Monday, September 9, 2013
There Are Always Two Sides
When you read a person's blog, their tweets, their Facebook page, the important thing to remember is you are only getting one side of the story. No matter what you read, no matter the stories you are told, there is always another side you don't know about. Always.
A few years back, when I started blogging more about autism than my trips to Target, we were in a dark time. K's aggression was at it's height. I won't go into details about things that happened, but at one point I thought K and I were going to have to move out. It was time when we made appointments with every doctor and therapist we could. When we had IEP meetings every month. When I felt so defeated, I wondered how I'd make it through the day.
And I wrote about it on my blog. I went into far too many details, not thinking twice about my daughter's privacy, or how the world was going to view here through reading my blog. Of course, I had people emailing me their sympathies. I had people tweeting me, and supporting me on FB. No one ever asked what the other side was. Why K was having such behaviors. What we were going to figure it out, or, yes, what part my husband and I played in the situation. People didn't think about K. I didn't think about K. I thought about myself, and how hard my life was, and that was all I wrote about. Looking back, I see what a huge part I played in making those days so dark. How horribly I handled things. How I ran us all ragged with those doctors and therapist appointments. How I was basically telling my child through my actions how bad she was, and how she was ruining all our lives.
At the time, I didn't see it that way. If someone had asked for the other side of the story, or tried to make me think differently, I probably would have cut them out of my life. I said how much I hated autism. How it was a parasite that was keeping K from being who she was truly meant to be. I did everything in my power to fix her. We spent every spare dollar we had trying to remove autism, and that's no exaggeration. We couldn't afford much else, especially since a lot of things at the time weren't covered by insurance. I barely saw my husband because I was gone 4-5 nights a week with K. My marriage suffered. My son was dragged along to appointment after appointment. It consumed my life...trying to break K free from the big A.
During those years, admittedly, it was all about me. How I felt. What I was doing. How hard life was for me. I was living in a world of self-pity. I was a martyr for the cause.
It's difficult, reflecting back on those years. I spent so much time trying to change my child, I never stopped to wonder if she really needed to be changed. I didn't stop to see how hard life was for her. I didn't take two seconds to see how the decisions I made were affecting my child. What wasn't working. What was best for her, even if it didn't align with the gold standard of autism treatments. I take a lot of responsibility for those years, now. Most of the responsibility. I probably deserve it all.
I'm ashamed at how long it took me to just leave my child alone, and be who she is. She doesn't have to be typical to be a enjoyed. She hasn't been taken hostage by autism. I've learned to listen to her, spoken word and not. I used to blame our old speech therapist for dropping K as a client bc of her behavior issues, but the thing is, K was telling us all that it just wasn't working anymore. I was too stubborn to listen. Behavior is communication. Always. I just never listened. I knew best. I was the mom.
K still has her days. The difference is, I just let her be. Forcing anything always makes things more difficult, and autism isn't something to be conquered. It's just how her brain is wired. We tend to personify it, making it something it isn't, and that's what gets us in trouble. Autism is a word we use to describe a certain type of neurology, but it's not alive. It's not doing anything to anyone. It's not evil. It's not some separate entity we can kill off, no matter what some people believe.
Here's the thing, we all have our own opinions about autism, and that's fine, but only if our kids are safe. The second we start doing things to our children that are potentially harmful, burning ourselves out to fix them, making them feel like they are less, then it's not fine. Our children, no matter how severe, are people. Human beings, with thoughts and feelings and emotions. They have a side of the story, too, and it isn't just about us as parents. We have to be honest about our kids, our shortcomings, and what is really beneficial.
I never thought I'd be on this side. I never thought I'd step away from hating autism. I rallied against it for so long, and I did cut people out of my life who I thought were judging my parenting. I was angry, and lost, and depressed...and I made myself that way. And it was never my child's fault. We choose how we live, and we can't live in such a negative space forever. If we do, then things like last week happen, and they just can't.
I also want you to be aware of how those not in the autism community view us. I was reading a People article today about the incident last week, and I was sickened by some of the comments. How, after reading this mother's blog, some believed she should be freed. That it was completely understandable, trying to kill your child in that situation. That one side they read, her words, made them think she hadn't even committed a crime. Her life had been so hard, all because of her autistic daughter. No mention of what that child went through. It's easy to say these things when we don't see both parties equally, as human beings. When one is seen as damaged, and less.. Because that is how these people see Issy. As less. As having done something to make her mother attempt murder. It's all her fault.
And I say again, there are two sides of every story.
When the outside world (and even those inside) think a mother shouldn't be punished for trying to kill her child, because autism is so awful, and her life was so hard, then we have failed as a community. We need to stop fighting one another, and work together to keep every child safe. They should be our #1 priority. I hope we can all agree on that. You can continue to hate autism, and send that message to the world, but just realize how that message shapes the opinions of others. Stop and decide what message you really want to send, and how much our children are worth.