January 19, 2023

4 Ways to Keep your Issues from Controlling You.

 

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When my kids were young, they were into playing and collecting Yu-Gi-Oh! cards.

We went to a local comic book store so they could get a couple new packs of this card game and because it’s fun to check out all the cool stuff housed inside a comic book store.

After browsing through all the paraphernalia, they carefully selected the packs they hoped contained the cards they wanted, and we went to the counter to pay for the—hopefully lucky—foil-wrapped packs of cards.

Behind the counter stood a 30-ish-looking, slightly pudgy man wearing a T-shirt and shorts. After he asked if we found everything, we engaged in some usual small talk.

In perfect timing and rhythm of the conversation, my daughter spoke up with a tone to match, “You have issues.”

A bewildered look came across both the man and my face. When I looked at my daughter to question her statement and explain how that is inappropriate to say to a stranger, she pointed to his T-shirt and said, “It’s on his shirt.”

Even the man looked at his shirt and realized it had the iconic picture of “The Simpsons” sitting on the couch with the phrase “I have issues” written in bold print. We both laughed and slightly shook our heads.

Whether they’re positive or negative, if they’re temporary or last a lifetime, we each have our own individual issues. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s normal and natural—a part of being human. What’s important is how we handle them.

One of my issues is what I refer to as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) tendencies.

I say tendencies because it’s not to the degree that I need medication. It doesn’t affect or impact my life to the point that it’s overtly problematic. But it is there and rears its head somewhat regularly.

Cash bills must be face side up, facing the same way, and stacked in sequential order, largest to smallest. Otherwise, I can’t count them correctly. Many times, I’ve rearranged cash before counting and sometimes I arrange the bills “correctly” while I count.

I color coordinate my clothes to hangers to match as close as possible. Honestly, I’ve rehung a shirt on another hanger because the color is a better match. I habitually straighten and align items. People sometimes pick up on my OCD tendencies when we play cards because I continually straighten the deck. I’ve had panic attacks over little things like when someone thought it’d be funny to go behind me and keep opening all the kitchen cabinets.

I’m not unreasonable. I’m fully aware that this is a me issue. It doesn’t bother me when others mix-match the color of their towels. I don’t insist that others adhere to my crazy logic. However sometimes—if I can get away with it without being noticed—I go behind them to “fix” something.

Fair warning: if I use your bathroom and the toilet paper is facing the wrong way, I will take a moment while sitting on the toilet to turn it around.

Over time, I’ve learned to practice a few things that help me control my issues instead of them controlling me:

1. Breathe

It’s amazing how much of an impact feeling your breath can have. We breathe all day every day, but it’s mostly done without a thought. I feel hungry, I feel sleepy, and I practice feeling my breath. It is so powerful that I got “Breathe” tattooed on the inside of my left wrist.

A quick internet search will provide several breathing techniques. However, just pausing for a moment to feel my breath travel into my lungs and back out makes a huge difference.

2. Acknowledge

Acknowledging that my reaction is in part due to an issue (OCD, PTSD, depression, etc.) helps me stay in control of my reactions instead of letting my issue get the better of me. This also helps me take responsibility for my reactions and actions. There have been times that acknowledgement didn’t come to me right away—I reacted too quickly, and later apologized for my undesirable actions.

3. Accept

Things aren’t always in my control. Obviously, I can’t control what others say and do. Accepting that things are out of my control helps me stay in control. Accepting that these issues are a part of me helps me forgive myself and continue to work on myself—with my issues. Unfortunately, I can’t make these issues magically go away. Accepting and making friends with these parts of myself makes a huge difference.

4. Be Aware

I try to be as aware as possible of my triggers. Learning and knowing them helps me prepare so I can avoid or take steps to deal with situations more appropriately. For example, I have PTSD because of an abusive marriage. While watching a special re-showing of “The Shining” in a theater, I started getting triggered. It had been years since I saw the movie and never realized the abusive connotations in that film. I seriously considered and almost did leave the theater because of it. Luckily, by being aware that I was being triggered, acknowledging the situation, accepting my circumstance, and feeling my breath I was able to stay and enjoy the movie till the end.

Even though my issues can’t be fixed, resolved, or magically disappear, using these tactics has helped me manage, cope, deal with, and retain some control over them. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all handbook for our issues. We are all different people, have different issues, and what works for one may not work for another.

If you notice one of your issues getting the better of you, maybe try one—or all—of these tips on for size to see if it helps. After all, it couldn’t hurt, and you may end up with a new skill to keep in your personal tool kit for next time.

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