medium blog: critical role

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This show has been one of the things that has saved me, and my biggest regret is that I didn’t find it when I was unemployed and going through my lowest points of depression, because it probably would have saved me a lot sooner. It’s my own fault, really.

But I did find it eventually, and it didn’t take long to get obsessed with it — the show, the characters, the story. I couldn’t ignore how it made me feel and what it started to mean to me, and I decided to do the only thing I could do to explain myself: write.

Because I’ve kind of graduated from the journalist lifestyle with my current job, I didn’t know where to put this. I didn’t really want to put it on my personal blog because I felt like it deserved its own separate platform, so I pitched a few places I had contacts at. They seemed interested, but nothing really happened, so I posted it on my Medium account – which was not where I had wanted to post it, but in the end, it was the only place that worked.

The response that followed was on a scale I couldn’t imagine or prepare for. Aside from the cast themselves sharing it and reading it (something that awes me and that I am grateful for and overwhelmed by), dozens and dozens and dozens of fans came out of the woodwork to tell me how much of themselves they saw in this piece. What I wrote was supposed to be a thank you to the beautiful cast of Critical Role as their Vox Machina arc came to an end after 2+ years, but people were thanking ME for putting their feelings into words.

Maybe Critters just really are the best community ever, or maybe what I wrote was better than I thought it was (we’re all our own worst critics when it comes to our talents.) But if I had to reminded that I’m not alone, Critical Role has done that in more ways than one.

And you can read the piece here: https://medium.com/@andrea.towers/heres-why-critical-role-is-my-natural-20-28714309fdea

mental health month: a year of medication*

There’s an astrik next to the title of this entry, because it’s been technically over a year. It’s something I forget, though, because when you’re first getting on medication, it feels like forever until you find your groove. Start with a low dosage of Xanax, go to the doctor, talk about your problems, get prescribed a new medication. Maybe the new medication works, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you need to go back and give updates. Maybe you need a higher dosage, or a different dosage. And then, you see if it works. You see if it makes a difference past the two days where you totally feel 100% better, and you see if it sticks.

And then, maybe, you start to feel good about yourself again.

And then maybe, you get the courage to become more open about saying you take pills, or you need pills, and you put it out there more on social media, and you become more comfortable accepting your mental health.

And then maybe, you think people won’t see you as an anomaly.

Anxiety and depression were in my life for a long time, but medication didn’t come into the picture until last year, for a lot of reasons — I didn’t think I needed it, I refused to admit I had a problem that wasn’t easily “fixable,” and my parents certainly didn’t provide any real support. They say things have a way of working out, and given that I ended up unemployed shortly after committing to medication, I’d say it was a very, very lucky thing that I got myself slightly straightened out before my health insurance went away. Because it was a hard year. It was a long year. Even with medication, my anxiety and depression reached their absolute lowest points. I didn’t know how to pull myself out of these funks, and it affected my relationship, my work ethic, and my motivation. I talk a lot about how comics saved me, but it’s true. When I was at my lowest, there was something comforting about being able to understand creators who worked their asses off to show the world beautiful things, who did so in an industry that is unforgiving and doesn’t pay well, and they still put their best foot forward and created things that gave me hope and courage.

Self-care and love is so important, and it’s something I struggle with. Even when I tell myself I need to give myself a break, even when I write it in my planner, I still let my mind get the best of me. I have a hard time not sitting in silence and not letting go of things. So sometimes, the biggest self-care thing I can do is allow myself to be hateful. I allow myself to hate my life, my writing, parts of my relationship, my current financial situation, my creativity, my inability to finish a project. And it’s not because I’m trying to demoralize myself, despite my low self-esteem issues. It’s a way for me to clear the air and admit to myself that I do feel a certain way, even if I’m getting better at believing in myself more. It’s a strange form of self-care, but it works for me. Mostly. Because what happens then is you feel the reality of what you’re saying, and you watch your reaction in a mirror, and it causes you to put things in perspective. You’re not hiding from your feelings or your emotions, which is often how I choose to deal. Despite being in and succeeding in professions where being pushy and visible is a requirement, I’ve never been a particularly confrontational person, always more content to play it safe and shy away from addressing things that could cause conflict.

I’m proud to say that I feel better about myself, but that I also understand the things that make me not okay. Part of that is due to finally having a job I love, and part of that is due to me being easier on myself (something I work on with my therapist weekly), but compared to where I was a year ago, that’s progress.

