if you have been yo-yoing between good and bad news.
Now I understand the “down” feelings after good news. The flame of expectation is lit again for yourself and those close to you. The expectation leads to anticipation, which leads to anxiety, stress and other feelings.
Feeling down upon hearing good news is also self-protection from the yo-yo effect of the cycle of positive and negative news. If you don’t get too excited then it won’t hurt so much if the news is negative or neutral (more waiting). If you are one of those who feel responsible for others’ feelings you may not even have the celebratory experience. Feeling down or neutral after good news protects you from disappointment, protects you from upset, and protects you from future projections about your health outcome.