My head is being held hostage: on internalized ableism, neurocognitive decline, disability as a capitalist condition, and depression

This started out as a tweet. I’m not very good with brevity.

I’ve been going through some stuff, coping with one of the worst depressed periods of my life so far. Yeah, I know a lot of people are really depressed and/or anxious right now, particularly since the election. I’m gonna touch on that aspect, too.

During the past five months, everything I’ve struggled for over the past several years — higher ed, economic independence, housing, health, stability — has been lost. Like dominoes, my internal infrastructure of support (self-esteem, self-care, self-respect, self-awareness) has toppled, one issue into the next.

In addition to the losses, I was raped in Oct. and the current admin was elected in Nov. This is a government whose officials are known racists, fascists, misogynists, but did you know some have also called disabled people “useless eaters?”

Just when I’m feeling my worst and least capable, my own representatives are calling me a waste of space. So I’ve started to checkout — not just a social media hiatus but a news and media crash diet as a means of mental health survival. And you know what? It’s been helping a LOT.

But this isn’t actually about politics. I know there’s a lot of mental health survivors out there, but there’s even more people who still don’t get what what it means to have your psyche infected by doom and gloom that reaches beyond existential angst and the occasional down day and into the realm of days where drinking alone in bed at 2pm seems like a good idea because I am trying to stay alive and jfc nothing in my self-care book is working right now so instead of doing something high in self-harm like intentionally overdosing I’ll do something lower in self-harm like daydrinking alone in bed on a Wednesday afternoon, to hide from the world. Followed by a long twitter diatribe, because DEPRESSION DOES NOT MAKE SENSE.

Now, onto the diatribe part.

Mental health survivors, my mind embraces you from the edges of the dark corners where I still want to live and thrive! How do we do this, folks? How do we keep going?

How do we get neurotypical folks who have never faltered under the weight of severe depression to understand that some days are better than others, but barely? Sometimes, I can rally and take care of administrative shit for a few hours. Most of the time, I can’t. Most of the time, it all seems to be too heavy. I physically buckle under the pressure of what’s in my head.

About that, my brain matter. Once upon a time, before I first faced trauma, my IQ was in the 99.7th percentile (Standford-Binet). Enter trauma. My IQ began dropping precipitously. I’m now in the 69.15th percentile. Traumabrain, traumamind, traumabody, traumamindbody, and mindbody are REAL. I now have memory impairment that ranges from mild to severe. I also have spots on my brain that are areas of damaged white matter. I haven’t experienced head injury or TBI — this is ABI — the spots are just there and no one knows why. With each consecutive act of trauma, my neurocognitive abilities have decreased. I used to be an actual genius. Then, trauma. Now, I’m average. But I don’t feel average, I feel broken. I can feel the missing ability within myself and I don’t know how to not mentally grasp at it when I take on neurocognitive tasks, even simple ones like conversation. I feel lost. I have this brain-mind in my head and it doesn’t feel like it’s mine.

Books: The Encultured Brain and A Very Capitalist Condition

I’m mourning my own head, and with it, trying to untangle my internalized ableism, trying to convince myself that my self-worth has nothing to do with my intelligence or my paid work or my productivity or my neurocognitive abilities. But damn, if my internalized ableism doesn’t keep telling me that those are lies. “I must be worth the money I earn to support myself or I am a “useless eater” is the deep, encultured response in my mind. I’ve been tackling that response by trying to read, which is hard as I now have great difficulty with reading comprehension. Learning about enculturation via neuroanthropology (edited by @daniel_lende) and the capitalist politics of disability (written by @RedRoddy).




My mindbodybrain won’t let that happen along normative routes. My doctors and vocational rehabilitation have agreed that I’m better off on disability, that I’m not likely to succeed on a normative path.

For the past three years, I fought against that outcome. How long do I have to fight it to be “legitimately” and “acceptably” a failure at normativity in the eyes of “the system,” my friends, the general public, or more importantly, myself? Why does it matter so much to me? Because, jfc, do you have any idea how much harder the alternative path is? I’m not even talking about “succeeding” on that path, I mean just scraping by. The constant need to recertify (prove to the state) that yes, you are still disabled, and yes, you are still poor, so yes, you may have access to these paltry benefits which barely enable existence. The fear of earning just a dollar too much because you might lose your obamaphone or your food stamps. The fear. So much constant fear due to uncertainty due to the threat of having your benefits reduced or discontinued. Then, the additional fear from trying to succeed on an alternative path when you know that your health and life circumstances make you unreliable, unstable, and unable to be consistent with your abilities, though they may be great.

But, you have to much to offer.

Yes, yes, I do.

But what good is all I have to offer if I can’t offer it reliably?

What good am I if I can’t offer what I’m good at?

I keep feeling like the answer is I’m nothing, worth nothing, that all I have to offer is a joke on me because I can’t harness it and because my disabilities (physical and others) are the type that fluctuate, I’ll never be able to harness it. If I can’t harness it, if I can’t be reliable, what can I do? Who can I be? What is my worth, my value?

So yeah, I’m depressed. I’m having trouble with daily functioning tasks like hygiene and eating and making sure I wear clean clothes. Sometimes, depression like this is a type of Stockholm syndrome: it’s a monster, but it’s a monster holding you hostage in a way that’s fucked with your head so entirely that you don’t feel comfortable with any other companion. I can’t even imagine living my life in a way that doesn’t embody the beliefs I currently hold that are causing this depression — and I know that’s part of the problem.

Anybody know a good hostage negotiator? I’d like my life back, please.