“You Shouldn't Be Parked There”

It was cold, wet and miserable outside. It all felt too hard, but I decided to drag myself away from our fireplace and venture out to catch-up with a friend.

As we sat in a café immersed in conversation, a lady barged in. Her car was blocked in and she asked whether anyone owned the blue car.

Trying to be helpful I said, "no, mine's the white one next to it, in the disabled park." Instead of thanking me, her spontaneous and aggressive response was, "you shouldn't be parked there anyway!" Taken aback, all I could manage to blurt out was, "I've got MS."

In that moment, I felt self-conscious and angry, and I struggled to come up with an eloquent response.

On reflection I wish I had said, "I have MS and...

You represent my worst parking nightmare. Every time I park in a disabled space I fear judgement. Before opening the door I always survey who is watching. I then brace myself for the dirty looks, the sniggers and remarks. And today, you have delivered.

Having lived with MS for nearly 20 years, such outings have not always been possible. In the past, aggressive relapses have, at times, meant weeks and even months in hospital and rehab. I've been paralysed, had to stay in bed, used a wheelchair and have been faced with the challenge of learning how to walk again (and again and again).

Although you see me sitting down now, the reality is I still struggle with mobility. You may watch me walk into a building and appear to be okay. But keep watching. See how my legs quickly tire and my gait widens. And, inevitably, a folding walking stick will appear out of my handbag.

My balance is compromised. Uneven surfaces, such as this café's carpark, are difficult to navigate. I'm constantly fearful of tripping or falling.

I wish I didn't need to park in these spaces. My choice, and my goal, is to park 100 metres away and enjoy a brisk walk. But at times this just isn't possible."

But I shouldn't have to tell an outspoken stranger all of this. Both me and my neurologist have deemed disabled parking necessary. And sitting in a café, enjoying catching up with a friend, I don't want to remind myself of all that is wrong and of the challenges I face every day. Let me enjoy being out.

One month on from this experience, I would also like to say to that stranger, "thank you! Your words have...

Made me resolute to not let the reactions of others stop me from going out and living well with MS. Now when I drive into a disabled park I don't even notice who is watching.

Encouraged me to reflect and celebrate how much my health has improved. I've worked so hard at creating a life that is conducive to my overall wellbeing. I'm glad that you think I look too healthy to deserve a disabled park.

Highlighted that we still need to educate others not to be so quick to judge based on appearance. I am not alone in living with hidden symptoms, experiences and challenges. Let's try to refrain from judgement and not assume the worst. Instead, be kind, as we really don't know the hidden stories of others."
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Teisha Rose

Teisha was diagnosed with MS in 1997 and lives in Australia. She is the author of "Life Interrupted: My journey from hurdle to hope" and writes to demonstrate that moving beyond life’s interruptions is possible. Discover more about Teisha’s journey with MS by visiting Lives Interrupted.

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  • Avatar
    katie_joy  Aug 4, 2017 12:06 PM
    I've had people say I shouldn't be parked in the handicapable parking spots, too. I try my best NOT to look disabled and it is frustrating when people think unless it is visible disability, you are taking advantage of something. I just tell them "If you'd like, I'll be happy to show the customer service counter or a store employee my card that shows I can park there, but it isn't any of your business why I'm parked in that spot. Have a great day."
  • Lisa Foley   Aug 4, 2017 1:22 PM
    I was diagnosed with MS in 1997, it took me 17 years to finally get a handicapped plaque, I get looks all the time, I usually just smile and wave at the rude people!!!!
  • Janis   Aug 4, 2017 1:28 PM
    My 39 year old daughter has experienced this before. One day while leaving her condo to go out her car was parked in a handicapped spot in front. That Day legs were unsteady. As she proceeded to get into the vechile two people were in front of her car. They preceded to talk about how she has a disabled sticker and now she is going to drive drunk. She was horrified!!!. Awareness of MS is crucial so others can truly understand the hardship and restrictions one faces with this disease.
  • CommunityManager_Nicole   Aug 4, 2017 1:37 PM
    Your words speak volumes to those of us who have experienced what you did. I’ve had MS for 11 years and like you have experienced the range of walking - not walking - walking again. A few years back I woke up paralyzed and ended up in a wheelchair for close to over 2 years. While I was lucky and able to walk again, it didn’t come without a lot of hard work and medication changes. Obviously during this time parking in a handicap spot didn’t turn heads but once I started walking to the point of it not being overly visible that something was wrong, I too noticed the stares, glances, etc. At first, it really bothered me as I’m not one that likes attention, I panic when “all eyes are on me” but then I thought about all that I have achieved and realized that getting out is a GIFT….I am being “gifted” the ability to get out and enjoy myself, I am being “gifted” the ability to run to the store to buy that gallon of milk that we just ran out of…….I AM BEING GIFTED!

