For someone who writes about disclosing chronic illness, it’s not easy for me to come out of the closet and disclose that I spend a lot of psychic time thinking about my problem with shoes. I’m no Imelda Marcos or Carrie Bradshaw but I’ve bought too many shoes to count in the never ending search for the “right” ones.
Talk to most women, and they’ll tell you that their shoes hurt. But when you have neuropathy and nerve pain with flat feet and bunions – that’s a bad combo. A shoe that doesn’t fit “right” can really HURT.
And when you’re a shoe horse, like me, what’s a girl to do?
Seems I’m not alone in the chronic illness blog world. I just read this post by Kerri on SixUntilMe about her shoe fetish . And my friend, Melissa O’Shea, formerly Development Diva at Accelerated Cure Project for MS, founded Hello Stilletto – a shoe club and fundraiser. Very cool. I missed their gala this winter because I was recovering from the bunion surgery – irony or what?
So here’s the deal. I was born with flat arches – everyone in my family has them. When I was 11, my French ballet teacher informed me that I’d never become a “dancer” with these arches because I wouldn’t be able to stay “en pointe”. (It took 5 years to convince me but he was right – I couldn’t stay ‘up’. )
That was the first time I realized that there was something I couldn’t do because of my body. I didn’t like it one bit.
Maybe I Ioved shoes because most were out of my reach. Even before multiple sclerosis, I’d have to phyically restrain myself from buying a pair I loved but killed me even while I was still in the store. I wasn’t always successful because I’d fool myself saying, it’ll get better with wear. And that was ‘before.’
With multiple sclerosis, came neuropathy (for me, it’s a lack of feeling and a burning feeling in my feet) which also creates poor balance (watch out for those wedge shoes – I tip!)
Two children later, the arch flattened even more (impossible I thought) and I went from an 8.5 to a size 10 shoe. Orthotics have helped – but only fit properly in sneakers (puma’s are good looking but not great support) or boots — and a few tie shoes (hard to find except in the shoes my 80 year old mom wears). And after an hour or so, even Pumas which aren’t as heavy as my cross trainers, make the top of my feet ache where the nerves burn.
And, over the years, the flat feet created bunions and a hammer toe — requiring surgery that has left me with a swollen toe after 6 months. The options narrowed even more.
But here’s what I’ve learned.
I can find good looking shoes that I can fit into without screaming, wear without worrying I’m hurting myself and walk in without worrying they’ll make me fall. I just have to remember my criteria and be selective. I can wear those cute low suede pumps (that are a bit tight around the toe area) when I’m not walking or standing too long )more than 10 minutes). Those sweet little ballet shoe flats are great for standing for an hour or so . But not for walking since there’s no support, I can’t get orthotics in and that creates leg pain. If I have a day where I’m in an office building all day — and have to walk and stand a lot — I bring an extra pair of shoes so at least that part that hurts gets a rest.
I’ve learned that I can have what I want, with modification, as long as I pay attention. And I don’t need to allow it to rule my day. Sort of like what it’s like living with chronic illness on a daily basis.
Check out the June blog festival – How to Live with Chronic Pain – the theme is summer and vacation.
Rosalind aka cicoach.com