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When Mental Illness Makes It Hard Not to Be in Control

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I live with depression, an eating disorder and anxiety, and I appreciate when I can keep things under control. Even if it’s just a simple thing, like locking the door as soon as I leave home. Every morning I have the same routine, making sure everything is in place and sorted before I head to work. I realize I can’t handle it very well when, for example, my boyfriend stays at my place and leaves my place after I’ve already left. The first time it happened, I asked him politely to close the bedroom door, to hang out the towel after showering and to double check the front door to see whether it was locked properly. To him, it might look like I don’t trust him. But for me, it’s simply hard to not be in control of certain things — my things.

The same applies to work. I don’t mind to take over work from others, but I can’t stand to let people help me out. I would rather spend extra hours at work to finish my stuff than give up tasks. I am sure others can do as well as I do, but that’s really not the point. It’s simply the fear of losing control of things I am able to control.

In my daily life I lose control often — about my thoughts, my emotions and my body. Every negative thought could cause a panic attack or trigger binge eating.

I remember spending all my leisure time at home, for almost an entire month, rarely showering or socializing on weekends. Somehow I was able to go to work. I was afraid people would discover my illnesses and turn their backs on me. To avoid this, I managed to go to work every morning — exhausted and tired, but I was still at work. I assumed my main motivation was to keep control of something.

Today I can say that the need for control keeps (and has kept) me alive. If I lost the need for control, I might also lose my wish to still live this life I have.

I recently spoke to a friend who stopped taking her birth control pill. She said it made her happier and less anxious. I spoke with my therapist about doing the same thing, but I was unsure. Despite my hesitation, my first thought was, I should consider this anyway. But what would that mean? I would lose control!

Right now I can control at least something in my body. When my mood drops, it can relate it to my menstrual cycle. As soon as I feel a drastic mood change, I check my birth control to see when my period will be. When taking the pill, I have control to check those things easily. Also knowing when my monthly week is coming up allows me to prepare and eases my mind. If I stopped taking the pill, I would need to use a manual diary, which is not as reliable and I’m worried my body might react differently. My period might delay due to my mental stress, which could cause even more mental stress because I would worry about it too much.

It’s a small thing to be able to have control over something in my body, but it would cause so much struggle in my head if I lost it. So I didn’t consider stopping taking the pill as an option for now.

I know that being obsessed with keeping control isn’t healthy at all. It can even make you sick. But in my case, losing control would make me even more sick.

There are certain situations that I manage to ignore my need for control and I let things come as they come. Most of the time I end up not regretting it, but still, there is a small chance I could.

There is too much in my life I can’t control at the moment and that is what causes my mental breakdowns. The satisfaction of being in control of something gives me some kind of peace of mind.

As long as I am not harming anyone, I won’t fight the need of control. At least not for now.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via Liderina  

Originally published: November 9, 2017
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