This Thanksgiving holiday, I spent some quality with my grandfather. He mentioned this blog, which he follows. In regards to one post, The Beauty of Progress, my grandfather told me that my fear may be preventing me from walking without crutches, and that it was mostly all in my head. That statement is partly true, and I’ll explain why.
I will admit that I am afraid. Walking without crutches, while it is desired, makes me feel extremely vulnerable and bare. I am more likely to fall and lose my balance without them, and if I’m not near a wall or someone to hold onto, I wouldn’t be able to move. Plus, most people who don’t know me do not realize that I am actually disabled if I don’t have the crutches handy, for instance if I’m sitting, or able to move from one spot to another by holding onto things around me. It’s when I have to walk a long distance with nothing to hold onto that my disability becomes apparent to someone without prior knowledge of it.
I’m afraid, but what exactly is the Fear? It’s that paralyzing emotional sensation that sometimes makes me literally stiff; it’s the voice in my head that mocks me, tells me I’m going to fall, get hurt, break a bone, slip, trip, or even crash.
I’ll also admit that this Fear has gotten worse over the years. When I was younger I was not only fiercely resilient, as all children are, but also much less aware. Before I was eight years old, I didn’t know I had cerebral palsy. I didn’t know I was disabled. Having surgeries and attending regular check-ups with physicians, surgeons, physical therapists, and occupational therapists was just my very own normal. It’s very much like that well-known expression, “Ignorance is Bliss.”
So because I was less aware, I was less afraid. I took tumbles, ran, slipped, and tripped my way through childhood…and that’s not a bad thing! It made me tougher, and helped me fight the Fear lurking in the shadows. I didn’t know it was there back then, but it still existed nonetheless. Now that I am older and cognizant of the CP, I am more cautious. Thankfully, I fall a lot less, but the chance of it happening never goes away.
Although, here’s the reason why my grandfather’s statement is only partly true: a big part of the persistence of the Fear is because of my last surgery. While I do consider the operation a success, it did throw off my previous center of balance and forced me to relearn how to walk, which was the hardest part of my recovery. That part is not in my head.
The Fear exists and is real, but there are ways to combat it, like building up confidence by going to physical therapy and exercising regularly, and literally knowing how to fall properly. There is a way to fall that helps prevent injury. With all the falls I’ve endured, I’ve never, ever broken a bone, and that’s because I was trained to avoid it by various physical therapists.
Like one of them once told me, “Do not be afraid of the floor. If you fall, you get right back up.”