She called me up in tears. She wanted to talk specifically to me, because she knew I’d understand. Now that I’m remembering it, I’m just so angry!
Amy was having a bad day. She was worried about her sick elderly father. She was just told about a potentially career-altering problem at work. She’s still helping out her husband while he recovers from surgery and can’t do as much around the house as usual. She was in a lot of pain, even more than usual. And to top it all off, she’d just gotten bad news from her doctor. It was a bad bad bad bad day.
On the way home from taking care of her father, Amy stopped to pick up take-out food for her and her husband. She couldn’t manage to cook. She was exhausted and in pain and didn’t think anything of pulling into one of the handicapped spaces. Like me, some days she doesn’t bother with those spaces. It just depends on how she feels. But just about every day, like me, she looks healthy even though she’s not.
Food in hand, Amy returned to her car to find a hand-written note on her windshield. Someone had written that she didn’t look handicapped so she shouldn’t be parking in that space. And like any one of us who have gotten a similar note, dirty looks, or hurtful words thrown at us, she was angry, upset, hurt, and felt the need to defend herself. Of course, the writer of the note was no where around, so all she could do was go home and cry.
I am glad she called me, because I do understand. And at the end of the call, she seemed to be feeling a bit better. I suggested some self-care: a shoulder rub from her husband, good food, a relaxing movie, and lots of sleep. I told her to call me back if she needed to cry or yell, and to throw or punch a pillow. She apologized because she never complains, but I pointed out that she can’t just keep this bottled up.
And neither can I.
Everyone with an invisible disability experiences something like this at some point in their lives. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I have experienced it more times than I want to think about, but still fewer times than I’d expect. Over the years, though, I’m sure I’ll experience it more.
I applaud those who call out people who truly are fraudulent. I often report cars without proper tags that are parked in handicapped spaces. But none of us has any right to judge others for their perceived abilities or lack thereof. No, I do not look like I need to park in handicapped spaces, but I do. No, I do not seem to need a wheelchair, but some times I do. No I do not look like I’m unable to stand on the bus or train, but I am. No, I do not look like I am unable to work, but I am. That is my reality. It’s no one else’s.
And it’s no one else’s to judge.
Sending hugs to your friend. I too have been on the receipt of moral judgement by others. One man even shouted at me but ended up apologizing after I had tersely explained things. It doesn’t make it better though.
I have my hair coloured (purple) and have my nails painted because I refuse to look like I feel inside on the outside. When I go out.- I don’t want to scare people. Lol!
When I taught my class used to tell me I wasn’t like an ill person to them – yes they could see the physical signs and used to make sure I had my blanket, cushion. fan on etc but they saw the real me underneath – if only others could too…
It reminds me a bit of the song Mr Cellophane in Chicago
Lorna, I’m so sorry you had to deal with that horrible man yelling at you. That’s just terrible. I guess most of us put up some sort of front when we leave the house so we look better than we feel. Hair, nails, clothes… they’re like our superhero costumes.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had remarks or dirty looks from the fact that I look able, but whenever I go out without my wheelchair, I am always paranoid that that’s what people are thinking. I feel like I have to defend myself, which in turn makes me believe I need to defend myself, which we know leads nowhere good. I feel your pain and hope that knowing that you aren’t alone helps. Amy is lucky to have someone like you to turn to.
Tamara, I know that feeling, like you need to defend yourself even though there’s no reason to. I hope you can let that go in time, and that you don’t let pessimistic attitudes like mine at the end of this writing push you to remain concerned about what others think. The truth is, we’re all better off if we don’t worry about what other people think unless/until it actually affects us. Good luck dealing with that. And thanks for the support 🙂