The Mighty Logo

The 5 Stages of Falling I Go Through Due to My Chronic Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Here’s a truth I don’t care to admit: When I’m upright, I spend most of my time hoping I’ll stay that way. The reality of worsening and limited mobility is that I’m forever afraid of falling. I joke that any day I’ve managed to keep my butt above my ankles is a dang good day. To be honest, that’s a pretty high standard for success in this body.

Literally minutes before typing this, I lost my balance while bending down to open a container and fell onto my ample behind. Thank goodness for its, uhm, “padding.”

While lying on the floor deciding if I needed my husband to come help me out of said floor, I started thinking about the stages of falling, and I quickly decided my friends with chronic illnesses would possibly identify with my challenges. 

Stage 1: Confidence.

I haven’t walked around with total confidence in a while. I always feel like I’m testing out my joints and hoping for the best when I take a step (or, God forbid, walk down steps!)

However, it’s always in the moments that I forget how careful I have to be with janky joints that I end up biting the dust. Stage 1 is the most unassuming of all the stages. It’s also the most unavoidable, but seriously, who wants to avoid having confidence?

Stage 2: “Oh, crap!”

Stage 2 is that awful moment when you realize your plan has gone awry. It feels like the sudden onset of a stomach virus coupled with the awful realization that you’re naked. Lovely visual, right? The “Oh, crap!” moment is worse than any injury because your brain moves at lightning-fast speed.

During the split second I’m falling, I manage to have the following thoughts: “Who’s watching?” and “What am I going to hurt?” (Side note: I have a rather expensive bladder pacemaker inserted in my left hip, so I’m very careful to never land on it if I can help it.)

I also manage to think, “Am I wearing a dress and is there any chance of me flashing my unmentionables to the world?” and “Don’t say anything crude or vulgar!” (The struggle is real, friends. When you frequently dislocate joints or tumble onto the ground, you have to develop a list of family-friendly interjections. My current favorite is, “Holy Potato!”)

In the .04 seconds that I realize I’m about to have an impending crash, my entire life — or at least my entire current situation — flashes before my eyes.

Stage 3: Crash! Bang! Pow!

Occasionally, the “Oh, crap” stage doesn’t lead to a fall. Occasionally, I recover, look around to see who noticed and act like nothing ever happened. Typically, though, Stage 2 leads to Stage 3.

Stage 3 is that moment when you hit the floor.

I’ve learned to land on the most padded part of my body — my behind. It’s not nearly as noisy, and there’s not much there to break (assuming I avoid that left hip) or dislocate. The most important part of Stage 3 is avoiding injury as much as possible.

Stage 4: The assessment.

This is the part after you’ve hit the floor when you have to decide if you’ve wounded your body or your pride. It’s tough to tell. The waves of embarrassment, hilarity and adrenaline hit much harder than a physical injury.

However, before you jump up from your prostrate position — seriously, there’s no “jumping” on these joints — you have to take an inventory of injuries. Have I hit my head? No. Has anything dislocated? Probably. Is it fixable without an ER trip? More than likely.

Stage 5: Keep moving forward.

There was a time when I grieved over every stumble. I worried that someone had seen my body admit that it’s ill. You know what? I’m over it now. I make every effort not to fall in public. However, if it happens, I’ll get up — as soon as I’m able — and keep moving forward. Chronic illness and disability have so many limitations, and I refuse to let my own pride become one of those constraints.

For now, I’ll laugh when I’m able — because, come on, sprawling in the floor is a little bit funny — and cry when I must.

Peace, love and health, friends.

Follow this journey on Crazy Chronic Life.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: August 9, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home