When Society Echoes your Troll Brain

CN: Discussion of Ableism, Mental Health, and Suicide

If you suffer from Anxiety or Depression, or have friends and family who do, you may be familiar with the concept of troll brain. It is the thought manifestations of your disorders: lies your own brain tells you in order to prey on your fears and insecurities. Part of learning to cope with anxiety and depression is learning to recognize those thoughts that are lies, which are your brain trolling you, and separating them from your real thoughts. It’s not easy, especially since your brain obviously knows you better than anyone else. It’s the manifestation of all of your fears. That you are worthless. That no one loves you.

But what happens when society reinforces the same ideas as your troll brain? What happens when the message you are given everywhere you look reminds you that the vast majority of society agrees with the lies your brain tells you. This is the reality for many disabled people. In some cases it is a contributory cause of their depression and anxiety.

Disabled people struggle against socially imposed ideas of our worthlessness daily. Our society equates worthiness with a narrow definition of productivity, and the barriers put in front of many disabled people lead to them falling outside that definition. Many of us struggle with basic acts of self-care and health because of how they reinforce certain ideas about disabled people. For example, many of us who struggle with fatigue symptoms experience significant guilt when we have to nap or sleep for part of the day since we fear confirming people’s stereotypes that we’re lazy. Many of us will overwork ourselves out of the same concern.

Many of us struggle against feelings of insecurity, wondering if our symptoms are really that bad or if we’re really exaggerating. Even with a diagnosis, even with the knowledge of what is happening to us, we still struggle with feelings of self-doubt. Why? Because we face daily the insistence that this is the case. “You don’t look sick” “You don’t seem like you’re in pain” The doubt faced by disabled people regarding their disabilities are so common as to have become memes.

Disability and disabled people are put down in many different avenues. From politicians who score points by shaming those receiving disability support and scare mongering constituents by invoking our very existence. From pop culture that uses disability as a way to garner sympathy. From charities claiming to help us by building a fear of who we are, our experiences, and our very existence.

It is hard to feel like you matter, when people who murder children like us are given pity and compassion in the media and see no punishment. It’s hard to feel like you have worth when movies depict the act of suicide being committed by someone like you in order not to be a burden as a romantic act. When our right to end our lives is given legal and political priority over the right to survive and thrive.

It is hard not to feel like a burden when your wife has to take care of things like the dishes and laundry because your own back cannot handle it. When your in-laws reaction to the news of your engagement is “No no no, no no, no no no no no” and suggestions that it would be better not to tie one’s fortunes to those of a fat crippled girl.

My life is not misery. I am a published author, the fulfillment of a life-long goal. I have friends, a wonderful, loving, funny wife, and adorable pets. But when my anxiety is provoked by the struggle to make ends meet, it is difficult not to think like it is all your fault. Like I am to blame for all of our difficulties. Like Alyssa’s life might not be better if I just didn’t exist anymore.

It’s hard not to feel like it really is just because I’m lazy, ignoring the fact that in many ways I work more than if I were working a regular nine to five job. It’s hard not to feel like I’m a burden on Alyssa and that the only reason she stays with me is because she is too kind a person to abandon someone who needs her. That she feels too guilty to dump the poor cripple.

Imagine how difficult it is to struggle against those thoughts, when society spends so much of its time telling me that it prefers me dead rather than alive. Imagine how difficult it is to resist the urge to commit suicide when society tells me that doing so is an act of love, an act of charity.

Imagine how quiet that little voice inside my head sounds when it tries to say “I matter”.

When Society Echoes your Troll Brain

3 thoughts on “When Society Echoes your Troll Brain

  1. 1

    Thank you for posting this. I was feeling especially down on myself today because of my disability & it really helped to hear what you shared; it made me feel less alone in my struggles. Learning about “troll brain” also helped put things in perspective.

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