And the fact that I can admit that means a lot to me.

i tried, 2016. i really did.

When I sat down a few weeks ago to decorate/fill in the December monthly grid of my passion planner, the first thing I did was take a pen and circle December 31. I then wrote in big letters, the year is finally fucking over.

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2016 was supposed to be a great year. Okay, maybe the word great is a little too optimistic. I always try to be optimistic, but I just don’t have it in me to be a true “glass half-full” person. Still, 2016 had the potential to be pretty good. After months of stress, I was going to move in with my boyfriend, thus finally starting to move my life forward. I was well-respected and successful at my dream job, and I had plans in place to start searching for a new job with more money once I got settled in my new home. I had goals I wanted to achieve, and the hope that I could make my life more organized and more comfortable. I wanted to pay off my debt. I thought I could finally be engaged by my birthday, if not the end of the year. 2016 was going to be a great year.

2016 was not a great year.

Three months in, I unexpectedly (and unfairly, though that’s a story for another time) lost my job. I lost my job exactly four days before I was supposed to move, and I still haven’t been able to find full-time work, despite numerous interviews and connections. It all spiraled from there — because of not being employed, life moments like getting settled and getting engaged were pushed back. My self-confidence waned, and I became unable to have conversations about life because I was feeling guilty that I was holding us back. And each day came and went, because the world doesn’t wait for you to start figuring your shit out. It just leaves you in the dust, and suddenly, you’re looking at where you are at 34, approaching 35, and thinking about how left behind you are and how everyone else is in a better place than you.

2016 was not a great year.

My mental health imploded in a way that was extremely detrimental. Whereas I used to be able to comfortably handle my anxiety and depression with healthy amounts of self-care, being out a job made me unhappy with my life, which caused my anxiety and depression to hit an all-time low — one that forced me onto medication. My self-care deteriorated considerably while my drinking escalated, and I had more than a few embarrassing “rock bottom” moments that included a bottle of wine and the toilet bowl. I hated myself for becoming that person, and wondered if I had a problem that needed to be addressed. I toyed with suicide ideation for a few months, though never so seriously as to worry myself, aside from worrying myself that I was thinking a LOT in terms of “what’s the point?”

2016 was not a great year.

My depression manifested itself in not only making me feel worthless because I couldn’t find full-time work, but in tainting my relationship. Never before had I cared so much about what other people thought — I was comfortable in my relationship, I had a guy who loved me and would give me the world, who was genuinely a good person and who shared my interests. I suddenly became extremely fragile when I realized other people didn’t think of him the same way or didn’t even care for him as much, which made me feel like I was making a mistake. And because my self-esteem was so low and I couldn’t trust myself, I started comparing myself to every other couple, focusing on the negative qualities every person has that I couldn’t look beyond, convincing myself I had made wrong choices.

2016 was not a great year.

I spent most of it in the worst financial shape ever, overrun with debt, feeling guilty that I couldn’t provide my share of finances. I relied heavily on my parents to support me, something that exacerbated my guilt tenfold, given that I’m at an age where I should be self-sufficient, or at least married and taking care of my own life. Accounts were overdrawn, and I have a list miles long of money I owe friends from commitments I made this year that I still followed through with because I could KIND OF afford it at the time.

2016 was not a great year.

When I lost my job, lots of people reached out instantly and offered support or help. I was grateful to them. A lot of people who worked at places I longed to work in also supported me and offered words of encouragement. I went on interviews that seemed wonderfully positive, and lots of times, I was left in the dust without even so much of a “yes” or “no” response to all the work I’d put in to trying to get whatever job I applied for. I suppose it’s not anyone’s fault — things just weren’t in my favor, and I have to keep searching to find the one thing that’s “meant to be.” It doesn’t mean that each rejection didn’t hurt, though, and it doesn’t mean that I didn’t spend time feeling badly about myself, as everyone else who was let go from the same kind of positions before and after me managed to find work fairly quickly. The journalism world is small, and it’s hard to hide from everyone else’s success. It’s hard after awhile not to wonder if maybe you’re not so great at what you love, after all.

2016 was not a great year.

Donald Trump was somehow elected president. In the days and weeks after the election, my queer, Jewish, female self has never felt so helpless or so scared. My mental health suffered; I found it hard to find the creative drive I always embraced when I needed to get my mind off of things that were bringing me down. I felt removed from friendships due to everyone pulling away from the world and having their own issues, which was no one’s fault, but because of my current mental state, it made me feel that much more alone and useless. I couldn’t complete NaNo for this year, because November wore me down in every single way. It’s December, and I’m still am looking for that “holiday cheer.” I’m not sure I’m going to find it.

I write all this out not to air to everyone what hardships I went through or ask for sympathy, but to try to put into words everything that felt hard this year and remind myself that this year wasn’t me. Sure, 2016 sucked because of a lot of reasons, more so than previous years. But because those bad things happened, because those setbacks happened, it doesn’t equal the fact that my life is terrible. This year didn’t define me. It just beat me up in a lot of ways. And I’m very grateful that I had amazing friends in my life who were my rocks and lifelines, even when they were dealing with their own shit. And when that failed, I relied on those who reminded me that I could get back up and beat the bad guys. I could take care of myself. I could rise up.

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2016 was not a great year, but if anything, it made me realize I can try to be better. I can try to make things happen and make 2017 a good year for myself. A year doesn’t define me — my thoughts and actions do. And I’m willing to be optimistic, even cautiously so, if it means I can get rid of some of the bad.

so, i ran a half marathon

I don’t make that many New Years resolutions. And if I do, the resolutions I make are small, like read more books and write more during the year. Or they’re things that relate to my mental health, like spend less time online and stop drinking coffee before bedtime and cut back on alcohol. I don’t make big, grandiose statements to myself like “eat better” or “lose/gain weight.” But last year, I made myself a decently big promise: in 2016, I would run a half marathon. Specifically, I would run in Disneyland’s Superhero Half Marathon weekend.

For a few years, I’ve watched friends participate in the weekend and I always wanted to join them. But, well, I’m not a runner. And getting to California isn’t cheap. It’s so much easier to let the idea slide and say, “well, I wish I could…maybe next year.” So, in January, when I was making a list of goals in my passion planner, I kept it in the forefront of my mind and made it a number one priority. If I planned for it enough, and saved enough, I could commit myself to it.

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Here’s a secret: initially, I was going to sign up to run a 10K. To me, the 10K race was less intimidating than doing a half-marathon. I then found out that the theme of this year’s 10K run was Doctor Strange, and, well…not to be a bummer, but I was less enthused about participating in a race that honored a character I wasn’t that into. The Avengers Half Marathon promised to make the run a celebration of all the Marvel characters I loved, and so I asked a few friends who were serious runners if it was totally out of the question for me to run a half — given that, while I’m in good physical shape, I’m not a serious runner and have never run any kind of timed race before. With the reassurance that I could train and work up to it, I booked myself into the half-marathon run when sign-ups went live in April. Running 13.1 miles? Getting to see my favorite Avengers? Not such a bad thing. And so I trained — at least, as much as I could. I got myself to a comfortable 5K in about half an hour and built up my stamina over the summer.

Then depression and my mental health and personal commitments and being busy took a toll. As the race got closer, I trained less and less. I slacked a little more on getting outside as the weather got a bit chillier. I didn’t do any long runs or practice runs the way I was supposed to, which left me nervous about my race — so nervous that I kept making self-depreciating “I might die” remarks leading up to last Sunday whenever anyone asked me about running. But I still got on a plane and flew across the country. I still got up at 3:30am. I still stood at the starting line. I was doing this, and damned if I was going to back out on the one thing I had promised myself I’d do this year, in a year that has been one of the hardest years for me, mentally. One of my favorite lines in Hamilton is when Burr sings “I am the one thing in life I can control” which, for me, really resonates. I can’t control if I get a job, or what the country is doing with this goddamn election, or my mind getting down because I’m unhappy with certain things I can’t change. But I can control this. I can say I’ll do something and then DO IT. In therapy, I often talk about how one of the things that’s been really hard on me with unemployment is the loss of control, and feeling like there’s not a lot that I can count on in my life right now. But this? This was something I could control.

Guys, I ran a half-marathon.

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Was it easy? Hell no. The first few miles were fun, getting to run through all of Disney and California Adventure. I stopped for photos with Black Widow and Hawkeye (naturally), took in some of the sights that were super cool to run through, and there was MCU music blaring everywhere in the parks. (I regret not taking a photo with Captain America but he was the first person I saw and I was worried at that point about timing so I chose not to stop.) The hardest stretches by far were miles 8-10, particularly the stretch where I had to run around and then through Angels Stadium — mostly because the length between the miles was so long it seemed like it would never end.

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Hawkeye liked my leggings, clearly.

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By Mile 9, my legs hurt enough that when I would slow to a walk, I really felt it, probably because I had never really trained to run more than 50 minutes at a time and I was going on two hours of continuous running. But I kept going, little by little, and managed to pace myself so that I ran/walked the rest of the way and ran the last 800 meters to the finish line. Those 800 meters were arguably the most painful because I was ready to be DONE, but I knew I had to push myself to finish. And so I put on “My Shot” from the Hamilton Mixtape and let Busta Rhymes guide me over the finish line.
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YAS QUEEN I DID IT. I also hurt, you can’t tell.

Coming out to California, I had three goals for my first half-marathon: finish the race, don’t come in last, and run in under three and a half hours. And the girl who used to absolutely dread mile run day in middle school accomplished everything on her list. I finished the race, well before a lot of other people. I didn’t come in last — far from it, in fact. And while my clocked time was about 3 hours and 25 minutes (I started in the second to last corral, so my run didn’t actually start until 40 minutes after the race officially began), my actual run time from start to finish line was 2 hours and 38 minutes.

I ran a half-marathon.

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Running is SUPER SEXY…not.

The RunDisney crew was great. The people were great, the atmosphere was great, and all of it contributed to making my first run a success. People came out with signs, and my friends came out to cheer me on. Right now, the world is in a state of turmoil that feels so despondent and so bleak that I don’t know how to cope. This election hit me hard, left me vulnerable, and left me feeling helpless. I admit it was a bit of an escape to have this trip come at the time that it did — I admit it made me feel better to be with friends who shared my sexual orientation and provide them with love — but more than that, the whole weekend was about people of all ages and all ethnicities and all skill levels supporting and loving and being appreciative of each other. I hugged and talked with strangers I didn’t even know, and those anonymous encouraging smiles during the race or people who would talk to me before the race to share their stories were what helped me power through. It was a weekend about feeling good, and about love.

We could all use a reminder of love right now.

Crossing that finish line gave me a sense of exhilaration that I can’t describe. Everyone says you get adrenaline highs and endorphins while running, and while running has certainly helped my depression, I never got that total “high” people talked about. But when I was running, I felt a sense of accomplishment that can only be described as relief. Not just relief that I had finished a race, but relief that I had completed a goal that wasn’t easy, and that I worked for. I proved to myself that it didn’t matter if I hadn’t worked out enough or run enough. I had pushed myself to complete a big goal. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget what that feeling felt like. I didn’t beat my depression, and I don’t know how to do that yet, but in those moments I crossed the finish line? I beat my depression. Because I proved I could do something beyond what my body thought it was capable of.

And I did. And I can do it again. And I will.

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getting back in the game

Oh, hello. It’s been awhile.

I could talk about how I’ve fallen off the blogging train (despite weekly reminders in my planner) because I’ve been spending all my free time writing a super long story; because I’ve been trying to balance my Internet time and “real world” time; because I’ve been making more time to read; because my self-care has been quite terrible and embarrassing lately. All of these things are true, but what has kept me from being most productive lately is depression. Funny how that works, right?

I tell people I’m doing okay — my parents, my sister, my friends, my boyfriend, my boyfriend’s parents — when asked about my well-being. I’ve been essentially unemployed since the beginning of April, which is not long comparatively to some people I know (and not long compared to how many months I spent jobless back in 2014), but no matter how positive you are and how much you try to ignore it, the situation takes its toll. You relish the ability to wake up leisurely, the ability to spend time catching up on television or writing or building furniture or sitting outside or drinking dozens of cups of coffee without interruption. You freelance and try to believe that all your hard work will pay off one day. You make money on your own schedule while still setting aside time to do what you want creatively. But then there always comes a point where you fall down. Where you become angry and bitter and sick of just being leisurely. When the rejections pile up, when you have to deal with getting your hopes up way too high in interviews and callbacks that seem like the biggest strokes of luck, only to be ignored or cast out again, back to square one, all of your effort and optimism of the past few weeks seemingly for naught.

