I admit before I became ill I would prejudge people who I thought didn’t look sick enough or disabled enough to park in handicap places or ride in electric carts at the grocery store. Once I became sick with so many invisible illnesses, I realized that now people were looking at me and thinking about me what I had thought of others. Now when I became ill I was only 21, so I do blame some of my thoughts/behavior on the fact that I was so young. But I wonder if even now, almost 20 years later and much more mature, if I would think the same thoughts as I had as a teenager if I were still healthy?
I have learned the hard way, through personal experience, that all we need with invisible illness is compassion and not the automatic assumption that just because we don’t fit a certain stereotypeof what people think sick or disabled should look like.
Times have changed and once maybe the world of handicapped parking as filled mostly with elderly and just those in wheelchairs.The world is not like that anymore and more and more young people and middle aged people are being stricken with invisible illnesses.
I think the most important lesson I have learned is that I don’t take anything for granted and I try not to assume what someone might or might not be dealing with. How has your invisible illness opened your eyes?
Grace Young says
What a coincidence! I was just thinking of writing a post on what my attitude use to be when I saw a person taking an accessible parking spot who looked to be in perfect health. I have a very visible disability (postpolio syndrome) and I can hardly walk from the driver’s seat to the back of my car to unload my scooter. So I felt like I “qualified” to use that accessible spot, and in the past my irritation knew no bounds when I’d see someone who didn’t “qualify” take one of those valuable spaces.
Sandy, your blog has really opened my eyes to the pain and distress caused by invisible illnesses. I no longer prejudge people who don’t look sick or disabled enough. None of us knows what another person is going through. If there are very few accessible spaces available, I park farther away because I use a scooter, and I leave the closer spaces for people who actually have to walk.
However, I would like to educate people who use handicapped parking plates/placards to park in handicapped spaces even tho the person with the illness/disability stays in the car. This is one of my pet peeves, and I think it is egregiously inconsiderate.
Traveling Blackbird says
I have heard it called the but-you-don’t-look-sick syndrome. I have even been told that despite the wheelchair! “Your legs look quite strong,” someone once said to me. Someone else told me my face didn’t look like I was in pain.
I’ve never paid attention to who gets out of the car that parks in a disabled access spot. If they have the placard, they deserve the spot, and that’s an end to it. It’s not fair to judge based on appearance – there are a lot of forms of disability.