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Advocate or Activist? Finding Your Comfort Zone on the Health Advocate-Activist Continuum

A close friend of mine has been making a lot of Instagram reels lately, all on the point of raising awareness for medically complex children and their parents, and for inspiring positive change in the medical community. I fondly realized she’s become an activist.

Which made me think…. What am I?

Can I call myself an activist?

Should I be making reels?

For a living, I speak about invisible disabilities, to raise awareness, and to help people (and to keep paying the bills despite my own disability). I also do things not necessarily for income, like writing this article. But am I shouting my message from a mountaintop?

Should I be doing anything at all more?

My answer at this point in my life is that no, I don’t need to do more. I certainly am doing a good deal, and I must do my deal within the restrictions of my disability and considerations for self-care and a measure of mindless leisure.

So with peace that I’m doing enough, I return my contemplation to identity, whether I can or do identify as an activist.

According to Merriam-Webster, an activist is:

a person who uses or supports strong actions (such as public protests) in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue

“Strong actions” is not entirely clear, but I can say I don’t show up to public protests. I don’t even make “strong” statements on social media. I’m not one for inciting debates or for ruffling anybody’s feathers; it’s just not my style. So perhaps I’m not an activist.

Now let’s go back to Merriam-Webster and look at advocate:

one who defends or maintains a cause or proposal; one who supports or promotes the interests of a cause or group

Well, that I certainly identify with!

What I’ve learned, however, in my work as an … advocate … is that

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