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The Judgement

Since my diagnosis a year ago, I applied for a disability parking pass as my knees are affected by RD and I have difficulties walking. The purpose of the disability pass is to provide access to a car parking bay as close as possible to the entrance of a building, to make life that little easier. I have been formally diagnosed by two different doctors and three specialists that have all determined that I have a debilitating disease, so legally I am entitled to the pass. So why do I get gazed upon when I get out of my car?

I’ve seen firsthand a 70-year-old man driving to a shopping center and parking in a disability bay, when he exits the vehicle people don’t stare and when they do take notice they all express a gentle smile. I on the other hand am a 29-year-old female parking in a disability bay, as I exit the vehicle people look intently, facial expressions of confusion are displayed and at times even death stares. It’s not difficult to work out what they are thinking in their minds.

How can you judge me when you know nothing about me and what has happened in my life that has led for me to even have a disability pass? Just because you can’t see anything wrong with me doesn’t me that there isn’t!
Recently I learnt what it feels like to have a disability that physically shows as opposed to one that is invisible. A few weeks ago I had surgery on my left knee and was on crutches. When I’d drive to a center and park in the disability bay, as I slowly lifted myself out of the vehicle and you see the crutches, out come the warm gentle smiles from the public, silly enough you get a quick second thought of “finally I fit in”.

It’s not every day we are able to find some advantage of living with this disease, so when we actually do why are we judged for it?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • jdaph
    1 year ago

    Amen,, I to have a disability parking sticker, and get strange looks, but just because my disease, disability may be invisable to others doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  • PamelaP
    2 years ago

    I’m right the with you. It’s also SO upsetting to have a wheelchair and faster access to airport security lines, restrooms, etc. I’ve thought of using a cane but my worst pain is in my hips and I don’t know how to use one for the other.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    2 years ago

    Thanks for writing teejay. When I read your story I immediately thought of an article my wife, Kelly Mack (a contributor here), wrote about sticking out. Kelly has had RA most of her life and her disability is visible. In this article she wrote:

    “I feel for my friends with RA who struggle with an invisible illness that they have to explain to others, who are often not understanding and supportive. While there are things I don’t like about always being visible, at least I don’t have to defend myself and explain that I have pain and a condition that can make life challenging.”

    I understand people don’t intuitively understand a condition like RA, but it would seem almost everyone knows someone with a condition not readily visible. Wishing you the best. Richard ( Team)

  • teejay author
    2 years ago

    Thanks Richard for the insight, enjoyed reading Kelly’s article.

  • Lauren Tucker moderator
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. You are not alone in feeling this way as there are many others in the community that have had a similar experience and have had a very similar feeling. I thought this article would resonate with you:
    We wish people would just “get it” and the judgement would go away too, so you are not alone on that either.
    We are here for you anytime you need support or need to vent.
    Thanks for being here!
    Best, Lauren ( Team)

  • teejay author
    2 years ago

    Thanks Lauren, love the support from this site!

  • Savedbygrace
    2 years ago

    It breaks my heart that so many people are so quick to judge..and it hurts. There are many conditions where people are very sick and because there are sometimes not outward signs of this, people are quick to form opinions that are far from the truth. I too am beginning to learn the harsh reality of having a disease which causes lots of pain, yet I look “fine” on the outside. In the few short weeks since my RA diagnoses, I’ve been told everything from “you don’t look sick” to “it’s just arthritis”. And that’s from people I personally know! So strangers can definitely be more harsh. I feel a lot of the issue is lack of people’s understanding and knowledge about dieseases such as RA. I have found tons of support from this forum though! It feels good to be able to get my frustrations and struggles out and have support of others who really do understand. Wishing you the very best in your journey.

  • teejay author
    2 years ago

    Hey Savedbygrace

    Thank you for note. It is a harsh reality of living with this disease and yet from the outside you look perfectly fine and yes peoples lack of understanding is the main issue for perceiving RA as nothing serious. I believe eventually the more we make people aware of it’s seriousness the easier it will be for us to feel understood.

  • LeeSylvester
    2 years ago

    I have experienced this very same thing. I’ve only had RA for a few years, but spent six months last year bed ridden, so my condition is bad. However, I’m married to a blind woman, and she has had that condition since birth. So, prior to my RA, we had a blue badge. We received stares often. One old lady even said “Well, I don’t see how you are disabled”. Trust me; my wife would prefer not to be.

    Now, I have RA. I’ve just applied for a badge. Well, actually, I attended my mobility appointment relating to it last week, and they seemed to think I am entitled. If I get stares or comments from passers by that I don’t look disabled, I shall just tell them “Well, you don’t look like an ignorant, prejudice idiot, but looks can be deceiving”.

  • teejay author
    2 years ago

    Hi LeeSylvester

    Thank you for your comments, I particularly find your ending too funny.
    Hope the badge helps and makes it easier to get around for you, good luck!

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