Thoughts on Self-Advocacy

Self-advocacy. A simple Google search of this word does not do it justice. Apparently, there are parts to it. In fact, there are 3 parts: (1) knowing yourself, (2) knowing your needs, and (3) knowing how to get what you need. Recognizing these parts of self-advocacy is important when you reflect on yourself. It can also help to remember them if you struggle with intrusive thoughts. By this I mean recognizing the issue of said intrusive thought, self-reflect and remind yourself that this very moment you are you, think about what you need to help you feel safe, and steps to reach that level of safety. Another important time to practice self-advocacy is when you are communicating with medical and mental health professional(s). It can help you best meet your individual needs.

Don’t get me wrong. It is easier said than done. It took me 4 years to reach my current level of self-advocacy. There are days I share my story with a smile on my face, and there are times I cry more than a fountain… and that is okay. I think the hardest journey, and the one I am still on this day, is knowing myself. I have spent so many years of my life wearing a mask and adapting to abuse that I lost myself. The key thing to remember is to love yourself.

As for knowing your needs, well, I did not realize what I needed until graduate school when a picture was described to me. After being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, my psychiatrist told me that I have stored my emotions into a drawer, and now my drawer is spilling and can no longer close. I was a hoarder of emotions and I needed to let them out, and boy, did it help. I think from there I was able to acknowledge for myself what I needed by listening to my mind and body and feelings. A lot of times I needed to let out my thoughts, talk to a friend, or just acknowledge when I needed to be alone to breathe and cry a little. It is okay to cry, by the way, so if you need to, just do it.

Knowing how to get what you need can be a tricky thing too. You can recognize what the problem is and have various solutions, but the path to get there can be a bit fuzzy. I think this is where the professionals come into play because they can help with guiding you to next steps. I was able to explore my own venture of solutions and inner peace through my psychologist’s guidance… and a bit of yoga. Even if your designated health professionals are unavailable, always be aware of 24-hour hotlines. They are a lifesaver.

Don’t forget to be patient with yourself. Express how you feel and what your needs are when you have those feelings (stemming from intrusive thoughts and uncomfortable situations) when talking to your medical or mental health professional. Lastly, write down a list of contacts that you can go to in times of need, whether it’s a hotline, a friend, or a medical/mental health professional. I am aware that not everyone’s needs are the same and can only offer my own perspective. Feel free to substitute examples with what fits you!

– Jessica Socorro

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