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Getting Your Controlling Thoughts Under Control

What do you think of when you hear the term “controlling personality”? A bullying boss? An obnoxious, overbearing relative? A busybody know-it-all neighbor? When I think of “controlling personality” I think of words like “nasty,” “oppressive,” and “demeaning.”

So it was a bit of a shock when I came to the conclusion – after talking with one of my mom’s helpers (a self-acknowledged control freak) - that (drumroll) I have a controlling personality! My first thought was, how could that be? I am nice. I am agreeable – sometimes too agreeable! I listen to other viewpoints, try to meet people halfway, and overall seek peace and tranquility in my daily life.

Once I acknowledged the fact, I decided that there had to be a positive side to a controlling personality, right? When you’re caregiving there is so much to keep track of: schedules, prescription refills, groceries, bills to be mailed (still no online for me!), checks to be written. That’s not even addressing the direct needs of the person you are caregiving – who may also be a controlling personality.

I argued to myself that being controlling is not my fault but a necessity in the face of my caregiving challenges. “If I don’t do this, who will?” “I can’t trust [fill-in-the-blank] to do this.” “I know [fill-in-the-blank] will drop the ball and I will have to follow up.” Being a controller may get the job done. But it is EXHAUSTING!

Knowing that this is my problem to solve I have tried the standard remedies. I have read faith-filled bible verses. I have meditated for serenity. I have assumed an attitude of “Who cares? It really doesn’t matter in the end.” And still I wrestle with the urge to jump in to somehow fix or expedite every situation.

But I may have had a breakthrough! Stay with me here. Yesterday I went through a series of events, all of which offered ample opportunity to seize control. My mom developed a small bedsore (a story for another day), which based on past experience would have to be treated by the wound clinic. But since she really can’t get out anymore I didn’t know if the wound clinic could send someone out. If not, I would have to contact a home health agency to see if they could send out a nurse. So I called the wound clinic (Controlling thought: They had a horrible response time in the past. They probably won’t call back. I should plan on calling them back. I won’t be able to schedule anything because they won’t call back.). Wonder of wonders, they answered the phone after a brief hold and informed me that I would need to get a referral from the primary physician for home health care. So I called the doctor and explained to the receptionist the situation, and she said she would get on it (Controlling thought: Will she get the message to the doctor? Will the doctor insist on seeing my mom? Will the doctor refuse to do anything? Should I have a plan B, C, D, or E?!!). Purely coincidentally (honest!) I stopped in the office later in the day to pick up some supplements and, second wonder of wonders, the receptionist AND the doctor were both there and assured me they had made the referral. The doctor ended the conversation with the statement, “Let me know if you need anything else.” But the plan could STILL fall apart. Now I needed to hear from the home health agency to find out whether/when they would send someone out. (Controlling thought: Would someone call? When would they call? When would they come out? I would probably have to call them.) The final wonder of wonders, I got a call later in the afternoon from a very nice nurse who scheduled a visit for the next day. And so it goes.

Is this insane thinking or what? The good news is that as each of these thoughts came up, I successfully for the most part deflected them just by counter thinking two words: Let go. Let go. It was almost as much a physical process as a mental process to take the healthy thought into my heart as well as my brain. But it worked!

So who cares about my psychological state? Mostly just me, as it should be. I share here mainly to point out how much of the caregiving experience is psychological and how important it is that you have your own head on straight as you contemplate to what extent you are willing to caregive an elderly loved one. joke. Literally as I finish this, I receive an email from the senior home care agency. The home helper who was supposed to be a permanent fill-in doesn’t want to come back. So now there is an open slot. What to do, what to do??

I think I’ll let go.

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