I’m Climbing the Hills of Adversity, Just Not in Heels
“Shoes are the quickest way for women to achieve instant metamorphosis.” — Manolo Blahnik
As the holidays approach, I’m reminded to be thankful for what I have. I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) at 26 years old, and when I became paralyzed, I thought I’d never walk again. I’ve since recovered — not completely, but enough that I no longer require full-time care.
Now that it’s December, party invitations have started arriving through the letter box, and twinkling lights adorn nearby houses. I am grateful for every invite, especially after so many months of living through a pandemic. I know any holiday events must include precautions to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
I’ve excitedly begun planning what to wear to these parties. However, I’ve realized that, without thinking, I’ve matched my favorite dress with my favorite gold, glittery heels — heels that are collecting dust in my wardrobe. Heels that used to make me feel like a princess. Heels that I can no longer wear.
I’m nostalgic for the woman who loved to dance the night away in those 4-inch heels. I’m not that woman anymore. I’m so grateful for the progress I’ve made (I can now roll over in bed!), but that doesn’t erase the longing for the person I used to be.
Before MS, I viewed heels as a symbol of confidence and femininity. In the same way that my walking stick now feels like an extension of my hand, heels were not only an extension of my legs, but of my self-image. I always felt more self-assured and like myself when I wore them.
When MS descended, I struggled with my confidence. It felt as though my physical deterioration was accompanied by a decline in my femininity and self-esteem.
While I was regaining my function following a paralyzing relapse, there was a period of time when I relied on a wheelchair. It almost seems counterintuitive that after taking so many steps in the right direction during my recovery, I had to discard a pair of shoes. As I became less reliant on my chair, I had to think about the functionality of supportive footwear.
Though my physical function improved, I continue to experience a lack of pressure and sensation in the soles of my feet, a type of neuropathic pain, and spasticity in my legs. My feet still constantly feel numb. I’ve learned through trial and error that even though thicker, chunkier boots appear more supportive, it’s better for me to wear shoes with a thin sole to maximize any sensation that’s present that day.
Somewhere along the way, the association I’d made between high heels, femininity, and confidence dissipated. My confidence returned, slowly but surely. I learned to be comfortable in my own skin, and realized I’d gained a sense of serenity — the kind that appears after facing adversity.
As for my gold, glittery heels? They’ll stay nestled in the back of my wardrobe. Rather than reminding me of what I’ve lost, their gold sparkle helps me to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and all I have gained along the way.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.