The parking lot was crowded as we arrived at my daughter’s dance class. I pulled my vehicle into the empty disabled parking stall right at the front of the building and started taking my daughter out of her car seat. “Man, this parking lot is busy, well if we are all gonna do it…” a fellow dance mom yelled over as she pulled her vehicle into the other placard holder spot next to me. I smiled back in understanding; the place was packed. Inside, though, my stomach turned in awkwardness. That mom wouldn’t have been able to see my dash from there, and from my outward appearance would have had no idea, but I am a permit holder. I wasn’t parking there for convenience, although it sure was handy this particular morning. I was parking there because I need to park there. She moved her vehicle after getting her daughter out and headed to class, but it got me thinking.
I have POTS, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a chronic neurological condition that affects how my body functions. I do not “look” disabled, and I do not regularly use a wheelchair. However, I most definitely need my parking permit and other aids that help me in my daily life. I wonder how often people around me think I’m parking for convenience or simply ignorant of the needs of others. This woman was kind, however, I’ve received dirty or judgmental looks on other occasions. Do I appear entitled and selfish when I park where others believe I don’t belong?
Prior to the onset of my own illness, I may have even made similar judgments about others. We are all pretty quick to assume we know someone else’s life or motives. I’ve even heard my own children, after my diagnosis, judge others who “seem fine” when talking about classmates and the accommodations they are receiving for their own health issues. We can all make these kinds of assumptions. As I’ve had to remind them, and as I’m reminded to share with others today as well, we don’t know the details of someone else’s story. Our initial judgments should be cast aside in exchange for grace when we remember that.
I, and so many others out there, are fighting a personal health battle each and every day. I am a positive person who is trying to make the most of the hand I have been dealt. I don’t embellish or exaggerate my symptoms, they are never an excuse, nor do I seek pity. This is my life, my new normal, and I am strong enough to continue pushing on, and it is hard. Great doctors and self-care are vital, as is utilizing the resources available to assist my quality of life, such as my disabled parking pass.
The next time you see a seemingly fit and able-bodied person parking in a permit holder stall, using the elevator when it’s only one flight of stairs, or sitting down when others their elder are still standing, give them the benefit of the doubt, and remember you don’t know their story or their battle. As they park in the best spot right up front and you can’t figure out how they received their parking permit – don’t try to figure it out. Just give them a smile, and be thankful you are healthy and lucky enough to park further back.