Friday, May 23, 2008

Alright People, I Need Opinions/Help/Advice/Guidance

Yesterday I visited my Siren Call bag of pretzels at Rite Aid. I didn’t want to, but I had to go to there because I needed formula and the Duane Reade didn’t have our particular brand in stock. So I had no choice, really. Maybe they were gone, because there were only a couple of bags. If that were the case, then problem solved. I didn’t want to buy them because I don’t feel I can control myself and not eat the entire bag. I went down the formula aisle and got what we needed and then detoured to Pretzel Lane and sure enough, there they were. . Not two bags, more like twenty now. Two long, neat rows, restocked, bursting with sourdough goodness. I did not buy them, but let me not underestimate that this was a struggle.

The anonymous commenter on my last post has got me thinking. Some of the things she said completely echoed what my doctor said: Lexapro should “calm down” the drill-sergeant, control-freak side of me and if it isn’t calming it down, then I might need an adjustment. By adjustment, she means supplemental medication. She wants me to see a psychiatrist to figure out exactly what cocktail would help to mitigate this part of me. I need to carve the time out of my schedule and figure out when I can see this new doctor. That isn’t easy.

I am disappointed that Lexapro wasn’t a complete and total, one-stop-shopping fix. But this is the confusing part, because I think it really did do its job and it did help a lot. It did put me back into a place where I felt more together, more competent and more optimistic. It got me through a particularly anxious time. It lessened any PPD-esque symptoms I was feeling, which might also have been your typical winter, lack-of-sunshine shut-in blahs, with a dash of isolation blues and adjusting-to-motherhood strains. I was able to get dressed before 11 in the morning. So I don’t think Lexapro failed; in fact, I would say it was/is wildly successful.

But this control thing is a big issue. Or is it? This is where I need help, because I am not sure what is organized and orderly and normal, and what is over-the-top.

I have the classic control-freak symptoms: A mild case of back-seat driving; issues with flying; wanting to do everything myself. “That’s ok; I can do it” is a familiar refrain of mine. I like things just so, MY just so.

But is this all destructive behavior? Isn’t some part of “control freak” good? I plan the weeks’ meals on Sunday and make shopping lists accordingly. This prevents last-minute ordering in or multiple trips to the food store. I lay my gym clothes out the night before. This prevents not-going excuses and makes the early morning ritual more about enjoying a cup of coffee before the gym and not searching for clean clothes. I never stand in front of the fridge or cabinet and think “Hmmm. What do I want?” because my meals are already planned out. My vitamins and Lexapro are organized in one of those pill container things. This prevents accidental skippings and “did I take my vitamin already?” The girls have regular meal times, nap times and bed times. This makes all of us happy. Toys are put away before bedtime; our pajamas are under our pillow; dirty clothes are rounded up and put in the hamper. Our home is, for the most part, clean, organized and mess-free, thanks, in part, to my controlling ways.

But what is too much? As the commenter has pointed out, I have struggled years with many issues. Smoking, drinking, toxic people and relationships. I have been so weight obsessed that I have weighed myself before and after meals. I have been gym obsessed and size obsessed. I have let numbers on a scale dictate my mood, my attitude, my day.

I have come a long, long way from that person. I don’t drink or smoke and I never weigh myself before and after meals. I don’t go to the gym twice a day and in fact I now take one day off a week, which is huge for me. I have shaved 15 minutes off of my daily gym routine, which is also a big deal. I stopped drinking Dr. Pepper. I focus on finding clothes that fit and I don’t obsess over what size they are.

But as we know it isn’t all rosy over here. I can’t buy those nuggets because I will eat the entire bag. Normal or not? I know eating an entire bag of anything isn’t normal, but surely others must have similar stories? Certain foods are on the endangered species list in this house, and those pretzels are one of them. Thank goodness this issue doesn’t translate to all foods for me.

Or this: We are visiting Nicole’s parents next week and her mom want to know what I want her to buy for us at the food store. But I want to do it myself. I even made semi-plans with Nicole to go the night we get there, after the girls are asleep. Not letting other people help and not delegating: Normal or not?

