I’ve always had a fear of falling down stairs. As a teenager I’d look down from the top of the staircase and a pang of stomach-clenching fear would flash through me.
It’s not as though I’ve ever had a real fall, but the fear is as real as though this had happened.
The worst event was a trip to St Paul’s in London. We climbed up to the highest point and I didn’t realise that the final stage was a huge metal spiral staircase, or staircases. I think there were about twenty, but that’s just the fear and dread twisting my memories.
It was many years ago as well. I made a vow never to climb up or down another spiral staircase and I think with one exception I’ve stuck to this.
Since my knee injuries, the fear of stairs has increased to terror. I must conquer my fears, but I have found this to be almost impossible. Things are getting worse, not better.
I haven’t fallen for a month now. The falls were from a cruciate ligament problem. I’d most likely sprained the posterior cruciate ligament, but the most distressing symptoms were falling without warning, as if I had no knee and then afterwards, the ligaments seeming to move on their own, with a ‘ping’. I’d feel as though I’d had an electric shock and then couldn’t stand for anywhere between half a minute to five minutes whilst the ligaments settled back into place.
I’d become convinced that I would fall down the stairs. I’d reason to myself that if I could fall with no warning on one day, then surely I could fall up or down stairs. Surely the knee could give way without warning again?
It hasn’t, of course and since last week, when I managed to tear soft tissues and muscles by trying to cycle, I have not experienced any ligament incidents. Not one.
I stayed in the bedroom for four days, I used my crutches to get around and this seems to have helped with the healing.
I am left with this feeling of dread at the sight of even one step. It is becoming impossible to imagine moving without anxiety.
I have decided that this has to stop. I am going to try to do step exercises, just on the bottom step of our indoor stairs. There is a handrail that was put in place in 2009, after I had an MS attack. It has been a lifesaver – not because I have fallen, but it has reduced my risk of falling.
I have little awareness of where my right leg is and if I can’t see my foot, I don’t know where it is. I have little spatial awareness on the right as well, so this alone makes the handrail a lifesaver.
My right leg doesn’t bend much and has lost a lot of muscle mass. It is quite strong, but has caused many problems over the last eleven years. I thought I’d solved all my problems with this leg, by wearing ankle weights. It has helped, but now my ‘good’ leg is the leg that has become unreliable, which increases the fear of falling.
There are drugs to help to relax this stiffness, but they can make the muscles weak and the last things I need are weaker muscles and less core stability.
So. The fix is exercise. Careful, supported exercise to wipe out the underlying fear factor and to build up the muscle strength in my left leg.
I start with 20 steps, up and down on the bottom step and I hope that this will work and I hope to be less fearful in a week’s time. Really, really hope.