Bye Handicap Decal
I got a handicap decal 4 years ago. It was at a time where it was obvious that I needed it. I carried an oxygen tank around, had a constant iv in my chest, and I looked defeated. As the years went on, the need for the decal became less obvious. I stopped using oxygen and regained some energy. But still, when suffering from an invisible illness, no one else can see your pain. Some people wondered why I needed it. How do I know? Well they felt it necessary to tell me that I shouldn’t park there. They’d see this cute, young girl in shorts and flip flips and couldn’t imagine anything being wrong with me. People asked me if I knew what those spots were for. They told me that I should not take this spot from people who actually needed it. Well, yes I had all my limbs. I didn’t use a wheelchair. I didn’t even have a limp. But my heart hurt. It literally felt like if I walked too fast or too much it would eject from my chest. My heart rate was extremely high, my oxygen level was extremely low. Most days I was so thankful to have that placard. It allowed me to walk a few steps less before plopping into an electric scooter. I tried ignoring the comments and the judgmental glances. But sometimes I wanted to fight back. I wanted to rip open my shirt and show them the catheter that was keeping me alive. There were days I tried hard to fight the need for using it but the exhaustion from lack of oxygen didn’t let me. I really did need it.
I used it when I didn’t want to walk too far or when I knew that if I parked there, I could get a little extra help should something happen. It was so helpful. As I got stronger I used it less. I didn’t want to take it from the 96 year old man or the wheelchair-bound woman. I was able again. Little by little I regained my strength. I didn’t mind walking the length of the parking lot to get to the store anymore. It was a blessing to be able to do that now. I still took advantage of the perks that come along with the decal if it got me free parking as long as I wasn’t taking a spot away from someone who needed it.
This month my handicap placard expires. I am grateful that I got to use it when I needed it. And am blessed to no longer need it. There are all kinds of people who could use some help. They should not feel ashamed to receive it. And others should not be so quick to judge. Just because someone doesn’t seem sick, doesn’t mean they aren’t. There are plenty of invisible illnesses. Not every one is sick on the outside. And some people, like me, want to be strong and will do whatever it takes to make you see only that.