Cerebral palsy has made balance more challenging. It seems positive to always look for ways to take on life’s challenges. Sometimes working on my disability can be done by working on thought process. Often one of the main components of exercise becomes the way we think about working on our bodies. It has taken time to work on those thoughts. The thought changes seem to go along with conversations taking place in the gym. We hardly can predict the moment when those conversations may take place. This one took place with Bernard during one of our training sessions. How do we think about balance in a more constructive way? Balance has often challenged me, but it can also cause fear. The fear of falling becomes something real with my disability. Cerebral palsy can slow physical movement, or reaction times, making it challenging to physically recover. So, if balance is lost through tripping or stumbling, the time it takes to catch myself is slower. It takes repetition to gain confidence in most everything we try to accomplish. Something important to understand is most of us lose our balance on occasion. The trick to balance can be broken down into understanding how to recover when balance becomes lost. The recovery of balance not only takes an understanding of how to recover, but also the confidence in the ability to regain balance.
Balance can be defined as an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. The trouble seemed to occur when we begin moving. It seems as we perform different movements, our point of balance can change. We are required to regain that point of stability as we move through the world. The understanding of equal distribution of weight hasn’t felt like a natural occurrence. My feeling has been from a young age, cerebral palsy makes it challenging for understanding balance to come naturally. There have been a few falls in my life, which have been most memorable. As a kid, it seemed I was often getting stitches here and there for taking tumbles. There are scares to remind me of a few notable instances, but the two that come to mind are breaking my front teeth. Each of my two front teach were chipped in two different situations. Both broken teeth taking place while playing basketball in elementary school. I was running up the basketball court at recess each time. Suddenly, I would be tripping and falling to hit my face on the pavement. The most intense emotion from those situations was the overwhelming fear that was felt. Tripping seemed to be a natural thing that could occur, but most of my friends had the ability to catch themselves. It was an ability lacking in me, because I was disabled. An effect of cerebral palsy became real, bringing on trepidation and fear of most anything involving balance.
The fear over balancing has lasted for many years. It seems to be with me wherever I go. Cerebral palsy would have an impact on those feelings of fear. Anytime my body could get into the position of losing balance the anxiety would be felt. Those emotions of anxiousness would have me looking around for tools to use for stability. Sometimes the tool would be a handrail, a wall I could use to catch myself, maybe someone next to me could help if balance became lost, anything that could provide stability was notices. While looking for ways to catch myself in the anticipation of a fall was good, it was disheartening to always be anticipating the loss of balance. Steps would be required to lessen the fear of losing my balance. The two things helping me with the challenge have been both working out with a trainer along with chiropractic adjustments. The adjustments keep my body in alignment, helping maintain my center balance point. While, the training works on the movement, strength, and coordination to improve balance. Along with the technical ways of improving balance, there also seems to be different thoughts to have, once the challenge of lost balance strikes. The mental part of maintaining balance also plays a large role.
Football was the sport used in the conversation with Bernard over balance. It was the sport he played during high school and college, making it a good reference point. My time around football has been short, but I have spent some time coaching and helping with football teams. So, we could share the game to provide some mutual understanding in conversation. Bernard began talking about running back, more specifically his favorite running back, Marshawn Lynch. Marshawn Lynch was the running back for my favorite hometown football team, which made me quite familiar with him. Bernard talked about his reasoning for being fond of the running back and it had to do with his balance. Marshawn would always be looking down the field while being tackled. He wouldn’t simply give into the fact that he was falling down with the tackle. He tried with everything to maintain balance for just another half second, thinking if he could hold on just a little longer, he would break free for more yards. His ability was most likely developed over time through learning how to counterbalance his body, keeping him upright and moving. But, it probably also comes with a mindset of holding on for another half second will bring back his full balance. The belief that Bernard would like me to instill within myself.
The conversation went on to the feelings of panic that can infiltrate our minds in the second before balance becomes lost. Which becomes the reason I have spent time looking around for ways to catch myself if I do lose balance. The feeling of panic just before falling seems to be an emotion we can give into. We can go into those seconds of unsteadiness and let the feeling of panic take control. However, there might be another way of looking at those moments of panic. Marshawn Lynch provides an alternative to the thought process of the moments before falling or in his case, being tackled. Marshawn had his eyes looking toward his next move as he was being taken to the ground. It seems to show he understood his balance and how to recover from being knocked off balance, which would alleviate the feelings of panic. Confidence in the ability to recover when balance begins to teeter would appear to play a large role in the ability to regain balance. The way to gain that confidence seems to be practicing how to regain balance when it borders on being lost. This would be the area much of my work with Bernard comes into the equation.
There seem to be a couple things required to work on improving balance. The most important thing becomes trust. The ability to trust the process will work to accomplish the goal of improved balance. It was important for me to trust in Bernard and the situations he was placing me in to work on balance. It also felt important to trust he would be there in case of a fall. He has been standing at my side when I get into new activities, just in case there is a stumble. The other important element seems to be starting slowly. Doing balance activities that aren’t too far beyond your capability. This feels important because it keeps you in a safe space and builds confidence in ability. However, it’s also important to continue moving on once you have achieved a balance stage. Bernard always seems to look for ways to continue challenging my balance. His process allows me to remain in that uncomfortable positions of almost losing my balance, then learning to regain steadiness. Which brings us to talking about the idea of holding on for another half second, prolonging the moment of panic.
Those moments before losing balance seem the most challenging to take on. The moment has been so familiar for me as I’ve grown. Throughout life when the moment came to lose balance and fall, giving into it was my move. I would let those seconds take over and simply prepare for a safe landing. But, things have begun changing during my work with Bernard. He wants me focusing on maintaining my balance in those moments of panic. The idea would be to rethink my thought process, placing more effort into maintaining balance. A large part of this process appears to be learning how to recover lost balance. If we are pushing me to the point of working hard to maintain balance, I can learn how to recover when balance might be lost. It comes down to giving myself an extra half a second. The small amount of extra time may allow me to recover balance. However, it does seem to requiring myself to ease panic and not give up. Changing my emotion from panic and preparation of a fall, to believing I can recover my stability with a little more time and effort. It all feels part of the journey toward cerebral palsy improvement.
Cerebral palsy leaves us with hurdles to work on overcoming. One of my physical hurdles related to the disability has been balance. There has been the physical part, which includes the work at the gym. The chiropractic adjustments also help with balance improvement by keeping my body in alignment. However, there can also be a psychological piece to seeking improvement. We talk about ways to help our thought patterns as our abilities progress. When panic begins setting in, accompanying the feelings of falling, we can lose our focus on regaining balance. The problem becomes allowing fear to entice us into giving up on our ability too soon. As we are placed in positions where balance is called into question and we recover, more confidence in our balance would be gained. In these situations, the propensity to panic when balance becomes unstable would be reduced. There seem to be different things in life that have the ability to cause anxiety and panic. The idea might be to continue bumping against those emotions, learning how to overcome them. If we hold off the panic for another half second, maybe we solve the riddle.