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To the Person Who Wrote 'Fat' on a Parking Spot for Wheelchair Users


Last week I went to the hospital. I go to the hospital a lot. In fact, I’ve been going to hospital regularly over the last 27 months. You see, I have a life-threatening illness called adrenal insufficiency, and I’ve been trying to get well. When I say, “well,” I don’t mean the usual “catch a cold and then it goes away” well. I’m trying to get the right medication to help me manage my chronic illness that has so drastically changed my life. I’m so unwell that I often need to use a wheelchair.

Having adrenal insufficiency means my body does not produce enough cortisol, the body’s natural “stress hormone.” Without cortisone, I would be dead. When I was diagnosed, I was put on cortisol replacement steroids called hydrocortisone. Hydrocortisone keeps me alive. If I missed a dose of this steroid, my body would become weak. I’d experience low blood pressure, stabbing pains, headaches and nausea. If I didn’t get the steroids my body needs, I would eventually go into an adrenal crisis and die.

Although I’m dependent on steroids to live each day, they do have nasty side effects. Too many steroids can cause weight gain, bone thinning and diabetes. In fact, when I was placed on steroids, I gained over 80 pounds in five months. I was devastated. Sometimes I cry when I look in the mirror. It really affects my confidence. There, I said it — I’m morbidly obese, and I hate it. People sometimes stare or comment when you’re overweight. You get friendly advice to eat less when in fact your diet is often better than those giving the advice.

I no longer have nice clothes that fit. I struggle to fit into seats. I have little energy, my muscles are weak and I really can’t walk far on my own. There’s not much I can do while I wait for more tests and treatment, but I did go on a diet set by hospital staff. I followed it perfectly, and within a year I lost 32 pounds. It sounds like a lot, but I still have more to lose to get into the heathy BMI range. It’s not easy, but I’m trying really hard.

So last week, when my husband drove me to hospital, we struggled to find a parking spot. We drove around for some time until a spot finally became available. It was a parking spot for wheelchair users. My husband pulled in, and I read the sign. The sign had been graffitied.

Instead of saying “Reserved for Wheelchair Users,” it said, “Reserved for FAT Wheelchair Users.”

Now, I don’t know why you would choose to write “fat.” Most likely it was a joke. Maybe you were bored or your friends dared you to write this. Maybe you believe wheelchair users have it easy by having special parking spots and you simply don’t like it. I don’t know.

But what I do know is this: Most people using wheelchairs are unable to walk for one reason or another. Some wheelchair users are unable to exercise. Some are on medication that can contribute to weight gain. Others might be depressed and have trouble with comfort eating. Whatever the reason, some wheelchair users are overweight, and we don’t need people like you reminding us!

All I will say is, I hope you never become unwell or develop a chronic illness. I hope you never have to struggle with your weight when you’re older (assuming you are young).

I’m not one to get easily upset, and I’m really not upset. I’m more disappointed with your poor choice of words and your lack of respect for people like me who have chronic illness and a disability. Next time you choose to show off and graffiti a sign, or the next time you’re tempted to label wheelchair users as “fat,” stop and think, and have a little respect for those who experience things you clearly don’t understand. Think about how your one poor choice might affect someone else.

Follow this journey on Days in Bed.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability and/or disease. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.