I’ve been struggling with a disability since 1993, almost 20 years now. The disability is invisible to those who don’t know me.
I’ve had a herniated / collapsed disc in my lower back which bulges out against the sciatic nerve. When I’m walking, the pressure of gravity on the spine causes the disc to bulge out even further, causing pain in the lower back.
The longer I walk, the worse it gets. If I’m walking for more than 5 minutes, my legs go numb. As soon as I sit down or even rest and put my weight on something, it eases the pain and I get feeling coming back into my legs. Only for the numbness to return again when I continue walking.
It’s something I’ve been able to cope with and manage. I get regular chiropractor sessions to put my skeletal structure back into place (the spinal weakness causes my muscles to compensate, which seems to pull my skeletal structure out of alignment on an ongoing basis). I also get regular massages, although I haven’t done for a few months because my girlfriend does a lot of that these days, and gets my body feeling all relaxed. (From massage! Get your mind out of the gutter…)
Recently, however, I’ve had some new problems. Due to the offroading enhancements I’ve made on my #fjcruiser , it will no longer fit into undercover parking and I have to look for street parking or outdoor carpark areas. On the weekends, this is ok, it’s not too busy and I can find carparks near my destinations so I don’t have to walk very far. But during business hours during the week, it’s a completely different story.
When I’ve needed to come into the CBD to attend a meeting for work, parking for my vehicle has been nonexistent. I’ve often had to find parking quite a distance away, which has been about a 15 minute walk.
This is a nice, easy distance for most people. For me, it’s been a freakin’ nightmare.
So after much deliberating and self-questioning, I booked an appointment with my doctor (meeting him in a couple hours from now) to get him to authorise a Disability Parking Permit.
For the entire period of this disability, I’ve refused to accept it as a disability. I refused to accept or acknowledge that I’m disabled. Twenty years ago I was sent an ‘invalid application form’ because the nature of my disability was such that I couldn’t work at the time, and the independent government medical assessment determined that I’d never work again and was thus eligible for an invalid pension.
I threw it away and angrily said “I’m not disabled!” and got on with my life instead, working where I could, in the industry that I could. Which happened to be IT, where I can sit down and relax all the time.
So now, I’m at a point in my life where I have to accept and acknowledge that yes, I’m disabled. Walking is a significant problem for me, and yes, I need a disability parking permit for those times when I can’t get a normal park close by where I need to go.
There’s an embarrassment within me, a sense of broken pride that I can’t cope with what my life is giving me. But as someone explained to me recently, it’s about maintaining the quality of my life, and if this permit will do that, then I should make use of it.
There’s also the knowledge that there are many, many others who are far more disabled than me, who I would be worried about taking a space for someone more deserving. But that’s part of the acknowledgement of my own disability that I’m working through.
There’s also the embarrassment I’ll feel when challenged by someone when I get out of my vehicle in a manner that suggests I’m not disabled at all. But I read this article just now which inspired me to write this post.
This particular paragraph resonated with me:
Comparing one person’s needs to another’s echoes the old adage about comparing apples and oranges. It’s subjective and pointless. A person with a disability who doesn’t require a wheelchair could be in an incredible amount of pain; a person with a wheelchair could be pain free, but have to overcome a lot of difficulty to exit and enter their car; a person with an upper body disability might have trouble carrying items long distances, or pushing a trolley. Who’s to say which struggle is more deserving when there is limited disabled parking available?
And then this paragraph also struck a chord with my own way of thinking:
As a permit holder and sometimes wheelchair user, I am mindful that there are people with needs different to mine. My choice to use disabled parking is calculated by considering my pain level, plus distance, divided by regular parking availability. If I don’t need it and have another option, I won’t park there.
So in a couple of hours I’ll talk to my doctor and get this application form authorised by him. I remember he offered to authorise this action about 14 years ago, but I refused at the time.
Tomorrow I’ll have a disabled parking permit. Tomorrow I’ll be disabled, and I’ll accept that.
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