Or this: It drives me crazy that I have to fold Nicole’s socks in a certain way, which is not my way. It also drives me crazy that she likes to have her desk strewn with pieces of papers and receipts and cards and such, a state of organized chaos to her that is anything but for me. Or this: I am afraid to parent in a friend’s home because the girls’ schedule will be off and I fear I will be a hapless failure? (I still do contend that I will be more lax about this as the girls get older, but right now it is very difficult to care for two walking babies in an environment that is not there own.) Some of this has t be normal and some of it probably needs to be worked on. I just can’t figure out which is in what category.

Pictured above, Madeline and Avery love backing themselves into a corner and entertaining themselves by doing things like banging their heads on the wall. No one puts baby in a corner except baby, I guess. Below that, Madeline discovered that she likes to use boxes for hats. And below that, we have a climber. Avery will climb on her toys and stand on them, making her a danger to herself and others. She will also push her toys around and then use them as steps to get on higher objects. The other day she pushed this toy to a small table in her room. Nicole found her sitting on the table with the blinds string in her mouth. This weekend is al about finding a way to hide the blinds cords.


Vera said...

Hi, I'm a long time reader, but a first time commenter.

I think the answer to your question is what behaviors enhance you life and which ones make it harder to get through the day.

As someone who suffers from anxiety, it's a question I ask myself all the time. Is preparing for a trip days in advance beneficial? Definitely. Is worrying that everyone is going to die when I'm away from home? Probably not.

Making meals ahead of time is helpful. Not allowing anyone to help you in a situation you already find stressful? That's really you're call, but I imagine that must make an already worrisome task that much worse.

Anonymous for now said...

I like what Vera writes. If, on balance, you decide you'd like to work on whatever these issues are, please consider doing some behavioral approaches first (e.g. CBT). Once you start down the "tweaking meds" road, it's hard to come back, and hard to know what your baseline is. There is no magic bullet, and honestly, it seems like you're one of the lucky ones who saw results and minimal side effects with an SSRI.

I recently read "Comfortably Numb" by Barber. It is sometimes a bit harsh, but he does get into some useful basics about non-med techniques that can be helpful for situations like yours that are really on the line.

For reference, I have been there, and wish that I had held off on adding meds to solve problems I really just had to buckle down and work on myself. Life is hard, especially with little kids, especially with twins. From what you write here, it sounds like you're doing a great job.

Anonymous said...

i like to judge the things i do with the first step

We realized we were powerless over (activity, thought, object) and that our lives have become unmanageable.

You have to decide what's unmanageable. Is the time spent thinking about the pretzels unmanageable? Is your inability to visit friends with the girls or leave them with care unmangageable? Is your need to control Nicole's domain of desk and socks unmanageable? Is your "I can do it." unmanageable?

My need to control has gotten me estranged from my family and cut off from my nephews. Yeah I was shocked when my sponsor told me that. For years I tried to play God with my mom and my sisters and then my nehews instead in having faith that they have a higher power that loves and takes care of them. I have been obnoxious and superior and unwilling to listen to their side of things because I knew what was best. And here I am, with no contact with the boys and little contact with my mother. And guess what? god did intervene in the role of a friend who got through my sister's insanity and now she is in treatment and the boys are ok.

All this to say: think about your motives behind the things you do. They serve you well in some areas but honestly in other areas it looks to me like a waste of energy. Think about how much time and thought and effort you put into trying to run every little detail. Don't you deserve a break? Or does the idea of letting go of the results bring up fear? If it does then I think you have an answer.

And i did anonymous because the computer is being silly but you know its me Nycphoenix.

K J and the kids said...

