*Content Warning: This article discusses topics of mental health, depression, and suicide. It’s a very honest, raw, and intense read of what I’ve been going through the past few weeks. […]
*Content Warning: This article discusses topics of mental health, depression, and suicide. It’s a very honest, raw, and intense read of what I’ve been going through the past few weeks. While I’m happier as of this posting, this essay’s handling of taboo subject matter like suicidal ideation and temptation is described in vivid detail. It’s as real as it gets.
If you’re enduring a similar type of mental anguish right now, please seek help instead of reading this. You’re more important and loved than you can possibly fathom. Please stay in this world, you really are worth it.
**Article contains spoilers from Spider-Man: Far From Home
I love Spider-Man due to his human characteristics. While teenage Peter Parker is renowned for his strength, agility, and puberty, the beloved wall crawler embodies super human attributes beyond web shooters or abilities transferred via a radioactive spider bite. Never mind spider-sense or even common sense — Peter is defined by a strong moral center shouldering the near insurmountable weight of responsibility. Established by Stan Lee’s famous “With great power, there must also come — great responsibility!” mantra, Spider-Man’s pathos and ethos is an inspirational motif worthy of a sermon, and it’s a message that resonated with me so strongly that it may have literally saved my life.
Yes, you read that right. Spider-Man essentially descended from the Sistine Chapel in order to save me via web-swing in an act of divine intervention, saving me from my deadliest adversary: myself.
Like many people during the July 4 holiday week, I ventured to a local multiplex to watch the newly released Spider-Man: Far From Home accompanied, yet dissimilar from the majority of enthusiastic patrons, I was experiencing mental turbulence by way of suicidal ideation. Even though I’ve contemplated killing myself nearly every day for the last 15 years, the last three-to-four weeks were particularly intense. The very act of staying alive took an extraordinary amount of willpower. I legitimately desired to die, begging any perverted eavesdropping deity to extinguish my painful existence, but instead of dirt and worms, fate tossed me a lifeline in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Spider-Man: Far From Home was originally only meant to function as a vacation from my tumultuous mental woes. After all, the Jon Watts-directed film is a thoroughly enjoyable superhero adventure featuring a rock solid cast of Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, and Zendaya embarking on an age-appropriate eurotrip. Given how “Spider-Man: European Vacation Sans Griswolds” is a premise I support without objection, how could I not enjoy myself?
Spider-Man: Far From Home, however, became more than just a cinematic diversion. Upon reflection, the film’s plot mirrors my predicament with suicidal desire in numerous ways. The story revolves around Peter traveling with his classmates to stunning locales across Europe in order to avoid coming to grips with the trauma he experienced in Avengers: Endgame. Haunted by the death of his father-figure Tony Stark, Peter wishes only to relax and abandon his heroic responsibilities for the summer. He leaves his spider suit in New York on purpose and avoids Nick Fury’s calls to aid new super buddy Mysterio a.k.a. Quentin Beck, but with an emerging cosmic threat on the horizon, Spider-Man must choose between his selfish yearnings and his duty as a superhero.
I understand Spider-Man’s internal moral conundrum all too well. Like Peter, I wished only to escape, but where he’s hoping to live a normal teenage lifestyle, I craved nothing more than my own vacation via a one-way trip at the end of a rope or deliberately crashing my car into a tree. I too dream of abandoning all the inherent responsibilities associated with my life and those I love just so I can finally experience some goddamn peace, but fate consistently restrains me from acting on my self-centered aspirations. During my more excruciating depressive episodes, I reach out to a few close friends so they can deescalate my volatile suicide-inducing emotional state into a more manageable one where I’m simultaneously sitting in my car sobbing while chowing down a Whopper in the rear of a Menards parking lot.
