I was walking back from the library this afternoon and I fell. I’m quite a dreamy person and, often, when I fall, it’s not because I bumped into someone or slipped on a patch of ice. I simply wasn’t paying attention to where I was going or what I was doing because I was thinking about something else. I get angry with myself when I fall because I know it’s probably not disability-related. I used to fall every day when I was little. After I had corrective surgery to reposition my left femur and I grew stronger and more capable through physical activity and physiotherapy, I didn’t fall as often. I know full well that the fall I suffered today could have easily been avoided if I had paid more attention to where I was going.
The last time I fell was when I went home to Winnipeg in December. I got my hair cut and coloured and I tripped outside the salon as I was walking toward the library. That fall was particularly painful and hard. I bashed up my hands and knees and broke my glasses. People came up to me and offered me help and asked me if I was okay. I tried not to get defensive, especially since I didn’t want any help. I got to my feet and picked up my broken glasses. I thanked the people who offered to help me. I stopped by my optometrist’s office to make an appointment to fix my glasses and then I went to the library and studied for my exam. I was frustrated and sad that I fell and even more frustrated and sad that people saw me. My sister took me out for sushi later that night and I felt better. I know that in winter weather, anyone is at risk of falling; the fact that I fell doesn’t detract from the progress I have made. It’s just embarrassing.
When I fell this afternoon, I really hoped that no one saw me. Someone in a car backed up a little bit and said to me (with characteristic Englishness), ‘You okay love?’ I said, ‘I’m okay thank you. I’m fine.’ He said, ‘You sure?’ and I said, ‘I’m fine thank you.’ I was fine. I knew my left knee was bleeding, but I was otherwise physically unharmed. Just frustrated and embarrassed. I try not to get defensive when people offer me help. I just tend to feel sad and pissed off that people notice that I need help at all. I don’t want the signs of my impairment to be visible to anyone. I don’t want people to have to look out for me. I don’t want people to have to help me. I want to be as able-bodied and capable and independent as I can possibly be.
I will make a more concerted effort to pay attention to my steps even when I walk a route that I have taken hundreds of times. I will learn to get out of my own head when I walk alone so that I don’t make a stupid mistake like the one I did today. I will also learn to forgive myself when these things happen (because they can and do happen to everyone). If this had happened to me a year ago, I would have dwelled on it for the rest of the day. I’ve just chosen – this time – not to berate myself over it. It’s more that I know better for next time, especially since I know where the fall came from. I just have to pick myself up – physically and metaphorically – and carry on.
‘Experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn. My God, do you learn.’ – CS Lewis