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Taking On the World

I have always been an advocate.  I was born into the role.  I didn’t really realize it when I was younger, but now, looking back, it’s so plain to see.  When I was really little I watched the Jerry Lewis telethon and determined that when I grew up I would  help go to camp and help those kids. Not only did I start going to camp as soon as I was able, but I volunteered in other ways, advocated, and worked with families for over ten years.

When I was in college I was a volunteer and advocate for the Special Olympic state games, and absolutely loved it.  Then I decided to end hunger and homelessness in the United States...I was unsuccessful.

Recently, I heard that a homeless shelter south of me was going to be shut down, and I immediately got on the phone and email reaching out to the governor, president, newspapers and more so that people would have a place to go.  (The president actually helped me get the wheels in motion!)

And then, of course, there’s my book.  The biggest act of advocacy I have ever taken on. Fighting for the rights of people with serious mental illnesses. Fighting to educate those who don’t know about what mental illness is or how to support people.  Fighting to provide support to people who need it – to let them know they are not alone.

None of these are new, but then at Christmas, my mom pulled out a box of memories, and in it was a paper I had written in seventh grade.  It was entitled “Mental Retardation: Very Special People, Very Big Problems”, and it was fighting for better support for special education.  Here’s a short section of it:

“This is a “trainably, mentally Impaired, (TMI) classroom”. Out of the 26 elementary schools in our district, only one is dedicated to this program. There are also a very small amount of other schools that are home to the programs for children with even more of a “mental handicap”. What if the governor, while making cuts to the school programming, decides to cut what little funding they already have. These children need help throughout all of the causes of their problems, the tests they must undergo, and the problems in the education process, but what can regular citizens do about it?”

Isn’t it crazy how little my writing style has changed over the last 28 years?  I was challenging people to fight with me even when I was 12!

When I read this paper, it clicked.  This is what I was born to do.  I am an advocate. I will always be an advocate.

Some days, I am so overwhelmed by my mental illness and feel like I can’t do anything.  What on earth could my purpose be?  What’s the point of even being alive? But this is my purpose.  Even on my worst days, there are people who are worse off than I am, and I can fight for them!

And so I will. I will not give up, I will fight.  I have to.  It’s what I do!

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