Something happened to me last week that has affected my mental wellbeing far more than it should have done.
I took a bit of a tumble and fell almost face down in the middle of the road in broad daylight around the corner from my house. No alcohol or high heels were involved. More likely due to wonky paving and a degree of distraction on my part.
My fall was broken by one trusty elbow and sturdy knees both now grazed and bruised – luckily that was the only thing that was broken. I can’t say the same for my dignity or confidence though, as by far the worst part was what happened afterwards.
As I lay there in the road, a white car drove very carefully and deliberately around me and parked up nearby. The driver got out and, without even looking at me, walked away. The backstreets of Rochester felt very mean at that point. I burst into tears, dusted myself down, and in the absence of any help, walked on to my destination where tea and sympathy awaited.
The invisibility part of the whole experience was extremely upsetting so I vented my shock about this on Twitter. Why would my ‘fellow man’ (it was a man) be so inconsiderate as to ignore me lying there in the road? Did he think I was drunk, on drugs or that I might try to implicate him? He clearly had nothing to do with my fall, but I was shocked that he took the trouble to drive around me and then didn’t have the decency to check if was okay.
I got an immediate, empathetic and reassuring response to my post about this incident on Twitter. I got lots of advice and ideas about what to do to his car and suddenly I felt visible again, albeit to my virtual community rather than my neighbourhood. In this situation, social media saved my sanity.
In retrospect, I’m not sure what I hated the most – falling or being ignored. Both have their level of indignity. I often accidentally trip or hurt myself when stressed or overwhelmed and I don’t believe it’s become any worse as I’ve grown older. It’s just that this fed into my own insecurity about ageing in general and I feel like nobody is noticing me any more.
This knocked my confidence and I have been a lot more cautious and mindful of my surroundings since my fall. I had to travel to and from Dublin and drive to Brighton and back in the week that followed and definitely felt more insecure physically than I have in a long time.
As for the whole visibility issue – honestly, this is tough. Falling over on my own in the street and being ignored by a passer-by is just one small part of it. But life is full of ‘passers-by’ isn’t it? Beyond a certain age (and this is a very movable feast depending on your gender) it’s very hard to get noticed.
While we can’t stop people from falling, let’s at least pledge to be a little bit kinder to each other. In these challenging times, if you see somebody who’s fallen in the street or you haven’t heard from a friend for a while – check on them as you never know what they might be going through.
Thanks a million to all those of you who checked in on me.
Pictures of me (on two feet!) taken on location in Rochester by Mariana Feijo.