    Thank you for sharing your story and for not allowing those who simply don’t understand and fail to even try to come between you and your happiness. 
  • Rachael   Aug 4, 2017 1:51 PM
    Thank you writing this and sharing about your challenges, I too have dealt with these kind of feelings myself. I appreciate this.
  • Sally Gibbs   Aug 4, 2017 3:21 PM
    I can honestly say I have never been confronted by anyone. I always use my handicapped plaquard and I am usually fairly mobile.

    My biggest problems are fatigue and lack of memory. Compound that with mobility issues, strength issues and a possibility of spending long hours trying to find my car in a massive parking lot in which there are hundreds of black SUVs (which I drive) to choose from in 100 degree or -30 degree weather. I was diagnosed 25 years ago. I am known to smile a lot, yet avoid eye contact with people in a parking lot because I'm concentrating on where to go and how to get there... I am not concerned about what people think; but, I appear to be confident and pleasant, even when I'm not. Bottom line...I need to do the things I can when I am able to do so. If someone questions it in the future, I know it's their problem!
  • Phillippa Brookes   Aug 4, 2017 4:01 PM
    I wish people would stop judging others, not all disabilities are visible, this makes me as a MS sufferer so angry, I know I myself feel uncomfortable even though owning a blue badge feel bad when my partner parks in a disable bay to make it easier for me !!!! NO ONE should JUDGE anyone !!!!!!
  • Dave   Aug 4, 2017 4:11 PM
    I was Diagnosed with PPMS just last year. I had been having progressing weakness in my left leg for years. I now have the placard and go through the same thoughts when parking. My wife is very sensitive to it and will rip anyone head off if they talk smack. Anyone that could spend a little time in my shoes would understand that I need the spot and am not just milking the system. I would LOVE to be able to park at the back of the lot and walk in.
  • Rebecca Wells   Aug 4, 2017 4:48 PM
    You were far too nice. People like that respond to the same thing they give I would have told her I didn't know evil was a disability..
  • Fred   Aug 4, 2017 7:10 PM
    Others around me have suggested that I should ask for a disabled parking permit, I find that I need to use my walking stick on occasion, but it's rare. But I have noticed the MS has gotten worse. People don't understand what MS does to us, we try to explain but it's difficult. then try to explain to a stranger who doesn't see any visable things. I used my walking stick at Disneyworld because I needed to use it but it also had another affect. I noticed that I didn't get trampled by the crowds when they saw the walking stick. I will hold off on using a disabled parking spot as long as possible, if I need to I won't apologize for using it!
  • Virginia R. Deas   Aug 4, 2017 9:48 PM
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am lucky enough to have a
    Sticker on my back window that says
    TAKE MY MS! That would be a good
    Comment, too. Keep up your good work.
  • Ruben Cabrera   Aug 4, 2017 10:05 PM
    I have been diagnosed with MS for 13 years now.I recently was approved my SS disability.I have been thinking on getting the handicap plaque.I must admit of being scared to get it cause of fear of being judged.Looking at me it seems that I'm ok,but I do have problems with my balance.Thank you for sharing your story.It gives me strength and hope to have no fear
  • Cristina del Castillo   Aug 5, 2017 10:34 AM
    Leaving in Miami Florida and most of the days at 95F feeling like 105F and in the need to work and go out for regular necessities, I need to park on this spaces, even that I feel fine and look good I tried not using them but heat is a must no for me...and I have seen people look at me weird, tell me a bunch of words and I alwas said the same, not all you see is truth...so keep quiet as you do not want to be in my shoes!
  • Julie   Aug 5, 2017 11:22 AM
    Picking up my grandchildren after school once, I had a woman walk up to my window and tell me that this was a handicap area. I told her that if she were to look at my license plate she would see it is a handicap one. I watched in my side mirror as she walked to the back of my car to look. I wondered why she thought I would lie about such a thing?
    I've had people approach me in a parking lot so many times that I now just ask them if they would like my neurologist's number so they can call him and chat with him about it. This may not be nice but after 17 years I have grown weary of it.
  • Trina Hansen   Aug 8, 2017 6:42 PM
    Hi i have had MS for 25 years now ... im not able to park in the disabled car parks as i am not disabled enough. .according to centrelink... like you i have same problems with my MS....
  • Brendan   Aug 9, 2017 10:40 AM
    Unfortunately, my MS is obvious. I wish I would get comments, I might think of a quick come back, but probably not. Maybe after I stew on it for a bit, I'm just surprised the cops don't do a sobriety check on me... OK, My viewpoint on Handicap parking, it is the ONLY good thing about being handicapped. Use it, enjoy it, and start working on your come backs, that way you're ready next time...
  • Mary   Aug 13, 2017 11:04 PM
    I'm in my mid thirties and have had RRMS for 10 years. I first got my handicapped plate when I went back to school. My college had not nearly enough parking, and public transit wasn't an option for me due to the distances involved. After several weeks I broke down and asked my neuro MD if I qualified for one. It had gotten to the point that the stress over parking was making my symptoms worse, not to mention the long walks in heat. Since then my symptoms have gotten worse, so I have to use it more often. Ive gotten a lot of dirty looks and a few comments, and that is really frustrating. I think part of the problem is that I live in an area where parking is at a premium and misuse of placards (i.e. using one that belongs to another person) is rampant. I wish officials would take care of that problem!
