So this week one of my Vet Sisters was approached 2 different times about why she was parking in the handicap parking spot. Once by an older man and once by another woman. I’m sure many of you (vet sisters) can relate to this. They assume you are using your husband’s DV plates so you don’t have to walk far. You know, because we don’t look like a veteran or we are to pretty to have served in the military. And then, of course, the always faithful “you don’t look disabled.” For some, this conversation causes the blood to begin boiling, and very graphic Alley McBeal moments enter our minds. (If you ever watch Alley McBeal, she would have the moments of (daydream) of crawling over the desk and beating the crap out of the person that just walked into her office). Too many times, we fall victim to being pulled into this nasty curse-fest yelling obscenities to the person that made the comment about the parking. I should mention – this “you don’t look disabled” isn’t just about being a woman – ALL veterans with invisible wounds have probably encountered a conversation like this. If only the images and thoughts in our minds were visible – like a movie that someone else could view so they could fully understand the how debilitating these invisible wounds really are. Funny thing, though, and I just thought about this – does a person with a heart condition or lung cancer “look” disabled? No, but they are usually much older and well if an old person is parking in the handicap spot then they must be handicap. But a young, healthy looking girl with no apparent mobility issues (no missing legs, no cast, etc) can’t possibly have a condition requiring her to have quick access to the building or to her vehicle! I wish that those people who feel so inclined to curse and say horrible things to a woman parking in a handicap spot (yes, for my friend, she was called a Bitch that day among some other obscenities) – I just wish for one moment, we could give them our brain and the paralyzing control it sometimes has over our bodies. I wish they could feel the walls closing in on them, feel as though they are drowning yet there is no water, feel the tightness in their chest that makes them think they are having a heart attack, feel so paralyzed that they literally just fall to the ground and go into some sort of shock, or worse – feel like they are back in a place such as taking mortar or small arms fire because some sound triggered flashbacks to a time they were attacked downrange. If you could just experience event a hit of any of those feelings, you would understand why she needed to park so close. NOT ALL WOUNDS ARE VISIBLE!!! But lets go a step further. How many of you DO have mobility issues and “suck it up” as you are trained to do in the military, but with every step you grit your teeth from the pain. Pain that gets worse depending on the weather. How about the mother who has small kids on top of the physical ailments. You see her lifting a case of water into her car so she must not really be disabled right? News flash….she lifts that case of water because she has no other choice. She has to buy groceries. She has to provide for her kids. She does things she knows aggravates her condition because she HAS to – and then just deals with the pain. But because she is woman and she “looks” normal – she can’t be disabled.
Here’s the deal – NOT ALL WOUNDS ARE VISIBLE!! And yes, there are some with serious handicaps that CHOOSE to NOT park in the handicap spaces. And there are some who may not have as severe of a handicap that choose to use the spaces. It isn’t your place to judge or decide for them. If someone is parked in a handicap spot that does NOT have handicap plates/placard, then by all means say something because that is against the law. But even in that situation, you don’t have the right to curse or invade their personal space. Call the cops and let them handle it. But if you do see a handicap plate and don’t think (in your opinion) they are handicap, simply keep your mouth shut and keep on walking. You have no idea what that person is dealing with. It’s bad enough we have to justify or prove that we served to the many uneducated folks that seem to not realize women serve in the military. But for those with medical/mental health issues that resulted from our service, having you in our face demanding we justify to you (who made you the handicap police anyway?) why we are parking in a spot that both the VA and the Licensing office validated us as being authorized to use – well it’s just a slap in the face to our service.