Giving Up Control

31 Aug

My mom is ever the boy scout.  Prepared for anything and everything.

Yesterday while we were out shopping she picked up a microwavable syrup bottle.  Apparently my dad fails to read warnings and almost melts Mrs. Butterworth on a weekly basis.  When we got back to her home I noticed that she had saved the packaging.  She explained that it had a 5-year warranty, and should any of the seals leak, she wanted to have the paperwork handy.  After stapling the receipt to the warranty, she filed them together.  I don’t know about you, but I figure when I spend $5 on a syrup bottle that I’m accepting a risk.  If it should break after 5 years of dutiful syrup-warming, then at least I got my money’s worth.  If it falls apart after three days, I call it a $5 lesson.  But not my mom.   I told you.  She’s prepared for everything.

I truly admire her organization and preparation, and I have to say that it’s come in handy on more than one occasion. When I have forgotten my toothbrush on a weekend at the lake, she always has an extra.  She has sterile strips for paper cuts in her bathroom cabinet that I have used more than once.  Need a foldable luggage carrier?  Boom.  Apple corer? It’s yours.  Forget about your gynecologist appointment and need someone to watch the kids?  She kept the day free just in case.

She was a stay-at-home-mom and cared for me and my two brothers in much the same way back then.  She is an amazing mom, and the best grandma a kid could hope for.


I’m beginning to think all those years of being prepared for absolutely everything played a part in the development of  my OCD – specifically my need for control.  Deep down when things go wrong, I find myself sure that I could have prevented them if I just had just planned better.  And thus I tend to anticipate anything that might go wrong and overcompensate by over-planning.

It’s as if I’m waiting for the house to spontaneously combust for no reason.  But instead of the typical safety precautions like smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, I’ve summoned the fire department and sit patiently aiming a fire hose at the roof just in case.  It’s difficult to relax when you’re holding a fire hose.  For one thing, it’s heavy.  And its exhausting trying to maintain control over its pressurized contents.

I want to be clear.  I do not blame my upbringing for my mental health issues.  But I do think it’s helpful to look at contributing factors like societal conditioning, personality, birth order, and life and childhood experiences when I’m trying to work though my anxiety.  If I can find fault in an idea I always accepted to be true based on my past, than I just might have a chance at letting it go.

Giving up control of the world around me means giving up responsibility.   It’s liberating to give myself permission to simply respond to difficult situations instead of feeling the need to prevent them.  I don’t always succeed at this venture, but when I do, I feel my anxiety melt away.

I’m truly grateful to my mom for teaching me responsibility.  But in the spirit of self-care and mental health, I’m going to try to be a little less careful from now on.  But only a little.


5 Responses to “Giving Up Control”

  1. Robin | Farewell, Stranger September 1, 2012 at 11:05 am #

    That makes total sense to me. I think I compare myself to my mom, who seemed to have it easy as a mom, and wonder why I’m no good at it. Same thing – I don’t blame her, but it helps to realize we’re different.

    • learnedhappiness September 1, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      Or how I want to be different. I think my mom and I are very much the same. Which is a blessing in MANY ways. But her perfectionism doesn’t seem to hurt her, but for me, it’s an anxiety trigger.

  2. redrose856 September 6, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    Hi there! Valuable post! There are also theorists who believe that the compulsive need to control others and events is a sign of an early attachment issue….perhaps too much hovering? I am not judging..just wondering out loud. ..have a beautiful day!

    • learnedhappiness September 6, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      Thanks for your comment! I don’t think that’s necessarily off-base in my situation. My mom tends to hover and so I tend to hover with my girls, too. My awareness of this helps me parent consciously in an attempt to not do the same to my kids. But, like I said in the post, there are so many contributing factors.


  1. Depression and Anxiety Resources | Learned Happiness - November 17, 2013

    […] Time Around – On feeling hopeful and full of joy despite the return of my postpartum anxiety. Giving Up Control – Why does everything mental health-related for me end up being about my childhood?  On seeking out […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: