Suffering from mental illness means that you don’t always have control over what you are feeling, your thoughts or anxieties. This can often mean that we control other areas of our lives, consciously or subconsciously, in order to regain some of the power within our own lives.
It is quite difficult to identify what exactly you are taking control of to a negative effect within your life when you don’t have the benefit of hindsight, or the ability to really critique your own behaviours – and even if we could evaluate ourselves so carefully and clearly, would we even be aware that these behaviours were negative in the first instance. Of course if we could all see the error of our ways as and when they occurred, we would all be perfect human beings!
In my own life, I have had some issues with control that I can now, with time, evaluate, assess and attempt to change.
- When I was younger, and to a certain extent still now, I had a control issue with food. As I had no control over my debilitating panic attacks, unpredictable low mood and anxious spells, I therefore felt that I had no control over my body or my mind. And to a certain degree, I did not. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders at tthe age of 8 years old. Obviously, having depression and anxiety was initially an unknown concept, a title for my feelings and thoughts yes, but what did it really mean? I felt I was being labelled, forced to see a counsellor, with no control over my own emotions, feelings, thoughts, and no freedom to express these in the way that I wanted to. Furthermore, I had no control in my home life. I had no say in protecting my mum from her violent partner, and felt I couldn’t speak up and get myself out of the situation. As a result, the only thing that I could control was my food. At school, I would not eat breakfast or lunch, and would gorge myself at dinner time. I developed an anxiety about eating in public, a fear that my body would reject the food and I would be sick, and certainly felt that if I didn’t eat, then I was in control! This led to bulimia in later life, and only now am I beginning to feel I am getting control back over normal eating patterns, instead of the unhealthy, ill habits that I was demonstrating before.
- To this day, I still have control issues with money. Money generates a fear for me: is there enough?! Well there would be enough if I didn’t spend it!! As soon as I receive money, I spend it, or give it away. I have an addiction to “things” and “stuff”, as though they make me feel present. I seem to feel that I am not worthy or deserving to keep money. I have no savings built up, owe money to both of my parents, and struggle at the end of the month (well, really after about a week of getting paid) to make ends meet. This is something I am really trying to stamp down on, as I do want to generate savings in order to create the life I want to live, which just so happens to be full of expensive taste! I must recognise that I am worthy to have money, I have earned it, and I am just as in control of it if I save it, if not more so, than if I spend it willy nilly!
- Relationships are also where I exercise control. I feel that I have to make decisions, be the boss, wear the trousers. This is due to the fact that I never had control in my home life, and have never really had a grasp on anything, or it has certainly felt that way. Having power over someone else is NOT being powerful – it is fear.
- Saying no! I used to believe that saying no was my way of controlling my life. I now see that all saying no achieves, is me missing out on memories and exciting events that would have enhanced or enriched my life, or at least made me smile. And there are not enough smiles in my world.
Identifying the areas in my life where I exercise control in an unhealthy way is allowing me to work on these areas of my life and realise that I can be in control of all aspects of my life in a healthy way.
I feel it is very important to analyse in which ways you control your life, and whether this is healthy or not, and write lists of how you can change the things you need to in order to remain happy, healthy and living life to the fullest. I don’t profess to have the answers, just the knowledge of destroying my life for a long amount of time with a destructive attitude, and knowing that this is neither productive nor conducive to a happy life. Severing the ties of control and letting life take you where it needs to, trusting that you have your own back and that you will be ok, is a much more serene way to exist. And that is a place that I shall get to.