I have been seeing posts online about the various emotions people have regarding autism diagnoses- their own or their children’s. Someone will express thoughts or feelings and a commenter will respond with an assessment or criticism of the person’s feelings.
This can go in a variety of ways. (Be aware that the following examples contain possible triggers.) Sometimes it’s something like this:
Person A: I see autism as a gift. Being autistic enables me to care deeply about things that interest me and I love that I feel things intensely.
Commenter: Autism isn’t all sunshine and rainbows! It can be really hard for me when my child is having meltdowns or is hyperactive. I love my child but I don’t think autism is a gift. I wish things were different.
But, other times, it is something like this:
Person B: I am feeling really sad about this diagnosis. I have a sense of loss at what might have been. I don’t know how to go on like this. I am so overwhelmed. I wonder what went wrong.
Commenter: It’s terrible for you to say that. That is a horrible ableist mindset. Imagine how your child feels. Imagine what it must be like to live in a world that is confusing, frustrating, loud, and scary for you all the time and then imagine you get in trouble for feeling that way! Don’t be such a martyr. Think of your child first.
There are so many thoughts and feelings going on in each of these examples and the commenters’ responses. My intention here is not to analyze what each person said, why they said it, or how I feel about what was said. My intention here is much more simple. I want to say this.
Your feelings are valid.
Your feelings are valid. Your feelings are valid if you are angry or sad or happy or confused or disappointed. Your feelings are valid. Your experience is valid. You can feel that way.
That doesn’t mean that all feelings are good. It means that all feelings are real. It means that it is okay that you feel that way. It is okay even if you also desire to feel differently.
It means that it is valid for your neighbor to feel completely different than you do in the same situation. It is also valid for you feel angry and frustrated with that neighbor for feeling so differently than you.
I believe that all feelings are valid. Feelings are neither right nor wrong. They are just feelings. They are entirely different than right or wrong thinking which we can talk about another time.
You are a unique and unrepeatable person. Allowing yourself to feel your feelings upholds the dignity of who you are.
Allowing others to feel their feelings is loving your neighbor as yourself.