Category Archives: Depression

SELF-IDENTITY AND SHAME IN A POST ENDGAME WORLD

17--russo-brueder-reagieren-auf-die-spoiler-panik---16-9---spoton-article-719655Thor is about to do a very bad, bad, thing.

WARNING 1: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN AVENGERS: ENDGAME YET, MOVE ON. THERE ARE CHARACTER SPECIFIC SPOILERS IN THIS VERY PERSONAL COMMENTARY.

I have body dysmorphia.

For years I was pushing 280lbs.

Most of that was due to a pain and depression medication I was taking for seven years. Cymbalta can cause extreme weight gain and its not something you can just stop taking without the risk of seizures. It took me five months of sweats and night terrors to get off of it. Within those five months, I dropped from 275lbs to 196lbs. A few months later I was down to 185lbs. I went from XXL to a Medium.

I looked in the mirror after dropping all that weight and saw a whale. Keep in mind I have overweight friends and don’t look at them that way. I don’t take lightly to people fat-shaming people and I can tell you I would be devastated if someone did it to me. But this was different. This was me, and all I saw was fat.

I fat-shamed myself.

I didn’t register the weight loss. l thought I looked terrible. I didn’t. It took me a while to adjust to that. It took other people telling me all the time for me to finally see it.

Since then I’ve fluctuated a little.  At 196lbs I feel my best—but would sometimes still see a fat person in the mirror.

Since moving to St. Louis from Pensacola and having, to quote Captain Kirk, “no beach to walk on,” (points if you get the double meaning of the reference), I’ve moved back up to 220lbs. Something to do with being in an office setting and there being donuts. Lots and lots of donuts. I’m now somewhere between a large and a medium, with a Large looking a little too big and a Medium making me look like a plump sausage.

bca482d7-9b6c-4561-b64a-efabeac49948_4.6830efcb7a3b157ecc72bbb5734d4002Damn you, Unicorn Donuts. Damn you all to hell.

People tell me I still look great, but I don’t feel my best, and long to see that 196 on the scale again. It’s something I am very sensitive about. 

WARNING 2: HERE COME THE SPOILERS

Now, for Avengers: Endgame. In the film, Thor can’t accept that he failed to stop Thanos from wiping out half the life in the universe. He then kills the man in cold blood, gives up on being a superhero and on leading his people, sinks into depression, and becomes an alcoholic.

Oh, and he gets fat.

He gets very, very, fat.

Recently I read an article or two accusing Endgame of fat-shaming Thor. These reviewers accused the audience of mocking Thor for being overweight and went as far as to say Marvel encouraged this with lingering shots of Thor’s belly.

I’m going to go with no on this one.

What we saw with Thor wasn’t fat-shaming. Quite simply, Thorsomeone who prides himself for being at the height of physical fitnesshad let himself go.

In many ways, it is simply a ‘fish out of water’ scenario. Facebook friend Patrick Izzo says, “It’s finding humor in seeing our character the opposite of what we know him to be. It’s a little like Ant-Man in Civil War. No one laughed when he shrunk, but when he became Giant-Man it was pretty funny because it was the opposite of what we were used to.”

Size MattersSize-shaming. Also, yes, I know this isn’t a shot from Civil War. Thank you for pointing that out.

While Thor’s problems run a bit deeper, the Ant-Man comparison is a good call. The goofy but lovable Scott Lang is often in over his head and outside of his element. We laugh at his ineptnessbut we aren’t incompetence-shaming. Scott is us in a superhero world. He’s relatable. He is a regular dude who is going to pull through anyway and we love seeing heroes with flaws.

That’s what it was about. We aren’t used to seeing Thor like he is in Endgame. Even though his role in both Ragnarok and Infinity War have shown that Marvel wants to break the status quo and take the character in new directions, we never would have expected them to take Thor this far. He is now more relatable than ever before. It was funny to think of a superhero—a god, no less—who usually keeps himself at peak performance no longer caring about that and living a sedentary life. 

THE TIP OF THE SCALE

As I stated above, Thor was also in the depths of depression, something myself and many close to me suffer from. He couldn’t handle his failures. Was this depression-shaming, and were his drinking binges alcoholic-shaming?

No.

