Last week I took a big step forward to gain back more independence by asking my doctor to fill out my state’s Disabled Person’s Parking Affidavit form. The decision, for me, was pretty difficult to make. I had been contemplating the idea for quite some time. Getting around and holding up physically has continued to be increasingly difficult. And I’ve known for quite a while that something had to give. I’ve become more dependent on my husband to do a lot of errands, shopping, cleaning, etc because I simply cannot hold up. I needed something to make my life easier. So last week I printed out the form from my state’s DMV office and took it with me to my doctor’s appointment. The form was quick and easy to fill out, just simple information: name, driver’s license number, vehicle info if wanting a tag rather than a placard (I went with the placard). My doctor filled out his part and the appropriate section, had it notarized and I picked the form back up the next business day. Truthfully, I met the criteria for a handicap permit almost 2 decades ago, but I couldn’t bring myself to accept the fact that I needed one. I was definitely fearful of facing the reality of my physical disability. I was so young, just 19 when my disabling symptoms got worse and began affecting my normal activities of daily living (ADLs). Back then it felt like a handicap permit would have been a defeat. And not having a clear diagnosis of what was wrong with me didn’t help my perspective on the matter either. So I chose to struggle instead. Don’t get me wrong, I learned a few tricks along the way that made some things easier. I finished out the last several years of college (graduating in 2005) with a rolling book bag, constant stops for breaks due to shortness of breath, tachycardia, weakness, dizziness, etc. I knew where every bench, chair, spot to sit down was on campus and every place I went. If I went somewhere new the first thing I would do is look for somewhere to sit if I was having an episode. I knew when I was overdoing it and what the consequences were. I learned how to read by body. There were days I didn’t think I was going to make it without passing out and times I had to just sit down wherever I was at. My nursing classmates would comment that I should get a handicap permit. Occasionally, a passerby would stop and ask if I was O.k., my reply always being “yeah, I’m fine”. Back then, it almost seemed like some sort of accomplishment the more I could push myself despite the negative end result and payback of worse symptoms. The daily attempt to ignore my own limitations and keep pressing forward with the hopes it would all eventually get better or go away was blatant denial. Now, I realize, I should have been much kinder to myself. There is no shame in needing exceptions or assistance because I am different. I’ve been using a cane on my worst days since last November. I’ve been wearing a mask when I go out to decrease allergic reactions for over a year. I am taking the necessary steps in reaching the place of accepting that I have the right to allow myself tools that help make my life less difficult. When I went to the tag office it felt surreal. I almost cried during the process, but I know it was the right decision, and one that I should have made a very long time ago.
Ironically, gaining something back didn’t require giving something up after all.