When You're Too Scared to Use Your Disability Parking Permit
I received a disability parking permit this week… but I’m currently too scared to use it.
Too scared to face the condemning looks as I step out of the car and walk without visible impairment into the shops.
Too scared to hear the words, “But you are not disabled!” shouted across the parking lot.
Too scared to return to my car to see an angry note shoved on the windshield: “Leave the spots for someone who actually needs them.”
The many stories making the news this week of others facing the same issue aren’t helping me feel any more confident about accessing these parking spaces.
See, I have an invisible illness. A chronic illness that’s not apparent by looking at me, the 30-something, well-presented woman standing in front of you. Yet, I have a very real, very debilitating and crippling disease. You could walk past me and not have a clue about what’s going on inside my body, I look no different than the person next to me. However, I have a body where breathing is exhausting and the pain is constant. A body that doesn’t allow me to leave the house or my bed on a regular basis. There is nothing imaginary about my illness. Three years of debilitating symptoms are proof of this. It may be invisible, yet it is quite real.
One of the different requirements of the permit I received is that you are detrimentally physically affected by walking 100 meters.
I am ashamed and embarrassed that my life has been so hugely affected by 100 meters. Three years ago I was training for a half marathon. These days, 100 meters is torture and has day-long repercussions.
If I do make it out of the house, I am the woman praying fervently for a parking spot as I do laps around the car park. “Please God, let there be a close spot today. I don’t have the energy or the pain levels to have to walk from the back of the parking lot.” I am the woman who had long outsourced my supermarket shopping. I am the woman whose last attempt to try clothes on in Target left me in bed for a week… and I didn’t even walk away with a new dress! I am the woman attempting to attend three to four appointments a week to manage my disease. I am the woman whose only achievement in a day is making it to that appointment.
Take for example my physiotherapy appointments. These are located one suburb over, at most a five-minute drive. Yet the parking situation is so atrocious in this suburb that I need to leave 20 minutes before the appointment, take five minutes to get there and spend 10 minutes driving laps around the suburb trying to find any parking spot. When I do find a spot, I have to make sure I have five minutes to walk over 400 meters to the clinic. Then I have a 30-minute appointment that requires both physical and cognitive energy, and then I need to make the walk back to the car. The toll this takes on my body leaves me in bed for the rest of the day. If I could access one of the disabled parking spaces closer to the clinic, this might mean I have enough energy to make and eat my lunch when I get home, or not max out my pain medications for the day.
Then I wonder about the other benefits of accessing these parking spaces. Maybe I could make it to the pharmacy to pick up my medication without it being my only outing of the day and leaving me doubled over in pain? Maybe I might be able to make it to the beach, or the movies or out for dinner and actually be able to enjoy being out of the house instead of worrying about how far away I’m going to need to park and how much of my limited energy it might use? Maybe I will be able to reclaim some of my independence, not needing to rely on someone else to drive me just so they can drop me at the door? Maybe it might be OK?
Yet, why am I so scared?
Is there such large scale abuse of these parking spaces from those who don’t meet the requirements to park there? Is there that much of a misunderstanding of disability and illness? Is there a culture of mistrust of medical and government organizations that make the decisions to approve these permits?
Why do people receive such abuse for parking in a space they have both medical and governmental approval to park in?
I would honestly give anything not to need to park in one of these spots.
I hope and pray that as I begin to use my permit, there will be enough compassion and understanding for me to be able to access the 100 meters my body will allow. I live with enough personal shame and embarrassment about how my body has left me; I hope I won’t have more of it inflicted on me by others.
Follow this journey on Make It Bake It Fake It.
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