Thoughts from a Control Freak

I’m a control freak. I don’t think anyone who knows me would really describe me as that but, to me, it is so glaringly obvious. I think all of us have an element of this within us and it manifests itself in all different ways. The first time I remember feeling this need for control was when I was 11 and my parents separated. That was the first time I felt completely out of control and this feeling manifested itself in me through what I chose to eat. I thought that if I could control every single thing I put in my body, that would make me feel powerful and in control. This obsession with control petered out as  I started healing from their separation. I was “fine” for a while but I think the underlying feeling that I needed to be in control never went away. It would just flare up. 


I had another disordered eating food period when I got my tonsils out in High school. I lost a lot of weight, cause I literally couldn’t eat, and then for six months after that I became obsessed with keeping the weight off. Even though I knew it was unhealthy, it was my choice and I was in control of it. This was all happening at the exact same time as I was applying for colleges and getting used to the idea of being on my own for the first time in my life. 


Then I went to college and met my husband and fell in love and you could say this happiness and acceptance I received from him healed me of this feeling, I had so often felt, of needing control. It was wonderful. But, when we set our wedding date and started planning, I could feel this need for control creeping in again. Weddings have so many moving parts and factors to them and I so desperately wanted it all to come together perfectly. We also wanted to lose a little weight and feel our best physically for the wedding and so naturally that very familiar feeling came back in full force. I became very diligent and controlled with my eating and exercise and felt great for my wedding. The difference this time around was that, after the wedding, this feeling of control didn’t go away. I became more obsessed with my fitness and with losing more weight and getting healthier and more fit and in many ways this was a blessing because I did become incredibly healthy and it lead me to a passion for health and wellness that I didn’t know I had, one that would become a career path for me. But the negative side to this was, the more healthy I got, the more worried I got that I would lose the health or gain the weight back or lose the lean muscles I had worked so hard to develop. 


Now don’t get me wrong, I live a beautiful life, filled with so much love and happiness but, I’d say, over the past few years, my anxiety is at an all time high. I am trying to understand why this would be, and the thing that keeps popping up is my career. I am an actor and trainer in NYC and I have yet to truly feel like I am a “success”. I am building my business but not making much money yet and I sometimes feel like I will never get to the place where I make a steady income doing what I love. This constant fear of not doing enough, achieving enough, being productive enough, making enough money, saving enough money, eating healthy enough, not being enough, it becomes this crazy storm in my head with a million thoughts, feelings, outcomes, and worries just swirling around out of control, and literally the only time I feel semi in control is when I am being perfectly strict with my eating and have set guidelines that I follow 100%. It also comes out when I deviate from a scheduled plan I have set for the day. For example, the other day, I had planned to come home after babysitting and make an early healthy dinner with my husband and memorize lines for class and get to bed early. But then I got a text from a friend that was putting together an impromptu going away party for our friend who is moving. I knew I wanted to be there for my friend so I had my husband meet me after I babysat and we grabbed dinner at a local Mexican place. But when we got there, I was paralyzed with what I should eat. I love Mexican food and we rarely go out to eat, but I had not planned on eating anything “bad” for dinner that night and I knew that we were trying not to eat out in order to save money. I just stared at the menu in tears unable to decide if I should just get a salad cause it’s healthier and cheap, or if I should just get what I want to eat since we rarely go out. I could see the frustration welling up in my husband because he could tell that my brain was spinning. This added to my indecision and anxiety. I ended up just getting the salad because it was easier to me than going through the guilt I would feel if I had gotten something with cheese and tortilla. Cheese and Tortilla!! The horror! I was so thrown by the change of plans that I spent the entire time we were out trying to recalibrate everything in my brain. Move all the puzzle pieces around, just because of a simple shift in plans. When I deviate from these “all or nothing” rules I set for myself, the outcome can be catastrophic. I have nights where I feel paralyzed. And nights where I can’t get comfortable in my own skin. I have nights where I lay in bed but don’t ever really fall asleep. I often wake up exhausted, even though I always give myself at least 8 hours a night, and then I try to go about my day, achieving the goals I have set for myself, but I feel so drained mentally and physically because the second I woke up, my brain was already in overdrive. This is no way to live and no way to find fulfillment and success. I feel so aware about this fact and so aware of why I feel the need to be in control but none of that awareness gives me answers or puts me at ease. 


I know you are probably thinking, “this girl needs to go see a therapist.” I hear you and I am. I meditate. I practice being kind to myself and letting myself off the hook when I eat an extra square of dark chocolate or indulge in a cocktail. I focus to be in the moment and love myself exactly where I am at in the process but I am realizing that this is not something that will be solved easily. It’s so embedded in me. I felt the need to write this because I have a feeling that I am not alone. My need for control may manifest itself in my obsession with being healthy and fit, or my need to follow a scheduled plan. Whereas yours may show up in a drastically different way. I think we all feel this. I have an amazing support system and am not afraid to reach out and get the help and relief I need. It’s extremely frustrating but I know that I will survive and I know that these struggles make me the unique, beautiful human that I am. I know. I know. And I cant wait to get better at believing this and living in this place. I hope in some way that me sharing this can bring you some relief with your struggles and remind you that you are truly never alone. No matter how frustrating it gets, you are never alone. 

Britta Whittenberg