Person reaching for a door handle with plants surrounding the door

Fear of Falling With MS

From my very first exacerbation (that I know of) to just a couple days ago, falling has been a pretty consistent problem for me. While I’ve discussed the causes of my falls in the past, I haven’t really gone into some of the psychological effects this problem has caused me. The consequences of frequent falls are much greater than broken bones and physical pain. Falls can also frustrate you, shake your confidence, and have a huge impact on your mental well being, all of which can lead to reduced activity and quality of life.

My fear of falling

Having fallen so often in my life because of MS, I can tell you that it can have a profound psychological impact on you. I’m proud of a lot of the ways I’ve dealt with MS, however, I’m especially proud of the way I deal with my fear of falling. Notice that I use the word “deal” and not “conquer” because it is still something that causes me to struggle. If I have to go further than a few feet and don’t have a wall to latch onto, I can get some heavy anxiety.

Memories of my past falls and fears of the future

All of the many falls I’ve had because of MS stick with me. They are memories lurking in the back of my mind, waiting to remind me of the pain, of the times I couldn’t get up, and of the beckoning wheelchair that I will surely rely on in the future. The pain and injuries of my falls would be enough to give me pause, it’s much more than that though. What if the next fall is the last one before I can’t walk on my own again? I’ve witnessed others with MS, including my own grandfather, go from walking, to cane, to wheelchair, to bedridden. Those experiences certainly stick with me and add to my anxiety.

My fear limits my activities

The fear and anxiety that I encounter because of previous falls have done more than make me think twice about taking those extra steps. There have been times where it has limited my activity. The fear of falling is powerful; not only has it made me relive some of my worst moments, but it’s caused me to lessen my activity. There have been times where I’ve been invited somewhere, but I’ve realized I’d have to stand or walk more than I know I’m capable of and so I come up with an excuse to not go. I’ve canceled SO many plans on days when I’ve felt pretty good but was concerned about standing and walking. I’m ashamed to admit that, but that’s just how powerful my fear of falling is. It can cause you to not live your life.

Common concerns

When I was going to write this, I expected to solely talk about how my falls have affected me. However, it turns out these psychological effects are actually quite common and well studied when it comes to the elderly. Fear of falling has proven to be a significant problem in the elderly community, even being a cause of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).1 It is so common, they’ve even developed a way to measure one’s fear of falling, known as the Falls Efficacy Scale (FES).2 Fear of falling has also been proven to negatively impact the activity level of the elderly as well.3 So while these studies have involved the elderly, it does make me feel a bit better in knowing that I’m not the only one affected by the fear of falling.

Moving forward

As I mentioned, I’m proud that I’ve been doing a better job conquering my fear of falling. It still impacts me, but I’m much better at it. Slowly but surely, I’ve faced my fears, even graduating to walks around my neighborhood. I’ve still fallen recently, but I try to focus on all the times I’ve gotten up. The day may come when I can’t get up, when I can’t take another step on my own, but I try not to fear that day anymore. It’s not easy (and I highly recommend a therapist for some help) but you can learn to deal with your fear of falling.

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!

Devin

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