How Do We Self-Advocate During a Pandemic?
There is such urgency in the multitude of crises we face, it can make it hard to remember that in fact it is urgency thinking (urgent constant unsustainable growth) that got us to this point, and that our potential success lies in doing deep, slow, intentional work. - adrienne maree brown
I struggled to decide what to blog about this week. I read the above quote I had marked in Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown, and confirmed what my gut told me that I wanted to write about: self-advocacy. This was prompted by the self-advocacy I am presently engaging in for myself and others to have access to safe working conditions. Conditions that employers are legally obligated to provide in the US, especially now with the current deadly virus we are facing.
The question posed in the title, how do we self-advocate during a pandemic?, does not have one or even two clean answers to it. The answer will depend on many factors and the context that your self-advocacy is within. Self-advocacy can occur in many contexts right now: at work, in medical care, in relationships, at school (for yourself or your children), and more. These are places that self-advocacy takes place outside of a pandemic, too.
Self-advocacy can take many forms; SelfAdvocateNet explains it is:
the ability to speak-up for yourself and the things that are important to you. Self-advocacy means you are able to ask for what you need and want and tell people about your thoughts and feelings.
Self-advocacy means you know your rights and responsibilities, you speak-up for your rights, and you are able to make choices and decisions that affect your life.
The present circumstances, life and death circumstances for many, add a layer of urgency to self-advocacy. How do we resolve the conflict between such urgency with the need for deep, slow, intentional work? Both realities can exist simultaneously and we can be responsive to the value in each: there is the urgency of ensuring health and safety is accessible, and at the same time, deep, slow, intentional work can allow us to self-advocate in a way that makes it more difficult to be dismissed.
As is often true, I think that balance is key. This is something that I have been navigating towards in general, but specifically over the last month as my self-advocacy has increased. It can feel isolating, lonely. My already sensitive self takes things personally more easily and my knee-jerk reactions become more frequent.
Strategies that work for me may or may not work for others, so I offer these as a brainstorming and reflective process for myself in the hopes that it resonates with you.
I return often to The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, summarized in the image below.
I let myself process my reactive-response to things in a safe way. Sometimes, venting to a trusted friend. Other times, writing out all the things I want to say and shout in a place where I won't accidentally send it (physical or electronic space).
For self-advocacy that is taking place in written communication - whether personal or professional life - I have at least one person read what I want to send before I send it.
I create a timeline. This is especially helpful for work- and medical- related contexts, where you will likely be expected to create the start-to-finish narrative at least once.
I ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. There is no shame about clarifying or seeking more information (knowledge).
If you are doing self-advocacy work during this time, the above ideas may help you find balance. However, this doesn't answer the question yet: How do we self-advocate during a pandemic?
Know your rights.
Know to whom you can report concerns or violations of policy/practice.
Familiarize yourself with the grievance procedure that exists in any formalized setting.
Identify your boundaries. Identify your non-negotiables.
These are not small tasks and it can be daunting to endeavor alone. These suggestions are also not accomplished in one sitting. One day you may contemplate your boundaries while you grab a five minute shower. Another day, you might Google the grievance procedure for your college. You are setting yourself up with knowledge, and knowledge is power.
People may try to make you feel like you are overreacting or that you are creating inconvenience. The former is false, and the latter is the point. Self-advocacy is generally needed due to our safety being compromised or needs not being met - it is not meant to be convenient for others.
"My life is a miracle that cannot be recreated." - adrienne maree brown
Your life is a miracle that cannot be recreated.
Not everyone has the time, capacity, or access to take these actions. Deep, slow, intentional work is more sustainable, but can feel even more uncomfortable with the urgency created by the pandemic.
If you need support in self-advocating, speaking with a Trauma-Informed Care Advocate may help. I am available at no cost for thirty minutes to offer support of this nature; just reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the Contact form on the website.