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What 'Avengers: Infinity War' Taught Me About Facing Difficult Childhood Memories

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In dealing with anxiety and depression, I often feel like I face impossible decisions. I want to stay in bed, but if I do I’m “lazy and useless,” so I get up and wish I “could” rest. I attend everything I’m invited to for fear of judgment if I don’t go, but then I share so little of myself with others that I might as well have stayed in bed. But if I stay in bed, then it’s that much harder to go out next time and I hate myself for being lazy. Around and around I go. I also create impossible situations for myself all the time, so I never see myself as being successful. My psychiatrist calls it “moving the goalposts.” I make a goal, but instead of achieving that goal and being happy about it, I change the goal to something harder. If I achieve something, I clearly set the bar too low.

Watching “Avengers: Infinity War” made me realize that superheroes and the villains they battle face impossible decisions and situations too, and the consequences of their decisions are far greater than mine. For example, when Gamora faces her father about the Infinity stones.

Gamora: “Did you do it?”
Thanos: “Yes?”
Gamora: “What did it cost?”
Thanos: “Everything.”

I feel that way sometimes when I’m reliving my childhood and facing decisions that myself and others made that hurt me. But the cost is high if I don’t work through it — continued impossibly high standards and self-hatred. Sometimes I sit on the floor and cry so hard I can barely take a breath. But over time it eases and I am able to take some of my power back piece by piece. It is only by allowing myself to experience this vulnerability that I am able to truly breathe.

I’m always wrong when I think I’m in control or when I am so sure of something that I can’t possibly be wrong. I have felt certain that others were thinking in a certain way about me or sure that something bad was going to happen. If I apply for a job, I’m certain those who work there are making fun of my application. When I’m exercising, I am sure I’m inferior to everyone else around me. Thanos says to Loki, “to believe so strongly that you’re right but fail nonetheless,” is so hard to deal with but if I don’t, I stay stuck in guilt and self-hatred. Loki recovered after his attack on New York, and in “Infinity War,” he uses that failure to attack his enemy. I learned as a child that failure and mistakes are unacceptable and that if I fail at something, it’s time to quit and do something else. Trying to overcome this as an adult feels like I’m fighting The Hulk. Loki tells Thanos that he has experience on Earth and Thanos says, “If you consider failing, experience,” to which Loki replies, “I consider experience, experience.” There it is! If Loki can fail miserably and move on, then surely I can too. I’ve never failed quite as badly as he did!

Many of the Avengers and Guardians have really awful family histories — abandonment, genocide, murder by family members — yet they come together to save the world. Their histories don’t define them. Their histories fuel them to fight for what they do have — each other. As Thor says, “families can be tough.” But if I look at my life as if I am an Avenger, then I can see I do have skills, I do have something to offer the world, and I am surrounded by great people. My past does not have to define who I am except to say I’m a survivor.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is full of examples of heroes willing to sacrifice their lives. Where they struggle is in sacrificing the life of someone they care about. I find it a lot easier to sacrifice something I want versus something my child wants. I’m learning now to live with more of a balance and to not always sacrifice myself first. Vision says to Scarlet Witch, “It’s not fair. It shouldn’t be you, but it is.” Those of us living with mental illness face big challenges every day, but we can seek out our inner Avenger and tackle whatever comes our way, knowing that fairness has nothing to do with it. We are who we are and perhaps we are exactly what the universe needs.

Photo via “Avengers” Facebook page

Originally published: May 1, 2018
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