- Carolyn Costin
A Lesson About Balance
I always bring my lessons and insights into the work I do with clients. I share my experiences because the way I perceive things and handle things has everything to do with my temperamental traits, the same traits that contributed to my eating disorder. Learning how to manage one’s traits is part of the road to recovery and to living a full, recovered life.
This week, I had a scary experience. Thinking through what happened, I ended up appreciating my traits and realized that sharing my experience could be useful to others, particularly those who are more anxious, risk averse and harm avoidant than others.
When I woke up I rolled over to get out of bed, just the same way I do every morning, but this time the room started to spin, really spin. I fell back down onto the bed. I tried again and the same thing happened. Finally I got seated on the bed, with my feet on floor and sat there for a few minutes until the swirling stopped, and tried to take a few steps. I could not get my balance. I was walking like I was drunk. I yelled for my husband to come help me. Something was terribly wrong with me and my mind started throwing out possible “reasons” for this debilitating vertigo. “What if I have a brain tumor?” I sobbed. I was really scared. I thought of unfinished business, my incomplete will, the foundation I was just starting, how I did not want to have brain surgery, or die…
Five hours and two doctors later, after a simple, harmless “procedure,” I was fine. Totally fine. When telling my story to relatives, my brother in law asked, “Why do the Costin females always go to the worst possible scenario in their minds.” It’s true, I had to admit it, my sister does the same thing. She has many of the same traits as I do. But is it necessarily bad? Not at all, it depends on how you ultimately deal with a trait that makes a difference.
My husband is very different from me in that he always thinks the best. After two heart attacks he did not feel vulnerable or scared. After a recent stroke, he still is not afraid he is going to die any time soon. It’s astonishing for someone like me to watch this, live with this. I used to get mad at him because I wanted him to worry more. Think of that…how silly that is. I guess what I really wanted was for him to make some educated decisions on taking care of himself, but my statements did not convey that, when, exasperated, I would whine, “Aren’t you worried?” The truth is his calmness and his lack of fear, serve him well. He is a very successful, thoughtful, non-reactive business man. He has no doubt he will be successful and therefore takes risks I wouldn’t think of. He is an example of the power of positive thinking, in a good way. So, I try not to bug him anymore but remind him there is a balance between having no doubt or fear and taking care of one-self.
On the other hand, back to me, it was my anxious, risk adverse, temperament that raced him to the hospital at the first signs of a stroke ….and that, according to the doctors, saved his life. Yes, this is where my anxiety, or what I like to call, “high energy” comes in very handy. Sometimes thinking of the worst-case scenario and preparing for it, saves lives. Again, it is a matter of balance.
Back to my vertigo. Although I cried and I was conjuring up really bad scenarios, I kept my presence and reasoning intact. I stayed in balance, not letting the thoughts and emotions take over and overwhelm me. I did not lose my capacity to respond and make appropriate decisions, rather than react to my emotions. What I have learned to do is feel my feelings, thus the crying, but challenge my thoughts, so I talked back to myself and said, “You can go get a brain scan.” “It could be something else.” The point is, I still have my traits but I have learned to deal with them in a balanced way. I trained myself to channel my traits wisely so they work for me, not against me. In my vertigo experience my traits served as an, asset, an alarm signal. Yes, I had scary thoughts and I cried, but I also allowed myself to use my thoughts and fear to motivate me to act appropriately, reach out for help, go immediately to a doctor and ultimately find the answer to my problem. And once again, I also learned, that sometimes the solution to our problems is a very simple one.
It turns out we all have these calcium crystals in certain parts of our ears. Sometimes, for various reasons, a few crystals go rogue, they go wandering about and end up in, what I now call, the zone of “vertigo” or the “V” zone. Crystals in the “V” zone disrupt the delicate environment there, which controls your brain’s perception of what is up or down. With crystals on the loose, in this part of your ear, your world is literally spinning and it is hard, even at times impossible, to get your balance. There is an easy way to rectify this situation. There is a sequence of bodily maneuvers that when performed, thrust the crystals out of the “V” zone. My doctor did a few neurological tests, then performed one maneuver and said he knew what was wrong with me and sent me to the Balance Disorder clinic to fix it. And they did. The experience was scary but ended up being thought provoking and a good overall reminder of the importance of balance in our lives.