I am not an alcoholic, but I am a recovering smoker. Does this mean you can't do ANYTHING without it being part of a disease. It sounds very normal to me. LOTS of times I'll be eating something, dig in for more and wonder...who the hell ate all of the cookies/chips/crackers ? :)
At some point, letting go of the anxiety about eating all of the pretzels might be a good idea :)
Any time you tell your body that it can't have something...first thing it wants is....that something. Just seems normal to me.

utRus said...

hey, ok, I was the original "anonymous" from your last post. I went anon because i was afraid that you might take offense and be mad. but i see this is not the case, so i'm coming out.

i COMPLETELY understand a lot of your feelings and behaviors, because i am very much the same. VERY. but i also see that some of my behaviors have been damaging my relationships and making me ultimately unhappy, even though i thought that being ultra organized and systematic was the key to happiness. that is why i go to my therapist each week for cognitive behavioral therapy and to work through my motivations for my controlling behavior. and my god i am so much happier.

i think meds are great and i am glad the Lexapro helped you out so much! see if you can't carve out a hour a week to get to therapy though. i know it's hard to do (childcare, cost, etc) but this is really important. and this might be a good first step to delegating a little - someone else must watch them while you go.

nycphoenix above makes some really good points, as do others. and this blog serves its purpose - but it is not professional help. one thing is clear - you are not afraid to self-examine, and you are very articulate about your actions and possible motivations. you've got a great advantage in this way and would thrive in therapy.

what happens if you let go?

Jenni said...

I'm delurking :) Actually, I think I've commented on your gorgeous girls in the past!

I'm glad that you've found some meds that are helping. I don't think you will ever be completely free from the control issue, and that's ok. I think you should come to terms with it and embrace it (to a point). It is who you are!

Is eating an entire bag of pretzels normal? Well, I think that depends. Are you doing this daily or just once in a while? At least its not a box of donuts! (seriously, I have my own issues!)

My mother has this issue with cleaning, everything has to be in in its place at all times. ALL TIMES. The sad part is, my entire childhood, all I can remember is being yelled at daily about things not being clean enough, or put away right. When I grew up, I too obsessed over things being really clean and organized. It was disrupting my life. When I realized what I was doing, it really made me sad that THAT is the only thing I really remember that sticks out about my mom. I don't want my life to be wasted cleaning and organizing my house. I want to live my life.

I think certain obsessions are just a part of life and your personality. I think it gets dangerous when it starts to take over and/or ruin relationships, jobs, social life, etc. Give yourself a break...and give yourself permission to just sit back and enjoy those girls. They're only going to be little for a while and you deserve to enjoy your time with your family. THAT is the most important thing, not the gym, not the pretzels, not the sock folding!, not the grocery shopping. Maybe just try letting your MIL do the shopping this once, and see how it goes!?

I wish you the best :)

jeannine said...

I have many of the same issues, and I find if I control the things I CAN control (not eating a whole bag of chips, keeping my twins on thier schedule, etc.), and let go of those that I CANNOT control (how my husband uses various pieces of furniture throughout our home as a hamper and refuses to put any dirty clothes in our actual hamper, my kids refusing to eat the breakfast they loved yesterday, etc.) I feel a lot better. Like you, I think a certain amount of control is a good thing. It keeps us organized, the bills paid on time, neat and clean, well fed and healthy.

A lifelong perfectionist in an imperfect world, my infertility struggle and subsequent IVF was a powerful wake up call to me about what is and is not in my control. I learned to just do what I could, the best I could, and leave the rest to God. It has served me well since then, especially raising twins and wanting to give each of them the "perfect" childhohod and desperately wanting to be the "perfect" mother.

There is no perfect, no matter how hard we try, no matter how many times we resits urges to do something "bad" (like eating a bag of pretzels - honestly, if you do it once and a while, what harm is there?) or drive ourselves crazy doing everything "right" (like how I can't let anyone in my house unless it looks ready to be photographed for a magazine - including my ex-housekeeper which is why I no longer pay her to clean my clean house). It is HARD to let go. So don't - at least not of everything. Pick and choose, control what you can and try to make peace with the rest. Remember you are not alone.

jeannine said...

