I don’t have MS like the woman in the article, but I do have a number of “invisible” handicaps. I have arthritis in my ankles, feet and back. I live with chronic pain 24/7. I do exercises to even just keep the current mobility. I do try to extend my endurance, but unfortunately sometimes my mental issues (chronic depression exacerbated by the chronic pain; anxiety and PTSD from living with my ex-husband) interfere with the self-care regimen above the required mobility exercises.
So, yes, I park in the handicapped spot, just like my parents do. And, more often than not, I try to take the furthest handicapped spot from the door, because while I have mobility issues, other people have it worse than I do.
I use a “mart cart” (the small motorized carts that grocery stores have), and when I’m doing the household groceries, I also grab a regular cart and drag it behind me carefully (because the household groceries don’t fit in that smaller basket). Why? Because I don’t have the endurance to walk all over the store. By the time I’m ¼ done if I’m walking, all my pain issues go from the median level of 4 to an 11!
I see the sniggering, the laughing, the pointing, and the disapproving looks because I’m also a fat woman. I see the judgement and hear the cruel comments, assuming the only reason I’m in a cart is because of that fat. I hear the cruel confrontations about what is in my cart(s), because some random person thinks they have the right to make a value judgement on my physical state.
I don’t judge you for the piss poor food you’re feeding your children, because one of those children may have an illness that ramps up their metabolism. I don’t intervene in your dealing with the temper tantrum of your child, unless the child is in physical danger. I don’t make a comment about your hygiene when it is obvious you haven’t showered since New Year’s Day.
I am also helpful when someone is having trouble. A few years ago, I was buying assorted foods for a household Thanksgiving. A petite Muslim woman who had just gotten her citizen papers was trying to make a “traditional Thanksgiving meal.” She was completely out of her depth, because even though she had recipes, they didn’t offer the multiple options she was faced with – particularly in regards to stuffing. I spent about 15 minutes talking to her about her family’s tastes in spices and herbs, and how best to deal with the dinner. Why? Because her white in-laws were coming, and she wanted to impress them.
By the time we ended the discussion, she was tearfully thankful. And I felt that I had done a good deed.
I smile at people when they pass me. I wait and let other people go first, because I can see how tired and frustrated they are. I say “excuse me,” “please,” and “thank you.” I try to be nice to the workers in the store, because they have to deal with entitled assholes a million times during their shifts.
However, more often than not, I pity those cruel, entitled assholes. Why? Because it is obvious to me that they are living a miserable life. They compare themselves with everyone in the world and tend to feel like they don’t measure up. The only way they can feel better is to judge someone else so they can feel superior to someone. It doesn’t stop me from confronting their assholish behavior.