“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about….be kind!” I’ve seen this quote many times, and can still remember the first time I saw it. It was on another teacher’s desk. I read it, and it stayed with me. We all have battles that no one sees. They may be emotional, personal, physical, or mental.
I saw a couple grumbling about a healthy looking young man parking in a handicapped parking spot, but he had the proper tag allowing him to do so. I guess his handicap wasn’t apparent. Maybe he was perfectly healthy, and driving his elderly grandfather’s car, but maybe he wasn’t.
Not all conditions or illnesses are apparent. Arthritis, lupus, cancer, diabetes, tumors, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, OCD, hard of hearing….all of these conditions may or may not be apparent, but each one impacts the person’s life each and every day, whether we see it or not. As someone who has had some scary health problems that haven’t always been visible, I’ve been told to “Get over it,” “You’re not sick,” or my favorite….(from one of my least favorite people)…”Liven up!” Feeling pain from arthritis in my back, knees, hands, and now my feet has been excruciating at times, and I’ve been dealing with that for most of my life. Having social anxiety is also very difficult (I think we used to just be considered “shy”), but I just have to deal with it.
It’s not for us to decide how someone deals with these conditions. It’s important to offer support and understanding to anyone who may be struggling. We don’t walk in their shoes, and don’t get the right to condemn or criticize them for the way they’re coping and managing, or criticize them for where they park. Each day is different, and there are highs and lows. I’ve known people who seem perfectly happy and healthy reveal that they suffer from clinical depression or bi-polar. They’re just really good at concealing it in public, or are under the care of a physician who has found the right treatment for them.
Recently, I’ve been dealing with some serious physical health issues. A year ago, I also went through something very serious. Ten years ago, I went through some other health issues. None of these are/were obvious by looking at me. I’m also very good about pretending that I’m okay, and making jokes about my conditions. But sometimes it really is scary. Sometimes we just need understanding and not judgement. Sometimes we need a hug. Sometimes I just really want my mother. I’m fortunate that I have supportive people in my life, and not ones who judge or criticize me or how I deal with pain or illness.
So if that perfectly healthy looking young man parks in a handicapped parking space, don’t judge. He may be epileptic, or have a bad back, or maybe had recent surgery. Remember, everyone is fighting a battle that we may not see…..be kind.