I fall down. A lot. As you can read here, there are many reasons why people with MS have trouble walking. Me, I experience foot drop on my left side, which causes me to trip over my own feet. My balance isn’t great, nor is my energy. All of that plus a habit of moving too fast and pushing too hard means plenty of falling.
Usually it’s a simple toe-caught-on-the-uneven sidewalk sort of thing. Or maybe a changed-directions-too-quickly-at-home collapse. Or a it’s-3am-and-I-forgot-our-bedroom-has a-step-in-it spill. (Yes, our bedroom has a step in it. I know, I know.) Whenever/wherever/however I fall, my first thought is always the quickest of body scans before my mind races to witnesses and how to appease them. I spend significantly more time worrying about ensuring that those around me are okay with what has happened and minimizing their embarrassment than I do about my own welfare. Maybe it’s a lady thing. Maybe it’s a Rebecca thing. It’s just what I do.
Tuesday morning I walked cautiously into the building where I work. It’s been rainy in DC lately, so the entry has multiple mats to keep things from getting too slick. I learned from a few near misses that the floor around the mats is extremely slippery, so I have been very careful about keeping my cane on the mat. Once I clear a foot or so beyond the mats it’s usually smooth sailing. Usually. On the day in question the humidity made my sexy MS-friendly rubber soled shoes and the floor awfully friendly, so one foot stuck while the other kept going. The fall was a double fake out. As I pinwheeled one arm and tried to get purchase with my cane with the other, it felt like I’d be okay. Nope. Alright, the wall is right here, surely I can brace myself against . . . nope. As I spun around, one shoulder and hip hit the wall, and I slid to the floor.
My employer occupies only 1 ½ floors of the eight story building where I spend 42.5 hours a week, so, for better and worse, I fell at the feet of two strangers in suits (one had a tie with multi-colored frogs on it – ah, the details one absorbs as the adrenaline settles). I can only imagine what went through their minds as a lovely but completely out-of-control woman came flailing at them at 9:10 in the morning. They were kind enough of ask if I was okay, reaching out hands to help me up. People always want to pull me back up immediately after a fall as if I’m a toddler whose tears can be prevented by a quick upsa-daisy! Grown-ass ladies with MS don’t work that way. We need a minute.
So I smiled at the nice men. I explained that I’d need some time to recover. I thanked them for their help. I apologized for startling them. After multiple reassurances, they went on their way. Bless the building concierge, who called down “You okay, Rebecca? You need a minute?” and then let me be. I sat, teary-eyed but not crying, for a full minute before hoisting myself up and facing the rest of my day.
So what can I tell you about falls from the perspective of the fallen?
- They’re embarrassing. It is embarrassing to lose control of your body in public. Or even at home! I know I am killing Neal slowly with every fall he witnesses. At home, even before I’m sure it’s true, I shout, “I’m okay!” upon hitting the ground in hopes of preventing the heart attack I am sure to give him eventually.
- Offers of help are appreciated, but please don’t overdo it. If I’m sitting up, speaking coherently, and not bleeding, I will allow one “Are you okay?” followed by one “Are you sure?” After that, you’re just exacerbating my embarrassment by making me explain that this happens all the time, etc.
- Tugging someone who has just fallen up to a standing posture might be a bad idea. I’m unsteady in the best of circumstances; please don’t try to put me on my feet immediately after I have proven I cannot handle that responsibility. On a related note, when helping someone off the ground, lifting via an elbow (or armpit, if you know the person well enough) feels much more secure to the liftee than pulling by the hands. I suspect physics has something to do with this.
If you’ve spent time with me in person in the last eight years, chances are very good that I have scared. the bejesus out of you by a) tripping and catching myself, b) tripping and nearly pulling you down with me while catching myself, and/or c) hitting the ground with you nearby. Thank you for continuing to spend time with the disaster waiting to happen that is me. Please enjoy this slapped together playlist of songs about falling as a token of my gratitude.