I Have Fallen

This week Mary Devereux talks about falling and how she is dealing with the impact of Primary Progressive MS on her life and the lives of her family members. 

I have  fallen…

I could fall up a stairs, down a stairs; going up a footpath and going down a footpath and often I have tripped on...nothing. My foot sticks to the ground, my ankle or knee will simply stop working and I fall. Sometimes I will jump awake from a sleep with the sensation of falling.

Falls are part and parcel for many people with Multiple Sclerosis. Falls are something we endure but also work hard to prevent. Muscle weakness, spasms, coordination problems, foot drop and numbness are all common MS symptoms that increase our risk of falling. More often than not, falls are unpreventable.

I used to have SO many more suit jackets but no trousers to match because they were the casualty of my many falls. The first reaction I have when I fall is one of embarrassment; the second is to get up as quick as I can and walk as fast as I can, not looking right nor left and hoping no one has seen me. These are my first reactions despite any pain I may be in.

Some of my falls are my own fault, like when I am over-tired but still insist on carrying out a task instead of listening to my body. Then foot-drop hits and all of a sudden I am having a close encounter with the floor. Or if I am carrying too many things at once instead of slowing down and carrying out the task in a safer and more thoughtful manner (that’s a whole different conversation for another day!).

When your tendency to fall is no longer funny to people, you see the worry on their faces. That worry often leads to attempts to protect you.

It begins with “don’t climb that ladder” or “don’t go up to the attic”, then “don’t stand on the chair”... all things I would have done before diagnosis without batting an eyelid. 

Once I fell down the stairs, couldn't stop myself and heard the crunching of bones as I tumbled. The things I have been running away from I now have no choice but to allow them to be part of my life. They minimise the risk of falling and therefore the injuries I might get from falling. Things like a cane, a rollator, the bed rail, the non-slip mat on the bedroom floor, the second banister rail, the shower chair... the list goes on.

I learned early on with this disease I had to help myself in order to survive; if my wellbeing and survival comes by way of special equipment, so be it. 

My latest addition to falling has been in the middle of the night. 

Sometimes I wake up from pain, try to sit at the side of the bed fully expecting my feet to be my anchor and all of a sudden my feet are sliding out in front of me. I know I’m going to hit the ground and there isn’t a thing I can do to stop it. I scream, wake the house and have to accept the help to get up. Then I spend all the time apologizing for it. 

What do I fear most about falling? 

The look of fear on my loved ones’ faces.

The slow ebbing away of my confidence and independence. 

This progressive disease is a thief that comes any time of day or night and never leaves empty handed. The MS thief always takes a little bit of me with it.