When you are an autistic advocate, advocating for yourself and others, the journey is oft times a lonely and isolating one.
The people you care about and advocate for will hate you. Those you advocate to will not want to hear the message you bring.
These are the times when I feel fatigued by the mental strain and stress of the constant battle.
It’s during these times we most need the support from those who know what it is like to be in this difficult place.
I wish I could say that we advocate all support each other. But that would not be the truth. But for those of us who do support one another we find courage and strength to fight another day.
Even without such support I could not abandon those I desire to serve. Though there may be times when all seems lost or futile still I will try, for if not me, then who? I do not want to give up on ‘my tribe’, my people, or even myself.
Sometimes there are moments of joy – when someone ‘gets’ it, when there are successes. I cling to those moments, hoping I am making a difference. Not for me, but for my peers and those who will come after my generation.
All too often there are the moments of struggle, the times of self doubt, the in-fighting, the times when things seem hopeless. In those moments I will continue to push for more than autism awareness. I long for a way for Autism acceptance, inclusion, and affirmation to become a living, breathing reality, more than just a glib phrase or two.
I have a dream, a dream for real external change. But that dream has had to start with myself. My journey has been one of self examination (I have made many mistakes and failed many times). I have seen my knowledge and attitudes develop and be enriched by the unselfish sharing of others of themselves and their journey and insight. I have allowed others to impact my life just as I seek to impact the lives of others.
There are many advocates all working for a similar aim with regards Autism Acceptance and more. We won’t always agree with each other in the finer details, we may not always even like each other, but we are all trying to make a genuine difference, not just for ourselves, but for other Autistics.
For me, that means the collaborative approach. One of moderation. One that puts me outside of many Autism Activists that I respect and admire for their guts and fortitude. But each of us has our own unique journey. I cannot be them, and I must be true to my path.
My journey means working with people, or even organisations who have different aims than me. Why? Because I have to use my ‘voice’, my presence, to make a difference wherever and whenever I physically can, where those opportunities present themselves for me to seize.
I know my choices have not always pleased others. I am sure there will always be armchair (or keyboard) critics ready to pounce. But I am doing my bit. I am acting on the call on my life.
So where am I going with this? I wish I knew.
It is my fervent hope that advocates will learn to work together more despite our differences, that advocates will learn to be more accepting of one another’s flaws and failings and build each other up in encouragement without judgement.
Difficult times will come but we have choices:
- To not give into self-doubt that many of us are racked with
- To not react in anger or disappointment to our fellow advocates
- To work together in mutual support.
- To actively look for positive ways forward in unity
- To hang in there despite the obstacles.