July 12, 2010
Summer is here, making it a great time to prepare for cold weather that promises to arrive a few months from now.
On "handicapped" or accessible parking permits, we see a wheelchair. Yet most people who have these permits don't use a wheelchair. In fact, they may look perfectly healthy. And that's "permissible." After all, most people who have trigeminal neuralgia have been told that they look just fine. But it's not about how we appear to others.
Taking care of oneself sometimes means overlooking the scrutiny of the neighbor, a family member, and the guy in the parking lot who doesn't know us. It means self-advocating. As a certified rehabilitation counselor, I am here to help you find ways to advocate for yourself.
Every state in the U.S. has a unique form (usually found at the tag office) required for applicants of "handicapped" or accessible parking permits. Most of the applications have a category for a physician to make a selection, saying that the individual has difficulty walking. Don't exclude yourself from this group. If you have trigeminal neuralgia, you have a neurological disorder that can cause a number of issues, including difficulty walking.
Think about this issue: when the wind hits your face and causes electrocution-type pains to slice through it, do you have difficulty walking? One time I asked a gentleman this, and he explained to me that he walks backward through the wind, allowing the back of his head to shield the wind. As he does this, he places another jacket over his face to protect him from the windy blasts. It's not a story that surprised me, but it saddened me. People who have invisible disabilities have rights, plenty of them. Sometimes we just have to fight a little harder to get the things we need.
Walking through a parking lot backwards is dangerous, and so is walking through one with a jacket over one's face. Cars come through parking lots, sometimes at a fast pace. Drivers are distracted with phone calls, text messages, and many other things. Most parking lots have precast concrete bumpers in some of the parking slots. It's easy, if our vision is obstructed, to stumble over them.
Accessible parking helped me get my master's degree. I had to park far from class. I was young and looked healthy, but I had to wrap my face up in big scarves when I went to class. I parked right outside the class door, making it possible to traverse the path from my vehicle to the building.
Do you have difficulty walking when the wind blows? If you have trigeminal neuralgia, the answer is probably yes. And the pain may be year round because the wind can howl during any season.
You may want to talk to your doctor about accessible parking this summer, before your pain escalates and before flu season begins. A good way to approach this might be to make a few notes about what you do to protect yourself as you disembark from your vehicle and make your way across a parking lot to see a doctor, to buy medicine, or to get groceries. Sometimes a phone call to a doctor you have established good communication with will be sufficient. Other times, you may want to make an appointment. And if your physician says "no," ask another one.
Have you read With Great Mercy?