Struggling to Decide Whether or Not I Should Park in a Disability Space


This has often been a great debate of mine since I got the thing years ago. To use or not to use… That is the question… I often find myself staring at this ominous piece of blue plastic in my purse like a curse. Once upon a time, I would have given anything to have a disability placard.

“Just get me closer to the door, I don’t care, who feels like walking,” said my youthful ignorance.

Now every time I see that thing in my purse I’m reminded that I have a choice: I can either park in the disability spot, park far out or try and find something close enough. Most days I look for something close enough and leave the disability spot for others who “really need it.” If I’m not feeling too bad I will park a little ways out and walk, as the exercise is good for ankylosing spondylitis.

On those bad days when I have to use it, or when I grocery shop and have to use it, I dread it.

I have been approached once and told that I look too healthy to need a disability placard, while limping into a store, by a woman who parked in a disability spot too and had managed to beat me into the store. I just stood there dumbfounded. This was the first time I had ever been approached and told that. I stood there for a minute and then left the store in tears.

Needless to say, I didn’t use my placard for a while after that.

Two days ago I used it again at a local store I go in all the time. I try to park as close as I can, but this time I had to use it. I’m flaring really bad and I’m weaning off the prednisone I’ve been on for four months (I can’t breathe and my chest feels like it’s in a vice). It was a day before my shot for my ankylosing spondylitis (none of my bones are moving properly) and my migraine meds are all messed up at the pharmacy (so I have a dull headache, bordering on migraine, with light sensitivity and nausea) so I’m a disaster, but I’m still trying to hold my family together and get some groceries. As soon as I walk in and pass the counter I hear two girls say, “She doesn’t need that disability pass.”

I don’t know if I was already so defeated already physically that I mentally didn’t care or what, but for those who like to pass judgment on others, there is a special place for you and I hope nothing ever happens to you or someone you love that no one can see on the outside, but it is literally killing them on the inside. Yes, I may look fine – that is what an invisible illness is – but make no mistake, my insides are wrecked and if my outside looked like my inside, you wouldn’t question once my use of the disability placard. You would then be talking behind my back about how scary I look.

1. A doctor has to write a letter to DMV stating the need for a temporary/ permanent disability placard.

2. You cannot just pick one up from Walmart. If someone has one, they obviously need it and do not need to justify their need for it to anyone. See #1.

3. You do not know what someone is going through on any given day, so if you do not have something nice to say (in hushed tones behind their back, or to their face), do not say anything at all.

I should never have to feel guilty for using my disability placard and neither should anyone else who has one and looks at it with shame. We didn’t do this to ourselves, we didn’t ask to be sick, and given the choice to not be a sick 35-year-old, I would choose that over this. However, these are the cards I have been dealt and I will make the best of it no matter what.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Ankylosing Spondylitis

bridget jones curled up in bed eating snacks

The Anatomy of a Pain Flare-Up

I wake up on Monday morning knowing something isn’t right. You see, after living with chronic illness for most of my life, I’ve come to know my body very well. I’ve been feeling a flare-up of my arthritis coming on for weeks, and somehow, until now, it has stayed at bay. I know from experience [...]
A decretive illustration of a woman and her black hair.

Why I Am Thankful for My Ankylosing Spondylitis Diagnosis

Intrinsically I think I’ve always felt that I was heading towards some type of calamity. Perhaps it was my difficult childhood, incorrectly diagnosed scoliosis, undiagnosed attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression or possibly, and most likely the most accurate, my deeply pessimistic nature. The emotional and mental scars from childhood carried through to adulthood, with me fighting [...]
A woman in a hoodie looking at a cement, blank wall.

When You're Diagnosed With an Incurable Disease You Didn't Plan For

The night after I received my diagnosis, I watched a comedy bit with my husband that’s essentially just a comedian arguing with audience members at his show about why their opinions on the best dinosaur are wrong. Dan Telfer, the comedian, lets them know that the best one in fact is the ankylosaurus, which means [...]
Beautiful woman with a bandana on her head, looking toward sky.

Why I Won't Stay Silent About My Condition, Like My Doctor Recommended

It was after a painful spell of seven years that I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondilitis (AS). Not many with chronic pain actually know or realize whether they should see an orthopedic or a rheumatologist. And so was my case. I visited an orthopedic with my complaints who helped me figure out the cause of my pain. [...]