Control Freakiness and asking for help

Hello, my name is Melanie and I am a control freak.

It’s always best to get the introductions and confessions out of the way up front, don’t you think? That way we all know what we are dealing with!

I would like to blame society for me being this way. A society that tells us we are in competition with each other from an early age for grades and then partners; then later tells us jobs are scarce and we need to prove we are strong, resilient and capable to not only be a team player, but paradoxically, do everything ourselves. If all that doesn’t confuse you, then they haven’t tried hard enough.

But perhaps I need to just own up to the fact that my control freakiness was always inside; it just needed a little push to come out to play and it really wasn’t the fault of anyone except me.

Not only did I need to do everything myself, there was the constant reminder, when in an office, ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself’. Anyone else ever heard someone say that? Usually muttered sharply under the breath, while trying not to curse the fact that a deadline has passed and whatever you had assigned to someone else hadn’t been done.

So in the end you spend way too much time overseeing everything, or trying to do it all yourself and wind up going stir crazy – personally or professionally or both. There are only so many hours in a day, after all.

I remember when I started to get ill and I was also starting to get my writing career organised and off the ground. Two things that don’t traditionally go hand in hand: start a new career while trying to find hours in the day when you aren’t bedridden. However, I do like a challenge!

Anyway, on one of my good days I had drinks with a friend who I hadn’t seen much of since school. He not only plays guitar, but also the drums and sings (possibly keyboard?), just to top things off in the high achiever stakes. I think he must have recognised the symptoms of a control freak, because he said something to me which has stuck even while most other things seem to fall in and out of my brain-fogged mind.

He said that in a band, no one person plays all the instruments. It is usually a group effort, where all the talents combine to make music. The moral being, don’t try to do everything in this new venture; surround myself with people who are experts at what they do and then…novel concept… be prepared to ask them to help me, by doing what they do!

Of course I didn’t take that advice straight away, because that would go against nature. The funny thing is, however, the more unwell I became, the more I was leaning on others for all kind of things, even down to asking for simple help with mundane things like making my bed. All of that is a very humbling experience for someone usually so physically in control of her environment all the time. It was hard to accept I was no longer capable of doing everything for myself and harder still to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to ask for help. Needless to say, when it came to setting up things like books online, websites, book layouts and cover art, all of a sudden I found myself in the awkward situation of not knowing anything (which can give someone like me nightmares and frequently did in the beginning).

But what I’ve learned is that people are really generous with their time and expertise. It doesn’t matter how little or much I knew, even the stupidest questions could be patiently explained. I had to let go, bit by bit, the overwhelming need to be on top of every situation and humbly ask friends, colleagues and family for help.

In all respect, being chronically long term ill is the worst thing that has ever happened to me and certainly not something anyone would choose. However, in this one little slice of things, it has shown me that being a control freak, having to do everything myself and being afraid to ask for help, does me no favours. In fact, once I swallowed the fear of asking people for help, afraid to admit I didn’t know how something was done and afraid that they would be annoyed if I bothered them; once I let all that go, the steps to get to where I am now haven’t been as traumatic as I had thought they’d be. In asking for help, I have allowed my dreams to come true and have actually allowed myself to benefit from the knowledge of those around me.

That, I have to say, is one of the biggest gift I could give myself. Releasing the need to be the jack of all trades and thus the master of none, I have freed myself up to create. And people who really know their way around graphics, computers and such, have given me invaluable help along the way. Thank you!

I can’t help thinking I must be on the right path for great changes. So allow me to introduce myself:

I’m Melanie and I’m a reformed control freak.

I’m very pleased to meet you.

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