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When the Eye Can’t See Disability
In July 2013 I was given a diagnosis of Adrenal Insufficiency. Adrenal Insufficiency is an illness which affects the adrenal glands ability to produce Cortisol an essential and life-saving hormone. Since becoming unwell, my life has taken on new meaning. I have gone from being labelled able to disabled. However I am often judged and give the evil eye because I do not look disabled and today I wanted to speak out about this.
In 2014 I was assessed and given a disability badge. This badge made life so much easier for me. When I felt weak and dizzy, I could barely walk anywhere. Going to the supermarket to choose my own food was a real treat and being able to park close to the entrance meant I could make it to the scooter in the entrance without collapsing.
Parking closer to the entrance at the hospital made it easier to make it to the wheelchair bay and often when leaving a building or appointment I was so relieved to be able to sit down in the car quickly without having to walk the extra distance. The disability badge helped me with my health problems and was certainly needed.
Recently my health has improved a small fraction. I can walk a little further and do a little more than before. I still have chronic fatigue and still get dizzy. I still have moments I really need that disabled bay and times I am really grateful for it.
I remember parking up with my husband and daughter and walking into Pound land. I wanted a few crafty items for Sylvia. I felt well enough that day to make it around the store. My husband carried the basket but by the time we got to the second aisle I began to feel ill. This happens a lot. I walked back out the store and into the car to wait for my family.
I felt so unwell and dizzy, but I looked okay. An elderly woman getting out of her car stared at me and gave me the evil eye, a look which has no words but clearly says, “You don’t look disabled”. I just ignored it, it happens all the time.
Again, a few weeks ago we parked up to take Sylvia for her very first swimming lesson. We parked in the disabled bay. I was wearing trainers and sports clothing. I am not well enough to exercise but I had made an effort to dress sporty and was excited to watch Sylvia’s swimming lesson.
Over the past few years, I have not been able to do many things with my daughter. I have missed assemblies, school plays and sports days. I did not want to miss her first swimming lesson and so I rested up to be able to attend.
As I got out of the car, I again got the evil eye. Why would a mother with a young child, wearing sports clothing and entering the swimming pools need to park in the disabled bay? Well, I did and although I only walked Sylvia through to her lesson and sat to watch, I began to get dizzy and unwell when it was time for her to get dressed. I felt burnt out and unwell but it was okay, I had seen Sylvia’s lesson and that had made my day.
I made it back to the car and we set off on our way home. I get “the look” or “the evil eye” more than fifty percent of the time when I get out of the car in a disabled bay. People don’t say anything most of the time but sometimes I’m challenged and I show my badge displayed in the window.
I hate the look you get, the eyebrows and the screwed up face and then the words, your not disabled, or “look at her” she doesn’t need to park there. Yes, people do say these things and yes it bugs me. Most of the time I ignore it but today I want to speak out.
Today I want to say, Disability is not always visible. Disability is not limited to being in a wheelchair although I do use one when needed. Disability comes in many forms and sometimes it is an invisible illness.
Yes, some people will abuse the disabled bay system and park there when they should not but not everyone does and just because I look able and healthy it does not mean I am. I have an invisible illness and to those that judge me and give me that look of disapproval, why not smile instead and assume I am genuine rather than jumping to conclusions and judging me on the way I look.