This is a tale about a normal day in the autism community online: someone bares her/his vulnerable self in a gutsy post that gets people to consider all the things we keep buried inside because it shows the human side of us, the part that's frail and not always noble. This post divides people into two groups: those who appreciate that the blogger has expressed a truth we share and those who see the opportunity to show how much better they are than the blogger.
I know both sides of this. I'm not ashamed of my vulnerable, weak human side that feels jealousy at times. Right now, for example, many of my childhood friends are watching their children leave home, go to college, fall in love, get married, and become parents, making my friends grandparents. I'd be lying if I said there isn't a sorrow I feel and twinges of jealousy for experiences my oldest isn't experiencing. I'm human, so it's to be expected. I acknowledge these feelings so that I can set them aside and focus on what I do have: the blessings of being close to my son, of seeing him everyday, of talking to him, of watching him play for hours with his sisters, all of them entangled in each other and being incredibly joyful in their play, and when I do that, the jealousy slides away and I am grateful. I am all the more grateful because I went through that process.
As I said, I know both sides of this, as a blogger, as a person. I've laid myself bare and been eviscerated for it. There's a visceral reaction to seeing someone take your words, your emotional reality, and either misrepresent it or just flat out tear you apart. Your gut is twisted in knots, your heart feels constricted, there's a lump in your throat, and you look around for cover, alternately wanting to hide and attack the person who has done this to you.
I've also been that person to do that to you. This I continue to be ashamed of. Because we disagreed on vaccines and I thought the treatments you were using and the language you used to discuss your child was appalling, and because you wrote at Age of Autism, I felt obligated to point out to the world how awful you were. Hubris.
Instead of recognizing where you were in your journey, how much you were hurting, how desperate you were to help your child, yourself, your family, and respecting your emotional reality, I attacked and made your life worse. I made your body react in that same visceral way.
I felt entitled since facts were on my side, and I'll be honest, I felt morally superior, as I would never be desperate enough to put nicotine patches on my child, put mining chelator on their cereal, or use a product that promised a miracle cure but was in reality bleach.
We should be horrified at quack treatments and work hard to warn people, but we shouldn't do that on the backs of parents who've believed in the lies of the snake-oil salesman.
We sure shouldn't cloak ourselves in our perceived moral superiority and go on the attack, taking people apart, line by line, word by word, until they are left in a crumpled pile with the decision to either give up or get angry.
I've been on both sides. Despite the potential pain involved in being the one to make myself vulnerable and admit my humanity, I will always choose to be the first type of blogger rather than ever being the second type of blogger again. That doesn't make me morally superior, nor does it make me a saint. I just can't be that second type of blogger, knowing what it does to the very real people on the other side of the computer screen.
There has to be a way to have thoughtful dialogue where we can discuss how something we've read makes us feel without tearing the other person down, where we can work on our common humanity and frailties and find a way to build each other up, to soothe the pain, to lessen the distrust, to make all of us feel we really do have a place at the table and that our words, our realities, matter. Maybe that way, we'd have a chance to explore the places we feel most vulnerable and ashamed and let those things go so that we can move forward, cleansed.