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Fear of Falling

I am now fully recovered from the fall I had last spring; my hips feel good and my wrist is working well. There are only a few minor issues to remind me of the pain and drama, but I can live with having one finger that doesn’t bend properly and a wrist that won’t turn all the way over.

From Johanna Barrows via BuzzKeys

What is harder to live with is the sense of insecurity that lingers. I no longer trust myself to stay vertical or to land on my feet if I trip. As I look out of my window today, I wonder if it is safe for me to walk to the Post Office. I probably could, but there is a fresh layer of snow. We had ice for a couple of days this week, and now I cannot see where there is still ice on the sidewalk because it is covered. So, I won’t go outside today.

This fear of falling is new to me. I have always had a teenager-like sense of invulnerability. I have felt perfectly fine to travel and to drive long distances alone. I have enjoyed various solo adventures as a tourist and I have taken longish walks several days a week for most of my life. I like getting out and about, sometimes taking my camera with me to make my walks feel purposeful. However, the weather recently has meant that I haven’t had a long walk for a couple of weeks.

Man falling on ice via imoment

Next week I will begin my annual drive south for the winter, and my family is feeling protective of me. They want me to have some company en route. Fortunately, my youngest son is able to take time out of his life to do this and so I will have someone to worry with me about the weather. He will probably be more logical than I am and convince me to stay over somewhere if road conditions are bad. In the past, I have been known to battle on regardless and once bought chains for my tires so that I could continue driving in a snowstorm over the Donner Pass. These days, though, I am not so sure of myself. It will be nice to have a second opinion, but I will be easily convinced to be cautious.

Actually, when snow and ice are around, I feel safer in the car than I do on the sidewalks. I don’t mind the occasional slide in the car or a waltz when I hit the brakes. I’ve learned how to keep safe distances and prepare for icy sections at traffic lights. Sometimes those moments can be heart-stopping, but mostly they are just par for the course during Canadian winters.

On the other hand, knowing that a fall onto concrete is likely to break my bones makes me anxious enough to not even risk walking. I have shoes that are sturdy and slip-resistant, but I still don’t want to take many chances. If I weren’t heading south, I would probably be housebound for most of the winter. I would take occasional trips to the mall for some exercise, and I would take my normal walks when the sidewalks are clear, but otherwise, I’d just stay home.

Now, I’m looking forward to seeing my California family again and to being able to walk on sidewalks that are free from ice and snow. It will be liberating not to feel afraid of falling all the time.

12 replies »

  1. Oh, how I feel your pain! I fell on some stairs 18 months ago and am still surprised by how vulnerable I felt afterwards, between the injury and the realization that life-changing events can happen in an instant. But a trip to California sounds like the perfect antidote — and when you get back, I highly recommend YakTrax. Take good care, and have a wonderful trip!

  2. have a great trip to Cal. I know how you feel (kind of). I too fall once or twice a year – thanks to ice (!). It is certainly not a nice feeling. I am sure however now you are more cautious and more experienced about how to best walk on the road. I find the solution in putting on ice grips over my booths and keeping a spare pair in my purse during the winter. I have like 4 pairs now just to feel some kind of security myself. Enjoy your trip and time!

    • I wish that were possible, Ark. The only long distance train in Canada runs east-west, not north-south. I could fly, but I need my car when I get there. I’ve considered buying a vehicle to leave there when I come back to Canada, but I haven’t talked myself into that yet. It seems wasteful.

  3. Yes!!! I still feel uncharacteristically unbalanced. I think it is because I know I don’t want to fall on my wrist! Keep doing the exercises for your finger/hand. I was told it can take 2 years to get all the range of motion back. It took forever for my wrist to turn so that I could get change in that hand!
    Safe travels to CA. Hopefully the fires will be a thing of the past and air quality back to safe levels.

  4. It sounds like you are taking some great steps for being safe walking on snow and ice. Losing confidence is a deal. Our local Parks and Recreation offer classes to help seniors improve balance with exercises. You might benefit from taking a class like that so you could feel more confident about your abilities. I don’t know, but they may have techniques on how to fall “better” too?

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