I hate to admit this but I am a control freak.
Being a person who needs control is generally seen as a bad thing. You are someone who is uptight, can’t relax and go with the flow. You’re the opposite of laid back and cool and you’re no fun to be around.
I don’t believe this is strictly true. I believe it is situation dependent. And I believe that there are situations when I just NEED to be in control.
Let me give you some background.
I have had health issues with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome, aka, we don’t know what the heck’s wrong with you), fatigue, depression, anxiety, sleep disruption, neck and back pain and dizziness for over half of my life. I spent years managing this through diet and always trying to find the next thing that would make me feel just a little bit better. Finally I stumbled across a food plan which actually made a permanent difference which I later discovered had a name and is known as the paleo diet.
Around the same time I suffered a severe case of burn out while working as a mental health nurse which left me with severe heart palpitations, night terrors, anxiety and chronic fatigue. To combat these symptoms and my often spiraling negative thoughts I started to introduce more and more daily rituals. These rituals have developed as I have read, listened and learned more about current approaches to health and wellness through meditation, naturopathy, primal living, gut healing and biohacking to name a few.
My diet involves minimising sugar, grains and histamines which trigger IBS symptoms. I eat high fat and low carb and I try not to indulge in too much alcohol. I eat probiotics and prebiotics everyday and I changed from being vegetarian to eating well sourced meat. My daily rituals involve a sleep routine that includes aromatherapy, blue blocking apps and glasses, yoga, a hot shower, reading, a gratitude diary, a health monitoring diary, audiobooks and sleeping in a position which minimises my neck pain. My mornings involve daily yoga, herbal tea, intermittent fasting, smoothies, mindfulness, podcasts and positive affirmations. I have an extensive repertoire of habits, rituals and routines which keep me feeling ‘normal’ and I have all these because my health is precarious.
I think of my health as ‘shallow’. I can burn the candle at both ends for one night and get away with it sometimes. I can sometimes eat some milk chocolate and not have a bad reaction or feel my sugar cravings spiral out of control. But other times a bad nights sleep will send me in to a period of anxious turmoil which perpetuates for days. A small beer or piece of cake made with sugar will bloat my belly out so that my clothes feel tight and uncomfortable and this will take days to clear up. What I’m getting at is that the enjoyment of what people think of as ‘normal’ and ‘balanced’ things like eating junk food occasionally, drinking at lunchtime sometimes or having a late night can leave me feeling less than great for days. I sometimes know exactly the reaction my body will have but other times in takes me by surprise, both by having no negative reaction but by having a terrible reaction. I can seem controlling, maybe obsessive and certainly boring to many people but the cost of ‘normal’ and ‘fun’ can so outweigh the benefit that I no longer derive enjoyment from the things that other people do. I love being healthy more than I love having what is seen as normal fun for a young person. I take my fun from exercise, learning skills, enjoying nature, photography, feeling fit, cooking well.
As my diet has been refined and my health has improved (to the point that when I’m well I can feel as well and energetic as I did at twelve years old) I don’t want to feel anything less than amazing because I now know I can. Six years ago an all night party would leave me feeling like I had so much fun that feeling rough was worth it. Now it can feel like something I will need to recover for days from by taking back control, cutting back on activities, cleaning up my diet for a while. Fun still, but with a cost that sometimes isn’t worth it.
I am not the only one who feels like this and I guess I’m writing this to say that it is OKAY to be a control freak when it comes to doing what is right for you and makes you the best person you can be. My mental health tangibly declines when my health does and so me feeling good makes me a better person for everyone. The criticism and passive aggression aimed at people who some see as controlling over food, health and fitness can be frustrating but when you know that you are doing it for the right, positive reasons then you have rise above it and keep on keeping on. Some days are really hard and you feel totally alone but reminding yourself on a daily basis that your positive decisions are for your long-term health can help you keep going even when you feel like it’s just too hard. Letting yourself off the hook sometimes is important too.
Finding a tribe is so helpful and social media is wonderful for that but finding real people who really understand you can be hard. I find this challenging ALL THE TIME, but the one piece of advice I can give is to just explain, without giving so much detail that you feel vulnerable, that you are making these decisions for reasons that no one can understand but you because only you have lived your life. Explain that while it may be hard for them to understand, you appreciate their support in trying to be a healthier, happier person. After all, being healthy and happy is a good goal for anyone and if people care about you they should understand this and want this for you too.