Oh - and I forgot to add: Let Nicole's mom shop for you, just give her a detailed list of exactly what you want/need. I went through the same thing when we visited my sister-in-law at Christmas, and I made sure to give her brand names and sizes of the things I wanted, and she did great. Saved me time, cut down on the amount of stuff we had to schlep and let me relax after a full day of air travel with two babies. As long as the girls have some sort of food, drink and diapers (even if it is not exactly what you would buy), you'll be set, and you can always go to the store another day.

calliope said...

I have some (ok, most) of the same control issues. I am actually perfectly fine with my needing to do everything. When it sucks is when other people help me and they do it WRONG! You know- send someone out to get a certain kind of sliced turkey and they come back with ham.

SO many people have brought up some good points. I think that to a degree needing to be in control is what makes us who we are. And probably helped us survive some pretty shitty eras.

That you need to be in control is probably a huge reason why you are so successful with your own recoveries.

I think therapy would be a nice condiment to the lexapro. Even if there was like a group therapy type of situation you could be a part of (I totally romanticize group therapy)

& if it was me- no WAY would I be able to let someone else grocery shop for me. I mean part of the appeal is the control, but isn't it also nice to just zone out & aisle cruise??

hope you guys have a great weekend!

rebecca said...

i agree with the last commenter, having someone who doesn't know you in real life would probably be helpful. at least, it is for me.

i also agree with the person who said just let your mother-in-law do your shopping. (especially if she is paying, right!) just tell her the items you need. that is one less thing for you to do.

i have to tell you though, and this will probably seem weird, my first reaction to reading about your control issues was mild envy. i wish i had the sort of motivation to keep things running so smoothly! (the ONLY area i have any control issues is punctuality.) there are some good aspects to being relaxed (or one could say lazy...) but the flip side is sometimes things don't get done that really should. i think the trick is to find a balance... like, probably try not to stress about nicole's desk if it doesn't stress HER out. easier said than done, i know.

but honestly, there are some really good things to being the way you are. it sounds to me like you need to work on letting go of the feeling that you "shouldn't" be this way. if it is not hurting the people around you, then there is no "should" or "shouldn't".

(oh, and i think that EVERYONE has some type of food that they cannot stop eating. i suspect this is totally normal.)

Kerry Lynn said...

I think most of this sounds normal. either that or you justify everything well ;-)

two suggestions...

1. try upping the lexapro by 5mg for a few weeks. I was taking 10mg for about 7 months and felt leaps and bounds better than I had pre lexapro but there was still a little nagging anxiety there. My therapist upped the dose to 15 (I have to cut a pill in half) and it did just the trick.

2. my husband is you and i am more like nicole. he can be very hard on me when things are out of place (or what he thinks to be out of place). i mentioned this to my therapist and she suggested that he take 4800mg of fish oil. i can't remember the specifics of why it helps but if you're looking for a more natural remedy I'd say it's worth a try. plus it's good for you anyway. I actually take it along with my lexapro every night.

Anonymous said...

I'd highly recommend these for the blinds, I know they look ugly but they get them out of the way

Anonymous said...

I read your post and can so identify with almost everything you said. I've found that a lot of my control issues (which most of the time is my anxiety getting the better of me) went away with Xanax... on top of the prozac i normally take. It's a slippery slope these meds though, because trust me I can tell when I don't take the Xanax. But I can tell you what a relief it is to let other people do things and things don't need to be perfect and I don't feel like I have to control absolutely everything anymore.

And what everyone else already said makes a lot of sense and is good advice for me to remember too!

Anonymous said...

Maybe not just "control" issues...maybe OCD? Maybe some behavioral therapy might help?

Saw OCD discussed on a recent episode of Oprah. Very informative. Don't give up! This is robbing you of quality of life, and it's not a good model for the kids. When "something else" is running your life, and it's not YOU, there's a problem. So don't give up until you are living the life you're meant to live.

Wishing you all the best-really love your blog. Makes me thing about LOTS of things, much more than just mom/kid issues. THANK YOU for that!!! Keep up the good topics!!