Sunday, June 3, 2012

Your Own Control

Hey Readers--it's been a while! Between my job, school, and (gasp!) my re-emerging social life, my blog has been hard to update. I've even been on consecutive birth control, so I will only be bedridden every three months (rather than every two weeks), so I cannot rely on that bed time to force me into making blog time. But I have really missed writing, I've missed my readers, and I've missed making my possibly small difference in the endometriosis community. To this week, I plan on doing two new entries. One on an important chronic illness mentality, one on my own personal update, and one (possibly!) on the Angry Uterus (the sleep post will have to wait--I am currently doing sleep therapy and have no results to post). So please, continue reading, I love your thoughtful comments, messages, and shares of my posts on Facebook. It makes me feel so supported and received, thank you.

Tonight, I need to talk about something that made a tremendous difference in my endometriosis control, and, more significantly, my life. Anyone with a Chronic Illness will remember times in their lives where everything feels it has spun out of control. It's not hard to feel this way. One moment, you're an average Joe or Jill, suddenly you're a periodic invalid in pain and torn from a normal life. You are sucked into a spiral of unpredictability and of things constantly 'happening to you'. You become dependent on doctors for minor relief and are trapped in bed trying to figure out 'why oh why did this happen to me?'.

In psychology, we have a term called 'locus of control'. It's part of a person's self concept--how they perceive themselves as an individual. Locus of control refers to how you perceive events in your life as relative to your control--as external or internal. For example, someone who struggled for years and made valedictorian of their class would likely have an internal locus of control--she sees it a result of her own hard work and not as a hand out from the school. Another example, someone who is constantly gambling all of their income away, rather than investing and saving. He may see it as "everything's just luck anyway, might as well speed up the process". These two examples, the girl and the man, have two different types of loci of control. She has an internal locus. He has an external locus. It's the 'I make my own things happen' vs. "things happen to me" view on life and one's self.

Locus of control is important because it plays a huge roll in depression. Did you see that coming? In actuality, a person with an external locus of control is much, much, much, more likely to fall to depression. Why is that? Because of another concept--that of 'learned helplessness'. When awful things happen to a person over and over, and they have little to no control over such events, people are taught by the situation that they are helpless to prevent bad things from happening to them. Like with chronic illness--it often seems/is the case that countless negative events are flung our way with nothing to stop them/prevent them. And feeling unable to quash bad events can leave a person helpless for a depression onslaught.  If they have an internal locus of control, they may be able to resist that lesson, and may persist in believing they have influence. But, more often than not, it's easy to have an external locus in such situations. It's easy to see those horrible things as happening to you and not having any influence over things.

Now, reading this, it's pretty easy to think "wow, that was depressing. Thanks Ash, for illuminating my circle of doom for me.", but I promise this is not the case. Yes, you can feel that external locus of control. And that learned helplessness. You feel bombarded by horrible illnesses and side-effects, and sideillnessess, and side-side-effects, for no reason whatsoever. I mean, no man/women with chronic illnesses asked for them. I certainly don't remember lining up with my endometriosis bowl and saying "please sir, I want some more". So how can you not feel like a helpless spectator?

But the thing is, you can do things to help redirect that locus of control. Little things you can do, where your attention is focused, small claims for control, can make a huge difference. It's pretty simple concept but it can take a lot of effort and focus. But, hopefully, I can explain how it helped me and it can give some of you ideas.

First off, a good example of my focus on the internal control, is my having a really strict diet. I guess that can be a little counterintuitive--after all, I am restricting my diet in a way that prevents be from having access to many foods I enjoy. I could feel that my body is controlling what I can eat. Worst of all, even though I feel much better without gluten, I am still plagued by worries that it may just be the placebo. However, in reality, it comes down to that it is my ultimate choice of controlling what I eat. Even if it does make my body sick to have certain foods, I could still choose to eat them. And that's what I focus on. It's not about my body keeping me from foods, it's about me protecting my body from those foods.

Even more subtle, are small things. Things that I could very easily see is completely out of my control. For example, when I start cramping up. My first impulse is to think, "my uterus has no reason for doing this, why is this happening, this is so unfair". That's what I first think. But then I think, "I maybe didn't take my birth control on time, maybe I had too much dairy, I should have exercised more this month".

