We have a tenuous relationship. I’m glad to have him around but he’s the type of friend who tags along but isn’t someone you really get along with. Yes, he’s my disability placard.
I have a very weird relationship with the disability placard. Sure, it makes my parking a whole lot easier and I don’t have to pay for meters, plus, you know, the whole “less walking so I can breathe” thing. But having a disability placard has a complex array of emotions attached to it.
Cancer fatigue and lung damage are very real disabilities, but they are hidden. Most days, I would have no problem walking between the far reaches of my office’s parking lot. On days like today, where the cold rain makes me whole chest hurt and makes it difficult to get enough air, its a much harder.
I won’t park in the little parking lot right next to my office with two handicapped spots – instead I park in the main parking lot 5 minutes away. If I get to my office first, of course I have first dibs on the disabled spot, I know that. I also know the people using those spots are not in wheelchairs or otherwise any more unable to walk than me. I will not take those two handicapped spots in the close parking lot because, in my infinite ability to reason myself out of anything, I think that my disabilities are somehow “less” than anyone else’s. After all, I’m a relatively healthy 23 year old. Sure, I had cancer but I don’t need crutches, I am not in pain, and I don’t need to sit down every 10 steps. Of course I’m not that bad off. I mean, I get dizzy spells every once in awhile but so does everyone, right? Right? Stop giving me that look!
I also imagine that people are judging me when they see me get out of or into my car in a handicapped spot. While I have been parking there for almost a month, I still look around to make sure that my colleagues don’t see me leave my car. I imagine dirty looks everywhere I go.
My access to the placard is for a year – though extensions are possible. I am going to try hard not to feel guilty about it.