Monday, May 20, 2013
Ways I Am Dealing With My Fear Of Falling
I have bad balance. Yes, this is true. However, since January, I’ve come to the realization that my balance is actually quite good for someone with cerebral palsy. My main problem is my fear of falling. I’ve come to the conclusion that my balance has never declined since I was a kid. It was only my perception. My perception started to change sometime when I was a teenager, an early teenager at that. I can’t pinpoint the exact event that made my perception changed, and that drives me insane.
As a preteen/early teenager I can’t remember a traumatic fall or other traumatic event that would have kick started this fear. All I know is that one day I was fine to stand in one place not holding onto anything. Then the next day I either had to hold onto something, or I’d need to stay in motion, or I’d fall. No rhyme or reason for it that I can think of. The only traumatic event I can think of happened in my senior year of high school when I fell down the stairs one day at school right before the final bell. Luckily I didn’t break a bone or anything, but it did hurt. Come to think of it, that was probably the first time I started hesitating using the stairs. I used the elevator at school for a while after that fall (big mistake). I am a lot more cautious now when I use stairs. And I absolutely avoid escalators. That is a huge panic trigger for me. But it still doesn’t explain why I suddenly had to hold onto things at an earlier age.
Over the years, this fear has gotten worse. I didn’t even fear falling (other than stairs) until college I think, and even then I didn’t put it together as it being a fear. I thought it was more of a self confidence thing. I didn’t want people to stare or laugh at me. Which has always been true, I’ve never liked it when people (young or old) stare at me. I still don’t, but I try not to let it bug me too much. As it turns out, it was actually a fear of falling. I was falling more and more during my college years, and that led me to avoid things. I only went where I absolutely had to go and nowhere else.
For me, fear turns into panic if I don’t deal with it. I have panic attacks. I know what triggers them, and do my best to avoid those situations, but it’s tough. My panic attacks happen when I know I’ll be walking either on my own (which is very rare) or with someone helping me that I’m not used to. My panic attacks lead me to hyperventilate (breathe rapidly), my heart rate to skyrocket, my entire body to lock up so I can’t move, to start crying, and it leads me to sweat...a lot. I can’t separate any thoughts, they all jumble into one giant nose machine in my head. I can’t hear anything but noise.
I think it was February when I almost had a panic attack in public. Maybe it was January. Oh wow, it was back in December. Here’s the original post I wrote about it. Anyway, I was at the chiropractor’s office, and I was walking from one room to the next. The assistant was helping me, and she’s like five foot four at most. I feel like I can squash her if I fall. We were going slow with no problem. We get to where we need to be, and she lets go. Instant panic mode. Luckily there was a wall right beside me that I grabbed onto (as much as you can grab a wall). I told myself to not panic and to just breathe. I was only on my own for about 30 to 45 seconds, but it seemed like hours. My heart rate went through the roof, but at least I was able to control my breathing, and I didn’t start to cry. She came back and helped me to the chair (she let go to set up a chair), and I calmed down right away. No one knew what almost happened.
So, how do I combat these attacks? It’s not easy. Not easy at all. I have tell myself to stop. Physically stop what I am doing. Mentally stop what I am doing. Focus on counting to ten (or in most cases higher). Focus on controlling my breathing. Anything to help calm me down. The easiest thing is to sit down, but when there’s no place to sit, what do you do? Either keep going or drop to the floor on my knees.
Other than breathing and focusing, there is one solution that I have found. I don’t intend to use this solution forever, but for now it’s helping out big time. I will write about this in tomorrow’s entry as this post is getting long. One hint though. I’ve said before that if I ever found something that gave me the same feeling that alcohol gives me, (relaxed muscles and calm mind) without the brain fuzz, I’d take it. Well, I found it. And it’s helping.
I know, not nice to leave you hanging. That entry will be up tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. If you read my blogs by clicking the link on FaceBook, that might not be reliable Wednesday morning. For some reason, WordPress stopped automatically sending new post links when I publish an entry, so I do it myself. I’ll set it to upload at 5 in the morning, and try to remember to post the link before I leave. If I don’t get to it, just keep checking the blog. It’ll be there, I hope. Actually, I think I just fixed it. We'll find out at 6 AM Tuesday if it works or not.