- Carolyn Costin
From the Darkness to the Light
I finally know what I want to say that might contribute something positive to this crisis we are all sharing.
If you know my work, you may know I believe that people who suffer from eating disorders can be fully recovered. Yes, there is a genetic predisposition that makes some more vulnerable than others to develop an eating disorder, but these genetic traits can be liabilities or assets. For example, it is not inherently bad to be a perfectionist, but how one channels that tendency can cause harm or good. It was a good trait for me when I applied it to my school work, but bad for me when I applied it to dieting.
For those with an eating disorder, actually for anyone, this is a good time to notice how you can take your own traits and channel them to the light rather than the darkness. For example, during this COVID-19 crisis, I am the one in my household who makes sure we have gloves, and a hat, and a mask, and wipes, when we go out. I am the one who cleans EVERY inch of anything we touch outside or buy and bring inside. I am the one who makes us strip off our clothes, shower and wash our hair if we have been out. I reminded my husband, Bruce, that my traits were really useful right now. It feels a little bit like, “finally I can put these skills to work!”
This is not the first time I have successfully used my detail-oriented disposition in a crisis. When Bruce had a heart attack a few years ago and left the hospital with a bag of medication and no dietary consult, I spoke to two of my good friends who are dietitians and got a menu that would help him. I put him on a very scheduled and specific eating and, yes, exercise plan. I even, dare I say, counted his carbs. I knew how to do that. I had turned to my traits for this kind of skill before, but not for a good, healthy cause. In five weeks Bruce’s lab values had normalized and he successfully and safely got off his medications. I was astonished. He was grateful and much healthier.
So…. ask yourself, “How am I, or can I, put my traits to good use during this crisis?” We all have a role we can play. You might be the biggest worrier in your house but that can also mean you were the one who early on bought enough frozen food and toilet paper so you could stay at home. This makes you a hero right now! Or you might be someone who gets criticized for being impulsive however, you are also the kind of person who is the first one to start singing out of your apartment window to comfort or connect with others during this time. You too are a hero.
I encourage everyone to think of your traits. Think about the qualities that stand out about your personality. Think about the characteristics that people criticize you for. Then think about how that trait is or can be useful in your life.
Always remember that your traits can go either way and work at aiming yours toward the light.