My experiences in the last couple of days have highlighted a few things.
It is hard to tell the different between someone who is saying things just to provoke you (a troll) and someone who genuinely believes what they are saying and is trying to convince you. Sometimes they believe what they are saying but are still trying to provoke a reaction for their own amusement. Indigo Jo Blogs sets out a case that this kind of trolling is simply bullying in RIP trolling isn’t the worst kind. Some people are of the opinion that telling people with M.E. that their illness isn’t real and that they don’t deserve help is actually gaslighting – a form of abuse through making people doubt their own minds. This kind of approach seems common in politics as Lisa Ansell wrote in Trolling as political debate.
Many on the right of politics believe that welfare should not exist. Instead they believe that individuals should have savings and pay for their own insurance privately to cover them against unemployment and being unable to work through illness and disability, and for healthcare. The problems with this approach are many but it seems impossible to convince proponents of the idea that it will lead to suffering and homelessness, or perhaps they just don’t care about that.
There is still a big problem with people believing that ME and Fibromyalgia are somehow not real or are minor or trivial. This has been fuelled by articles and blog posts from tabloid papers. Both are defined as neurological physical diseases by the World Health Organisation but this is irrelevant in deciding if they are real anyway – even if they were caused by mental health problems at the core they would still be just as disabling. It is an absurd suggestion that anyone would want M.E. or would voluntarily stay in bed for most or all of the day, every day, in isolation, or voluntarily use a wheelchair or a walking stick all the time when going out. These would be stupid things to inflict on yourself for the benefits available, if you even manage to get them.
Some people seem to believe that if they can work through their illness or disability then anyone who does not work must simply not be trying hard enough. They seem to have no understanding that the amount a person is affected by a particular health problem can vary massively between different people and different problems. It seems inconceivable to them that an invisible illness could be more disabling in its effects than a cancer or surgery of some sort. They think that particular health problems, like cancer and chemotherapy treatment, are the ultimate in human suffering and that nothing else can be worse. I know a few people on chemotherapy and I know that it is a horrific experience, but it isn’t the only thing that can make someone so sick – especially if someone is on a low dose.
I captured some of what was said to me recently using Storify, embedded here. (Click here if it doesn’t show below after a few seconds.) Warning, it does contain strong swearing on my part where I got too frustrated to hold back.