There is a catch-22 I run into doing mental health advocacy as myself, similar to the one I run into doing autistic advocacy. It is a catch-22 similar to how people will tell autistic self-advocates: you're not autistic enough, you're too “high functioning,” you don't understand my [child, relative]'s struggles.
In a similar vein: I'm told I don't seem “mentally ill enough.” People have told me, “Well, I don't think of you as mentally ill.” Is it because the cyclical manifestations began later? Is it because they'd be embarrassed to know me otherwise? Or: I have a job. I look, day to day, slightly presentable – on occasion, even fully presentable. I am not homeless. I have never been homeless. I have never been involuntarily hospitalized.
So, people will tell me I'm not mentally ill enough... and then the people who have had all those things happen, been homeless and involuntarily hospitalized and jobless... will be told they don't know what's best for them. Will be told, because of the mindset that people with serious mental illness have no capacity, they have no right to self-directed services and treatment.
That the best place for them is the hospital and in treatment and being told what their treatment is. That HR 2646, “The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” will do everyone good, especially for the desperate families watching their loved ones' mental illness. It won't. That the Treatment Advocacy Center, advocating for more hospital beds instead of jail when neither more hospitalization or jails are the solution for people with people with mental illness, and NAMI, a parent-based advocacy org that supports HR 2646, are helping everyone with mental illness. They are some of the most prominent voices in mental health discussions, and they do not center us in their advocacy.
Instead of playing into it and trying to describe how seriously my mental illnesses impact me, talking about what the medication has done to me, talking about symptoms and things I've done, talking about my hospitalization more in this – trying to justify over and over again why I deserve to talk about it – I will keep talking about mental health care being broken and people's right to self-directed services, no matter how incapable society thinks they are.