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Presumptions Can Be a Major Handicap

This happened about 6 months ago. I am 25 years old and suffer from severe fibromyalgia. I do have a disabled parking permit but rarely use it unless I am having a very bad day, due to postnatal depression and pain I am also very overweight which I am trying some way to remedy. This day I had my two boys with me, at the time aged 3 and 4. My husband is in management at a local shopping centre and this day I had to pick him up from work as his car was at the mechanic and also pick up a few things. I was having one of the worst days I had felt in a long time and the kids were fighting, I had been sitting for long periods because I am trying to finish my degree and study for my medical school entrance exams (I want to be a paediatric oncologist) and that had made my pain flare to a major level which had also brought on a terrible headache.

I parked in one of the disable carpark spots which I had not done for about 4-5 months. I got the kids  out of the car and because it was busy I walked as fast as I could manage with the kids to get out of traffic. I was about to enter the shop when a 30ish aged woman tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and was blasted with abuse for where I had parked. I was told that young lazy people should think of themselves more often and not take up spots for people who actually need them, I was told that maybe if was not so selfish I would park as far away as I could and maybe I would lose weight because being fat is not a disability and other people should not have to pay for my gluttony. I was astounded, I just stood there open mouthed with pain searing down my spine and my legs shaking with pain. I could not speak, my sons were upset and my husband came out of the shop as he had finished his shift a few minutes early. He heard the woman berating me and asked what was going on. She assumed a staff member had come to assist her and starting ranting to him about lazy selfish fat people and how I had broken the law and should be asked to leave.

When she finished she fluttered her eyes at him and gave him a grin and me a smug look to say, “Now you’re in for it.” I was in tears and my husband looked shocked. He told her that I did indeed hold a disabled parking permit because of a medical condition, and that he did not appreciate people abusing the store’s customers, even if they were not his wife. It was the woman’s turn to look stunned, she did not suspect this, as I have said I am very overweight and not the prettiest rose on the bush but I was lucky enough to find a great loving man who did not care about my looks, it just so happens that he is very handsome and although he is 32 this year he has often been mistaken for 20-21 (I am 25 but look 35 lol) so this woman refused to believe we were married and thought he was making a joke of her. She insisted on speaking to the manager, he said he was second in charge of the store and as the store manager was on holiday, until the duty manager arrived he was “it” she also refused to believe this and it took several of the staff to convince her she was not the butt of a joke. We forgot our shopping and just left to go home, apparently she did her shopping and left in a huff a bit later.

The thing is you cannot “see” my disability, and although my weight is partly a result of my disability it is not the cause. I have had evil looks from other people before and to a point I can understand because I look young and able bodied it looks as if I am just lazy. The thing is that people should not make assumptions, I may look fine on the outside but people have no idea what goes on inside. Not only was I abused in front of my family for doing something I had a right to do and had to have my medical condition exposed in public to get her to shut up, but I was also insulted because she refused to believe my good-looking husband would be with someone like me. We do laugh about it now but at the time we did not. So can I just ask everyone who sees someone who looks able-bodied park in a disabled zone, not to make assumptions, there are disabilities you cannot see. Perhaps I should have said something that day but with how I felt it really did get to me and I just emotionally gave up. 0629-11

{ 160 comments… add one }
  • Mabel July 31, 2011, 12:16 pm

    I really hate it when people don’t mind their own business. The OP is absolutely right; there are conditions that make walking difficult even if you’re not overweight. A person may be able to walk into and around the store, but not deal with the added trek to a car parked farther away. And they don’t hand those placards out to just anyone. You have to have a doctor’s signature to get one, I believe.

    The same is true of the little scooters in Walmart and other retail places. I had to use one once when I had a blood clot and wasn’t supposed to be walking much (at all, really). But I had to go to the store. People gave me funny looks until they saw the cane I was using in the basket. No one said anything, for which I was grateful. You just can’t assume anything and it’s rude to do so.

  • Kira August 1, 2011, 12:06 am

    This has happened to me a lot. I have had a disability sticker since the age of 20. I try to rarely use it to avoid the abuse. People just can’t assume, apparently 2 failed brain/spine surgeries are not enough. I have several disabling conditions that could each merrit a disabled parking sticker in their own right. It’s unfair to assume anything related to age, weight race etc. I also put on some weight from medications and being confined to bed. I hate seeing others suffer the same.

  • FritoBandito August 1, 2011, 3:21 am

    Even if you see a perfectly able-bodied person get out of the car that has been parked in a handicapped spot and walk into a restaurant or shopping center, please remember they could be picking up someone who has a disability. My cousins acted as my Pop-Pop’s chauffeur for months while he recovered from knee surgery – but he’s an independent kind of man, and so what he asked them to do was to drop him off at the (grocery store, VFW hall, doctor’s office, burrito place, clothing store, whatever) and then pop over to the local Starbucks/Panera until he called to be picked up.

    In some cases, if he had packages, they would go into the store to get him and whatever he’d bought.

    They took a lot of dirty looks from that, because for all people could tell, it was this young healthy teenagers and 20-somethings parking in the handicapped spot and then dashing into the store – what they didn’t see was the rest of the story.

