My name is Deb. I have control issues.
They are mostly harmless – annoying…but harmless – except to me.
This year, summer brought me face to face with this understandable, but debilitating way of functioning.
It all started in June after moving my son back home from his first year at university. His dad couldn’t be with us because of a business trip to Brussels, but we had a good time getting him moved, just the two of us.
Three days later I get a call from my husband. He was scheduled for emergency surgery in two hours to prevent his retina from detaching.
So, off I went to Brussels, leaving our son in charge of our house and dog. I was so grateful he had just come home and that we could count on him. And for 2 weeks, I took care of many essential needs of my movement-restricted husband – in a city 6000 miles away … you couldn’t have kept me away.
But – the experience kicked me into high-control mode.
If I could control everything and make sure everyone was safe …
My husband’s sight had been saved – would he ever see clearly again? Was the redness and swelling getting better? Did I put the drops in right? Did he sleep sitting up all night? (I checked often) Arrange this, arrange that – carrying everything, literally and figuratively (he could not lift a thing for 2 weeks).
And on the home front…did my son lock the door before he went to bed? Did he feed the dog and give her enough water? Was he keeping the house clean? Was he having parties? Was he eating well? Was he getting enough sleep?
I had been living this way to a certain extent for years, but this was above and beyond.
I slowly started to move into dysfunction – long after the emergency was over, long after we knew my husband’s sight was clearing, long after we got back home. It seemed that being on top of everything, making sure everything was done, checking in, checking in – obsessively checking in – was important work to keep my family safe.
How could I keep my husband safe from detached retinas or other mishaps that might befall him while on business, or while at home.
How could I keep keep my son safe from dangers in life and at school, real or imagined. How can I protect him from making mistakes, though I don’t really want to… yes, I do… no, I don’t …
I was angry – a lot – without knowing why. I was sad and cried unexpectedly. I was (gasp!) a bitch.
I was utterly exhausted.
And then, on top of all of that, no matter what I did, I could not keep my dog from eating her own poop!
She was driving me crazy.
I saw myself following her suspiciously with my eyes, then literally with my little plastic bag when she went into the back yard to ‘do her business.’ I started getting intuitive (really!) hits that she was pooping, about to poop, or eating her poop, and I would run to the backyard and make her stop. I spent more time chasing her ass than she ever spent pooping from it! But I could not get her to stop.
Yet – in truth, this was a beautiful gift!
That cute little frustrating beagle was making me really see that I could not sustain the illusion and distraction of controlling everyone, including myself, and keeping them safe – mostly from imagined future harm. It was impossible.
I had to deal with the fact that I can’t protect all my loved ones or myself from everything bad that could happen. I had to remove my super-vision-all-knowing-all envisioning all-protecting cape. It was too heavy. It wasn’t effective.
It was hurting me, and I had to let it go. All of it.
And I am letting it go…with compassion for myself because it was the only way I knew to deal with the uncertainty of this world – the possibility that something bad to could happen to these two guys and a dog that I have such intense love for. Once I knew better, I started to do better.
So now I’m lighter; I’m looking at made-up fears; I’m more in the moment instead of the future; I reframe the made-up someday-maybe-stories running in my head; I sleep better… mostly. I am dealing with real issues, feeling my emotions, trying not to use this ‘controlling worry’ as a distraction from things that truly do deserve attention.
It’s not easy.
The cravings to control and obsess are strong.
I fall off the wagon, more often than I would like.
But I’m very hopeful for a full recovery :).
And my dog?
…She can eat all the poop she wants!!
(P.S. After (almost) totally ignoring my dog’s outdoor eating habits, she rarely eats her own poop anymore, graciously leaving it for me to pick up, ;))