Advocating for Others, But Not Yourself

I like to consider myself a developing mental health advocate. I feel like I’ve learned a great deal about mental illness through research as well as through lived experience. And that combined with the advocacy skills I gained from law school makes me feel like I have the ability to advocate for change when it comes to mental health policy. Yet the one person that I often forget to advocate for is myself.

This probably isn’t unique by any means. It is so easy to maintain objectivity when advocating in the abstract, when advocating for people you don’t know, or when advocating about an issue generally. But when you are are the subject of your advocacy, it becomes such a different story.

Part of it is that advocating for myself has always been a challenge because my depression so often convinces me that I am not worthy. And my anxiety starts ratcheting up at the thought of putting myself out there, thinking no one will listen. Yet people listen. Trust me, they listen so much more than you know.

And while there are many great ways to practice self-care, I can’t imagine many that don’t require some form of self-advocacy. Maybe it is that you need a day to yourself. Maybe it is that you need to push your doctor a little harder to listen to your complaints and prescribe you the medication that could make such a difference. Maybe it is as simple as telling yourself that you do matter.

And while there is so much focus on ending the stigma, and necessarily so, the fact is I think a part of the stigma is self-created. It is the demons of mental illness that whisper so expertly in your ear. And this is why telling yourself that you do matter can be one of the most important steps towards self-care that you can take, as well as one of the earliest ones.

So with that, I want to leave you with the reminder that people do listen when you advocate for yourself. And if you haven’t tried it yet, I suggest you do. It is hard, I will grant you that, and there will be times you fail. But the feeling when you succeed will be so worth it. Kind of like a little F – U to the demons in your head.

And on that note, I think I’ll wrap it up. Have a good weekend.

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