I don't think I'm a brave person, but my mother says I am, because I stand up for myself so strongly. But the thing is, I've usually been absolutely terrified as I do so.
I stood up to my teachers, refusing to submit when they tried to make me reorder my mind for their convenience. I fought the system any way I could. The thing is, I was terrified the whole time. It's just that giving in hurt worse than fighting back. That, and my hope that maybe I'll break down a barrier for the next person (or at least dent it somewhat). I don't know if my resistance is doing any good, but giving in sure won't.
I may have even stood up to my cousins when they sexually abused me. I suspect they pressured me into cooperating with the abuse - part of why I'm terrified of giving in.
Since I've left school, I've stood up for myself and others many times. I've advocated on the internet, even wading into the vicious yahoo group EOHarm to tell them they shouldn't be insulting autistics. (I was viciously flamed, but got several private e-mails from people who agreed or were at least more open to listening to me.) I've told advocates for the Judge Rotenberg Center how it really feels to be treated with that kind of force (although my experience pales by comparison to JRC). That's scary because I have to let myself feel pain in a situation which is most definately not safe. I've watched part of the hateful Autism Every Day video and wrote my criticism of it. (And felt bombarded by hate and had a terrible emotional flashback as a result.) I've told parents that their attitudes are harmful to their children, scared of being flamed but feeling such painful compassion for their children that I had to.
I've also 'stood up for myself' in harmful ways. I've yelled at my family and hurt myself. I even hit myself on the head with a glass bottle recently. I can't give in without rejecting myself, I can't accept that they aren't my enemy, I'm trapped. I've wished I could die or just disappear. I've felt that people would've been better off if I'd never been born. I've despaired of ever living a good life, achieving anything of worth or making a positive change for disabled people. I don't feel very resilient or brave.
I've fought the world alone because I don't recognize my allies or don't see them helping. I've wondered if I'm the only one who sees this (whatever 'this' is) as a problem. I've wondered if I'm stupid or overreacting to think it's a problem. I've wondered if everyone else is just nasty and mean or if there are any good people in the world. I don't feel very resilient or brave, but to keep fighting like this, I guess I must be.
And I've held on to hope. I've kept trying to recognize and find allies. I've kept hoping I can change the world for the better. I've kept trying to help the kids like me, who I feel such painful empathy for. I've kept trying to heal from my wounds even though I don't really believe I can heal. I've survived, although I don't know how brave that is because I can't bring myself to cause serious harm to myself even if I try.
[Edit: I thought of a good way to sum it up: I'm blazing my own trail because the standard ones are blocked.]