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.