All this was only funny because it was Thor not being the god of thunder we were used to—someone who was cocky and arrogant about his looks, powers, and physique. He was at a crossroads. It was funny because we knew he was going to overcome what was plaguing him. And interestingly enough, in the end, he stayed overweight except for when he transformed into his super-self.  After that, he went back to his out-of-shape self, something that was a bold and welcome move on Marvel’s part. 

REDEMPTION

Thor struggled to be what the others wanted him to be and couldn’t handle that. He was accepted by his mother regardless of his appearance and redeemed when he realized he didn’t need to be anything but himself, whatever that entailed. She didn’t even draw attention to his weight (which I assure you is atypical for someone’s mother when facing her unexpectantly expanding offspring). The Thor who joins the Guardians of the Galaxy at the end of the film is an amalgam of the god who let himself go and the hero who craves a new adventure. He is a changed man.

tenor

WHO’S SHAMING WHO? 

I am a self-proclaimed social justice warrior. Comic books and sci-fi taught me diversity, honor, and to do the right thing. Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Larry Hama, and Dennis O’Neil were amongst my guides. I believe we must fight for people to be accepted for their character and who they are rather than judging them by sex, race, creed, preference, or appearance.

But part of me has to wonder if some of us are taking things too personally. Conversely, part of me has to wonder if we are being taken advantage of here. I wonder if articles accusing popular films of insensitivity are simply designed to rile us up and to bait clicks. 

The movie was made by Disney, people. They are sensitive to inclusiveness. I have to believe that very few in the audience would have laughed at an overweight character just for being overweight. Certainly, no character in the film was laughing at Thor for being fat. They were shocked to find him as he was, felt pity for his despair and downward spiral to the bottom of the bottle, and tried to rally him to become a hero once more. They also gave him a few steady doses of reality. Dealing with all these flaws, comical or not, worked because it was someone we knew this wasn’t the norm for.

Someone like Thor.

Maybe I’m wrong, but to me, it showed that these heroes are human as well—even if they are gods. It was funny, it was heartfelt, and it was a highlight of the character’s journey.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a box of donuts to throw out.

—Andrew E. C. Gaska

An author, designer, game-writer, and graphic novelist with twenty years of industry experience, Gaska has worked as a freelance consultant to 20th Century Fox and Rockstar Games. In addition to being the Senior Development Editor for Lion Forge comics and animation, he is a contributor to both their Quillion gaming department and their licensing team. 

blamventures.com | Twitter: @andrewecgaska | Facebook: AndrewECGaska

All images are ©2019 Marvel Studios and are used for the purposes of commentary or review only unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

 

Oh Captain, my Captain

In Memoriam27858677_1984686931545855_5320544511332479266_n

One year ago, the stars lost a captain, and I lost a good friend.

Richard Hatch
May 21, 1945 – February 7, 2017

This was one of his favorite pieces of art.
This song fills my heart with him.

I jumped in the river and what did I see?
Black-eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
All the things I used to see
All my lovers were there with me
All my past and futures
And we all went to heaven in a little row boat
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt

There was nothing to fear 
and nothing to doubt 
There was nothing to fear 
and nothing to doubt

Pyramid Song
words by Thom Y.
art by Ralph M.

One year now without you, and it isn’t any easier, my friend.
Safe journeys.

Andrew E.C. Gaska

Loving Leia

tumblr_o0i9uy4g8W1v2fnuuo5_1280Our Princess passed one year ago. While she is mostly known for her role in Star Wars, Carrie Fisher was more than that. Outside of her character, she was a survivor. Carrie was a vibrant, witty, troubled woman who was fighting drug addiction and depression her entire life. A woman who pushed past her problems and made something of herself, instead of succumbing to severely crippling psychological disorders.

I met Carrie once, over a decade ago. Carrie was signing at the Big Apple Convention in NYC and was bored out of her mind. She was cranking out assembly line signatures to fans who were too afraid to say anything to her except, “Thank you,” if they even remembered to do that.

Aware of her fun side, when I got to my place in line, I spoke up.

“Hey Carrie, please sign it to Dr. Pornstar, and write something dirty, too.”

Carrie paused.  A smile began to creep over her face.
Her eyes twinkled.
“Mmmmm,” she said, inspiration taking hold.

Below is the result. Thank you, Carrie. Just as you live on in the Last Jedi, you live on in our hearts. You were and still are a beacon of hope.

Andrew E.C. Gaska

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Traumatic Misconceptions

22894128_1875387209142495_6663039717473420115_nWARNING: Extremely personal post. And yes, the pic is me as a child.