Reaching out to my lovely friends is always helpful, but admittedly, my reason for discussing my mental health with some of my favorite people wasn’t entirely altruistic. While I absorb their pep talks with the utmost sincerity, I subconsciously pray that their medical recommendations involve me offing myself in some capacity. It’s an absurd hope for sure, but please remember that my noggin is running at an illogical level during these mentally chaotic states. I’m yearning for a single excuse, any good reason, to eliminate my daily suffering and shelve my responsibility forever.
Peter endures a similar dynamic in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Like any good Spider-Man characterization worth its groan-inducing puns, Peter believes responsibility is burdensome. He seeks advice from friends, like MJ and Ned, and combat veterans like Nick Fury and Maria Hill who all deliver similar recommendations that can be paraphrased as: “You’re Spider-Man. It’s your job to save kittens stuck in trees and punch Willem Dafoe.”
Peter doesn’t appreciate this reality. From his perspective, the responsibility of being Spider-Man is a curse. The gulf between his duty and inward desire is comparable to the grand canyon or Galactus’ famished hangry stomach. Peter grapples with these varies conflicted emotions as if they were Doctor Octopus’ tentacles. Carrying responsibility is an unenviable weight akin to Atlas carrying the world or a treadmill supporting the Rhino. No wonder why he hates big-time hero work to the point of concocting a reason to quit for a while.
Spider-Man’s identity crisis reaches its boiling point during Spider-Man: Far From Home’s second act. At the film’s midpoint, Peter receives an item from Tony Stark’s will: his sunglasses. Prior to being dead, Iron Man programmed his iconic shades to link with his various inventions meant to defend Earth and entrusted Peter with that responsibility. Peter, however, doesn’t believe he deserves this power and thinks the powerful and confident Mysterio would be better suited to this noble duty. Peter couldn’t have erred more spectacularly even if misjumping head first into a pumpkin bomb.
Mysterio is Spider-Man: Far From Home’s narrative equivalent to my own morbid contemplations. Justifying suicide is as illogical as Peter abandoning his overly tight spider pants, yet being coaxed into terrible decision-making happens more frequently than we’d all like to admit. Whether intentional or not, certain mental pressure points can become compromised if put under duress.
In this regard, Mysterio and my desire to plunge myself into the afterlife’s abyss are similar. Just as Mysterio subtly encourages Spider-Man to act on his inner selfish desires, my brain will justify suicide as a form of release. Mysterio and my cognitive voice entice both of us with the temptation of relief. Beck and my internal monologue can be paraphrased as: “Think about yourself for once! Everything will be fine! Nothing bad will happen! It’ll be great! You’re family and friends will be just OK without you!” This might sound bizarre, but to people who are afflicted with internal torment, surrendering is a form of freedom. What Mysterio and my mind offer sounds wonderful and beautiful.
They’re both a bunch of liars. Mysterio is an egotistical illusionist who fabricated a crisis to boost his ego, and my troubled brain hates to admit that killing myself would devastate everyone I care about. Being a superhero and living with a lifetime of trauma can be a Herculean task at times, but quitting because the lives we were given are unbearably hard is unconscionable. As Spider-Man picks himself back up from his defeats and mistakes, so must we all do our best for those we love and the world we live in.
And it’s this truth that’s been keeping me alive for the past few weeks. I’ve endured many sleepless nights and episodes lately, but surviving for the people I care about carries me through. While I’m hopeful for a future where I want to live for myself as well as others, sticking to this realm for the sake of everyone else will ensure that I can maybe reach that endpoint some day. Afterall, the love we bestow to family and friends is often received at equal measure. As long as we keep weathering the storm, the once distant emotions happiness, fulfillment, and purpose will be within arms reach.
Handling responsibility isn’t an easy task. In fact, it’s regularly a major pain in the ass. However, mastering responsibility isn’t like Thor’s hammer; it’s a superpower that any normie can wield. Where super strength, flight, and speed exist in the realm of fiction, no one needs to be a superhero to understand the weight of responsibility. You don’t even need to be Spider-Man.