June Tip: Balance

I like irony, so naming June’s Tip ‘Balance’ has me winking. The irony contained in that sentence is embodied by two brightly colored bruised eyes from a fall I took last week. They are matching shades of pink, purple and black, with a promise of yellow to come. You wouldn’t know that I winked unless you really paid attention – and I took off the new sunglasses I got so people don’t feel too uncomfortable gazing at me.

Needless to say, the fall was an accident. Which, by definition, means unexpected and unwanted. In fact, in the aging field, falling is a major concern. (Check out Fall Prevention, our first Featured Resource essay).  

A few days ago, I decided to try a new Pilates studio, around the corner from me, and fell off the Reformer. I have done Pilates for years and consider myself, at 79, to be fit and strong enough to use the Reformer, the main equipment for Pilates. The fall was due to my own bad balance and not paying closer attention.

I received immediate care, a bag of ice for my goose egg bump, and offers to take me to the nearest ED. That was done by wonderful next-door neighbor, a 3rd year medical student at UW. The 6-hour stint at the ED at Northwest Hospital revealed a clear CT scan and nothing broken in my hand. I was released and told to take care of myself and contact my own doc two days later.

Why wait, I wondered? Now I know. A big bump on one’s head means there’s fluid in there and, when it goes down, that fluid has to go somewhere. Gravity works. Thus, my raccoon eyes with flashing colors.

I share all this because I feel enormously lucky and cared for. While unsightly, I am nonetheless healthy and strong. I am sorry it happened and grateful it wasn’t worse. Although I clearly need to work on my physical balance, keeping my mental balance has helped me cope as well as I am.

The fact is, for the most part, things could always be worse. I never assume the worst has happened. I don’t try to imagine what that could be, I just try to stay present with what has happened and try to not scare myself more than I already am.

I do something I call ‘Conscious Denial’ – I refuse to indulge worst case scenarios until I know what the reality of a situation proves to be. Reality means there is real information to deal with, not my wonderfully creative brain which can spin out of control. I know how much energy Conscious Denial takes when I feel the rush of reality and let go of the tension I’ve been holding.

This strategy taps into my other favorite phrase – Don’t Believe Everything I Think. (I wrote about that tip in April.) When I was waiting in the ER for a decision about whether I would be staying overnight or not, I listened to a book on Audible and, doing my best to ignore the catastrophizing part of my brain, tried not to make plans for what might be next.

I never imagined I would look the way I do. I wish the docs had told me to expect the colorful display that greets me each morning! And I remind myself that an important tip for getting through shock is to engage with a grounding activity. I’m signing up for a balance class this week.