We Don’t Need to Decide What is Worse

My ah-ha moment really has nothing to do with my son or his autism.  But more about how moms in the special needs world view and treat each other.

About three years ago, I met one of the most important people in my life.  My close friend Carrie.  She has a little guy who is 4 ½ and has nonverbal autism.  My autistic 6 ½ year old is verbal.  So, they are basically opposites.

Carries lives pretty far from me, so we don’t get to see each other often.  But we are each others go-to for the really tough days.

Recently, Carrie had a really tough time with something that she read in one of those supportive mommy blog groups on Facebook. You know the blogs you go to for comfort and guidance and someone to say, ‘me too’ and ‘I understand.’  Except, we all know that in those groups, sometimes the advice or comments don’t come across in a way that feels accepting or helpful.

Sometimes you put yourself out there in those ‘groups’ hoping to come out feeling stronger and better, but you end up feeling worse and questioning every thought you’ve ever had.

Carrie had one of those days recently and we were texting about it. Of course we were texting because you all know a phone call in our households is nearly impossible right?

Our conversation started with her saying she hated that people felt sorry for her son, that she felt people viewed her son as incompetent, and like he would never amount to anything.  She said she was sad that people felt she had it worse than others just because her son was nonverbal.

And then, it dawned on me. I think I was one of those people she was referring to. Because even though I LOVE and ADORE her son like he is my own, and even though I thought I was always being the best friend I could be…it dawned on me. I felt terrible.

You see, because Christian is nonverbal, I always considered Carrie ‘to have it worse than me.’  I always thought that even though we deal with anger and aggression and other scary parts of autism, that I was lucky because my son could talk.

I owned up to it.  I let her know that while I never pity her and I absolutely never feel like her son is a lost cause…that I do feel bad for her and I do feel like she has it worse than me.

And this amazing thing happened. She wasn’t mad!  She even expressed that she never felt that way from me.  That she always felt loved and supported and that she too feels as though I have it worse than her.

And that is when we both sort of realized…wait…IT IS POSSIBLE to feel ‘bad’ for someone without putting shame on them, or handing over pity, or judging, or competing.

It is possible that she has it just as bad as me, and that I also have it just as good as her.  We don’t need to decide what is worse. We just need to recognize in each other that life presents struggles and challenges and at the end of the day the only way to make it through those challenges, is with a tribe of people.

Best friends strapping on a back pack full of supplies: good shoes to climb that mountain, a tumbler full of wine to hydrate, jokes because humor is what gets us through, headphones to listen, and a hug to let them know you are hanging on tight for the ride.

Empathy goes a long way. It doesn’t discount what you struggle with, it doesn’t take away your own pain, and it doesn’t trump your bad day.

It just says to someone, ‘I see you, I feel you, you got this.’

Written by, Monica Donnelly

I am a mother of a 6 ½ year old boy with Autism.  I also have a 10 year old daughter.  I try to advocate and educate in my community. My husband and I have been blown away by this autism journey and we wake up every day just trying to do the best we can.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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When my son was first diagnosed with autism no one was talking about it. Autism was hidden. I vow to change that.
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