This place matters

This place matters

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On finding healing in unexpected places

I was going to write a post about acronyms, and I probably still will at some point, but I suddenly got sidetracked by comic books. As anyone who knows me knows, that happens about ten times a day. I love comic books. I don't read monthly issues anymore, and only occasionally pick up a graphic novel these days (and no, a graphic novel is not the same thing as a comic book - we'll discuss in more detail later). 
But as a kid, I was comic book obsessed. Like to a worrisome degree. That happened a lot when I was a kid, still does from time to time. But comic books were bigger than anything I'd been obsessed with before, or have since, and they lasted. I read from the time I was 12 until my comic shop closed when I was in college, and at one point I was reading just about every comic with an X in the title regularly. 
This was my comic shop once.
Kinda my lifeline back then.
It wasn't just the comics, actually, come to think on it. It was the place. I was a pariah at school, drowning in my first real bout of clinical depression, but the guys at the comic book store actually seemed to think I was cool the way I was. And I really felt like they were the only thing I had. I have a hard time imagining how I would have gotten through it without that in my life.
Anyway, I think, and I've probably said this before, that the reason the X-Men so resonated with me is that I felt just like them. I felt like I was born different, born an absolute and irrevocable freak, and so were they. 

I'm probably totally not allowed to use this.
Look at it as free publicity?

X-Factor issue #87 helped me understand myself - begin to understand what I was going through, realize other people might be going through the same. And that's kind of a huge thing. When you've got depression, especially when you don't know what depression really is, you're pretty sure you're the only person on earth who feels like you do, and that's terrifying. But then... the members of X-Factor went to a shrink.
So they'd just been through some traumatic thing or another, and they were all ordered to undergo counseling. The issue, written by the fantastic Peter David, was meant to show the meat of the characters, really explain why they were who they were, and I found myself in each one.
Wolfsbane was a a freaking wolf lady who couldn't hide her mutation in the least (because apparently Nightcrawler was too much of a douche to share the magical make-mutant-look-normal device). The session revealed she didn't have a good sense of self, she felt like an observer without control. She was looking for an identity for herself, and she was lost. 
Strong Guy was in pain.He says that when people know you're hurting, they either pity you, or they eat you alive. He said that was the lesson he'd learned from his childhood. And he can't stand the pity, so he pretends he's fine, makes jokes to cover it up, but he's in constant physical agony. Because getting hit by a bus made his powers manifest and he got really giant and his muscles blew up and he didn't know how to release the kinetic energy so he got all deformed. That last part didn't happen to me.
Multiple Man grew up on a farm with his parents' dead bodies for company. That didn't happen to me either. But he felt alone all the time, and that did happen to me. He said the reason he jokes around and acts like a giant child most of the time is that he'll "do anything for attention... because it reminds me I'm alive, and it gets people to notice me. And when people notice me... it helps to make sure I'm not alone." 
Havok was the team leader. Strong and capable and nowhere near as annoying as his brother Cyclops (my observation, not his). But Cyclops was the leader of the X-Men, and Alex felt forever in his shadow. My sister was a straight A student. She was pretty. She wasn't fat. She knew how to operate a tube of lipstick. And she didn't sit around reading comic books and plotting her own demise all day. I realize now she had her demons, but then, seeing me next to her just made me feel more defective.
So that was me. The first therapy I ever got. And it didn't cure me, and it didn't even make a dent in the overwhelming depression and loneliness, but it gave me hope. Made me feel a little less like a freak and a little more like a mutant. I mean, not that that's exactly a good thing. Plus I didn't get powers. You want to know how pissed I was when I hit puberty and my powers didn't manifest? Pretty pissed. 


Bersercules said...

I feal much the same way as you do on this. Seeing other people (even if fictional) dealing with the same problems really helps! Its sad your local comic store went under! I worry about all the kids in your area that don't have a comic shop to go to now! (but I guess they have the internet.)

(maybe your mutant power is your writing skill!)

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

Aw, thanks :).
Local comic book stores seem to be a dying breed.