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To you. You in the handicap parking spot.

 

 
I saw you.  Getting out of your car with a grin on your face.  Closing the door and strutting towards the store with your head high.  From that handicap parking spot.

I thought it.  That it was probably your grandmother's car.  How could you?  How dare you take that parking spot from someone who actually needs it.

I stared.  297 days ago.

And with all my heart, I'm sorry.

I'm sorry because 297 days ago, I learned that pain is often invisible.

It's invisible in people like my dear friend with the beautiful, youthful figure and the exuberant little children and the smile that could bring up the sun.  She looks like her life might just be perfect.  But you can't see the Rheumatoid Arthritis that is ravaging her body on the inside.  You can't see that underneath her glowing skin is chronic and excruciating pain.  Pain that restricts her ability to cradle her small son or to dance with her sweet young girl.  Pain that restrains her.  Pain that would love to bury her.
 
And maybe today is a really good day for her.  Maybe, today, she's dancing through it.  Maybe, today, she could lift her feet onto that ottoman and rock that wavy haired baby in her arms.  But, most people wouldn't even notice the difference.  Because her pain is invisible.

If she needed a handicap spot for those good days when she can actually put her kids into the car and make it all the way to the store, so that she could protect her fragile body until the next day that probably won't be so good just because she took that trip today...would you judge her?

Is your pain invisible?  You don't look like you're hurting to me.

But, I can't see what's underneath your grin.  Maybe you're grinning because today, you're a champion.  Today, you beat the odds.  Today, you fought against that thing that has brought you so much suffering.  Today, you got up and you pressed your foot against the accelerator and you moved forward.  People might not see the pain.  But that doesn't make it less real.  That doesn't make it less chronic.  Less present.  Less daunting.

296 days ago, I was diagnosed with invisible pain.