Someone recently asked me how I do advocacy – this is how I operate these are not prescribed rules for others.
There are a lot of guides on more general self-advocacy usually for each and every mental health variance. I tried to read all these first. I made a lot of mistakes.
My advocacy rules based on the principle of harm [Everyone should be able to act freely unless doing so infringes on the rights of others]
1/ I don’t actually care what ‘diagnosis’ people have, as long as I don’t speak about one I don’t have. Taxonomy is pretty bad. I don’t do lateral ableism. If I don’t know, I don’t speak. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. I also don’t question people’s diagnoses.
2/ If I talk about a trait – I generally check to see if it overlaps with any other neurodivergence. If this information isn’t clear I usually indicate it might include more than my diagnoses.
3/ I never try to generalise my experience – although my experience is often quite generalised. The reason I use first person language is due to having a lot of issues with people feeling excluded. This is impossible if I talk about my subjective experience.
4/ I try to make sure that the stuff I say has some scientific basis, if that is not available, I try to state how I got that knowledge. Audio issues I discovered that a lot of us have are anecdotal evidence, but there is a consensus among that evidence.
5/ Self-identification is preferred for me as a term over self-diagnosis. In the same way I self-identified as bisexual, and non-binary – this is based on my subjective experience. There’s no hard science behind our experience of the world. If done with research – this is valid always. This is meant in the context of self-diagnosis, people should be able to access care more easily. I had to personally self-identify first. It was correct and I was misdiagnosed for years. It was months or years of research in some cases till I felt sure.
6/ I don’t try and pose anything that could be viewed as a false dichotomy, and it’s also unreasonable to expect myself to get this correct all the time. Sometimes I will use a term like “Autistic people are…” in these cases I always mean ‘some’ not ‘all’ – we vary a lot.
7/ Trauma is widely not understood, and a lot of us have a sensitivity to trauma – as we are reactive to emotions in an extreme way. Often when people attack they have triggered a fight response. I try to let it go, but I also respect my own boundaries for repeated offences.
8/ I understand it’s not my job to convince anyone of anything. If someone wants to start an argument over a position that I do not hold, I feel it’s better to let this go than to refute it, unless that person is clearly being malicious.
9/ I try never to take compliments too much – this is really hard to explain but I both appreciate and care about receiving positive reinforcement from time to time, and I am averse to it due to flimsy autonomy from a lifetime of people pleasing.
10/ If someone can point out I am wrong – I will correct that. I will sincerely apologise and make a note to correct my behaviour in future. Things that are based on grammar or lots of new terms I won’t understand easily due to how my brain works.
11/ I am not an authority. I am only an authority on my experience. I will often say things about certain elements to do with mental health – but these are based on part of a complex system that affects it all. If I ever talk about biology, it’s related to everything else also.
12/ I have bad days too. Some days my level of self-control when I am attacked is poor. I can default to my trauma responses – I will try to make amends but I also tend to delete the offending posts also – simply because no good comes from keeping harm up.
13/ I try to raise awareness of other advocates issues around their circumstances – especially BIPoC due to my privilege. I usually do this by directly boosting their content, and will do it if they ask. I may not do every post as there are limits to what I can see now.
14/ My DMs are open but I am very intermittent to respond to them unless they are super urgent. This is not a personal thing – it depends on how many things I am thinking about at the time. It’s never a personal slight if I ignore people – it’s an neurology thing.
15/ My goal with advocacy is to increase compassion and understanding. To always cooperate if possible, and to share everything I know. I am working on a book to compile this into a more central format. It’s going well and I should have sample chapters soon.
16/ I live by these rules – if you ever see me contradict them – please let me know as I do not like the incongruence of acting out of character.
17/ Trans rights are human rights. Black Lives Matter. White supremacy informs mental health. There is no equity without intersectional identities respected. I do not debate these positions with people, unless I think their minds can be changed. I have limited time.
18/ I am one person. I do not have a sense of superiority. I do not care about how much influence I have except if I can use that influence to affect positive change. I am not here for my own status – I abhor the concept.
Ted Lasso’s demonstration of unconditional positive regard is what I hope to role model. People get better when given a chance to grow. I try never to make ad hominem attacks and I abhor pile-on behaviour, please don’t ask me to join you in this ever. Respect my autonomy.