Fall…

Physical therapy has become a lot more challenging and today I fell. I fell well, not on my face, and I got up by myself (small victories). Still it upset me a lot more than I wanted to let on, and it upset my therapist. I think it really upset the poor one-legged guy who, today, was walking between the parallel bars.

My left leg isn’t just shorter than the right one, it’s weaker and — if this makes any sense at all — it’s afraid. As we were doing the first exercise I “saw” that leg for what it is. We used the thing in the featured photo, just like this, but the exercise was putting one foot on it and doing a sort of lunge. For whatever reason, or reasons, my leg is just plain scared as if it has an emotional center and little brain of its own.

When I go back on Thursday I’m going to ask for the opportunity to do the same things, but more slowly. I think I need to feel what’s going on to fully understand it and move forward from this place in my psyche and life. I felt bad for my therapist. I am sure she was more upset than I was.

I have a friend who was on the Italian Olympic Gymnastics Team in the 80s. He’s also a world class mountaineer. Balance is huge for him. I wrote him a month or so ago about the falls and how freaked out I was/am. He said something very wise, and I passed it on to my therapist. He said, “People fall.”

I truly don’t expect never to fall again for that very reason. People fall. I said to her, “This is ok. It was a good fall. I didn’t fall on my face, and I didn’t fall alone at home. I got up by myself, and I fell here while I was challenging myself.” Logically, it made total sense and had an element of progress. Babies learning to walk fall all the time. We talked about my bad knee which is out of alignment and how my muscles compensate for that. We both agreed that knee replacement surgery is something to avoid if I can; it comes with its own limitations and problems that are, in my opinion, worse than I’m dealing with now. My therapist agreed with that, but there’s also the possibility that I’m lying to myself.

I felt so many emotions I can’t even identify, including disappointment. I really wanted to cry and quit. It’s just so fucking complex and inchoate. I asked her, “Am I going to get it?” She nodded yes.

We did a couple more exercises and I left. The minute I got home, I got Bear, and we headed out to the Refuge. In other days I’d have contended with emotions like this by grabbing a dog and running up and down some hills. I guess we kind of did that since a sharp cold wind is a lot like a hill and we walked into such a wind. Beautiful, wind-scoured afternoon with some cranes and lots of snow drama over both mountain ranges. It was close enough to running up hills and I realized that this is where I am now.

Thanks for listening. ❤

43 thoughts on “Fall…

  1. i’m sorry this happened, it probably was disappointing and felt like a setback. I have one knee that is stronger than the other and i once had a trainer at a gym come up to me to say, did you injure one side of your body, it looks like you’re favoring one side. i had no idea, he said our bodies naturally adapt and try to take up the slack when one side is weaker but it may make other things hurt as they are being pushed harder. it all makes sense. muscle memory and our body trying to compensate and the emotions tie in as well. don’t give up, even on the hard days, it’s always one step forward, two steps back, no pun intended. hang in there and don’t be hard on yourself, it will get better with time.

  2. Therapists are in conflict about falling – some want you to avoid falls, some want to teach you how to fall, some want to teach you how to get back up. All three are possible (and don’t have to be mutually exclusive)…since you’re in charge, you can decide where you want to focus the bulk of your effort. What we sometimes say to each other before a bike ride is “keep the rubber side down.” But not falling can’t arise only from the fear of falling – as you know, the fear doesn’t really help…walking where it’s beautiful does.

    • I’ve fallen so many times in my life it was never a big deal until I fell on my face back in August and hurt my shoulder so badly. And then when I fell similarly, again, and cracked my rib (those don’t heal over night), I realized this is not the fun and happy falling of sports or being a general spaz. Naturally I want to avoid falling, but focusing too much on that makes me afraid and that’s no good. I WILL fall. It’s part of life. But HOW and WHY and WHERE and getting up — those are the thing for me. Walking where it’s beautiful is both the medicine and the motive for everything I’m trying to do. You got it totally right.

  3. It’s an upside down Bosu ball. I hope you master it. Once my shoulder is fully healed, and my second eye surgery tomorrow is over I will be boxing while being on it.
    I was nervous before I started working with it.

  4. The fear of falling is so complex and awful. One of my doctors once told me that I am “one fall away from a nursing home” due to my severe osteoporosis. So, I’ll be careful, I told her. It sounds like you and your PT are a good team. I admire your attitude – gotta keep walking. You’ve got that beautiful refuge and the sandhill cranes waiting for you.

  5. I’m sorry you fell but I’m glad you persevered through it and I identified fear as being your biggest issue! My friend grew up with horses and something that stuck out to me that’s she’s said years ago is that the rule #1 when a horse throws you off, you have to get back on it right away – not the next day, not the next week – or else you will be too afraid to ever climb back up. I think about this often when I am afraid to do something again.

