Every now and then, I discover that someone I know has taken a piece of advice that I've offered. I like learning that. It tells me that my knowledge, or something that I’ve experience, was recognized and that it had some value. It’s encouraging to know that some of my ideas have become someone else's stepping stone. Every now and then, though, I discover that someone that I know has opted to forgo the advice that they’ve asked of me. I know that no one is ever under any obligation to take my advice, but I have to admit that it hurts a little to know that something that I've share has been dismissed.
It hurts a little bit more when I find that not only was my advice dismissed, but that a decision the other person made that went completely against suggestions that I offered.
It hurts a whole heck of a lot when the advice, the information, the suggestions, and the decision that was made was about vaccines.
That hurts the most because in that last situation, I was asked to retell how liability-free vaccines negatively impacted my son’s life. To relive those moments - to hear myself talk about the vaccine injury, the regression, the loss of speech, and also the beginning of the seizures - to hear myself say out loud to the other parent, "If I'd known then what I know now..." there is no other way to explain what it feels like except that it hurts. It hurts to learn that they’ve opted to go down that same path I now desperately wish I could’ve avoided.
As much as it hurts, I have to remind myself of one very important fact: I was merely being asked for my opinion. And that my opinion is just that - my opinion. I am not responsible for what someone does with it.
I am not responsible for other parents.
I am not responsible for their opinions.
I am not responsible for their decision.
I am not responsible for their actions.
And I should not let their opinions or their decisions or their actions affect me. But they do affect me. They make me want to mutter under my breath. To retreat. To keep my mouth shut. To hide.
But I won't hide. And I won't be quiet. I won't stop sharing my opinions, my decisions, my actions, or Ronan's story. Why?
Because for every one parent that asks and later disregards my opinion and dismisses the stories so many other parents of vaccine-injured children have shared, at least two other parents have also requested information from me. These other parents have come to a different conclusion – one that matches mine. They respect my opinion and the vaccine facts that I shared. Those parents come back to me months later and ask if they can share something with me. It usually starts out, "Now that I know what I know..." and ends with a "...thank you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, for sharing your experience, and for sharing Ronan's story. It really helped."
Those simple thank yous keep me going. They boost me up. They bring me peace. Finding peace in our situation hasn't been easy. But finding it is important. Finding it and keeping that peace is a lot better.
I know that with how outspoken I have been about our experience with vaccines that I'll continue to raise an eyebrow or two. Depending on my audience, I'm sure I'll continue to ruffle a few more feathers as well. I'm sure I'll continue to lose some friends along the way as I have in the past. For every friend that I've already lost, because there have been a few, a new one has been made. Losing friends hurts. But these new friends, who are parents who spared their children of vaccine injury, remind me to continue to speak up. For them, my opinion made a difference. For them, Ronan's story made an impact. For them, because of what I shared, their child was spared of what my child was not.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.