Control Freak 101

I’m kind of a control freak.

Alright, more than kind of, I’m completely a control freak. My custom ordered planner has a ten-color coding system, and if even one detail of my day doesn’t go according to plan I’m likely to shut down. It’s unhealthy and I’ve been trying to change for about six months now. I prayed to God to help me break this unhealthy character flaw, and apparently He figured brain surgery would be the fix for that. Here’s why.

I had a condition that has existed since birth. There is nothing anyone could have done at any point in my life to produce a different outcome, to help me avoid surgery. I couldn’t control what led me to surgery, I couldn’t control the surgery (a lack of a MD is not the only obstacle there), and I couldn’t control the recovery. Most surgeries have some sort of post-operation physical therapy. That’s not the case with Chiari Malformations, and everyone’s recovery is different. Since there isn’t a textbook timeline, you recover when you recover, and if you try to force it, you’ve probably just added a few more weeks to your sentence.

In the midst of all of this, it was easy to feel hopeless, useless, and purposeless, especially for someone so use to controlling things. I threw myself many a pity party. I’m such an expert, I could be a professional pity party planner. But the worst part is, with all of the fears and stress in the face of the surgery, I still didn’t want to give up control. I told myself I did, but deep down, I knew it wasn’t true.

The stress surrounding whether to attempt going back to school or stay home for the semester is what broke me. Stress. I’ve lived the last five years in constant stress, but it wasn’t until this experience that I realized where my personal stress is derived.

Google defines stress as, “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Now while I don’t disagree with this definition, I would like to propose a new definition. Madison defines stress as, “the state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from a perceived or real lack of control.”

Some of my most stressful moments in life have been the result of my inability to control a situation or the result. The feeling of making the wrong choice and being unable to control a situation to achieve the right outcome has caused my greatest stress. One day, I was sent this verse by a very close friend, “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34 ESV) At first, I wrote it off, I had read this verse several times and didn’t really see how it applied to me, I wasn’t worried about finances, or food, I was worried about a MAJOR LIFE DECISION. So I continued to stress and cry and stress cry.

My dad is a very discerning person. Too discerning sometimes if you ask me. So after I finished crying for the fourth time in a single day, he read this very same verse to me, and helped me apply it to my control problem. He told me Jesus is telling us here that we need to take things one day at a time. Trying to control the future will only leave us disappointed and stress crying in a corner all day. And it was then that I began to give up control.

This was five weeks ago, and giving up control is a daily struggle, but one that has benefitted me more than I can express. I no longer worry or stress about the future, or even about the next week. I have peace and a calm attitude I never knew existed. I no longer see the future as terrifying or uncertain since I know everything will work according to God’s plan, as long as I give Him the control and allow Him the power to orchestrate my life to bring Him glory. I’m not saying everything is going to be easy and beautiful, I know there’s going to be pain and suffering in the future. The difference is, I know there will be beauty in the pain; I know there will be opportunities in the suffering. This no longer scares me, because with God in control–and not me–the future, good and bad, has purpose, meaning, and fulfillment.

How do I do it?

Thank you for asking. Every day I remind myself to take things one day at a time. I write this phrase (One day at a time) on my mirror, I put it as the background of my phone, I put it on a sticky note in my car, places I will see it multiple times a day, and I refer to it when I start to want the control again. When I start to get stressed because of this lack of control I take a deep breath and look at these reminders. Eventually, this becomes less of a chore and more of an attitude. Eventually, this becomes beautiful, no longer annoying. Eventually, this becomes a way of life.

So I’m no longer a control freak, but I’m not going to get rid of my planner, just the ten-color coded system and the inflexibility.