Psoriatic arthritis, hypothyroidism, anklylosing spondylitis, celiac disease, depression … none of these have physical manifestations readily recognizable to most passersby. I walk -- or wheel - hand in hand with them every day.
"But you seem happy enough…"
"But you don’t look sick…"
"But you don’t act like you’re in pain…"
Yes, I seem/look/act happy/healthy/fine, but looks can be deceiving. For example – can you tell me how many tattoos I have just by looking at me on any given day? (Some people would be shocked to know I have any!) Just because you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean that they’re not there.
I’m not a person who moans and complains about my ailments. I may make a general announcement to those in my household that I’m feeling ill, having a crappy day, or just can’t deal with ANYTHING today, but I’m not going to mope about all day or wince every time my foot hits the floor. That would just be too depressing to me and those around me.
A complete stranger yelled at me today for parking in a handicapped parking space, even though my placard was in my window and I emerged from the van using two canes. Apparently I was “taking up a space that could be used by someone who really needs it” and was one of “those people who abuse the system” because I don’t look sick. Apparently people with chronic pain should never act cheerful and people with chronic illness should be disfigured in such a way that our disability is readily seen.
What’s a person to do in this situation?
I could have gotten angry back. But I didn’t.
I could have ignored the person and pressed on. But I didn’t.
I could have made a snarky comment…
But what I did do was smile. I genuinely thanked the person for their concern for people such as myself who have a real need to park in a handicapped space. I explained that I did have a need to park there, as even though I may appear healthy enough, the amount of pain I’m in due to severe arthritis necessitates walking as little as possible today.
And then I asked the person when his baby was due and watched his jaw hit the pavement as I pointed to the sign in at the head of the parking space his pick up truck was in and walked away. He had parked in an “Expectant Mother's Parking” space, and was alone. He sure didn’t LOOK pregnant … but I suppose I could be wrong… I wouldn't want to judge by appearances after all.
So much for avoiding the snark.