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Mental health

By accident: Discovering the meaning of life

Lorraine Bridges is the Senior Communications Manager at COT. She talks about her experience of a fall. Follow Lorraine

I love this time of year, and not just because of the long days and starry nights.  August is the month of the Edinburgh Festival and when brave souls come to town to test their sets on an unforgiving London audience.  So I wasted no time in booking my tickets and went out in search of laughs, big belly laughs, uncontrollable howls, cheeky chuckles , any one’s would do.

Like many areas of life, comedy ebbs and flows with different trends.  In the early 20th century crowds guffawed at the trips and slips characteristic of slapstick humour. Falling on your backside was apparently funny.

So it was with some irony that after a line-up of top class comedy acts, I would fall myself, in the middle of a restaurant, while enjoying a post-show meal.  Falling over in public sucks.  There was no roar from the crowd, no bang of the drum, just silence…..and pain.   I can’t remember much of what happened, but I do know my leg hurt, my arm hurt more and my dignity was shattered.   I sloped off into the night feeling like a prize plum.

In the days that followed it was clear ‘the fall’ was a prelude to something more significant: horrific bruising, headaches, tiredness, aches and pains that spread across my body.   And the creeping fear of falling again.   This is ridiculous I told myself, it’s just a fall.  And don’t get me wrong, this was a minor accident, wounds will heal, I will be fine.  But in that short time frame it felt as though my life had been taken away.  I’m an active person and now I couldn’t go swimming or cycling, the sports that put the wind in my sails and reset my mind after a day at work.  I cancelled nights out, I didn’t feel ‘myself’.  I couldn’t do the occupations that make me happy, so as a result I was pretty miserable.

Because of my job I thought I understood the catastrophic impact of falls but now I felt it much more acutely.  I can’t imagine how it feels if you are older, frailer, afraid of losing your independence, and even your life – it’s a shocking fact that falls are the most common cause of injury related deaths in people over the age of 75.  We all take the ground beneath our feet for granted.  And when it’s gone, it’s terrifying.

It’s clear to me that we can never do enough to help prevent falls and that occupational therapists provide essential support that people need and value , above all else in many cases.  Restoring occupations restores physical and mental health.  This is really important, it’s the stuff that matters.  Occupations are the meaning of life.

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