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Responding to Negativity in the Media

A bit of a touchy subject? Maybe. However, it shouldn’t be.

Let’s rewind…

I never really spoke about my IBD, I dealt with it quietly in my own little way and downplayed it big time when it came to explaining why I’d been out of school and not in the hospital for weeks, etc. I regret this hugely as it meant I shut off the severity of my IBD as well as the potential for learning more about the condition myself, educating others as well as accessing others in a similar scenario.

It wasn’t until after my surgeries that I started using social media in the way that I do now to raise awareness, share my experiences and converse with others whether that be those in similar or, in completely different scenarios. Leaving it that long to do so is a regret of mine, however, this isn’t why we’re here today.

Although my main aim is to inspire and show that there can be a positive side to having surgery, I remain as transparent and as honest as possible when it comes to day to day life with a stoma.

It is inevitable that people are always going to have opposing views or something to say particularly when it’s to do with something so ‘taboo’ and ‘stigmatised’ that they are not necessarily aware of, educated about or comfortable with – I was very much aware of this going into making my Instagram page. However, this is the exact reason I began and that I continue to do what I do in order to educate these people and hopefully, create a more accepting and understanding future in moving forward. Despite this, I wasn’t aware of the scale some of this negativity might come at…

More often than not, the lovely messages outweigh the negative, however, there is the occasional instance that I get caught up over a not so nice message – I worry that I have done something wrong, that maybe I have tackled a topic that I shouldn’t have or posted an inappropriate photo and I worry that I somehow owe an apology to that particular person.

Recently, I encountered a particularly bad experience at a pub chain and was wrongly confronted and accused by door staff of using the accessible toilet for inappropriate reasons.

After they were reluctant to learn and listen to my message, I took to social media to reiterate my story and the lessons that could have been taken from it in order to improve future experiences for others in a similar situation to myself. The story soon caught the attention of the press and of course, with it, came the largest backlash of negative response that I’ve received as of yet.

Interestingly, however, some of the harshest threads of comments were from stoma patients and/or health professionals in the stoma industry – crazy right? Something I certainly hadn’t anticipated as well as the fact that people were going out of their way to find my personal inbox to voice their views as well as attack others who were telling them wrongly. Now, I’m not sure if it was a blessing or a curse but at the time, but, I was on holiday with my friends, in a different time zone with limited signal so I was kept happily unaware of this backlash for the first few days and the comments that I did see, I tried to block out and continue enjoying my holiday… Until I got home, and my phone was non-stop – it was hard not to see at least some of the negative comments and once I’d seen them, it was hard to unsee them.

I am fortunate enough to have never had to deal with bullying and have never really fallen out with anybody so coming to deal with these things was very new to me on many levels and, the difficult thing is that there is no manual for dealing with this kind of stuff.

So how did I do it, how have I always managed it and how do I continue to?

I guess, initially, subconsciously I always do what I did while away – I just block it out and give it time to settle. Rather than reading the comments (both lovely and negative) I avoid them completely and don’t read any at all which is sad. However, it is inevitable that they’ll come to light at some point and I’m ok with that. After a day or two, I begin working my way through and showing my appreciation to as many nice comments as I can and helping those that are seeking it.

Until the inevitable and I begin seeing the negative ones. I scan over any negative comments I may stumble across. If there is something worth to be taken from them, I do and I also respond to any legitimate questions they may pose.

I try to see people making uneducated and nasty comments as proof that we need to keep speaking up, and raising awareness of things that people aren’t necessarily aware of or comfortable with. It is actually a sign to keep doing what I and, we, are doing already but to an even bigger scale and use it as an opportunity for doing and showing more, a signal that even more education is needed.

Sometimes even, I feel pity for those that are making such horrible and negative comments as it must be because they’re so narrow-minded that they cannot see beyond their initial perception of the positive impact such content has on other people.

I also feel sorry for the people that come across as if they’re actually uncomfortable with themselves for whatever reasons and I hope that deep down, my content has or at least helps them in the future in some form.

As well as the above, it’s important to have a good support network, of course, people that have your back, are understanding and that can reassure you that what you’re doing is for the better good. It’s also important not to feed the negative comments – it’s usually of a far better time and value just to ignore them and to spend time continuing to educate and raise awareness instead.

Most importantly, as always, you do you. If what you’re doing gives you sense of purpose, drive and is for the better good, then who’s to tell you otherwise?

Amber 

Follow Amber on Instagram 

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