Over the last few weeks countless tweets, Instagram comments and emails have been pouring in stating “I want to advocate more”, “Thank you for being such a great advocate” or “How do I become an advocate for epilepsy?”. I’ve even gotten a few text messages from a close friend with epilepsy stating she sucks at advocating for epilepsy but she supports me fully. My response to her, just like to any of my other friends who says something completely insane, “I’m going to smack you!”. After saying that I always say my way of advocating will be different from yours , just like my organization will be different from the next. What matters is that YOU NEVER STOP ADVOCATING. Be genuine, be authentic, make sure it always comes from the heart and it will always go a long way.
You don’t have to own a company to say you’re an advocate or to say you support a cause. Some people put too much pressure on themselves when trying to stand up for something they believe in. Yes it’s ok to have a voice and be heard but by all means we don’t want you beating people in the streets or starting crazy riots or arguments causing hatred. Be supportive of one another, unite for the cause. State your beliefs but know it’s also okay to have a difference of opinion. If what you are fighting for has no cure then come together to raise awareness to raise funding to one day find that cure. To advocate means to speak or write in favor of; support or recommend publicly(dictionary.com). I can share with you some things but it’s up to you on how you want to BE an advocate.
I’ve said plenty of times in previous blogs, when I first started to branch off Changing Focus Photography and start the Epilepsy Edition, I had no clue where I would go with it. I initially just wanted to share my journey day by day. I never really thought of myself as much of an advocate. But then one day I decided “What if I took this a step further?”. See I must admit I’m a dreamer, a bit of an overachiever. When I get these crazy ideas in my head I tend to run off into the wild with it. I always had this passion for giving back. Whether it was giving to the homeless, donating to my favorite charity, volunteering with a local foundation geared towards kids or just finding ways to help anyone in need. I just always wanted to help. And that my friends is what drove me to say hey I want to give back to a community where at one point I was afraid to speak out. I was afraid to share my story and even say I support everyone else living with epilepsy. I decided I will speak for those who are afraid to speak for themselves and also the stolen voices. The lives loss due to epilepsy.
The blogs started flowing, the tweets. Then the emails and comments came in. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would reach so many people. Not just across the nation but yes around the world. I have talked to people from Texas to Cali to Australia to the UK to Brazil to Singapore and everywhere in between. All from saying I have epilepsy and I am still living my life. I am fighting for you and for me. Just from writing this here blog. They have shared that they are going through the same thing or know someone experiencing what I am going through. I prayed to God if this is something you want me doing then let it be and well guess I got my answer! Got to have peace with every decision to know it is the right one.
I don’t just write this blog. If this was all I had to go on geesh it would not be much to reach the multitudes. I have participated in the National Walk for Epilepsy in Washington D.C. 2014 and also the Stroll for Epilepsy Walk 2014 in Dallas, TX. Participated in numerous e-conferences and webinars for Epilepsy and SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy). I strive to educate myself more in order to educate others. When you mention to people who do not know much about epilepsy or seizures in general the first thing they imagine is someone on the floor, foaming at the mouth, convulsing, shaking. Granted this is what most experience if having a Grand Mal Seizure. Then you ask “What would you do to help them?”. The first answer put a spoon in their mouth. FALSE!!! Never put anything in the mouth of someone having a seizure! They always say well I saw it on TV. This is why education is so important. WE have to get the word out. WE have to let the world know to break this stigma against us. Educate on the many types of seizures. The different forms of seizure recovery. Hand them a book or advise of the different foundations that can give knowledge. Not all seizures require the same recovery or 911 but if we get the basics covered then everyone is able to save a life. That is how you can advocate to educate. Pay it forward by training one person in seizure recovery and tell them to train the next. Let us all start that trend. #Advocate2Educate
There are other causes I fight for that many of you know, Lupus, Child Abuse, Breast Cancer, Pancreatic Cancer, Liver Cancer, and yes Education; all things I care about because yes it has affected someone I love and care about. I have donated not just money but my time if there were no funds available. So there is never the excuse “I don’t have the money” get up from the tv and give some time. I have participated in a Lupus walk this year as well and will be doing a Pancreatic Cancer and Breast Cancer walk later this year. Make sure in whatever way you are giving back you are doing it for the greater good. To give back not just for the hope of getting a material reward in return. Do it for the joy in someone else’s eyes and the thought they have that a complete stranger cares.
Know that my journey will be different from yours just like yours will be different from the next person’s. I was gifted to do what I do. Everyone’s gifts and talents will always be different from the next. If you feel advocating to you is about wearing your purple wristband or hat and telling a random person how to help someone if you see them having a seizure, then that’s what you do! If reading websites and sharing posts of your favorite organizations is advocating then do it. There is no “right” way to do it better than the next person. It’s not about having names in headlights or famous people saying the words Epilepsy Awareness (unless they are striving to help RAISE awareness and donating to foundations WITH us). We live in such a world where it’s all about competition these days. Stop competing and unite for a change. Your voice is louder and more captivating that way. Only person I want to be better than is the person I strived so hard to evolve from. That’s the person I left in my past. In my childhood, in my teenage years, my early twenties. My yesterdays. I am my own me. I am an Advocate. Are you?