Unbalanced

It’s Balance Awareness week this week so I thought I’d do my bit to try and raise awareness and understanding of how a lack of balance can affect our lives.

There are three main things that help us to keep our balance, vision, our leg and core muscles and our ears. We take visual cues from our surroundings, our legs can sense if the ground is soft and uneven and our ears act like a spirit level, telling the brain if we’re overbalancing. With information from these three areas we know which way is up, we can stay standing and walking with no problem. If messages from one area are struggling such as in darkness, the other two can usually manage.

Balance is one of those things we take for granted…until we have a problem! This can be a short term ear problem such as vertigo or labyrinthitis, or longer term such as Meniere’s disease or like me where no cause has been found, though I suspect it’s probably auto-immune. It’s also one of those invisible disabilities, people can’t see there’s a problem so can get frustrated if for example they’re trying to walk past me and I’m walking in a wobbly line.

I have no balance from my ears, it started in between babies and they’re 25 and 27 years old now!!! The only messages my brain gets are from visual cues or from my leg muscles and central core muscles. Take one of those away and I have a problem;

Darkness is an obvious problem, but so is bright sunlight, there’s a square in the centre of Leeds which has white paving stones, I struggle to walk across it in brilliant sunshine. Painting walls was a problem I didn’t anticipate, but when you’re close up to a plain wall, there are no visual clues for balance.

We also get visual cues from our surroundings, being able to see a horizon gives your brain clues to help you balance, this isn’t just in the big outdoors, even in a shopping centre the lines of sight are giving you clues. However, in the middle of a crowd, such as a busy train station or leaving a theatre, many visual clues on the horizon are lost and I need a friendly arm to hold on too. Similarly a narrow passage can cause issues, when I go for the bus on a morning there’s a narrow snicket with hedges on each side, I really shouldn’t walk down it in the dark but it saves me about 5 minutes so I do,,,with a fair bit of ricocheting off the hedges!!

There’s no way I could walk across these stepping stones 🙂

Soft, uneven ground can cause issues, if I’m walking in the countryside then I always use walking poles, it just gives me that extra point of contact. Having a third point of contact makes all the difference, even walking around town I’ll just keep fingertip contact with walls or fences, whatever I’m passing really. In the garden I have ‘wobble poles’ decorative metal stakes I have placed in beds to just give me that extra point of contact, these are especially helpful when the ground is soft. I’ve also worked out that it’s a loss of contact points that makes digging tricky for me, to dig you have to stand on one leg, it may only be for a few seconds, but it can be a few seconds too long.

People with no balance classically fall like a tree trunk, straight over like Delboy in that wonderful clip from Only Fools and Horses. We don’t realise we’re falling until it’s too late. When I’m taking a photo on one of our many walks and I’m stood on soft ground, looking through the viewfinder, I’ll often feel my friend grabbing my rucksack on my back to stop me falling, when I’m completely unaware of it.

My brain doesn’t compensate for head movements, not only does this mean everything ‘wobbles ‘ as I move, it also makes it difficult to focus on things or people unless I’m still, I can walk straight past people I know and not see them, I find it hard to read road signs or information boards unless I’m standing still. It also makes it difficult to find things in places like supermarkets, I can’t quickly scan the shelves as I’m walking down an aisle.

To me living with any issue is about knowing your limits to keep you safe, but also to keep pushing yourself, expanding horizons that are within your capabilities. I love to walk up mountains, I accept that sometimes I will fall over, touch wood I’ve never hurt myself, but I know and my walking buddy knows which areas I struggle with and importantly when to turn back and abandon the walk. I’m lucky in having a close circle of family and friends who appreciate and understand my issues, I’m fiercely independent and will climb ladders and stand on chairs rather than ask for help, but sometimes even I have to admit that I can’t safely do something without help.

I can appreciate it’s difficult to imagine life with no balance, so I put together a two minute video a couple of years ago to try and show the world through my eyes, it’s on YouTube so here’s the link. If you want further information about balance issues, the VEDA website is very good.

