Being the extremely private person that I am, I have chosen to not write about my illness.
Today that changed.
Having just left the funeral of my sister-in-law, I stopped at a local store on my way home.
I have a disability tag that my cardiologist wrote the paperwork for to use in my vehicle and I parked in a disabled parking place. I sat in my car for a while as I have to take medication to control my excessive heart rate and blood pressure any time I walk very far.
I noticed a car with a man inside stopped in front of the store staring at me, but I did not think anything was wrong.
I walked slowly into the store and got a cart and leaned on it to get the few things I needed in the front of the store.
Suddenly this same man in an electric cart came up to me and said very hatefully, "You know, those handicapped spaces are only for REALLY handicapped people like people with their legs off, and YOU are not handicapped! I saw you walk in and you took a parking place I needed, plus you don't even have a REAL handicapped tag, just one you move from vehicle to vehicle."
I was so shocked. It has been very hard to accept that I cannot walk very far, can no longer lift or do anything physical anymore, and to now be judged by someone who is also disabled just because I didn't look sick enough, was so upsetting.
I tried to explain to the man that even though I don't look sick I have heart and blood pressure issues, my disability tag was real and I had it for a good reason, but he just sped away on his chair. He didn't care.
The older gentleman standing nearby that heard the conversation told me how sorry he was, that some people are just judgmental, that a friend of his had a balance problem and would stagger and fall, and everyone judged her also and thought that she had been drinking.
Come on people. Being sick is hard. I hurt every day and am frustrated I can't do the things I used to do. I know how important that close space to park is to people. If I don't find one, I go home. However, I refuse to give up even though I have to gauge how many steps I will have to walk in everything I do. I try really hard to NOT let people know how ill I am.
So yes, I don't look that sick on the outside, but does that give someone the right to judge and make an already stressful day so much worse?
Perhaps the answer lies in the words of a very wise man:
"Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." -- Matthew Chapter 7 verse 1-2
Words we should take to heart.
Donna is president and founder of the Carnegie Heritage & Arts Center of Greene County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .