My Secret: How Friends, Family, and Comics Helped Save My Life

15 Feb

I have spent a great deal of time pondering how to write this post about my suicide attempt for the last couple of years.  It’s something that has hit many false starts and I’ve never really known how to completely write about something so stark.

So, I’m going to take a stab at it now because I know I can make a bigger difference talking about it rather than holding it in.

Frank Warren of Post Secret

This confession spawns out of my great unveiling tonight at the open mic during the Post Secret talk Frank Warren did at my school.  Post Secret is a community art project where people submit post cards to Frank and he posts them up on his blog for everyone to view.  The secrets can be funny, touching, sexual, and sometimes a little frightening.  During the whole presentation I was dreading the open mic.  I knew that I had to let my secret out, and I figured it would be a perfect audience to do it in.

Unfortunately, before my great unveiling, Frank decided to talk to the person before me across the room (there were two mics) about how many people fake talking on their cell phones in order to avoid talking to someone they pass while walking.  Naturally, my heart was beating rapidly and I’m a decent public speaker… Finally, he turns to me and I look behind me realizing that “Goddammit, I’m the last one.”  So, in a slight stutter and getting increasingly quieter, I said something along the lines of, “Most people don’t realize this, but part of the reason I love comic books so much is because they, with the help of friends and family, helped me get through my suicide attempt.”  At this point I was BUZZING.  So, I quickly scurried off to my seat during the clapping.  After the clapping settled down, Frank called out to me, “What’s your favorite character from comics?” to which I replied, “Leonardo from the Ninja Turtles!”  This got a laugh and a smile from most of the audience as I sat shaking from the cold and the nerves.  Frank said he was a fan of the Silver Surfer and The Watcher.

Leonardo Training

What happened two years ago was this: I had just gotten out of a really bad relationship where the person had their own psychological issues, and I was taking care of them all of the time rather than focusing on myself.  Spinning out of this, I got increasingly more desperate for physical contact and care from someone.  So, I pursued some people and made bad decisions to which I apologize for.  Everything from the disappointment to my frantic state to my dwindling number of friends I could talk to led me to make the decision to kill myself.

I have to say that this was not premeditated.  In fact, I came up with the idea on the spot.  My friend Michaela and I were watching my favorite movie “Me And You And Everyone We Know,” and I realized that I may never have that perfect of love.  I began to have a panic attack and decided to kill myself in order to stop the panic attack.  First, I was barely rational and attempted to knock myself out before I could do anything too drastic.  After that didn’t work, I tried to strangle myself with a rope.  Luckily, Michaela was there with me the whole way and I warned her beforehand to get everything that could hurt me as far away from me as possible.

Michaela and I preparing for a Lady Gaga party… even though I had never heard any of her songs

I ended up passing out from exhaustion, and, to be honest, I don’t remember much of the night.  I remember trying to get the girl I had a crush on at the time to come over (which she did, and once again I apologize for) because I was too embarrassed to get my sister.  My sister did come, but I don’t really remember that.  The next thing I can remember is waking up next to my Mom.  She had flown that night to get to me and help me.  Though, this still feels like a dream.

My Mom and Dad playing around

The next week is mostly a blur of appointments, missing school, and recovery.  I was not just emotionally exhausted but emotionally dead inside.  I had expelled all of that pent up emotion in 5 hours.  I remember one of my professors reassuring me by saying something along the lines that I was one of the brightest students she’s had in a long time, and I still remember that.  I remember all of the love.  I remember giving my Dad the worst birthday ever.  But, I remember Michaela, my sister, and my parents being there for me.  They didn’t know how to react, but they were there – that was the best part.

My Sister, fellow co-blogger Lillian

Turns out that I’m bipolar, where I get all of the lows and mids but not the highs (most of the time).  Also, this was so severe that it was causing hallucinations.  To the point that I couldn’t trust my own senses: I’d see cars and birds that weren’t there and hear noises with no source (no voices, though).  Since then, I’ve been well-medicated with few bumps in the road.

Here’s the thing about comics: they played an integral part in my recovery process.  Not only were they this form of entering myself into these stories, they had characters I looked up to.  Leonardo from the TMNT being key among them.

Me and my Leonardo commission from Jim Lawson

Leonardo represents leadership, perseverance, trust, respect, honor, and compassion.  Leonardo cares about his brothers and I felt and still feel that I could just as easily be one of his brothers even if I didn’t have the whole ninja training.  He’s a phenomenal character with a great mythos (at least from Mirage).  I can’t really quite summarize how much he means to me or what’s so special about him when it’s incredibly obvious to me.  I mean, Leo’s Leo.  He’s strong even in the most dire situations and he overcomes all obstacles.  This is a character who’s true love was killed and he went and meditated for 50 years.  Leonardo helped get me through the aftermath of my suicide attempt, and that’s why I have collected a Leonardo piece of artwork from all of the primary Mirage artists.  That is why I get a Ninja Turtle (preferably Leonardo, but they’re budgeted for time) sketch from anyone I can at conventions.  (You can view my art gallery here (which still needs some more stuff added)).  Leonardo and the turtles mean a lot to me.  Sure, Batman, Greg Rucka’s work (like Batwoman), Lucy Knisley, and some other artists and characters helped me along the way, but Leonardo was there the whole time.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say Leonardo and the TMNT saved my life, but they sure made it a hell of a lot better following the fallout of my suicide attempt.

Part of my passion for comics comes out of what they helped do for me.  I feel indebted to them.  That’s also why I want to make them better.  I write posts like the one on J. Scott Campbell because I want comics to learn to better represent women, people of color, and other groups.  They helped me, now I can help them.

The mixture of family, friends, and comics helped me get over a very difficult period in my life.  I am eternally grateful for this, and now I’m not as afraid to tell people if they ask that, yes, I have tried, and yes, this life is worth living.

If you or anyone else ever needs to talk about depression, mental illness, or anything of the sort, contact a friend, seek professional help, and just know that someone out there truly cares about you even if you’re not so sure.

—————

UPDATE:

Hey, I decided to send the link to this post to the guys at Mirage comics for the TMNT, and they had some really kind words to say.  So, I’d like to share them with you and let people know that other people care even if they don’t know you.  Plus, the creators love to know that they’ve impacted you even in the tiniest way.

From Dan Berger:

I’m very happy that it turned out okay and from the suffering you were able to get a diagnosis that lead to proper medication. I’m also happy that the Mirage comics were able to help you in such a meaningful way. All of us at Mirage found solace in comics, which is why they’re so important to us. It’s stories like yours that makes all the long hours at the drawing board worthwhile.

From Jim Lawson:

I think it’s great that you told your story- Occasionally- not often, but it happens, we’ll hear a story similar to yours. Somehow, these people found a connection with the Turtles that’s helped them through the dark times. It really gives what I do (or did) meaning, other than just drawing pictures. There exists something between the Turtles and many of their fans that seems pretty special. It’s cool. So thanks- people like you keep me goin’

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10 Responses to “My Secret: How Friends, Family, and Comics Helped Save My Life”

  1. Kelly - Mom February 15, 2012 at 7:08 PM #

    I love you Elliott! Your dad and I will always be there for you.

  2. ross February 16, 2012 at 5:29 PM #

    this is an amazing post!! i found you through Kelly Thompson. anyway, great, moving post. i’m a huge Turtles fan myself (and i’m drawing the new Leonardo issue for IDW!!) so this had extra resonance for me! it’s awesome Lawson and Berger responded, they are super nice guys. i hope things are great for you now.

    but okay, i’m gonna nerd it up here for a minute. i feel like a crappy fan for not knowing this but i gotta ask, when did Leo’s true love dying and him meditating for 50 years happen?? what story is that from? my old Mirage reading has a some gaps, i don’t really care for most of the non-Eastman & Laird TMNT stuff so i’ve skipped a lot of the fill-in issues done by other creators, but i’ve read all the Tales volume 2 stuff so maybe i’m just not remembering…?

    • MechanisticMoth February 16, 2012 at 6:21 PM #

      Hey Ross,
      I’m excited for you to be drawing the Leonardo Micro-Series. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time! The issue in question was Tales of the TMNT #41. It’s one of my favorite Leonardo issues ever!
      If you can, spread the post to other people so they know that someone out there cares for them whether they’re friends, family, or fiction. Plus, I think comic readers would like to see that creators truly care about their readers like Dan and Jim do.
      Thanks again!
      Elliott.

      • ross February 17, 2012 at 11:40 PM #

        oh yeah, i have read that one!! i’ve read all the volume 2 Tales issues, i can’t believe i forgot about that! Swan Song was definitely one of the more memorable stories from that era despite me being forgetful, haha.

        i got an awesome original page from Lawson’s Leonardo: Blind Sight (i assume you’ve read it???) a few years ago, but i feel like i should mail it to you since i’ve never had time or money to frame it or anything, maybe it would be better in your hands…

      • MechanisticMoth February 18, 2012 at 12:27 AM #

        I appreciate it, but hold onto any Lawson you have. Every piece is beautiful! There are pieces of 41 on sale through a Canadian website that I’m trying to set aside money for. It’s not overly expensive, but that whole college student’s bank account isn’t bubbling at the seams. Plus, I’m not sure if they’ll ship to the US.
        Thanks again.

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