Sunday, June 17, 2012

How to Take Control

Last post was about how taking control in stressful situations can help one deal with chronic illness. Hopefully, I've managed to convey some key points: (1) illness can reduce your feeling of control over life, (2) it's important to regain a feeling of control to protect against depression and emotional weakening of the immune system (learning helplessness from lack of control is a key ingredient for depression), and (3), it's possible to regain that feeling of control by taking small steps in your life.

So, today, I'm going to give some ideas on getting that control back. I mentioned diet as an example last post, but today is going to focus more on examples than anything else.


  1. As said before, by exerting control over what you do/do not eat (in accordance with dietary recommendations for your disease), you are asserting control in your food intake. It's easy to see it as 'I can't eat that'--but that's not what it's about. Truly, I could walk to the bakery right now and get a croissant. I miss them incredibly. Yes, I would feel sick afterwards, but I could still eat it. But I am choosing not to. Look at your diet as a choice. Actively pursue information on diet and understanding what foods have what effect. And make a choice.
  2. Treatments. Often, going to the doctor and being at the whim of his/her prescription pad is a huge blow to a sense of control. It is easy to feel a victim in the situation--you are, after all, at the mercy of what that doctor decides to do. It seems like a powerless situation. Or at least it can feel that way. When giving up room in your budget for medications and surgeries, you may see it as having money taken away. But, in actuality, you are choosing to value your health over other life demands. Like with diet, this is a situation of recognizing choice. Even when under the directive of requiring surgery, it is still a choice. Obviously your condition of health has forced you into that choice, but it doesn't change that you can still ultimately choose. 
    • A good example of this is how I chose to deal with the massive changes endometriosis forced on my life. I kept trying to get through treatments as quickly as possible and not give myself time to actually make significant and time consuming changes/stops in my life. This characterized my first couple of years trying to cope with this disease (after it took a turn for aggressive in 2009). When I finally decided to completely put school and work on hold for 6 months, and sought out a highly qualified doctor, my disease finally resolved enough to allow me to resume a normal life. I had many ways to undergo medical treatment for this disease. My earlier choices did not go well--my later ones did. I don't look at my earlier years as being an 'unfortunate victim of poor circumstance and unqualified doctors'; I look at it as me not allocating the proper attention/time off. And that gives me a much greater feeling of control and power than a victim in the waiting room. 
  3. Homeopathy. Home treatments/remedies/rituals are amazing for any kind of suffering I can think of. This is medicine focused on balance of the body rather than resolving a specific illness. Thus, it has the potential of making you healthy all over with fewer negative side effects (thought it can also take longer). However, for me, it's been amazing. For example, lately I've been using eucalyptus to help treat my asthma and allergies--it helped resolve some of my congestion better than any prescription I have ever taken. For endometriosis, things like fish oil, red raspberry leaf tea, and yoga/deep breathing can help immensely. The availability and easiness of the internet provides a wealth of information for pretty much any home remedies for any ills. That also means there is a lot of unfounded and possibly dangerous 'home remedies' peddled too. The key is actively searching for what will help you and make your illness more manageable. Yes, again, it's about taking control of the situation and making educated decisions about what you put into your body. The plus sides of this is these are not prescribed by doctors, meaning it's pretty much self administered. You are in the drivers seat. This also leaves room for danger though--please educate yourself on the risks of home remedies and make sure to carefully evaluate each treatment. Consider seeing a licensed homeopath for a couple appointments, so he/she can guide you in your choices. 
  4. Move your Body: chronic pain is a huge detriment to a feeling of self control. When it hurts to move, it restricts your mobility and the pain and even infringe on clear thought. Feeling unable to control your own body is frustrating. It's easy to see that chronic pain patients are around 5 times as likely to experience depression. But as chronic pain is a source for learned helplessness/depression, it's also a clue for a good place to exert some control. There are times when even a sick person can do something. On good days I can bike around 30 miles. on bad days, I take my dog on a short walk. I do yoga, leg lifts, arm curls--anything I can get my body to do, I make it do it. Why? Because it's a way for me to assert that I am ultimately in control of my body. I cannot stop it from hurting me sometimes, and while motion does help prevent scar tissue formation, it is not 100% effective. But refusing to let your body completely force you into motionless bed rest can help fend off feelings of victimization. It's about focusing on what you can do--not what you can't. 
 I hope you have found something helpful in these tips. They're not all inclusive, and I am sure there are many other ways to 'take the driver's seat' in your illness. Look at this post as a primer. Recognize spots in your life where you can take control.

Thank you for reading! Feel free to add any examples or email me for questions, bedriddenhead@gmail.com.

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About The BedRiddenHead

I want to be happy. And this site is about that chance. How to strive to thrive in the body I've got and maybe turn my experiences into something worthwhile.

This site aims to help educate and reach out to people all over that struggle with pain or illness. To try and make something helpful. I work as a medical research writer, my background is in neuropsychology and biology, and I want to share what I learn in a way that is easy to understand. I am not a doctor. I'm definitely not your doctor. I am just some lady who wants to make someone's (anyone's) life a little bit better. Whether you have endometriosis, a chronic injury, a struggling friend, or just want to learn something new, I hope to make a place that has what you are looking for.

Thank you for stopping by, I wish you strength in your health and happiness.