Now, this route of thinking is NOT self blame. That's not productive or fair to oneself. It's not about saying, 'this is all my fault.'. It's about looking what factors of self involvement contribute to the situation. Because it can make you feel more in control of the situation. It can be almost unnoticeable, how much influence focusing on the disease's control over you life has. Even if you don't think you're looking at it that way. It subtlety presents itself as the new master of your life, and it's so gradual, you don't even realize it. But the way it takes over is, completely, 'in the little things'. So look at those little things, and reassign control from the disease, to yourself.

It's not about assigning blame. It's about assigning control. Teach yourself that you are choosing to fight back, you are choosing to tackle this, and you are choosing how to handle it. Trust me--you don't want to fall into that external locus of control. Remind yourself who is in charge. Remind yourself who is trying to overcome that chronic illness. Whether it be endometriosis, asthma, an injury, cancer--whatever it is, you are ultimately the decision maker. Remember that and acknowledge your control. Take control when you can. Because depression can make any disease much worse. Don't give it an edge.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          


  1. Nicely written!
    I agree with you, the more you feel you have control over certain aspects of your life and health conditions the easier it is to see what you can do to possibly help it.
    I have recently (in the last 4 weeks) gone dairy free and I can see the huge difference to my pelvic and endo pain. I tested the 'dairy waters' and saw an immediate result- learnt my lesson and now consciously have made the decision to go completely dairy free ( I am also wheat free, did that a while ago- but I find diary is worse than wheat).
    The same goes for alcohol, for me even one glass has ramifications due to me health conditions! So I rarely drink, that is to say if there is a celebration or something I won't drink, I will, but I will know that what I am drinking will have an effect on my body!

    1. I think I replied to this, but I can't find it! So maybe I didn't? I thought about going dairy free, and I did notice a slight improvement in my symptoms... but the problem is, I already have so much off limits, I can't afford to give up dairy too. Although I have made the rule of organic dairy only--it seems that my body was largely reacting to the additives in the dairy and not the dairy itself. But I know a lot of women do better without that moo-juice. It's frustrating to have the off limits, but I'm glad you're grabbing the reigns and having positive benefits!!

  2. Ash, this is my first visit to your blog. I found it by googling "depression" and "endometriosis". This post really hit home for me! I have been struggling with my health for many years now. I have a variety of things going on. My pelvic pain began about 5 years ago. I ignored it for a long time. I had a pelvic exam a few months ago and the doc strongly suspects endo. I will be going in for a vaginal ultrasound as soon as we can afford it.

    I've definitely struggled w/depression as a result of my health issues. Just in the past few days I've been thinking about women who seem to triumph in the face of illness. I've wondered what makes them able to do that. I seem to so easily succumb to my physical limitations. It causes me to just hide out at home. I think what you've written here is the answer...external locus.

    I do eat well and restrict certain foods and I take supplements. I have begun exercising, although I am not as consistent as I'd like. I think what I've been doing is that I will stick to something for awhile and then I get frustrated b/c I'm not better. I fall into that victim mentality and feel like "What's the point?". The times when I choose to take control and do good things for myself are the times when I feel the best, even if only mentally. I'm realizing from what you have written that this is a mental shift that needs to happen in me. Those times when I feel defeated I need to do a mental check to see if I've slipped back into that wrong way of thinking.

    Thanks so much for your blog. For such a young woman you are very wise! :) I look forward to reading your other posts!


    1. April, I'm sorry to hear you are struggling with pelvic/chronic pain, and that depression has emerged because of it. It really is hard to resist the factors that pain contributes to depression. Taking a look at how to recenter your 'locus' can really help though... it's crazy, I get so used to being held hostage by this disease that I started blaming more and more things on 'dumb luck'/'out to get me'/'I'm doomed'/etc.... it really helped me turn a corner when I started looking at everything with the idea of 'how did I contribute to this?'; I think sometimes people confuse taking control with self blame, I'm glad you can recognize the difference!!

      Thank you for your kind words--it's encouraging to read such positive feedback on what I have written :)


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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.