After attempting to perfect my Bucky Barnes write-up for several
hours days I decided to take the advice of Agent Aaron and write about what I wish I was doing instead. Well, honestly, all I want to do is crawl in bed and mope for a few more months.
Here’s my Sober Geek Confession: Crisis of Infinite Depression.
I like superhero comic books for a lot of reasons: flawed icons fighting for justice, beautiful panels of art corresponding with action-packed stories, and the swell of pride in watching people do the right thing. But sometimes when I’m at my lowest I find myself shying away from the world of cowls and capes because I can’t face my heroes when I’m just a wallowing pile of trash. Reading about how they work to overcome their obstacles and still save the day only makes me feel worse about not wanting to leave my house.
Depression is a scary disease, not because it will swiftly ruin your body like pancreatic cancer or because it turns you into a raging berserker but because it is quiet and so subtly controlling you don’t even know that you’ve taken the passenger seat until it’s been two weeks of you making mistakes at work and spending nights home alone actively practicing stunts of agoraphobia. That’s terrifying and there’s just so little you can do to protect yourself against it.
When I was growing up I always had a lot of friends however I still enjoyed time by myself to recharge. But I knew even then that if I let myself push further away from other people I would get swallowed in the dark pit that settles under my brain. I would bury myself in the fictional worlds of my books and comics and pretend I wasn’t me. Now as an adult I have learned to sense when I’m about to go into one of my “funks”, I can’t focus on books or TV shows, I spend a lot more time doing mindless, meaningless tasks to keep busy instead of getting anything actually done. I try to warn friends and family that I’m not going to be as social for awhile because going out doesn’t help, at the end of the night when I come home and wash off my makeup it’s like washing off a mask that just hid my depression.
So what do comic books have to do with depression? Well, one of the reasons I fell in love with Marvel Comics in my early 20’s was because the heroes had very human flaws. Not “wahh wahh my parents are dead and I will continue to ignore my incredibly supportive extended family” problems like Batman’s. But Iron Man’s struggle with self-worth despite on the surface seeming like god’s gift. Or The Sentry’s constant fight with his own mental illness. Or Jessica Jones’ yearning for self-discovery outside of the costume. These are all stories that inspire me because it’s not always so grandiose.
I wish I could say that picking up an issue of Daredevil changed everything but fighting back the creeping fog of depression is not all at once. It’s a continuous battle and more importantly, it’s the will to keep fighting that battle. Having supportive people around doesn’t really help either, it’s something you have to work out yourself and no one wants to fight a war on their own. While it doesn’t hurt to talk it out with other people that won’t fix it necessarily. Every person’s depression is different and there’s no one way to stop it. The trick I use is I force myself to obsess about something new. Geeks specialize in obsessing and if I can trick myself into finding a new show, or book, or character then it gives me purpose.
That sounds so dumb but it almost always works. I will dust off my keyboard and start doing some heavy internet research until I’ve watched every behind-the-scenes clip or read all the good fanfics or found the best headcanons. My new fandom will breathe life back into me until I can look up from my laptop screen and remember that there is a whole life I had outside of this small niche and I should probably try living it again. Then that obsession becomes another notch in my geek belt and it’s something I love and fondly look back on without needing it like a crutch.
I don’t think this would work on everyone because I’ve been in some pretty dark places where nothing sounds enticing at all. Food, fiction, and friends are all this comfy blanket that is only across the room but might as well be across the country. Instead I would sit here in this cold room and agonize about how much I want that blanket but just the idea of getting up is demoralizing and exhausting. It’s nice to imagine Captain America breaking through these walls I’ve built around myself with his shield and offer a helping hand and kind smile but I have to be my own hero. I have to wake myself up from this gloomy haze and not let myself keep slipping.
If you’ve ever met me then you’ll know that I am typically a bouncing ball of curse words and infectious laughter but that’s because I’ve had many years to deal with my anxiety. In the last six years I’ve managed to tame my never-ending panic attacks into only the occasional episode. What I’m left with is a dull ache that will sometimes be impossible to ignore and stick around like a persistent sore throat but mostly, it’s just this very quiet hum at the edge of my thoughts. Luckily, talking about Peter Quill’s perfect hair or Dick Grayson’s perfect butt, or Clint Barton’s perfect imperfections distract me from the sadness and even more luckily I have a job where I’m encouraged to have these conversations.
Superheroes might not have cured my depression but they continue to guide me when I get turned around in this maze and for that I will always be thankful.
If you suffer from depression and need someone to talk to I suggest http://www.depressiontribe.com/ or http://www.depressionforums.org/ not to mention National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8245.