Dear Katie Lee,
Let us for a moment assume that Katie Lee is your name because your account looks newly created, quite possibly for the sole purpose of disguising your identity to post an antagonizing comment. How else do you explain having zero claps or highlights history, no posts of your own and yet seem intimately familiar with my work and Ms Ashley’s?
Setting this aside, I strongly believe accountability matters, which is why I chose to seek clarification publicly as I was surprised no one had bothered to ask the question. Someone, I recall, even went “Yuck!” at the pictures, as if human suffering were entertainment! This, to me, is abhorrent, as is the potential exploitation of someone’s pain for profit.
Before we proceed, let me assure you that I’ll happily issue a public apology to Ms Ashley — who didn’t afford me the courtesy of a reply but instead preferred to block me on both Medium and twitter — if I happen to have committed an egregious error of judgment.
I’m not too proud to admit being wrong when I am. As things stand, how can I know?
For someone who preaches honesty, I found Ms Ashley’s reaction a little odd but I respect it. Of course, I would have much preferred if she had engaged with me but perhaps she has decided I do not deserve a reply. This, too, is a decision I must respect.
Your passionate tirade raises some very valid points however, not least my habit of referencing losing 5 yrs of my life to major depressive disorder. The only reason I do this is to provide instant context for new readers as I don’t assume they’ll find me so interesting they’ll suddenly feel an urge to take a deep dive through my archive.
Context is everything, which incidentally is why I left Ms Ashley’s this comment in the first place. Few people have the audacity to question and push back in a respectful way on Medium, and I cherish those who do. Whenever it seems relevant, I do the same. It seemed relevant in this case but it took me a few days to weigh the pros and cons.
As the risk of harping on again about writing as service, this is what I try and do. Granted, the execution isn’t always as skillful as I would like but as long as it makes one person think — or better still, provides them with some new understanding or a little comfort — then my job is done.
You may be surprised to hear that it actually happens on occasion.
I also come from a culture that is a lot blunter than America’s and journalism has taught me to mean what I say and say what I mean without superfluous wordage in as accessible a way as possible. There again I may not always succeed but I constantly seek to improve and I do welcome respectful feedback.
If I reference my journalism background, it is only to provide context again and explain the need to uphold the sanctity of editorial standards and human dignity. The general public isn’t always aware of the codes of conduct that regulate the profession, and not all Medium users have bothered to read the rules either.
We don’t know what we don’t know, do we?
Alas, I have witnessed the brutal bullying of two people on this platform to date. Rather than join the ad hominem attacks or takes sides, I took a shortcut and reached out to the people affected by this heinous “dogpiling” to make sure they were OK.
Medium does have a compliance team and I’m neither a Medium employee nor an insider therefore it wasn’t my job to attempt to mediate or fix the issue.
And if I may be so bold, dear Katie, it’s not your job either.
You, too, could have reached out to me privately as my email address is public for a reason but you chose not to and are attempting to shame me instead. It’s almost as if you were Ms Ashley herself, so strongly do you seem to identify with my comment instead of asking yourself whether a gross violation of privacy might have occurred. This, too, is a little odd.
However, I can relate to your emotional response as Ms Ashley’s piece depicted a loaded topic bound to polarize readers. But if you know my work as well as you allege you do then you know I am no stranger to parental mental illness or indeed abuse myself.
This doesn’t mean I cannot advocate for compassion, forgiveness, and a gentle approach, all of which I practice daily. And yes, it’s hard, it hurts, it is endlessly humbling but ultimately it’s the path toward greater understanding so I stick with it. And I’m grateful to those who provide me with the opportunity to look inside myself.
In addition, I am naturally inclined to question everything but I do not do so without backing up facts with evidence. Once again, I note your allegations about “hating on” Ms Ashley are unfounded.
For the record, I do not know Ms Ashley personally. We have in the past exchanged a couple of twitter DMs about a piece that had to do with lipidema if my memory serves me right. That piece informed one of mine that was so weak I pulled it down. Ms Ashley was both helpful and courteous, if you must know.
I’m an observer by nature and try to identify patterns in online behavior and how those that intersect with how we lead our lives offline. Digital life fascinates me, ditto the curious phenomenon known as “personal branding”, using native storytelling for product placement, and what some people who know far more about those things than I do have called “authenticity hacking”, whereby overwrought pathos is used to guarantee engagement.
For more info on this, I recommend you read some insightful pieces by Felicia C. Sullivan, a seasoned marketer who I believe wrote about the very same thing sometime in the last year.
Lastly, I’m the first one to acknowledge I’m selling my personal narrative piecemeal on the internet in an attempt to survive. It isn’t ideal, it is emotionally draining, but I reasoned I might has well put all the pain to good use to try and make a dent in mental illness stigma and pry minds open.
“Whoring”, however, isn’t the appropriate adjective here as I take great care to respect human dignity and thus both shun and reject the popular and seemingly lucrative “woe is me” approach. For an in-depth look at this topic, Michael K. Spencer has you covered.
In that sense, the kind of writing I and many others here practice is alchemy and not a novel approach by any stretch of the imagination. This is why mental health is such a popular topic on Medium: We’re all desperate for more conversation, more understanding, more tolerance.
While this kind of writing makes me feel deeply uncomfortable, it’s the best I could come up with while isolated, cash-strapped, and urgently needing to find a way to be present for my family who, unfortunately live an entire continent plus an ocean away. As you no doubt also know, one of my relatives is gravely ill. Enough said. I’m not after pity, just providing more context.
But rather than embrace gratuitous voyeurism, I consistently seek to humanize universal predicaments by sharing some of my personal life.
Interestingly, text analysis consistently confirms that I’m serious, do not joke much, and do not let people in easily. Sometimes, it also lets me know that I’m a little inconsiderate, which you’ll no doubt agree with and which I won’t deny.
Like most humans, I can indeed be inconsiderate. I’m working on eradicating that, too, so I might become a little more pleasant to be around.
I have much else to write about and am never short of ideas but I also do not have time to send out pitches nor carry out extensive investigative research for the simple reason that my family comes first and my life is high on unpredictability. Believe you me, the discomfort inherent to writing about my person online remains just as intense as when I published my first essay on Medium.
As for mirrors, the page has always been mine and no, I don’t always like what I see but that doesn’t mean I shy away from acknowledging all of it.
I remain at your disposal should you require any additional information. Please do bear in mind however that it might take me a while to respond but in this instance, I thought it important to stop what I was doing and address your concerns immediately.
If you are in any way connected to Ms Ashley then perhaps you can let her know that I am open to dialogue and even pass this response on to her? I would be grateful if you could, Katie.
As I wrote above, if a public apology is needed and justified, I will issue it without hesitation.
Meanwhile, I hope we can use this incident to make Medium a better, more tolerant place.
With kind regards,
PS/ Here’s a piece I wrote recently that should give you a better idea about how I view life, should you be interested: