This blog post deals with mental illness, depression, suicide attempts, and stuff like that. It’s not light. Also terrible pictures of me culled from Facebook.
It’s been ten years since Marvel’s Iron Man hit theaters, a fact not lost on the marketing team for Avengers: Infinity War, comic fans, movie fans, or really anyone remotely plugged into pop culture.
It’s also been a decade since my last suicide attempt. My 4th.
I was a recently diagnosed patient of bipolar disorder, and struggling with the medicines I was on.
I was on a lot of medicine. Some of it prescribed. Some of it not.
One night I took too many. By a lot.
The only good picture of Alan circa 2008
I’m not good at writing this sorta thing. So be forewarned. It’ll all tie together eventually.
I’d been reading comics from a young age. Stuff I picked up at garage sales, graphic novels at libraries, that sorta thing. We didn’t have a comic shop where I lived at the time (not one I knew of at least), and so I was a tangential comic fan in a lot of ways. X-Men and Spiderman movies were my big exposure at the time.
Those sorta dried up around Superman Returns (which I still maintain has the best opening third of a Superman movie ever) and X-3.
Not a big deal, I was dealing with some other stuff at the time.
Around then-ish, I started hanging out at a local comic and game store, mostly for the tabletop stuff, but I started picking up a few comics again (Captain America primarily, he’s my boy.)
I also started treatment for bipolar disorder.
I think you see where this collides.
Late that April (the 26th to be precise – you tend to remember these things), I OD’d pretty hard on sleeping pills. I woke up on the 27th, violently ill, but alive. No one had noticed. (It’s not their fault. I was adept at hiding it at that point.)
With nothing to do (no job at the time, due to mismanaging my depression), I ended up wandering down to the comic store a day or two later. I bought some graphic novels that were on sale in the discount bin.
One was The Infinity Gauntlet trade paperback. I no longer own that book, as it logged many hours of reading, water damage, food stains, moving day trauma and more, until it split and fell into it’s component pages.
However, I vividly recall Thanos and his motivation speaking to me. His nihilist take on the universe dovetailed precisely with my mental state at the time. A Mad Titan, who had amassed power that undermines the pinnings of the universe, pining for Death, and driven by ego?
Yeah. That was my bipolar summed up nicely. I was living with my own Thanos in my head, my emotions, and my intellect.
I recall being vaguely disappointed the heroes saved the day in Infinity War. I remember reading other comics.
And then I remember seeing Iron Man when it came out about a weekish later.
Despite all my comic reading, for some reason the idea of the hero’s public and heroic identity being the same had never clicked for me. But seeing Tony Stark, on the big screen, ending the movie with “I am Iron Man” jarred something in me.
A decade later, it’s all a haze, and while I could put fancy words to some lesson here, coming off where I was into a movie where a hero owned their identity somehow felt like a revelation to me. Good, bad, and all the in-between, Tony Stark was facing down himself, his weaknesses, and was gonna win.
The idea of the MCU didn’t matter to me, but I will admit, something about that ending for Iron Man spoke to me.
I am not gonna claim the MCU saved me, or Marvel kept me alive. Therapy, medication, and emotional/mental honesty about my illness saved me. There’s nothing romantic about it. It was hard work, medicine, science, and a lot of struggle.
But comics. Comics were a constant companion during the harder times there. Distractions, refreshing heroism, new stories, weaknesses and triumphs. I took some solace in those stories.
I read comics a lot less than I used to, but they still matter to me. I follow and read reviews. I read articles. I buy graphic novels and catch up on my friends at Marvel (sorry DC, Marvel’s my jam. The Superman Family is great though. For real.)
2016 (with my best friend/wife)
Here’s the thing.
It’s not some serendipitous thing that Infinity War hits theaters this weekend. It’s just what it is.
But, it’s been a decade, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that going to see Infinity War on the 26th (I got tickets!) doesn’t hold some level of triumph for me. I don’t know what’ll happen to the heroes in the movie any more than I know what’ll happen to me in the next decade.
But I made it a decade. And, I plan to celebrate by seeing my favorite heroes punch a bad guy I no longer empathize with, as I sit there with my best friend and wife. Maybe it’ll be sad. I’m sure parts will be exciting, happy, and triumphant. I’ll almost certainly cry.
But the thing that matters the most is then I’ll come home, to the best life I could imagine, and I’ll get to wake up the next morning. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been (mentally and socially), I’ve grown in ways I never anticipated, and I actually think life is pretty good most of the time.
Ten years ago, I didn’t think I’d ever get that.
So I hope you had a pretty good decade MCU. I’m pretty happy with how mine turned out after all. I’ll see you tomorrow.
2018 (with the best friend/wife again!)