A long time ago, in the county of Surrey far, far away, there lived an awkward little girl who loved Star Trek and Doctor Who. But But that little girl was picked on, beaten up and made fun of for her love of all things geek. She didn't care though and over time, the little girl got older and taller and her connection to Geekdom got stronger and deeper. There were many bad times ahead but the one, true constant in the girl's life was Geekdom, and it was the light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel. A light that showed the way, no matter how dim it got or how far away it seemed.
I'm that little girl and Geekdom has been my life ever since I can remember. The one other constant for just as long has been mental illness. I have 4 medically diagnosed disorders that blight my life on a regular basis: Cyclothymia (a severe mood disorder, not dissimilar to Bipolar), PTSD, anxiety and OCD. I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 16 years old and the other disorders came later. I'm also a recovering alcoholic (12 years sober this year), a rape survivor and was in a very abusive marriage. But throughout all of it, I had Geekdom. Even when things got so bad that I contemplated taking my own life, I had fictional characters that helped me through it all. And I know I'm not the only one out there that feels the same way.
Through Geekdom, I've met so many amazing people who have had similar struggles to me and who themselves have those one or two fictional characters that they cherish above all others, who have helped them through their own dark times. Tony Stark and his battle with alcoholism proving that even the infallible Iron Man has his weaknesses, as do I. Demon In A Bottle helped me get through the worst parts of rehab.
Jessica Jones, a superhero (of sorts) with PTSD due to an abusive 'relationship'. Not only that but an alcoholic, chain smoking potty mouth, which really isn't that far from my own personality. And a reflection of my marriage, in which i was subjected to regular beatings, emotional manipulation and later on, to marital rape on numerous occasions. I would often escape into my own head, as far away from what was happening as I possibly could. As silly as it sounds, I would focus on Narnia and all the wonderful things there. A few years later, after I had been diagnosed with PTSD due to what went on in my marriage and Jessica helped me work through it.
And then of course there is none other than Clinton Francis Barton. I have never related to a character more than I do to Hawkeye. And best of all? He's not super. He's just a man and yet despite that, he still manages to keep up with the other (mostly super powered) Avengers, which he does with just sheer hard work and bloody mindedness. He's been deaf, blind and dead and yet he still keeps going, keeps fighting. I always leaned on and relied on Clint's stubbornness and courage to carry on and to get me through some very dark and very lonely times in my life. He helps give me the strength to keep going because if Hawkeye can keep limping on, despite his many faults and problems then so can I.
I am not ashamed of anything that has happened to me in my 36 years on this earth. I'm not ashamed and I'm not hiding any of it. It's important to talk about it all and I find a lot of the strength to do so from my beloved Geekdom, through the characters that I have loved for so long, and through the unquestionable love that all my fellow geeks give freely and unconditionally.
There is so much passion in the geek world, such an enthusiasm that I cannot help but be infected by it. It makes me stronger, more resilient. It helps me to love life, despite my many failings and mental health problems. It gives me the drive to get out of bed in the mornings and go to work, and it helps me to get through the darker times and the long nights of insomnia.
But above all, Geekdom gives me the chance to escape from it all. It's my safe place to run to when life becomes too much. I know that each and every one of my favourite characters will always be there for me when I need them. All I have to do is open a book or a comic and there they are to greet me. They don't question me or judge me. They don't desert me when I need them the most. They're always there, always waiting to whisk me away to a happier place for a little while.
So the next time someone says that they deeply love a fictional character, please stop and think about the possible reasons why. They could be going through some truly horrific things and that one character is what is keeping them hanging on by a thread, keeping them alive. So rather than scoff at them, reach out your hand and let them know that they aren't alone.
Originally published at http://geeksyndicate.co.uk/news/geekdom-mental-health/