Compassion

In my sophomore year of high school I wrote a research paper about vaccines. Literally every piece of evidence I found said that vaccinations were completely safe. The ideas linking vaccination and autism were published by a man who had a lot to gain from such findings, and they were quickly discredited. Since then, I have been immovable in my stance on vaccines. I’m usually really open-minded, but this was the one issue that I refused to see any other side on. People would tell me that they didn’t “believe in” vaccines and I would smile politely while thinking about how completely and totally uneducated they were.

One time when I was a nanny, one of the kids I was watching had a friend come over to play. His mom stayed and chatted with me a little, and as it was back-to-school time she mentioned that she still needed to fill out paperwork to get her kids waived from vaccines. My opinion of her instantly changed. She told me about how she had relatives with autism and had experienced some sketchy things and didn’t trust vaccinations. I quickly changed the subject, and then went home and ranted about her opinion.

Herd immunity! I cried.

Eradicated diseases! 


Measles at Disneyland!


She was wrong, and dumb, and I knew it. I felt like as a Sick Person I was allowed to be outraged that she would put her own kids and everyone else in danger.

Flash forward a few months and I find myself speaking with my new doctor (a ME/CFS and FM specialist!!). We discuss some of the new research about ME and she mentions that the HPV vaccine is a leading culprit in causing ME in young teenage girls.

I was shocked. It was honestly hard to breathe as I tried to comprehend this. The years of hell, the stripping of my identity, the pain and the sleep and the complete inability to function, I could’ve caused all that myself. It could’ve been so easily prevented.

Now, I don’t mean to say that any of my opinions on this subject are fact. I got mono before I got ME, and it’s a lot more likely that that triggered it than an HPV vaccination did. I am not, in any way, trying to say that you shouldn’t get vaccinated. I am no doctor or researcher or other medical professional.

I’m just saying that I’m scared now. I hear vaccine and I think about what I’ve gone through and I get freaked about putting something in my body that (maybe) has the capability to ruin my entire life.

Now I look back at the woman that I briefly spoke to and her autistic family members. I understand a lot better why an experience like that might be traumatizing.

I’m embarrassed and disappointed that I had to go through a similar experience myself before I developed compassion for this woman. I should’ve been kind and compassionate either way.

I guess, in the end, emotion plays just as big a role in decision-making as facts do. I can know all the facts in the world but if I don’t understand a person’s emotions and experiences and thought-processes, I really can’t understand their decisions.

I really really hope that I can be better at being compassionate to those that think differently than me, even if I don’t see any reason for it.

I thought I was compassionate, and this was kind of a wake up call for me.

If this is something you struggle with, maybe this can be a wake-up call for you too.

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