    • That’s exactly what went through my mind when my therapist said, “Do you want to stop for the day?” I remembered years ago — when I was in high school — I was riding my friend’s horse. That horse didn’t like me and she would do whatever she could to get rid of me. That day she threw me over her head. I landed head first on a rock (no helmets then). Bad concussion. I didn’t want to get back on that horse, but my friend was afraid I couldn’t walk home. She made me get back up and she led the horse home. I got the same advice as a kid learning to ride a bike. “Get back on your horse, MAK,” my dad would say. So… I have to do this. I’m not happy, but the alternative is impossible. Thank you for stopping by!

  6. MAK, I’m so sorry about your fall. I’m so proud of you for not giving up. My neurosurgeon’s assistant told me I was one fall from being in a wheelchair. That was 4 years and two falls ago. One of my friends, she’s 77, came down about 3 months ago and I was walking her to my little downtown cafe. With no depth perception and balance issues I fell in a deep ditch trying to keep her off the road! I was a mess. I laid there with tears in my eyes scared to move. I got up. My lower back is a mess due to the stenosis. I limped on to the cafe, with tears, and we laughed. Here I was trying to help her. I struggle having these issues at my age all because I wanted to take risks. I wanted to eat dirt and slide on a field. I wanted to hike mountains and ride a motorcycle (that’s how it all started), I didnt want to sit in the sidelines. Today ice and sleet are falling and I ache. This weekend I’m supposed to head to Jasper to hike with my AR friends. I told one of them, “I can’t do what I used to do!” They’re not around me on a daily basis. They said, “But we’ll be there!” That’s fine for this weekend. But when it’s just me and Finn now I look up to the heights that beckon me…and think about how hard it is getting down (going up easier). You going home and taking Teddy out is what you’re about. You are facing your truth and doing what you are able to do. That shows your determination.And by telling us and receiving encouragement from all of us that love and support you, I hope that it keeps giving you strength. You’re harder on yourself like most of us are, but give yourself that grace. It sounds like you are “balancing” more than just your legs (my left side weak too), it’s a balance of the reality and the past. But like you, you’ll keep moving forward using your experiences to find new paths and modes of making reality meaningful. 💛♥️❤️🙏🏻🙏🏻 I pray for you daily.

    • Karla, when I was 51 or 52 somewhere in there my right hip went south with bone-on-bone osteoarthritis. My doctor — who was awful — didn’t even order an X-ray because I was “so young.” I kept at it hiking and running and driving home with a chunk of ice against my hip. The “doc” sent me to PT and put me on Vicodin. The Evil X moved in. Shudder. Bad, but, no never mind. Not good at all. Finally, after 2 years of this I got a hip X-ray. Then I fought with that asshole (doctor) for the kind of surgery I wanted. Another year passed by which time I couldn’t walk 15 feet without a cane at the very least. It was a nightmare and incredibly painful, plus the abusive shit I was living with the Evil X. Anyway, I finally prevailed and got hip resurfacing which is still (knock on wood) holding strong. So I know what it is to be comparatively young and very active and suddenly have something (accident or nature) pull the rug out from under you, literally. I remember one night I was putting wood in the stove, and the phone rang and I couldn’t stand up to get it. I crawled over to it, pulled myself up on the door jam of the kitchen and called the people back (don’t remember who it was). It’s terrible, terrifying and I really get it.

      Yesterday was awful, but educational. Today when I rode the stationary bike, I made the weak leg pedal on its own part of the way. It’s a safe way to strengthen it. Then I did a tiny bit of yoga on a mat on the floor. I got up and down safely and even managed warrior pose twice. Seems like so little, but it’s everything. My bad knee has been bad since 1992 and I used to run on it, so I’m hoping strengthening it and assuaging its fears will bring it out of the hole to which it seems to have retreated. Poor thing. And, my hiking (ha ha) pals can’t call for help but that doesn’t mean they’re not help. I’m very grateful for my “community” here, Karla and I appreciate your prayers. ❤ Thank you. ❤

  7. Yes, people fall. The problem, as you so eloquently state, is the anticipatory fear of falling. It limits you and the choices you make about how to live your life. And that’s not good.

    Every time I fall out running or hiking, I know I’ll spend the next several weeks with headaches and other CSF leak symptoms that severely impact my life. But I decided a long time ago that I couldn’t live without the running and hiking. And I can just as easily fall tripping over one of the dogs in the house! I just couldn’t live in constant fear of the falls and the post-fall consequences. I don’t like the headaches, but I figure they’re the price I pay for freedom, and instead, I focus on being a bit more careful and stretching (which improves my balance).

    You’ve got the right attitude, Martha!

    • I feel just like you. This is my LIFE. Today I got to work with a therapist I know well and with whom I communicate well. She understood me when I said my leg has PTSD and I need to slow down until it understands everything is OK. She said, “We don’t want you to fall.” I said, “I don’t want to fall, either, but I will.” She got it. We worked today a little slower and did an exercise that simulates falling forward and stopping myself. I’m always totally weepy when I leave, partly because I’d rather be training to run but mostly because anyone else who’s there is way more fucked up than I am. Some of my tears are frustration, some are sorrow, some are gratitude.

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