My Life with Autism is Worse than Your Life!
Your life / your child's life with [autism | other challenge(s)] is not nearly as bad as my life / my child's life with [autism | other challenge(s)].Someone will feel compelled to respond, "No my life is worse!" The conversation spirals downward, a complete celebration of misery, despair, and self-pity. About that point, I exit and seek out something animated to watch -- from Disney to Warner Bros, anything is better than people competing to be the most damaged human in the group.
The problem is that most of us have an impulse to respond to such nonsense. We don't like to have our own experiences discounted by someone else. It feels lousy to be dismissed, especially if it is by someone unfamiliar with our personal stories. Too often, the person complaining has no idea what the stories of other group members might be.
The assumptions are many, and we all do make assumptions. One problem is that many people dismissing us with "You don't understand how bad my / my child's life is!" are basing this on a few minutes of personal contact, a few online posts, or their personal biases. The ensuing competition doesn't help anyone, often leading to hurt feelings and more animosity and anger within disability communities. Trying to "top" everyone with misery can seem like an attempt to denigrate the experiences of other people.
So many assumptions have been said and/or written about me (and often to me) that I have to remind myself that people are just being human. I still end up responding more often than I should, though. That only encourages the comparative suffering analyses. Yes, comparisons are pointless, and not very "supportive" of anyone seeking assistance or knowledge.
Note: I don't believe "autism" is one thing, one condition -- it is various "autisms" with a multitude of characteristics and experiences. Comparisons simply don't work across the so-called "autism spectrum." My experiences cover a range of situations unique to me. That's true of every person with an autism diagnosis.No one, other than my wife and my parents, knows the "full story" of my experiences with disabilities. I've written about those early months, a first year of life that no parent wants for a child. I understand that disabilities affect entire families, not only the person with a challenge.
Instead of comparing and challenging the authority of others in support groups or online, try to pay attention to their unique perspectives.
The constant divide between the "high-functioning" and "low-functioning" individuals / parents / care providers is one of the triggers of "My life sucks more!" Let's be blunt, your lives are different. The challenges are different, the supports are different, the legal issues are different, and even the views of what is "autism" are different. I don't always understand Asperger's Syndrome; I admit, I have been invited to AS support groups and don't understand some of the discussions. I am not low-functioning, either. And I definitely don't understand the perspective of parents or spouses of autistic people.
If you don't want to know about life from a particular perspective, quietly exit the room, online forum, or whatever space is hosting the discussion. Don't try to "one-up" other people. Sometimes the best thing you can do is leave before the debate descends. If someone else is getting caught up in the "life sucks" trap, that might also be a good time to just walk away and do something fun.