  • Kelley   Aug 18, 2017 6:06 PM
    This is a sensitive issue for me as I have MS and use a wheelcHair. There are many times when all the handicapped spots are taken... it seems like anyone over 60'has a placquard these days. In fact I've see one for sale on Craigslist. I can't park in a spot without van access;otherwise my ramp won't have the space to descend. Many people with placquards park in the van spot even when the other handicapped spots are open. Also many handicapped people park crooked becuz the spots are usually large. They don't realize that although they may not need the extra space, other handicapped people do need it. So the bottom line is... if you have a placquard leave the van spot alone unless there are no other spots available AND park between the lines!
  • Robert Howard   Aug 22, 2017 11:43 AM
    Before I started using a cane, I had a lady leave a note on my truck. I'm now at the point where I always need a cane for short walks, a walker or my electric scooter on longer trips. Since then nothing has happened with the parking permit.
    I must use the handicap stalls in the restroom. I've lost track of how many men come out of that stall that are not handicapped 😢
  • nikeetee  Aug 23, 2017 4:02 PM
    It's been five years now on this MS journey and I was very reluctant in the beginning to get a handicap distinction… I totally understand the feelings and the relapses but I am so glad I got one. I do you try and park in the regular spot on a good day but not so good days I could care less what anybody has to say
  • Diana Swift   Sep 14, 2017 11:31 PM
    I was diagnosed in 1993 and did well coping with my disease until recently. I find I can do less & less which totally frustrates me causing me to be angry and pessimistic
    about my life. I would love to correspond with you about hope for the future etc
  • Avatar
    anywhereoutofthisworld  Sep 24, 2017 12:45 PM
    Amazing story and I too get the judgemental looks and stares when I park in a disabled spot. People generally are ignorant to MS because it for the most part is the invisible illness. It's not fair and probably will never change. Good for you in turning a negative experience into a positive, I need to start doing as such in my own negative MS run ins.
  • Chuck Harton   Jul 21, 2018 7:25 PM
    I had a lady did that me in the parking lot. I lift up my pant leg and show her my brace and told her i have ms. She did not apologize she just storm away.
  • Victoria Orsolano   Jul 21, 2018 8:13 PM
    Beautifully written. I understand & feel for you. Im in a wheelchair & still get looks. I hold my head high & ingnore ignorant people. I have recently found out I have ms. It is beyond a daily struggle to just take care of myself. Going out starts an even bigger anxiety attack. Feeling judged by others is the worst. Searching for acceptance from strangers makes me not want to go out. Yet I do, because I am not a quitter.
  • Eric   Jul 21, 2018 9:03 PM
    Hello i have had people tell me I can not park in these spaces to I was diagnosed in 2014 with ppms and it's just getting worse but I have been fighting this for a lot longer I have both handicap plates and a plaqered they always tell me the plates don't count I need the plaquered also I just smile and say thank you and laugh
  • Gill   Jul 22, 2018 1:45 AM
    I have also been watched when parking in a disabled space. I now have two stickers in my rear window. Not all disabilities are visible and another one about MS. If anyone comments I just point at these.
  • Scott Ricker   Jul 22, 2018 6:29 AM
    Please everyone or the person who said she like to see who is watching when she parks in an Accessible (HP) parking space. MSers are deserving of using the (HP). I have been using (HP) for many years now. I have had a significant disability well before my dx of MS. I lost my right arm in a motorcycle accident 30 years ago this August 18th. It's a very misunderstood concept that wheelchair users are the only ones that should use (HP) spaces....

    that is not a true valid & accurate thing. I need my car door to be fully open then I use my elbow to hook the frame of the car behind my seat and pull myself out of the car. I also position the door fully open when I get into the car....

    the Access aisle makes it possible for me to do this maneuver...when a 5' Access aisle is available I will use that (HP) space. When a parking space is available on the opposite side of an (HP) parking space, I will use it because I then have use of the Access aisle. If the (HP) parking space is the only space available, I will use it....

    people tend to be very ignorant about who and how an Accessible (HP) parking space can be and should be used and by who. They think only wheelchair users should use one.....not true....just go about your life and don't let others ignorance intimidate you....
  • Gaz Cook   Jul 22, 2018 9:11 AM
    Thanks for writing this I've only been diagnosed since August last year and have found getting out of the car a bit of a trail at times though I'm learning to ignore the looks hope your having a great week and getting out to see friends
  • capitolcarol   Jan 1, 2019 5:43 PM
    Teisha Rose,

    Thank you for a great article. I can imagine it would be Infuriating to have to go through this a lot. Not everybody can see or feel our MS and what we are going through.