Many people are saying that those coming out about sexual abuse from Weinstein and Spacey are making it up.

They say they are just jumping on the bandwagon. They are accusing the victims of being the predators, “cashing in” on the publicity.

“If it really happened, why didn’t they report it back then?” Of course, most if not all of those naysaying were never abused. You need to understand the psychology behind these things. The human mind doesn’t always react logically when:

1.) it is immature (which is why we have an age of consent) and 2.) it has suffered trauma. Physical and sexual abuse create psychological problems. PTSD for these situations is real. A victim can blame themselves for what happened for years, if not their entire life. Fear of judgment is a powerful silencer.

As I stated in a previous post, I was sexually abused by my babysitter and her friends when I was seven years old. This went on for the entire year of the first grade.

While I won’t go into details here, I will say it started with her showing me a playboy magazine and asking me if I wanted to do things that, “only grown-ups do.”

She eventually started bringing her friends in, and I was never allowed to speak during these sessions. Essentially, I was treated as a puppet. I kept my mouth shut about it each time afterward because I knew what we were doing was wrong, and she told me that if I told anyone, I’d get in trouble.

I was seven. I didn’t understand.

Back then, kids were not warned about such things. “Say no, then go, and tell,” was still years away. It didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t get in trouble, she would.

I told a few friends in confidence over the years but didn’t tell my mother until I was 17. She didn’t want to believe it—not because of any nefarious reasons, but because it was a very different time (70s-80s), and she couldn’t come to terms with the idea that she had left her son with someone who abused him. She felt responsible—when it was, in fact, no way her fault. How could she know? It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that she accepted it.

In addition to the sexual abuse at seven, I had a teacher the next year in the second grade (Sister Rosemary) who physically and psychologically abused me.

I will give more details on this one. She used me as an example to keep the other kids in line. She hung me by my collar in the closet. Made me sit in the wastepaper basket under her desk as she crumpled papers and threw them at me. Swung me around the classroom by my hair.

She ruled by fear.

I didn’t tell my parents because I thought that since this is a person of authority, and I’m in this much trouble at school, telling my parents would mean I’d get beat and punished at home.

A completely fear-based response.

To make it worse, at the end of the school year she told the entire class that the only reason I was graduating to the third grade was that she “couldn’t stand another year” with me. Nevermind that my grades weren’t bad.

Because I was picked on in class, I started getting beaten on by bullies after school as well. That lasted way past the second grade.

In college, I took a creative writing class that was geared towards telling your experiences in life. I wrote about what happened to me with my babysitter.

We had to read the stories out loud for discussion. I was stunned at the reactions. Guys were trying to high five me because I “got laid when I was seven.” They thought I had bragging rights.

Would their reactions have been different if I’d been a woman, or were people just callous all around?

Eventually, I felt it was best to just swept all these things under the carpet– it was so long ago, so what. Damage was done, and I couldn’t do anything to take it away. Forget it and move on. But it didn’t go away. It affected everything.

I’ve suffered from PTSD all my life. Sister Rosemary’s physical and psychological abuse combined with the prolonged sexual abuse from my babysitter and her friends severely damaged my self-confidence. It filled me with self-doubt and loathing.

It has colored my relationships and gotten me involved with many women who have abused and used me over the years.

To say it made it hard for me to get ahead in life is an understatement. I didn’t fit in with other people. Regular jobs and a regular life didn’t work for me.

I have spent much of my life not feeling comfortable in my own skin. But I work at it. I’ve been in therapy several times over the years. I see why I react certain ways to things and try to stay on the right path.

I am lucky enough to have found my voice and made my way in creative endeavors. I have dedicated my life to it. I have my books. I express myself in my writing. Share my feelings and try to heal. And while people who know me have known about this for some time, this is my first real public expression of it. More than 35 years later. People who judge these things are why the abused don’t come forward. How long ago these things happened doesn’t matter. The time to listen is now.

Andrew. E. C. Gaska

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Brett Schenker has posted some helpful links that people who don’t get it should check out. I recommend you peruse them.

https://www.livescience.com/56482-victims-sexual-assault-sp…

http://www.cnn.com/…/terry-crews-sexual-harassme…/index.html

http://www.lacasacenter.org/why-child-abuse-victims-dont-t…/

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/…/women-speak-up-harvey-weins…/

https://www.vox.com/…/164…/weinstein-sexual-harassment-facts