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  • Writer's pictureLouise G

b words and other stories | be your own advocate.

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

How many times do you see really encouraging comments as you're scrolling through social media posts, saying things such as “please don't hesitate to reach out”, “it's ok to ask for help”, “don’t delay, there is no wrong door”, “talk to your GP” … and then you work up the courage, and you decide, yep, I'm going to do this, and then are left feeling completely deflated because:

a) accessibility to the right supports and services is near impossible; and/or

b) your chosen person / health professional, just truly doesn’t ‘get it’.

Yep. This is an unfortunate but very real scenario for many people, particularly for people who have an illness that impacts BOTH their BRAIN and their BODY.

So, what do you do? Do you just give up? No, absolutely not.

Let’s start out by being clear about what self-advocacy is.

Importantly, it’s putting yourself first, and there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. It is not selfish to want the best for yourself.

It’s knowing your rights, communicating your wants and needs effectively, taking action when it’s needed, being confident that you’ve been heard, and feeling that you’ve got a great supportive plan in place that benefits YOU.

That sounds great doesn’t it? Easy? Not always.

But how do you do this?

1. BELIEVE in yourself. You are the expert on you. Don’t doubt.

2. Never put health professionals on pedestals. You are allowed to be assertive.

3. Be prepared. Know what it is that you want to ask. Write it down.

4. Take a trusted support person with you who knows you well to boost your confidence.

5. But, don't be arrogant. If there is an opportunity to educate, do this, but with kindness.

And, just remember, health professionals are human too.

We don’t know everything. Go easy.

A good health professional will not profess to know everything, will be open to hearing about what you know, your experiences, and what your thoughts are, and will always give you options and choice. Sometimes, it can honestly come as a relief that you have come in with some ideas and suggestions.

If you have a health professional who is not open to hearing you out, learning, admitting when they might be off-track and need to do a bit of investigating … then it might be time to consider whether there might be someone else better suited to you.

Don't give up. Honestly, do not despair. There really are health professionals out there that care, who want to hear you out, who want you to kick goals and live a life worth living. How do I know this? Well, I know some of them. I am also one of them, both personally, and professionally. I have been on both sides of the fence. I get it.

Knowledge of complex illnesses of the body and mind are still somewhat misunderstood, misdiagnosed and sometimes feared within the medical community. However, be reassured that things are slowly but surely improving. I encourage you to contribute to positive change in whatever way you can. Be your own best advocate, but also, an amazing advocate for those who you may never know of or meet.

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