I am not disabled.

My gait is slow, and my breathing can be heavy. Before deciding to park and enter a store I may deliberate a bit (if I get a spot right by the entrance, it’ll half the distance and I might just manage it…) And I admit that a few family vacations found me sitting by the car in some far off spot, waiting while the others walked nearer to an attraction that I wished I could see with them.

But don’t tell me I need a handicapped parking permit. I don’t. I am not disabled. Do not think of me that way. On a good day, I can do anything… well… almost.

It wasn’t until a co-worker urged me, more than once, to look into getting a special parking permit, that I did. For years I’d resisted the idea. I didn’t need it. It wouldn’t be good for me.

The city was rezoning our parking lot, which meant I might be walking in from a block or two away. I liked to swim a few mornings each week, before work. (Nothing super athletic – just me and my flutter board and a very slow journey up and down the lanes.) If I had to walk any distance at all after a twenty minute swim, it would spell disaster for my heart during the day. So I needed to choose: give up swimming or get a special parking permit.

I got a permit.

It was surprisingly easy. My GP provided the paperwork and I found myself staring at a clerk in ServiceOntario, trying not to cry.

She’d handed me the permit. It was blue – royal blue, with a white wheelchair stamped onto it.

Disabled Me.

That’s what it said to me, and it broke my heart. I wanted to be normal. Don’t you? If I put this thing in my window, everyone would know my secret: I’m not normal. There are advantages to having an invisible disability. You can pretend.

There’s a stigma associated with most conditions (physical or psychological) and many of us invest a lot of energy in appearing to have it all together. We are capable. Beautiful. Productive. Happy. All the time.

It’s taken me a lot of years to accept my condition, to learn to live with it, and to gain a healthy sense of who I am. My identity really has nothing to do with my physical body. Oh, I like to look good and to feel strong. But if tomorrow finds me without makeup in my bed, I am still me. That inner self that only God sees is ME. It’s the only part of me that will last. The body will break down and die. It happens to everyone.

What’s your spirit like?

Who are you?

Do you believe that God loves you, likes you as you are, and isn’t disappointed by your weakness?

Anchor yourself to these truths during the bleak moments when you feel most broken.

There is hope. You are loved. You are going to be okay.

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