I’m not sure I can accurately articulate the fact that the hardest things about living with PD are not the big things. But I’ll try. It’s not traveling, or conferences, or the eternal time suck of medical appointments, or remembering your meds. It’s the little extremely irritating everyday things. For example, for the past 5+ years, my medication has caused ungodly swelling of my legs and feet.
This swelling was like nothing I’d ever seen. There were days I couldn’t find socks that would stretch over my bulbous feet. I used to really like shoes. As an overweight woman, at least if I invested in cute shoes, they would fit no matter how much the size of my ass fluctuated. Over the course of five years I’ve had to get rid of all but five pairs of shoes. My shoe collection consists of two pairs of stretchy ballet-flat style slip-ons that I could tolerate even when the swelling was at its worst, despite the spilling of puffy foot girth out the sides. I have one pair of wide-width sneakers, 2.5 sizes bigger than my former shoe size, which became sufficiently stretched out that I could put them on even when the laces had to be so loose that the tongues of my shoes were barely covered. And two pairs of flip-flops, because even the most water-retaining pregnant woman will tell you she can usually wedge her swollen feet into flip-flops.
There is just about nothing on earth that makes a woman feel as self-loathing, depressed, and unattractive as swollen feet. Or at least this woman.
I’m not a particularly vain person. I know my lane. I’m not the world’s snappiest dresser. But most days pre-PD I could pull it together enough to walk out the door knowing that I was at least inoffensive. But when you need to spend twenty minutes tugging and prying to cram your squishy, painful, ugly, fat feet into shoes that are so un-stylish, worn, and stretched that you want to cry, it’s not a real confidence booster.
Needless to say, you think every man is not only mentally criticizing the size of your ass, but that he’s also inwardly gagging at the thought of elephantine calves that must be attached to those Shrek feet. You know he must be imagining it, because you only wear wide-leg pants these days in the hope of hiding your feet, but your PD-induced shuffle means long hems pose a genuine tripping hazard, so you’re screwed no matter how you play it. And I do mean Shrek feet. Not Princess Fiona. Shrek. And you cannot help but muse that every woman must be inwardly clucking about how could you let yourself go like that (!), and not stop it by eliminating salty chips from your diet, and eating sushi without soy sauce.
Of course, no one probably cares about my feet nearly as much as I do, and if people think of my feet at all it’s likely no more than a momentary pitying glance. But for me it was something I hated every single day. I have had to give up so much vanity as a PWPD. I walk funny, I can’t carry things while I walk, I’ve worried about falling over and have had to flag down strangers in the street to help me to safety when I got stuck. But at the end of the day, what I carried with me was how much my Shrek feet bothered me.
So tonight was a pretty profound experience. I went to my local suburban DSW to see if there was any possibility of some less-tragic footwear to fit me. I knew that the new meds I’ve been on since January were behaving differently in my body, and that slowly but surely my feet and legs seemed to be returning to normal. I mean, I now have five individual toes on each foot! And my “cankles” have returned to being ankles! But tonight, I had a big old ugly cry right in the middle of DSW. Because, this:
Loafers! Boots! Boat shoes! And they fit!
Yes, I bought all three pairs. Because while I can’t change the big stuff in PD, I can damn well celebrate the little victories.