A woman reaches down to take off a black high-heeled shoe.

Still High Stepping With MS

2020, the year of a new decade, has been one of the most devastating years in history. It is one that I will never forget. As a person with multiple sclerosis and congenital heart disease, I am surviving one day at a time. Mentally and physically I am struggling, attempting to salvage peace amid the ruins of illness, pain, social and racial injustice. It is my belief that my health has been compromised due to the ills of the world.

This pain was significantly different

In the past 6 weeks, I’ve experienced two alarming occurrences. First, I woke up one morning in excruciating, intense pain in my right leg. Unfortunately, chronic pain and I are highly acquainted. I have learned to tolerate the dreadful muscle spasms and the tremendous pain I live with daily. However, this pain was significantly different. I couldn’t get out of bed, standing was a hardship, walking to the bathroom felt like an impossible feat and sleeping was out of the question. Comfort eluded me. The suffering was unbearable, and it was a miserable 5 days for my husband and me. I got up only when I had to and walking assisted became a necessity. Eventually, I returned to my “normal.”

The pain came back with a vengeance

Weeks later the pain resurfaced. It came back with a vengeance, longer and more agonizing than before. Misery visited again. As an advocate, I am an open book. My privacy has been relinquished for the sake of authenticity. In order to do this work effectively, vulnerability is required. I share the good, bad, and ugly with my communities. I realized long ago that by standing in my truth others were encouraged to embrace theirs. What I didn’t acknowledge was the secret I held tight.

MS and high-heeled shoes

To know me is to know I love high-heeled shoes. Multiple Sclerosis and high heels are often an unequally yoked couple. I can’t tell you the conversations I’ve had with my MS neurologist about this. I often laugh when I see him knowing that my shoes will be under surveillance. I assure him that I am smart enough to know when I am done wearing them, secretly praying that day never comes.

The use of a cane exposed my secret

Not only did I have to stop wearing the heels during these episodes, I had to use the assistance of a cane. This was my huge secret! The truth about secrets is someone always tells. My secret was exposed and I fell apart. Rivers of tears were cried because I didn’t want everyone to know.

I wanted to control the narrative, telling my truth, my way. Confidence is something that I have plenty of, however, even it diminished. Fortunately, I have a husband, a family, and great friends that encourage me. More importantly, I know that self-love and confidence begin within. Profound love is intrinsic, not aesthetic. I had to dig deep and revisit all of the lessons from the past. I reconciled that everything about my existence is revolutionary.

High heels have been my act of rebellion

Since receiving my MS diagnosis, wearing high heels has become an act of rebellion. Me vs. multiple sclerosis. A vie for who will win the battle. As absurd as that may sound, it is my truth. What I’ve learned is that every day I choose to get up, go on, live out loud, and advocate for the people and causes I care about, I am winning the war. I haven’t worn my high heels in over a month.

A reminder from something as trivial as shoes

Life has a way of stripping one down to the bare minimum. Something as trivial as shoes reminded me that vanity is temporary.  I’ve concluded that the heels may be an extension of my personality, but they are not definitive of me. If I walk with a cane, wear a low shoe, or cannot walk at all, I am still Teresa. Bold. Passionate. Humane. Sexy. Intentional. Feminine. Beautiful. Purposed. Loving.

I'm still high stepping

In closing, as I prepare to run an essential errand, I stare at my heels for nostalgia’s sake. At once I remember what my epitaph will read. In my own words: “Be BOLD and wear your high heels. Carry them if you must.” I grab my tote and the heels knowing I am still high stepping.

“Be bold and wear your high heels. Carry them if you must.” – Teresa Wright-Johnson, A Heart That MatterS

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