  • Elfmama August 8, 2011, 1:44 am

    Dark Magdalena wrote:

    *** Everyone is berating “Chicken”, and while I agree with the rest of you, did everyone else miss “K”’s post?

    “If at your very worst, you’re still able to walk as fast as you can in the parking lot, you don’t need a handicapped spot. There are people who actually ARE handicapped that NEED that spot. You clearly do not. Shame on you.

    As for the woman yelling at you, yeah, I can see her point, but technically, it was rude of her to yell at you. Of course, if I had been there with a genuinely handicapped person and you just took our spot, you better believe that I’d be in your face, rude or not.”

    K, her “as fast as I could” might be my slow as a snail pace. As fast as she could might have been barely a shamble. The OP actually IS handicapped, as noted by her legally obtained placard. She clearly did need that spot that day, as she explained, because of how much pain she was suffering at the time. Then, the fact that you say you would be in her face, rude or not, just makes you a Special Snowflake. Get off of your high horse, it is unappealing.***

    DM, thank you. You are absolutely right. I am also a fibromyalgic. And my “as fast as I can” IS the same as other people’s “slow as a snail” pace; my DH compares it to a casual, windowshopping stroll. It is not; it is the pace that I can more-or-less reliably sustain. Yes, I can walk at something approximating a normal walk — for all of about 50 feet. Then the joints start screaming and the chest pains start. Believe me, having the paramedics show up delays the walk far longer than letting ME decide what is and is not “as fast as I can go.”

    I’m seriously considering asking my doctor for a handicapped tag recommendation. What is stopping me are the judgmental people like Chicken, K, and the harpy in the OP. You see, the days when I would be most likely to need it are the days when being screamed at would be the most intolerable.

  • Lily August 18, 2011, 8:22 am

    I am an able-bodied person with a handicap placard, and have had people accost me for it. The reason for all this is I am severely “allergic” to the sun. Well it’s not actually an allergy because that requires an immune response, but it’s the easiest way to describe my invisible illness. (If you are really curious, look up erythropoetic protoporphyria.) In the summer time I have a finite amount of time that I can spend outside at all, so to get anything done I need to not waste precious minutes walking from the opposite end of the parking lot.

    So I got a handicap placard for super sunny days. I have my long pants, long sleeves, gloves, hat, and parasol out in 90 degree weather, and get people staring. I don’t know if most of the staring is because of my attire or because I’m using the handicap spot, but I have also had people tell me that I shouldn’t be using a handicapped spot.

    Are they my doctor? Do they know anything about me or the disease I have? Do they know anything about the life I live and how much improvement I get just from shaving off those few minutes of walking outside? No.

    So OP, I’m not saying to be proud of having a disease, but stand strong in the knowledge that you do have a problem but you are finding the best way to continue living as good a life as possible using the resources available to you. That is something you should be proud of.

  • Ash Kilday May 8, 2012, 11:47 am

    Late late late comment on this one, but I have a similar story! My youngest sister is in her mid-teens and is an amputee due to a genetic condition. She had her left leg removed when she was about 10 or 11 (that’s another story). She does have a prosthetic leg, and it has an aesthetic skin over it so it looks like a normal leg. She was at our local supermarche early in the morning a few weeks ago, clad still in her pyjamas as teenagers do, and parked in the handicapped spot. She opened her door, and before she could get out her handicapped parking permit, this lady approaches her and began to berate her, going on and ON about how the fines for these spots were in excess of $250 and she was young and spry and should be ashamed to take a spot from someone who might actually need it.
    My sister, to her credit, kept her temper in check and her mouth shut. Without a word she looked at the lady, flashed the parking permit, hung it on her rearview mirror, got out and shut the door to her car. She then proceeded, still in silence, to roll up her pants leg to reveal her prosthesis.
    The perpetrator said, “Oh good, you’re handicapped!” And walked away.

    I was super-proud of my sister because that would have ended in a verbal altercation, store management, and possibly the authorities had it been anyone else!

  • H February 18, 2013, 10:50 pm

    I just wanted to post to thank the admin for using this letter, as I know personally (I’m a 26-year-old with CFIDS) that many people are not aware that they are being rude when they make assumptions about another person’s abilities, especially when “you don’t look sick.”
    In the process of scrolling to the bottom I read one post that very much hurt my feelings, where someone claimed that they were entitled to diagnose people themselves and even went so far as to imply that the author of the letter was either a liar or a drug addict. I’m very confused as to why this hurtful behavior is being tolerated. Because I should not risk inducing a flare-up by reading more comments that cut so deeply into my heart, I have stopped reading the comments that followed it. It is absolutely, unquestionably rude to tell another person, much less an entire group of people, what the truth of their own body is and personally I do not believe that such prejudices should allowed in any place where outward racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination are not allowed.

  • Karen April 30, 2013, 9:08 pm

    Thank you for posting this, I hope people are able to read this and be less judgmental. There are many handicaps that people cannot see. I have Multiple Sclerosis. My doctors refuse to give me a handicapped sticker because I do not need assisted equipment. Instead on bad days I just avoid going places because by the time i get into the store my hips might be in severe pain, i might be dripping sweat, and usually I am embarrassed. I am overweight too. When I see people using handicapped spots that don’t look handicapped I feel sorry for them. Not only do they not look sick or disabled, they are usually judged. Sometimes when you don’t look sick or disabled people either forget or are rude. its difficult.

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