One thing that I find incredibly unique to the society and the world we live in is the access to media outlets and information. If you compare this to the late 1990’s and early 2000’s things were not quite as mainstream and sticking your face into something besides your phone (such as a book) was a lot more common. Today, I can journalize about mental health during a pandemic and relate it to the philosophy of comic books through an introduction about the unique mainstream media outlets of the twenty-first century.
This is my first upload on a more official internet source and also my first public admission as a fighter to depression. To get things started, I am thirty-year-old male. I have a rather large family of my own that includes six insanely energetic kids with phenomenal personalities and a beautiful wife who has taught me so much about the world outside of my own scope of reality. Outside of being rich and having all of this I don’t think things could be much better. I am truly happy and the shadows of the mind could be stronger.
Allow me to rephrase this in a different light, I don’t think things could be much better and yet I couldn’t feel heavier with the torment of how undeserving, unwanted, unintelligent, and unattractive I am as a fat slab of misery with no direction, a lost purpose, and as useless as a fourth wheel on a motorcycle. I am easily distracted, I forget everything, and I can’t stop thinking.
ORIGINS AND CLARITY
I don’t know when this started for me, perhaps maybe it stems from my parents separating when I was at such a young age and despite my understanding attitude, I was burying demon seeds that I didn’t really understand. It could have come from my incredibly toxic relationship with my ex. Whatever the cause I do know that I have the support of a woman who I have helped battle demons for years and she will help do the same.
Not everybody has somebody, and for those of you who have only yourself do not give up trying to find somebody. I don’t know when or how people generally come out about these particular developments but for anyone who is interested, I hope that you are someone who “suffers” from something like depression and after reading you become someone who is instead a “fighter” to depression.
Before things evolved into what our social media and access to information is today, I was into comic books among all things. I watched the DC and Marvel animations growing up and even as an adult, if I find myself in the presence of prized DC or Marvel animation, I consider it nostalgia and I simply smile and enjoy it. It puts me back in simpler times even if I have seen that particular episode or read that comic a thousand times! If you never paid much of attention to it for whatever reason you actually might be surprised to find that the “kid” stuff has a lot to teach us.
ITS A BIRD...IT'S A PLANE...NO IT'S A BAT WITH ISSUES
Let’s start simple. Everyone is familiar with Batman. He is a billion-dollar playboy with a company left to him by his parents who were murdered in a dark alley. What you may not know is this backstory is just a plot filler to build momentum up to who Bruce Wayne truly is. You might be wondering, what does this have to do with mental health? Well, though he is a fictional character, Bruce Wayne suffers a trauma of watching his parents get murdered right in front of him. The key here is that, though he is surrounded by wealth and an army of one-percenters, Bruce is not shielded from that trauma. He grieves, questions life, and eventually it all turns into an obsession which is brought on by depression.
What happens next is through his obsession combined with his deceased fathers will to change Gotham, Bruce finds purpose and a way to channel his demons through saving Gotham. Through his change he develops iron clad philosophies on the value of life and separating yourself from the ethics of criminals. Throughout all of it, as Batman, Bruce has an identity crisis which if you have seen the live action Dark Knight series then you know this crisis well. Its basically where Bruce separates himself as Batman and Batman from himself. The way I see it, its Bruce dividing himself from his demons, after-all they are responsible for who he is. The question to the audience is which is the protagonist, and which is the demon?
My favorite part of all of it is where Batman, even in the Justice League, drops the importance of heroism as an act not using a superpower but as an act by the person behind the superpower. Hero’s don’t become judge, jury, and executioner because controlling the impulse or desire to do so is what separates vigilantes from criminals. Its easier to kill because you have the ability to and superpowers make you powerful but that doesn’t make it the right thing. Most times the right thing is the path that requires restraint and patience. This could be interpreted as to how depression weighs down a person’s individuality.
You see for people who are waging war on themselves due to any number of mental health leeches (depression, anxiety, bi-polar, ADHD, etc.) often are invaded by intrusive thoughts. By no means am I an expert or a doctor but I live among people full of anxiety and depression and for myself, ADHD and depression. Intrusive thoughts are exceptionally convincing and damaging. These demons are masters of disguise and they make it very appealing to take the easy route but even so those who struggle with them can resists the desire to give into them. Just like with superhero’s, the villain takes the cheap shots and often wins the battles – though eventually the hero pulls through in the clutch of the war.
When fighting intrusive thoughts, I know I have won when at the end of the day I look through the spinning dark clouds of crude negativity right into the face of the reflective dark figure that represents itself as me and confidently thank it for testing my strength. If you’re like me or any person with the struggle of whether or not you have had enough and you get back up anyway – That’s half the battle and you should mark it as a win.
WALKING INTO THE WEB
Probably a more recent upbringing in comic moral philosophy is Spider Man's “Keep getting up” phrase. Before Spider Man was always remembered for his quick wit and quirky remarks throughout his battles and uncle Ben's guiding ethics of “With true power comes great responsibility” or a better way to state it, “just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should”. These traits have always been visible in Spider Man comics and animations they are just more prominent in some more than others.
