To the woman who chose not to judge me: Thank you
To the woman who served me in the RMS and chose not to judge me,
Thank you. Thank you for treating me like a person. Thank you for not questioning the fact that I am in my 30’s and renewing my Mobility Parking Permit. Thank you for not looking me up and down as I approached you. Perhaps you could see the fear in my eyes, the shame on my face. Or perhaps you’re just a decent person and would treat anybody the same.
You didn’t even bat an eyelid when I handed over my renewal form, and for this, I am so grateful. I was having a terrible day, and if you had been all judgey, like the people in previous years, things would have got a whole lot worse. You have no idea how important it was for me to walk in there with my form that my doctor of 15 years had diligently completed, and for things to go well. My doctor knows that I need the permit for those bad days; she knows that I meet the criteria; she knows, because she sees me a lot, and honestly that’s her job. Thank you for doing your job and accepting that my doctor knew what she was doing in filling out that form…
I walked in there with dread that day, expecting a battle. I was anticipating being on the receiving end of a good old “you’re young for a mobility permit” or “you look fine to me” talk (or at least “that” facial expression & look of disdain). Thank you for not going there. Thank you. My previous experiences with staff in your position were not pleasant ones. In the past, the shame I felt because I was a 20-year-old who looked “pretty normal” and wasn’t using a wheelchair, yet still needed a permit, was unspeakable. But you didn’t make me feel that way. You didn’t force me to justify my eligibility for the permit. You didn’t force me to defend myself and my disability. You didn’t make me question my very existence and my right to be on this planet, which is often where experiences like this lead me. You just let me be. Thank you.
In fact, the way you treated me has gone a little way towards healing some of the hurt and shame I have experienced when using my permit. The stares, the glares, the ‘look up and down’s’. The unpleasant conversations I’ve had with complete strangers. Having to defend myself and my need for my permit… I have to say it’s usually older people who treat me with “the look of disgust” that has become all too familiar to me.
These older people are lucky that I have more respect for them than they do for me, or the abusive rant they would receive from me would go something like: “Would you like to see all my surgery scars? My medical history? How much time have you got? Last time I checked being old wasn’t a disability, but joints that frequently dislocate, chronic pain and chronic fatigue… I think that might be”. I would like to think that I would never actually say that to someone….. but jeepers, talk about pushing my buttons, and honestly, if someone crossed me on the wrong day…. it would suck to be them (yes, I’m human, and I think ‘not so nice’ things like that!).
So thank you, lady, in the RMS, for accepting me as I am. Thank you for not questioning me; thank you for not questioning my doctor; thank you for realising that 30-year-olds don’t generally get kicks out of queueing up in the RMS or needing to use a Mobility Parking Permit. Thank you for being educated enough to know that not all disabilities are visible. Thank you for treating me like another human being; and thanks for being an awesome one yourself. You made my day so much brighter.
A very relieved Michelle.
P.S. Now we just need to teach the rest of society the same level of acceptance and respect.
Michelle is a Senior Occupational Therapist working solely with adults with hypermobility and related conditions. Michelle is the owner of Hypermobility Connect, an online platform for people with hypermobility to connect with resources, health professionals & each other. Michelle practices OT in her private practice and provides education to health professionals relating to hypermobility conditions.