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What 'Thor: Ragnarok' Showed Me About Mental Illness

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There are several moments in “Thor: Ragnarok” where victory seems impossible. These moments reminded me of how it feels to be in the deep, dark hole of depression. From the bottom of the hole I look up and all I can see is darkness and more darkness, like Thor when he defeats one monster only to have a larger one chase him down. The battle feels endless and hopeless. To defeat his monsters, Thor had to do the same thing I have to do: go into the dark, keep fighting and hope to come out on the other side.

Thor might be a comic book hero, but all of us who face mental illness are heroes too. Everyday we fight what can feel impossible. And sometimes we’re pulled away from our reality just like Thor is, and we don’t even know where we are or how we got there. Yet, like Loki (“I’ve been falling for 30 minutes!”), we get ourselves off the ground, dust ourselves off and get up onto our feet.

Odin reminds his son that he has to fight alone. He doesn’t want to, but it doesn’t matter. I am the only person who knows the thoughts in my head and I am the only person I am with for my entire life. But that doesn’t mean I have to go into battle alone — Thor sure doesn’t! Thor fights with friends and a villainous brother by his side. I fight with my family, my doctors and therapist supporting me.

Sometimes all I can do is make it through the next five minutes, like Thor after he loses his weapon and faces a villain more powerful than himself. I was watching him fight and get nowhere and remembering when I feel low and I try and try and try but it feels like I’m just punching antlers and my arms are getting shorter and shorter.

When a friend asks me how I’m doing, I so often want to say what Loki says, “it varies from moment to moment,” but usually I say “good,” or “fine.” Maybe it’s time for me to be honest like Bruce Banner and say “I was trapped inside a monster.” When I get out of the monster, I am so grateful to be out but I am not quite the same as before, and that’s OK.

Just when things seem endless and impossible, hope is restored! The hero has a chance. I have a chance. I bounce off the bottom of the pit just enough to see the light at the top. In Thor, hope comes in the face of an ally, and it often does for me too. Someone shares their story, or a friend texts, or I spend the day reconnecting with myself. “I see you but you’re far away” — the key part being the “I see you!” The light is there, no matter how small — it’s there.

At the end of the day, sometimes “the only thing that makes sense is that nothing makes sense.” But I keep going. Why? Because “that’s what heroes do.” And you, my friend, are a mental health hero too.

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Lead photo via Thor:Ragnarock Facebook

Originally published: November 8, 2017
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