That has changed a lot for me in the last year because my mobility has become so compromised. I need to park close if there are close parking places available. If not I use the dreaded handicapped parking with my parking pass. Here's where the negativity begins. I often get a look from some stranger who is deciding whether I am disabled enough to use that space. Once, just once I would like to say what is on my mind.
"Old man, you stand there and judge me yet I am half your age and my legs are in worse shape than yours. I have a spinal cord injury, a lung condition, and a knee that needs to be replaced. Just to name a few. And you stand there on your two good legs trying to make me feel worse about myself"!
Of course I don't say that. I smile and walk away and let him or her think whatever they want to. I can't deny it hurts and that’s the reason I don't often use it. So if you are shopping and see a younger person in a handicapped area please don't make assumptions. We may look good, but wait until we come out of the store and make it back to the car, that's a different story. Let the police look after those who offend this law.
That brings me to another point. It's the invisible illness curse. Many people live with a disability you can see. It is impossible to hide a wheel chair or canes etc. When you have an incomplete spinal injury there is no wheelchair, thankfully. Believe it or not that comes with its own set of problems. I cannot stand for any length of time or walk for very long stretches. I have to say that in every situation. It brings the conversation back to my disability when I would rather talk about anything else.
I'm not alone; there are others who have the same problem to deal with. Many who have MS, Fibromyalgia, cancer, etc. can look normally healthy on any given day. It doesn't mean that they don't need extra provisions made for them to be able to attend an event or get through the day.
My theory has always been to stay home if I don't have the energy to at least fix myself up a little. I often try harder if I feel bad the more dressed up and put together I am, probably means I'm in a lot of pain. Then somebody will inevitably say, "You look great". Don't get me wrong, I love to hear that, but as every chronic pain sufferer will tell you there's a "You look great!" and there's a "You look great".
We hear what your saying by the look on your face. We read your sincerity and appreciate it, but we can also read the look that says, you're not sick, in pain, or suffering in any way. Now to some that may sound a little crazy, but to those who have experienced this you know exactly what I mean.
The bottom line is there are people who love and support you and there are people who question whether you really are struggling. If you haven't experienced chronic pain, it is difficult to imagine getting up and dressed and out to an event, if you are having pain. The person judging you may have only experienced pain in an acute situation. When you have acute pain yes, you generally stay home and don't fix yourself up to go out. Chronic pain sufferers know if we have that attitude we won't go anywhere. If you can manage it at all, it is best to do what you can to get out in the world. We know that, they don't.
It is up to you to surround yourself with those who support you and do their best to not focus on the pain, but help you live the life you want to.
Don't let a stranger steal your joy, don't let the judgement of an acquaintance ruin your night.