Autism Recovery and Daring Greatly

This blog will be heavy with Brene Brown-isms so if that is not your jam, you may want to move on now.

On one of my work trips, back when traveling was a thing, I had the chance to watch Brene Brown’s Netflix special. Prior, I had not heard of her or her work.

My nose has been in other books for the last decade and exploring my own issues with shame was not on my to do list.

But, her Netflix special hit me, right in the core.

She quotes Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

That spoke to me. On many levels.

Putting our journey out there is scary and does open me up to criticism. And it is a journey filled with triumphs and failures. This was not linear. But, I have always moved forward, daring greatly, with the desire to optimize my family’s health and wellness.

So a few weeks ago our family’s journey was shared by my dear, dear friend and colleague Julie Matthews. She has a series called Getting Your Hopes Up. Our family shared the profound improvements on many levels that came from shifting our dietary choices years ago. I recently updated it.

I now work for Julie along with my work with New Beginnings.

When that email went out, she got all kinds of feedback. Most of it positive, families wanting to make nutritional changes, who see the influence of chemicals and additives on their children, who understand the power of nutrition to heal.

And we got one negative……

And I will be honest, it took me a while to shake it off. This reader was highly offended at the prospect of autism recovery (although they called it cure, I did not) and it was clear that the email was triggering enough that they did not actually read the blog.

The person called this type of discussion ableist.

I have been increasing disheartened by this term being thrown about – including at me for sharing a story about the current pandemic and highest rates of severe reactions coming in those who are metabolically unwell.

Yeah, because I guess none of us have the ability to make any change that moves us towards the other end of the bell curve?!?

Listen, listen……I will always be a person who looks at what I can do. Even the tiniest step forward is still forward. And for a person who literally has had my hand ready and willing to help other parents without judgement for the last decade, yeah I can’t rock with that.

I feel in both cases it was really meant to incite shame and guilt and shut down any discussion that moves out of our comfort zone. This article even talks about the weaponizing of it related to autism and parents advocating on behalf of their children.

So back to the critic.

Being the people pleaser…..these types of things make me want to hole up, become even more of a recluse, never share about the amazing journey our family has been on.

It didn’t matter that some of the participants in Julie’s Nourishing Hope for Healing Kids program had posted in our private group how inspiring the blog was and how much they learned about my family that they didn’t know.

I help Julie moderate the group program and have been open about our journey to a point but my son is 17 so there was a lot of history that I did not go into. It didn’t matter that Julie got other emails talking about how much inspiration and hope our story provided.

It was that one negative response that I focused on.

This is not an isolated instance. Why, why focus on the one negative?

Without getting into a therapy session, I realized it was time to shift some shit.

And then this quote popped into my head, I pulled up the Netflix show and watched with my husband who needed to hear this message for his own reasons. That’s when I resolved to stand in our experience and truth for those who want this message. And so I shared….

This was my favorite Brene Brown quote. And it is what I need to continue to remember.

Unfortunately the critics will always be there. But, why do I care what they think?

I am no longer interested.

My energy is precious.

If I would not go to these people with something special to share or with a problem, why am I giving them space in my head? Someone will always have a judgement about my life and what I am doing. Social media has amplified that.

But at the end of the day, there is reflecting on how you are being perceived and making adjustments based on your own growth and there is allowing people to project their shame or other emotions onto you because your message invokes something in them.

I have written before about the chasm between the autism treatment and recovery community and the neuro-diversity community. I am not delving into that in this blog.

I am so thankful for autism treatment and my son’s recovery so that I can hear his beautiful voice, learn his unique perspective on the world, have a conversation, watch him develop relationships and have interactions he was unable to have prior.

This is not about changing who he is, it is about removing the barriers metabolically that were preventing the full expression.

So at the end of the day, I have to thank that critic. A line in the sand had to be drawn I guess.

While I may go off and lick my wounds from time to time, I will always get my ass right back into that arena. Not just for my child, but for yours too.