The way I break this down is to start with a more obvious lesson in combating a troublesome mental health monster; No matter what never stop getting back up. In case you didn’t catch that, note the semicolon. For those that do not know the semicolon in pop culture represents affirmation and solidarity against depression or addiction and other mental health demons. Originally made popular by Amy Bleuel the semicolon was chosen as this symbolic trend because “It’s used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but didn’t” In other words the author is the individual and the sentence is their life.
Back to the point. The semicolon goes well with this moral statement because just as you should choose to keep living, you also never stop getting up no matter how many times you get knocked down. Now let’s interpret Spider Man’s quick wit and humor. I want to point out that this is his true superpower because Spider Man, the hero and symbol, has the abilities but Peter Parker produces one liner after one liner in any given situation, even in life threatening ones.
Everyone has their way to deal with their battles. It could be producing a written project after written project, it could be art, it could be music, it could also be humor, and the list goes on. I believe the less obvious ones who fight depression are the ones who bring on the humor. There really is no better way to conceal it. Peter Parker is a nobody kid in school who has no real parents and loses his uncle Ben who he idealizes. It’s a depression cocktail. His battles as Spider Man are a representation of his own demons of which he faces head on protected by the philosophies of his upbringing. Despite his predicament and hand in life, he was still given the love of a family. The humor could be interpreted as Peter Parker’s way of shielding himself away simply because he does not believe he is worthy of the grace, stability, and power that Spider Man displays. Again, you see a split between the mask and the person and even in the comics this becomes an issue for Peter Park as it does for Bruce Wayne in the DC Batman comics we already touched on.
So if humor is Peter Parker's way of shielding himself, why would it be the real superpower? The answer to that question starts with how any given person feels about their demon. In my opinion, since this is my interpretation of Spider Man, Peter Parker shields himself with humor because he believes that his demons are his to carry. He makes Spider Man into a hero with the ambition to protect everyone. It reflects in the most recent movie with Tom Holland as Peter Parker where he disobeys Tony Stark in both Avengers End Game and Spider Man Homecoming. For him it’s a responsibility with or without Stark's help and its because he has the power to and therefore the responsibility. He also explains to Tony that “I can’t be the friendly Neighborhood Spider Man if there is no neighborhood to protect”. Also you have to remember that shields can also make great weapons, which brings me to my final example for this entry.
KNOW THE FIGHT
Captain America, a rather unrealistic personality combined with the underlined definition of super soldier, is also troubled and yet a moral compass that is the angel on our shoulder that is easily drowned out when the clouds roll in. For those that had never read the comics, Captain America or “Steve” Rogers had parents who died before his adult hood. As of a mater of fact he was born in Manhattan to poor Irish immigrants and despite the passing of his parents he still became a regular functioning human being with a job as a comic book writer. Just like in the movie, he was just a skinny frail man who was repeatedly rejected from the armed forces enlistment during World War II. Eventually he caught the right attention which eventually led to his transformation.
Let’s talk about what makes Captain America so great. First, he is never ashamed of who he is, the suit to Steve Rogers is just a uniform. Second, he always makes the right decisions and sticks to his moral compass with a clear and solid view of what is right and what is wrong. The icing on the cake is he uses a shield as a primary weapon. Now the shield and uniform are purely symbolic to the nature of what a super soldier is supposed to represent, in this case America. Captain America is the shield for his country.
Despite his charisma and good intentions, Steve Rogers is not entirely free of troubles. Much like most other superhero’s, prior to his transformation, he had trouble with his identity and who he was supposed to be. I put together this interpretation because of his strong desire to unconditionally join a war effort that would most certainly kill him. This point of view opens the door to how suicide is not just self-inflicted harm or execution but also throwing yourself in a situation where you intend to give your best efforts to survive but hopeful that whatever you are doing, in this case going to war, will finally end your life. In either the scenario the will to live is not present and that’s important when suicide is in question.
Once Steve got his second chance as Captain America he was no long ashamed of himself and found purpose. The act of heroism as a super soldier was no longer an act of suicide but an act of bravery and solidarity. Unlike most other superheroes, Steve never gave himself a separate identity. Captain America was a given name and it stuck. What I interpret from these events is a man who entered into war and into a containment cell without regard of his own life but without the will to live through it and emerged with a second chance of which he enters into war without regard of his own life but with the will to live. This second chance represents hope for those who have lost the will to live and demonstrates that second chances are a perfect new beginning to restructure your purpose in life.
I never found this in the comics but there is a Spider Man animated series where Spider Man teams up with Captain America to chase down Dr. Doom with the intent to recover Caps stolen shield. In the process they run into a lot of obstacles and trouble, yet Spider Man picks up an especially important lesson from Captain America about focusing on the objective. In a few short inspiring words Captain America says to Spider Man “Know the fight”, that is focus on the ending objective and not always what is in your way. The ending result was that Spider Man was able to find quick techniques that helped him clear his obstacles to get to the shield more quickly.
If you are an individual who struggles with mental health, particularly depression and anxiety, intrusive thoughts, or in general anything that not only weighs you down emotionally, socially, or even on an intuitive level; just remember that anyone can struggle from depression but there is always an ability to fight it. Be hopeful, find peace with your mistakes because mistakes happen (even with uncle Ben), and be patient because it takes time. Success and victory generally comes from knowing the fight, always get back up, and remember what separates the YOU from the demon.