When I started to learn about anxiety, what it is and how it affects people, I really could see how debilitating was. To start with, I didn’t know what was wrong with me and I thought that anxiety basically just meant nerves. It took me a long time to realise that I did in fact have an anxiety disorder and although mine was severe, there are people out there who have it a lot worse. I began reading different people’s stories and was horrified at how difficult their life is.
I was determined to get through life as best as I could so I went to university. Throughout my education I was fortunate enough to receive a lot of support because my anxiety disorder was classed as a disability. I hadn’t thought about it properly until then but I saw that it was true. I couldn’t function normally in life because of my anxiety which therefore left me in the category of being disabled.
It was only in recent months that I learnt you can now get a blue badge for having a long-term, severe anxiety disorder. Initially I was happy to learn that anxiety was being recognised more widely and that there is more support out there. When I began suffering with an anxiety disorder, it wasn’t as widely accepted and there was a lot of stigma because of it. That meant that people who had real issues with it were often judged or dismissed as their illness not being real because it’s invisible.
However, with that increased awareness, more people are being diagnosed with anxiety or claiming to suffer from it. We all experience anxiety but the scale varies widely and that’s where the problem lies. There is no way to tell how bad someone's anxiety is, meaning that people can abuse the system if they want to.
Now back to the blue badge. Disabled parking spaces are created with the intent to help people with physical disabilities. There is more space surrounding the car so that they are able to get out of their car. These parking spaces are also positioned closer to the shop fronts so that there is a shorter distance to travel from the car to the shop. These spaces make the shops more accessible to those who are physically disabled.
It’s easier to tell if someone has a physical disability than a mental disability which is the first hurdle. If people with long-term anxiety are entitled to blue badges, how can you prove that it is severe enough or not for a blue badge. The next hurdle is that as anxiety is becoming more common in people, that would mean that there are more blue badges out there and that means that the disabled spaces are likely to be filled more often.
Once I really began to think about it, I couldn’t see a genuine reason why people with anxiety should be allowed to park in disabled spaces. As I said, it is important that mental illness are validated but is that the way to do it? Having a better parking space becomes a perk and it allows room for some people to potentially abuse the system. Anxiety can affect you physically but not in a way that you should need a bigger parking space. If the issue is judgement or spatial awareness then driving shouldn’t be done by that person anyway. That’s the approach I took to my own driving test: if I wasn’t able to drive properly because of my anxiety then I shouldn’t be on the road. That additional space in a disabled parking spot is needed in order for someone with a physical disability to actually get out of their car and anxiety doesn’t affect you in the same way a physical ability does.
Just a little disclaimer, these are my opinions based on my knowledge and understanding. I genuinely believe that we need strong support systems in place for those struggling with mental illnesses but I also want to remain open minded. I don’t want to see support systems getting abused by those who are not experiencing the debilitating effect of certain conditions.
Comment below on your thoughts!