Can You Ride the Bus With No Balance?
The Right Way to Ride A Bus
This trip down memory lane is inspired by this hub from Valerie about riding on the bus. My memory is more humorous in nature, as it deals with my crazy inability to keep my balance while standing, actually even while sitting on a bus. I'm not that great in cars either, but since there is nowhere to go, I can fake it and appear to have more balance then I possess. If you have MS and suffer from balance issues, I hope this gives you a chuckle.
You will notice the picture I have included, entitled the The Right Way to Ride a Bus. That's how I would like to be seen on a bus, calm, cool, collected and coordinated . It's anything but that type of experience when I get on or in anything that moves and I can trace the beginning of my balance problems back to the late 80's before I was diagnosed with MS, when it became abundantly clear I had a balance issue of some kind.
"Dar-Dar You Can't Stand Up?"
Those precious words formed the question my dear nephew asked me back in the 80's when he, my niece and my sister watched me being thrown around by a bus going in a straight direction. He gave me that name when he was just learning to talk in the early 80's. He couldn't pronounce my name so he said what he could get out, which was Dar-Dar. It has been a family nickname for me ever since. Even my oldest friends refer back to the name every now and then as a term of affection.
Here I stood, trying to hold on to the seat he was in. I had him take the seat that was available, like any good Aunt would do. My sister was behind me a few rows holding her neice in her arms, easily swaying with the movement of the bus. Seemed so effortless to me. I assumed I just needed to imitate her stance and posture and I would be alright.
Of course, it didn't work. There is no imitation in the world that can replace your sense of balance. You either have it or you don't. That was the day I discovered I didn't have it.
A Rude Awakening
"I'm just losing my balance" I replied to my very concerned nephew, when he asked if I could stand up.
"Dar-Dar, you want me to stand up?" "No, I'm ok, I'll just hold on better."
My poor nephew watched me slipping and sliding and being thrown to the left and right until some seats finally opened up. Almost in unison he and my sister pointed me to the seat so that I could get some relief. I'll never forget the look on my sister's face. I looked at her as if to say, "what in the world is MY problem" She looked at me as if to answer back, "I have NO idea!"
At the time I rode the bus, it would be in Philly when I visited my sister. I would be visiting from Illinois, where I was living at the time. I would be without my car, so we took public transportation, a normal way of travel for her and her children.
Every single time we went out, I exhibited the same annoying behaviour. I could not for the life of me just ride the bus like a normal person. If it was crowded and I had to stand, I dreaded the looks I would be sure to get from those seated beside me, as I held on to their aisle seat. "Lady WHAT is your problem?" Seemed to be what they were all asking through their facial expressions and eye movements.
How many times can you look down at the person seated next to you and say, Excuse me, Oh I'm sorry, Oops, I'm sorry. The more we rode the bus, it seemed the worse my balance issues became. At the time I didn't know I was only 4 or 5 years from being diagnosed with MS. At the time I just wondered why I couldn't stand on my own two feet!
What a blow that was. I was no stranger to public transportation mind you. I had taken the bus every morning through what was in the stone ages referred to as Junior High. I had taken the bus all through High School and I had rode the bus on many occasions with my friends and family to other locations for shopping trips and the like. I never had any problem standing, sitting or swaying. Yet here I was, about 7 years removed from any previous bus rides, and I found that instead of imitating my sister, I was imitating the drunks I saw in my youth, the ones who were to high to keep themselves from falling all over seated riders who had the misfortune of sitting next to a staggering drunk hanging on for dear life to their aisle chair as he stood all the way home after consuming way to much alcohol.
And while people are sensitive to the elderly, at least they were back in the 80's, at that time I was in my late 20's. I knew how ridiculous it was for an apparently healthy young person like myself, to be falling all over people more than even the senior citizens did who I saw riding the bus with me. Some of them rode without hanging on to anything at all, yet here I was trying to hold on to an aisle seat with BOTH my hands, having positioned my legs in the optimal position to maintain my balance and still being thrown like a rag doll by some invisible anti-balancing force, invading only MY body.
It Didn't End With the Buses
It comes as no big surprise that the bus was just the beginning of my balance issues. You ever find yourself just standing up talking to someone and have to catch yourself from some imaginary wind that appeared out of no where, which seemed determined to knock you over?
WHOA! Always followed by grabbing hold of any steady object nearest to my fingertips. If I'm standing by my husband and he happens to be the closest thing to me, he gets grabbed in order to save myself from falling.
How can you fall when you aren't moving or when you haven't touched anything or made any movements to make yourself off-balanced? Would I really fall, or is it just a sensory perception issue giving me the illusion of falling? I need to woMAN up and take the chance one of these days just to see what would happen. Just let myself go the next time it happens, see if I really fall over. Yep, one of these days . . .
Oh and it is so embarrassing to go through this when I'm mouthing off at my husband. Just as I really zing him, I totally lose my sense of balance and have to go grabbing for walls or chairs or HIM. I've had to hear, "see that's what you get" so many times, that I actually beat him to the punch now and say, hmmm, that's what I get for doing or saying what I just did or said.
Here's another question inquiring minds want to know. How can you lose your balance while sitting in a car? What is going on that my body doesn't know I'm safe and secure and most of all seated, when I ride in a car. It's totally understandable when someone takes a corner too quickly or has to slam on the brakes, but c'mon must I have to hold on just because I've turned my head to look out of the window? It's ridiculous, but such is the MS life I suppose.
Sometimes I think I would get a kick out of watching myself being filmed losing my balance for no apparent rhym or reason, other than its say a MONDAY, but then again, maybe not. Maybe I should just settle for those times when it just makes me laugh at the moment. Those times when my husband and I can really see the humor in the fact that there are actually times when I can't seem to stand on my own two feet.
The one good thing from being diagnosed, is that you at least have a reason that makes sense for your inability to maintain a normal sense of balance. I use a cane now, it was an adjustment, mentally, but one I'm glad I made. It is much harder to fall if you have a cane. I feel almost invincible with it, its become my third more stable leg, as disgusting as that is to picture. I walk a little faster when I use it, I can wear a shoe with a little bit of a heel when I use the cane and I don't stagger off to the side, like I do when I am cane-less. I can even mouth off at my husband and not feel the earth suddenly tilt to the left or right, just because I managed to zing him really good.
My lack of balance is also a first indicator for me these days. If I've done too much, my balance is one of the first things to go. I now appreciate that my body is telling me I've done enough, go sit down before I fall down. I've only fallen a couple of times these past 16 years with MS. Not bad considering I can't stand on my own two feet more than half the time.
Can You Ride the Bus With No Balance?
Of course you can, just remember it's gonna be a bumpy ride so bring your sense of humor a cane and maybe a prerehearsed apologetic look so that the people you accidentally hit on the head, will be more understanding.