Yasmin Swift set the record straight.

At first glance, you’d probably think Yasmin Swift is just like any other teenager. But get to know the 19-year-old, and you’d realize she suffers from a serious lung disorder that limits her quality of life.

It’s an invisible illness that affects her every day, so when one stranger tried to shame her for using a disabled space, she decided it was time to speak out about it.

A Hard Diagnosis

a smiling girl

According to KentLive, the 19-year-old hairdresser was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH), a rare condition that can occur spontaneously. There is no known cause, but it comes with a life expectancy of up to 17 years with IV-line medication therapy. Swift has an IV attached to her chest and it’s connected to a pump, which moves her medication around her body.

Swift had to take time off school to learn to cope with her IPAH symptoms and has since learned to live with some of her big life changes. One thing she couldn’t get over, however, was how some people would judge her when she used a disabled parking space.

That’s what happened one summer night when she went to a pub with some of her friends. She parked in the disabled space and displayed her blue badge. When she returned, there was a note attached to her car, telling her she was parked illegally.

The Perfect Response

a note placed on a windshield

Swift was understandably upset, so she decided to craft a response on social media.

“I was angry and frustrated. To be honest, it does make me laugh because I just think people are so arrogant to people with invisible illnesses,” she wrote, as per KentLive. “Where I’m young, and I look well, people are just so quick to judge. You can tell people are staring when you get out of the car and stuff like that, but nobody had actually said anything before, let alone left a note,” she continued.

“When I put my badge up, I feel like I have to walk out of the car limping. But I shouldn’t have to feel like that because there is an illness there, but it just doesn’t show.”

She went on to explain the symptoms of her diagnosis, which include shortness of breath, tiredness, and the potential to black out and faint. “It’s a life-limiting illness,” she continued.

“If I could speak to you, the person that left the note, I would say, just please don’t judge. Just because I’m not in a wheelchair or have a visible ailment, it doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to use a disabled space.”

A Universal Message

While Swift wrote how upset she was, she also commended the online community for showing her support. In the end, she hopes that her message resonates and that people learn not to judge one another when they don’t necessarily know the full story.

“I just hope that the post makes people think before they jump to such damaging conclusions,” she continued. “Something like that could seriously affect someone with an invisible illness. It’s lucky I am how I am, and it just kind of brushes past me, but to some people, that note could have had a big effect on them.”

It’s a reminder to all of us that we don’t always see the full picture when we look at a person. There are many physical and mental things that could be happening to someone who, on the outside, looks otherwise healthy.

Redefining Our Assumptions

That’s why we should try to never assume anything about anyone, especially people we don’t know.

If you see someone using a disabled parking spot, just flash them a smile. In general, we shouldn’t expect people to prove their disability or their invisible illness, and we should be mindful of anyone we meet. There are all kinds of people who might need a disabled parking space, after all.

Meanwhile, there are other things we can do to help destigmatize invisible illness. Whether it’s building our own awareness through research, rethinking our neurotypical standards, or just looking at our own accessibility standards and realizing there’s room for growth, we can all be an ally.

After all, invisible illnesses are exactly what they sound like: they are invisible to those who aren’t going through them. Treating everyone with respect and kindness, however, can lead to universal understanding.

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