The Important of Self-Advocacy

It’s taken a long time for me to accept my mental health condition. I knew something was off, but I never understood it. And I sure never accepted it. Now, I’m absolutely aware of what my mind does, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I go to therapy, I have support, and I have coping mechanisms. But let’s talk about when one of these things are no longer helpful.

In the middle of the Fall semester in 2016, my amazing therapist left the department to accept a more positive job where she would benefit mentally and emotionally much more than her previous position. I’m sure there were more reasons than that, but I’m content to know she self-advocated for herself…she knew where to draw the line, and when it’s time to move on.

Let’s talk about self-advocacy. You may wonder what this means, and you may be wondering why it’s even important. Let me ask you one question: if you didn’t stand up for yourself, who would? It’s important to know yourself, where your tolerance levels are for a variety of situations, and especially how to stand up for yourself.

As my therapist was leaving, I tried to advocate on campus for myself and the other students. Mental health is important, especially for students on a college campus. Students come from a variety of backgrounds, and any number of those could cause a student to stress out when coming to college. It’s important for someone to be there to help students. So, we have psychological services for the campus. Anyways, as I heard some of the reasons why she decided to leave, and from what I already noticed, I decided to act. I did think that one person couldn’t make a lot of change, but I sure made a lot of noise. Within a couple days people around campus were hearing about her leaving, and they were listening to what I had to say. It’s empowering to feel like you’re helping people, and it’s empowering to try initiating change.

So, that’s advocacy in general. Standing up for what you believe in, informing others, and trying to make changes. What about self-advocacy? Well, there will be times in your life where you feel like changes need to be made for your own health or sanity. Maybe your job is stressing you out, or maybe you have that one person in your life who is just trouble for you. Recently, I’ve learn to be a self-advocate for myself because of a lot of reasons. I draw the line on people I can’t help. I LOVE helping people. I really do. However, you can only do so much if you’re going through a bad time. It’s mentally draining sometimes. *Let me note here…the therapists on campus, and therapists in general, experience the same thing. Yes, it’s their job, but it’s physically and mentally draining to listen to people’s stories and their struggles. Therapists are only human!* So what do you do when you need some time off? You draw the line. You stand up for yourself. You set up that boundary.

You might ask what you do when it’s a therapist who is causing the trouble. If you dread going to therapy, and it causes more issues than solutions, then it’s time to draw the line. What I found out the hard way is you can’t let anything stand in your way when it’s your health or mental health in the way. If you’re not satisfied, not feeling your needs are being met, or anything other reasons…you have every right to stand up for yourself. I’ve had to do that a couple of times with therapists. I always had the problem of being afraid of hurting the feelings of whoever it was, but a woman who did an intake appointment with told me something…that it’s not about them, it’s about me.

Hearing that statement put things in perspective for me. I don’t have to please who I’m going to for help. I have to please me. I have to take care of me. If it means switching therapists, then I will do that. If it means reporting something unethical a therapist has said or done, then I will do that. It feels so good to stand up for yourself. It’s tough, yes. And change will always be difficult. But won’t you feel better knowing you’ll be somewhere better? That you’ll get the help you need. Who knows, you may find more opportunities for yourself because you stood up for yourself. And I’ll post that question again: who is going to stand up for you if you don’t stand up for yourself? It’s your health, and at the end of the day…you need to be able to be proud of yourself.

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