When Not Having Control Takes Control

The experience of a lack of control is common for many people who live with a chronic illness. One may walk around wondering when his/her body will hurt, when certain symptoms will rear their ugly head, when a dreaded procedure or scan may be required, when s/he will have to cancel a very much looked forward to event, when hospitalization will be required, when s/he will take his or her last breath. Feeling as if there is no control over one's body or health, is one of the most frightening experiences a person may have. In fact, it can be so terrifying that at times it may be traumatic, causing a person to think about this loss of control over and over, and maybe even leading a person to create scary scenarios about the future.

Sometimes this feeling of loss of control can overcome a person's thoughts, emotions, and even their actions in life. A person may spend their entire day feeling anxious about all of the things regarding his/her health and body that cannot be controlled. Other times a person may obsessively compare him or herself to others who live with or who passed away from the same illness, and may even be convinced that his/her life will play out in the same exact way. In some way, these repetitive and frightening thoughts, are less terrifying than the reality, which is that the person really does not know exactly when and what will happen to them, and that can usually be the scariest thought of all.

Other times some one may try to create a sense of control by obsessing over mundane details of relatively unimportant things. For example, a person may need to purchase a new outfit for work. This person may spend hours or even days going back and forth between two outfits because it has to be perfect. This person may go over the pros and cons of each outfit, which could delay making any decision. Having a feeling of loss of control due to illness, this person may experience the need to control minor things in daily life, which might seem like a good idea, but which can often leave one with a sense of loss. After all there is no perfect outfit, so either decision will not suffice, and the person may just end up feeling a lack of control once more.

How can one prevent a lack of control from taking control? How can one feel a sense of agency and power in a situation that feels powerless? There are things that can be controlled and it is important for each person to figure out what those things are for them, and to start paying more attention to them. One of those things is choice. A person can control whether or not s/he chooses to take his/her medication. A person can control how and what they wish to communicate to others. A person can control whether or not s/he chooses to let illness become the only focus of his/her life. A person can choose to try or not try to live his/her life in the best way possible given his/her limitations. These are just a few examples and they may seem unimportant or meaningless, but they can be impactful if one really pays attention to each choice they make... you control your choices. Yes options may be very limited but you choose how to handle yourself within those confines.

Think about what you choose to control. Pay attention and you might be surprised. Yes this is not easy at all. It is hard but not impossible. Maybe choose to try.