Self-advocacy is something that not many individuals with disabilities can do, especially in terms of their own care. Oftentimes, advocacy comes in the form of a parent, sibling, home healthcare nurse, or someone appointed by the state to help the disabled individual.
When I was young, my mother was my largest and strongest advocate. She would regularly attend my IEPs (Individual Education Plans) as well as make sure that I had Physical and Occupational Therapy regularly to help improve the symptoms of my Cerebral Palsy.
Of course, I never realized how much my mother advocated for me until I became an adult at the age of 18, and had the right to make my own decisions insofar as my own medical care. The first time I really felt the power of advocacy came much later in my life than I expected. It was during a time I consider to be one of the lowest points in my life.
Not after the suicide of a close friend, or the unexpected death of another… But when I completely lost any and all of my mental faculties due to a drug prescribed to me by the name of Abilify, manufactured by Torrent. After only two doses, my otherwise cheery/self-asserting self was gone. I was paranoid, would not eat anything I was handed and stayed in clothes for well over a week without showering because the sound of the faucet was too loud for my already beyond rattled nervous system to handle.
According to my sister’s boyfriend, I hadn’t slept for thirteen straight days. Even still, I felt horrible. I felt like if only someone believed my seemingly drug-induced delusions about being poisoned or murdered, I would feel better.
I became consumed with the ever-pressing need to find my nephew. In my drug-addled mind, I thought he had been taken—somehow—somewhere, and that I had to save him. I vaguely recall being carried into the house by my older brother.
In hindsight, had law enforcement been called, or had I been alone, I probably wouldn’t be here to write about my experience. Not long after that, I was on my way to a local Psychiatric Hospital, who wouldn’t admit me simply because I had no suicidal or homicidal tendencies. As I sat there in the waiting room, I recall thinking that the water was poisoned. I kept spitting into my cup. “Well, that’s no good, now,” my Mom said. Her voice was somewhat resigned, as when I went to sign the paperwork for admittance I refused, simply writing my nephew’s name instead, over, and over, and over. It was all I knew. His safety was all I cared about.
Even if my delusions due to the Abilify were real, and I had to trade my life in for the safety of my nephew, I was ready and willing to do so. I recall leaving a paper hat folded on the table before I left. I remember the arduous journey to the local hospital. I felt like I was dying. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The nurse asked me whether I was supposed to be on oxygen twice, and twice, I told her no. I meditated, I focused, I breathed. It was all I could do when my world was seemingly—heart-wrenchingly—falling apart, and I simply was a passenger in my own life, in my own body, that according to everyone around me, I had absolutely no autonomy over anymore.
According to my home healthcare nurse, alongside the Prozac I was taking, Abilify caused the paranoia and delusions. I am now on a different medication and feeling much better. I suppose you never know the true power of self-advocacy until it is entirely stripped from you, or ripped from the very core of your being, root, and stem.
As frustrating as that was, I am grateful for my family and the support system I had during such a trying time in my life.