About craftycreeky

I live in a busy market town in Yorkshire with my husband, kids, dogs and chickens. I love trying new crafts, rediscovering old ones, gardening, walking...anything creative really I started this blog after my New Year resolution worked so well. My resolution (the first one I've ever kept!) was to post a photograph of my garden on Facebook every day. My hope was that I would then see what was good in the garden and not just weeds and work, which was my tendency. The unexpected side-effect was that I have enjoyed many more hours in the garden. I am hoping that 'The Crafty Creek' will have the same effect. Happy creating!
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14 Responses to Unbalanced

  1. Laura says:

    Thank you for the education and sharing, Margaret! Blessings to you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Juliana says:

    Thanks for sharing all of this. Very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. No fun. I have Menieres. Sugar and Salt are my enemies.
    I used to hold on to the walls at work on the way to
    The RR. Stress really can bring on a spell. Then the Brain
    Fog comes and now Migraines. I control with diet
    But weather changes get me. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • craftycreeky says:

      Hi I didn’t know sugar and salt make meniere’s worse, I haven’t found anything makes a difference with mine, a doctor once asked me about good days and bad days, I don’t have any, they’re just all the same. I think the only thing that makes a difference is tiredness and I think that is more that I’m too tired to compensate. You take care too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • OK, I answered you the other day but it went to never never land.

        Salt makes us retain fluid, and fluid in the ear messes with our Vertigo.
        Sugar makes the Tinnitus worse (ringing in the ears). Also no caffeine.
        Stress really brings on some attacks.
        Weather Changes will also make things worse and bring on more Menieres.

        There is an exercise (called the Head Roll) that might help you. Check it out on the internet – like “head roll exercises” for Vertigo.

        A lot of little changes can help with the Vertigo unless there is an underlying condition causing things. I have Eustachian Tube problems and Altitude changes really bother me – no more flying (stopped doing that in 1998)

        I do not eat out because of the salt and sugar and preservatives in the food. Along with the Menieres I have Celiac – very limited diet.

        Good luck and hope you get some relief. Nanette

        Liked by 1 person

        • craftycreeky says:

          Thanks for all the info, the docs tried the head roll a few times but it made no difference, I have a pretty low salt diet anyway but I’ll try cut down on the sweet stuff – it’ll help my waistline if nothing else 🙂 They’ve never found a cause for my loss of balance though I suspect it’s autoimmune, I have no vestibular function on either side. Take care, Margaret

          Like

  4. Prue Batten says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Margaret. I have no right side balance and it’s tiring as my brain works to compensates. I don’t think people quite understand how important balance is in every single thing we do or what those with balance deficits go through to live normally. I’m in Australia, so not sure if Balance Awareness Week exists here. I hope so and I must check.

    Liked by 1 person

    • craftycreeky says:

      Hi Prue, I think Balance Awareness week was started by VEDA which is an American organisation for people with vestibular disorders. I agree that many people just don’t realise how much it impacts on everything we do.

      Like

  5. katechiconi says:

    I also have mild Menières, and occasionally tip over if I stand up too fast or without good visual cues (like getting up to go to the loo in the night). It isn’t helped by having somewhat numb feet from both chemo and diabetes! I think you’re doing a great job of managing the issue, and bravo for raising awareness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • craftycreeky says:

      Hi Kate, I can imagine numb feet would really impact on your balance, I’m a bit paranoid about my vision as (apart from not being able to do my crafts) it would have a huge impact on my balance… but we just keep on going 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. anne54 says:

    Thanks for this great eye opener, Margaret. Balance, when we have it, is something we take for granted. I never thought about how difficult, and tiring, it must be when your balance doesn’t work properly. I love the way you are determined to expand your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. nanacathy2 says:

    A very clever video. It reminded me of ferry crossings, and made me feel sea sick. I quite get your issues, and thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Karen says:

    Oh my goodness, that sounds terribly challenging. My mother has Meniere’s so I have some idea but hope I never get to experience it myself. I once had a vestibular migraine and that was horrendous enough, so I really feel for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jane M says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It is very difficult with invisible conditions to truly understand unless you experience yourself but this post really is enlightening

    Liked by 1 person

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