If I could explain what the ground looks like for me, it would resemble something like fire, a pit full of piranhas, crocodiles…you get the point. For most people, the ground is simply something that’s just there everyday. It’s something I’m sure most people don’t even think about on a daily basis. But for myself and others with physical disabilities, it can be enemy numero uno.
I have to try to remember to look down when I walk which makes me look like a downtrodden, unhappy person but doing so actually has a very important function: it potentially keeps me from falling. Especially in California, there are uneven sidewalks and ground everywhere (thanks earthquakes and fault lines). You never know when there might be a bump in the curb, a protruding chunk of cement. And it never fails, if I look up for one second while I’m walking, my feet will very likely find that bump and down I’ll go. Even when I am looking, I still might fall. It’s just an inevitable part of my life.
The actual act of falling can make you feel completely helpless, especially if you are by yourself. When you fall in public and you’re by yourself, you automatically become reliant on a friendly stranger to help you up. I’ve had many instances where such a stranger has been around but I’ve had just as many where they haven’t. Where I’ve fallen right in front of someone and they just pretend not to see me. This not only makes you feel more helpless, it makes you feel about ten times worse because it feels like no one cares about you. I understand some people just don’t know how to react and probably think by asking you they might be furthering the humiliation but the opposite couldn’t be more true.
Another aspect of falling is once it happens, the likelihood of it happening again increases exponentially. So it’s not bad enough to have to try recuperate from one fall, you have to spend the next couple of weeks constantly afraid it’s going to happen again (and almost 100% of the time it does). I already have almost a daily fear of falling but once I’ve fallen, that fear increases tenfold. There are times when, if I had the option, I wouldn’t leave the house just to prevent any chance of my falling and not being able to get up.
I wish tripping and falling could just be a funny thing for me. I’ve certainly had some falls that have been so ridiculous that I couldn’t help but laugh (my feet actually almost went over my head when I fell backwards in one of my high school classes). But as I’ve gotten older and not able to get off the ground on my own anymore, it’s become much less funny and much more of a threat. For me, being disabled has been extremely frustrating in that I have no real control over my body. I can’t pick what it can or can’t do as much as I want to. I hate having to rely on other people sometimes too. Relying on my friends and family are one thing, but I do not enjoy having to rely on the kindness of strangers sometimes (because you won’t always find that kindness) or having to ask for help sometimes. The internal me has become fiercely independent and the outside me just can never fully match that. I’m appreciative that it’s forced me to try and want to do as many things on my own as I can. I’m not sure I would have the same fire to do so if I hadn’t been born with MD. I just wish my brain matched my body sometimes. And I definitely wish I didn’t have to walk across metaphoric hot lava just to get from place to place. If I wasn’t so terrified of space travel, I might like living in a zero gravity environment. Hey NASA can you get on that?
photo credit: Caroline Vincelet Happée par la perspective | Snatched by the perspective via photopin (license)