Has Diabetes Made Me a Control Freak?


Okay, so let me clarify something: I’m a perfectionist with Type 1 diabetes. Of course I’m a control freak. But I’ve started to wonder whether my hypervigilance with diabetes care may have begun to bleed, if you will, into other areas of my life as well. 

This occurred to me at midnight on Saturday, as I was surfing the Home Depot website and trying to decide whether my husband’s spare nails and drill bits would best be contained by a shelf set with 39 drawers of multiple sizes, or if a straight 18-drawer set (with drawer dividers) would be a better bet. Previously I had spent fifteen minutes deciding exactly how many Oxo Pop Top food storage containers I required for my walnuts, pumpkin seeds and Splenda packs (and, of course, in what capacity) and agonizing over whether I should get a spice rack that fit in a drawer, one that sat on a shelf, or if a cabinet Lazy Susan would make more sense.

I was in what Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, would refer to as severe “optimizing” mode, where you try to make the absolute best decision for every single circumstance in your life. It was not enough to know, for example, that a particular shoe rack fit the dimensions of my closet. I needed to read through all of the customer reviews of this shoe rack, so that I could weigh its pros and cons, its strengths and its failures, to make sure that opening my closet each morning would result in a rush of organizational contentment rather than stress. Despite most retailers’ generous return policies, I wanted to make sure that every dollar, every penny I forked over would be money well spent. 

But even odder, in some ways, was my compulsion to buy these things to begin with. When I was a kid, my mother used to tease me (some might even say nag) about the state of my closet, or my seeming inability to make my bed every morning or carefully fold my clothes. When I was in college, I don’t remember vacuuming our dorm room more than three or four times a year. I gave no thought to the status of my underwear drawer. 

This all changed after I graduated from college, which also happened to be shortly after I was diagnosed with Type 1. A friend lent me a copy of Julie Morgenstern’s book Organizing From the Inside Out, which uses an acronym (Sort, Purge, Assign, Containerize, Equalize) to help you organize your life. First of all, it should be noted that I read that book in the fall of 2001 and still remember both the acronym and what each letter stands for. That’s scary. But it explains the fact that when people ask me what books have made a difference in my life — perhaps expecting something literary, or at least vaguely philosophical — I respond with Julie Morgenstern. 

I’m serious. I spent a weekend with Julie (or, more accurately, her book), going through my closet piece by piece (sorting), donating extra clothes (purging), and stacking them into categories (assigning). Then I paid a visit to the temple of organization — the Container Store — attempting to resist the pull of a display of rainbow-colored but totally useless plastic boxes (know what containers you need before you buy containers, Julie wisely advises). After accepting the irony of my purchases — nearly $200 spent on empty boxes — I put together my newly cleansed closet. Since then, I have been attempting to live the last step: equalizing, which basically means maintaining your organized status so that you don’t end on the wrong e: entropy. 

As I’ve grown older, my organizational fervor has only increased.  I now own several Swiffers, and often think, while conquering dust bunnies, of the pride the inventor of the Swiffer’s mother must feel at knowing the revolutionary effect her son or daughter has had on dusting. I have three Clorox toilet wands. (And I love each and every one.) I spend an embarrassing amount of time contemplating how to cross reference receipts. My husband makes fun of me, but I can’t help it: organization makes me calmer. It makes me feel more in control. It makes me feel sane. 

Which is why I’ve been wondering recently if the timing of my diabetes diagnosis and my descent into organizational obsession might be more than coincidental. With a disease that is able to resist all efforts of control, have I been driven to seek organization and order elsewhere in my life? Does the satisfaction I derive from my file cabinet in some way offset the frustration I feel when my blood sugar strays out of bounds? (And I also should note that I recently decided to organize my diabetes supplies, which were getting out of control — and there was indeed something very satisfying about relegating my supplies to shoeboxes, rather than allowing them to take over the cabinet in which they were stored.) 

I think it might — and I’m surprised it hasn’t occurred to me before. (I mean, I knew I did that with exercise, but that’s kind of obvious.) So what do you guys think? Are there non-medical aspects of your life that diabetes has affected? What do you do in your daily life to give yourself more of a sense of power and control? 

Notify of
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 years ago

I could not agree with this more.  Living with T1D has definitely made me an absolute control freak when it comes to organization.  I will clean out my purse with a ritualistic obsession, and organize my stuff (D stuff and other stuff) with an intense fervor.  Living with T1D can make you feel so out of control at times, like no matter what you do your BGs are just all over the place, that I think it’s natural and normal to try to find organization and predictability in other areas.  Also, when you have T1D, being organized can literally mean… Read more »

10 years ago

Thank you for the book recommendations.  I love organizing and I feel the tyranny of choice quite often. I do struggle against clutter and feel better when I’ve conquered it. 
Diabetes has given me control over food, at long last.  I’m Type 2, so I eat low-carb.  I no longer have food cravings and I can eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. That gives me a huge sense of power and control!

Amy Stockwell Mercer
10 years ago

This is so true! I am not by nature and organized kind of person and if I could choose, I would let each day unfold without a plan, but diabetes has changed that. I’ve got these 2 sides of myself that are at odds: the diabetes side that thrives on organization, and the laid back side that wants to drift through each day…..it’s an ongoing battle….

Copyright © 2009-2021 Diabetes Media Foundation, All Rights Reserved.
ASweetLife™ is a trademark of the Diabetes Media Foundation, All Rights Reserved.
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x