My fellow baby boomers may be familiar with the 1973 Erica Jong novel “Fear of Flying.” It was full of controversial portrayals of female sexuality, “second wave” feminism and lots of self-psychoanalysis. I have a fear too that begins with an “F” but don’t get too excited – this column won’t be that titillating. My fear is the fear of falling.
Once upon a time I found humor in the commercial of that poor woman crying out, “Help! I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” With my own first fall, I was more concerned with my dignity than injury but when it happened again, I didn’t bounce back as quick as before. The truth is that anyone old enough to have a Medicare card knows that a fall can drastically change the course of your life.
In 2015 the Examiner ran my three-part series about surgical weight loss. I came out of the closet, so to speak, because only a handful of people in Navasota knew me when I wore size 3X, but I felt the life-changing aspects experienced by myself and the two other women featured were worth sharing.
Skinny people and “plump” people don’t understand such a drastic measure, but had I liked exercise more and sweets less, I would never have gotten fat. Relevant to this column is the fact that I had a complication requiring a surgical repair 24-hours later. I ended up on a ventilator, hospitalized for 30 days. I regained my independence with the help of physical and occupational therapists and LOTS of exercise.
So, where am I going with this? I was an avid walker on Washington Avenue for years post-surgery – walking at least 2.5 miles each day, sometimes doing that morning and evening. But one day I was up one second and down the next! Had I not turned my head, I probably would have broken my nose or cracked some teeth. It was then I realized my new healthy life could end because of a fall.
Despite it being 8 years ago, I vividly remember lying in that hospital bed unable to raise my head, feed myself and totally dependent on “the angels” who bathed me, turned me, and helped me with other personal needs. I didn’t want to go there again but knew mobility depended on getting back on the proverbial horse. I tried several indoor options, but the results were not the same, and besides, I missed walking down Washington Avenue smelling Dr. Musick’s flowers and admiring the stately old homes. But every time I thought about returning to Washington Avenue, I panicked!
As the fear of falling tightened its hold on me, old habits began to take root and I’ve gained 15 pounds since the dreaded fall. People with weight issues know all about self-recrimination. I mean, I nearly died so how could I eat a whole slice of Tiramisu?
Recently, I had a come-to-Jesus-moment with the scale and knew what I had to do – but where? The thought of striking out on Washington and falling absolutely terrified me! I began by walking at my local park. Being outdoors cleared the cobwebs from my head. I fell in love with walking again and found it easier to return to my prescribed food regimen.
The next day was beautiful and I told myself IT’S TIME to get over this fear of falling! “Pick up your feet, don’t shuffle. Don’t get so engrossed in your surroundings that you don’t pay attention to the uneven sidewalks.” So, I walked out the door to the street – and stood there, paralyzed, unable to put one foot in front of the other. I’m relieved to report that through self-encouraging reminders such as I could turn around whenever I wanted to, I pushed through the paralysis and ventured further than anticipated.
The fear of falling is still there on the edge of consciousness like a devil with a pitchfork – taking periodic jabs at my newfound resolve. I am determined to be upright and mobile and return to that healthier state of mind and body. So, if you see me, please honk or wave but if I don’t respond don’t be offended. It’s because I am focused
on that next step and getting
past that fear of falling.
Connie Clements is a freelance reporter and award-winning columnist. She writes feature news articles on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.