After years of slumping and hunching my shoulders as I grew taller than every single boy in my school class, I took pride in striding forth in my new life as an adult, far away from home. For me, they symbolised everything exciting I was embracing.
Those boots, and ones like it (one particularly expensive pair having been stolen in Poland, a very long story), saw me through the following years. I may have felt tired or a bit down, but the minute I put my boots on, I was ready for anything.
Dress up a pair of jeans and a casual shirt? Tick. Smart trousers and boots? Tick. Heels made me walk taller, feel more confident.
Until I came crashing back to earth with an almighty bump after a life-altering diagnosis of MS.
Suddenly, wearing my beloved boots was akin to staggering to the kebab shop at 2 am. Believe me, it wasn’t pretty. I fell here, I fell there. Once, I was holding on to a lamppost for dear life and was approached by a Good Samaritan who gave me a pair of flip-flops and a bottle of water.
I wasn’t drunk, I had MS.
In a fit of pique and despair, I gave every single pair of boots to my friend. I was bereft, my shoe collection decimated. I went shopping, determined to treat myself to a new pair of flat shoes, but even saying, ‘flat’, felt depressing. Flat shoes equalled a flat life.
The first pair I tried, I shed a silent tear. My whole body shape changed and I walked differently as I posed this way and that in front of the mirror. But I paid up and took them home.
Over the years, my collection grew, and weirdly, so did my confidence. I saved up for the most expensive flat boots I could find. I walked easier, even with chronic foot drop. Looking back, I realise that swapping heels for flats was my first adaptation to a new life with MS; I wasn’t giving in, I was changing my perspective.
I now use this shoe analogy in every area of my life, seven years after my diagnosis. My mindset has slowly shifted from kicking back against everything MS threw at me – and it threw a lot – to think, ‘ok, so I’m finding this difficult, how can I make it easier?’
With this in mind, I have altered my daily routine, as my best time is the morning/early afternoon. My working hours are 7am – 2pm and I have a short sleep when I get home. I used to hate it, hankering after my old carefree days, but what was the point? No amount of sulking would change it, so I had to. Likewise socialising; I invite my friends to my house rather than going out if I’m having a particularly challenging MS period.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not been easy. I’ve had to make more alterations than I ever thought possible. Yet my life is calmer now. I accept my limitations but I will do my utmost to do my best within them.
Giving up, once an option, is no longer on the table.
And as for those heels? I don’t need them to feel confident any more. Accepting MS into my life has given me all the courage I need.
Read Barbara A. Stensland Bio at (https://stumblinginflats.com/about-me/)
Barbara blogs at (www.stumblinginflats.com) or follow her on twitter @MS_Stumbling