I found this Nelson Mandela quote from 1997. The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children. A year before my daughter was born. In her 22 years of life we still have quite a ways to go but even more so for people with disabilities. Many are still discriminated against, dismissed or denied access to services to enable them to live their best lives.
I tried to do some advocating for all disabilities on a post the other day, as I tend to do – not as regularly these days, for the very reason that occurred. The post was stating a need for government to step up services and support for a particular disability, but suggested, almost as an afterthought, “and all special needs.”
I commented that I was being respectful, but as it was suggested other disabilities were being ignored, to be truly inclusive we did not need to highlight one disability over all the others – should we simply say all disabilities.
I was misunderstood. One person responded in CAPS for different words that I did not have the right to tell people how they should be addressed. I answered that I wasn’t suggesting that. She responded that this particular disability was the only one that required early interventions to be successful. There were no others whose needs were as great (even though the poster suggested there was). Now after a couple exchanges she did eventually understand what I was attempting to say and we agreed there is a need for others. But then another person commented in an even harsher manner – how dare I demand people accept my view.
It wasn’t that they disagreed or misunderstood me – text isn’t always easy to understand and people are entitled to their opinions – it was the harsh accusatory reactions. I did not state this particular disability did not need support. I did not use CAPS or DEMAND the original poster change his post. I tried to start a dialogue about inclusive language. Yet the same people who want an inclusive world were protesting about my suggestion others be included.
I have cut back commenting on social media during this pandemic. It was difficult to advocate before 2020. It is even more so now. It is not unusual to see such divisive and harsh comments on political or news sites, or in groups where emotions are sometimes raw – but the comments on even hobby type groups is at a level I’ve never seen. I get many are on edge, but after this last experience I think I’m having a mid-life advocacy crisis.
I respect and admire people who can express themselves eloquently in exchanges online – even when under attack. I continue to follow and learn from people I admire. But after 15 years of this, I’m beginning to tire of how people seem to think it’s okay to attack people for having a difference of opinion. I understand we all have different ways to communicate and skills. But there is a real escalation of conflict everywhere. It is exhausting trying to navigate silos and egos and competition for space.
I started this journey to share my story in the hopes if someone out there needed to know they were not alone they’d find me and not feel so alone. I started this blog to share what I’ve learned. As time went on, so did the desire to advocate at a higher level. But this week, I just don’t think I have it in me.
It was difficult when I had to do it for my daughter. Responding to conflict in a calm manner is a skill. You would think after raising a child with FASD I’d be an expert. As an introvert I have to continually step out of my comfort zone to put myself out there. It doesn’t get any easier.
I’ve had an incredibly difficult few years. We’ve all had a difficult 2020. But I have reached a point where, after being knocked around and down, I just want to get out of the ring for awhile. Maybe it’s time to redirect my energies. It’s time for some inner soul work and it’s time for some serious self care.
I have always worked in the social service sector because I enjoy helping people. I love researching and sharing information. I enjoy presenting to people who want to listen. I don’t mind answering questions and explaining different points of view – but I no longer want to subject myself to the harsh reactions of strangers. It’s not even usually about me. I try to support others who are misunderstood or attacked online.
I signed up for a course on developing self compassion. I think I need to take some time to heal and find the confidence in myself that I seem to have lost somewhere over the last few years.
To those of you who put yourself out there each and every day and respond with grace while you deflect angry and harsh comments, yet are able to rise above, you have my admiration. I try to do that. I just can’t right now.
I saw this post the other day. Maybe I’m not having a mid-life advocacy crisis, but I’m entering the dark night of my soul.