The truth is, I’m not doing okay. Beneath the happiness I’ve tried to create for myself on the Internet and elsewhere, I’ve been struggling with figuring out how to power through all of the things in my head that are constantly weighing on me. I’ve had more anxiety attacks and bouts of insomnia than I know is normal. I’ve shied away from my friends, I’ve had shorter fuses for my frustration. And the worst thing about not doing okay? I’ve made it very, very easy to find ways to hate myself. Self-care and love is so important, and it’s something I struggle with, and something I’ve been quite terrible at lately. Because depression is, well, depression, and as good as you feel about yourself some days, it’s very easy to fall into a spiral of thinking everything around you is falling apart. Taking an antidepressant regularly and being more open about my depression in general has helped me to feel a little more confident about being in the place I’m in right now, and it’s something I’m trying to continue to do. Because sitting in silence the way I’m prone to do during the times that things get bad…that’s not good, either. And if I’ve learned anything over the past year, it’s that I have a superb support system that will absolutely always be ready to prop me up if I admit that I’ve fallen.

But I still have a long way to go. I still need to be better about recognizing when to take a break, when to give MYSELF a break, when to trust myself. I still need to learn how to be happy with myself, about myself. Things are changing, slowly: a few positive scenarios have sprung up to give me light and hope because when it rains, sometimes it pours (and sometimes good karma leads to a windfall of optimism.) Summer is on its way out, fall is on its way in, and I always feel better when everything gets colder and more colorful and real. I’ve tried to embrace more friend time. I’ve tried to go easier on myself when it comes to what I’ve achieved in life and what my goals are. I’ve been writing a lot more and trying to create based on what makes me happy rather than just for validation, I’ve actively sought out things like meditation and yoga and have been trying to get myself out of the house on a daily basis. Running, aka the training I’m doing for my half marathon in November, is helping in some ways, too — as much as I still subscribe to the Sex Criminals adage of “running is bullshit.”

In short, I’m trying — which is more than I can say I was doing for a lot of this summer. And I’m AWARE that I’m trying. Sometimes, you have to accept the small steps in order to make bigger ones.

medium blog: a superhero saved my life…i should know

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Today, in an inspired blog twist, I not only wrote a long personal entry for the first time in forever (I’m getting back in the game, I swear), I also wrote it for the general public. Because I spend a lot of my life being worried about how much of myself I put onto the World Wide Web, especially being in a position where I’m currently looking for work, and being in a position where I have a professional platform and brand. But as I try to explain in this piece, I think it’s important not to hide from things that you struggle with, because in that way, you’re letting the negative parts of your brain win. This was a topic I wanted to write about anyway, and I figured if I was going to write it for here, I might as well take the steps to share it.

I’ve included the entire post below, and as of now, it’s shared in article form on Medium as well.


As someone who grew up writing and devouring fantasy books, it’s not uncommon for me to find inspiration and connection in fictional characters.

In middle school and high school, it was Gillian Anderson and her portrayal of Dana Scully who motivated me and inspired me (so much so that I actually applied to college with the intention of being a pre-med major, before I realized that, unlike the hour-long cases on The X-Files, you actually have to do math and science to pursue a career in forensics). In college, it was LOST and James “Sawyer” Ford as portrayed by Josh Holloway — an actor who spent years working towards his dream of being successful, whose struggles and life lessons I latched onto when I graduated and spent months searching for my own dream job, in a city that I longed to live in and make a life in.

After that, it became about superheroes.

Black Widow was my inspiration when I realized I wanted to write about comics and geek things, and when I needed to fight against people who seemed to think I couldn’t contribute to or succeed in a field dominated by males. (Ask me if I was ever taken seriously when I said I read comics in a room of men). Iron Man (and Robert Downey Jr) was my inspiration when I was fighting my way through graduate school at Northwestern, because some people, when they turn 30, get promoted to senior editors. I turned 30, started my entire career over after almost nine years of living and working in New York, and went back to school to get my graduate degree among twenty year olds, just so I could work in the industry I so desperately dreamed of being in. Like Dana Scully and James “Sawyer” Ford, these characters are still my inspirations, and I still count them among those who have had an impact on me.

And then there was Hawkeye. Specifically, then there was the comic book written by Matt Fraction and drawn by David Aja, Annie Wu and others, that launched at Marvel after the success of The Avengers in 2012. Hawkeye is often jokingly referred to as the “forgotten” Avenger, the one most people don’t know the way they know Thor or Iron Man or Captain America. Still, the character’s superhero history is not something to be laughed at: he debuted in the 1960’s, is known to be a prominent member of The Avengers, has had important relationships with his teammates and has had a long and complex history as both an Avenger and a rogue superhero. So why did this comic resonate so much with me, when the superhero is one that’s been written and drawn for so many years? Because the 2012 Hawkeye series sets Clint Barton in the streets of today’s grungy, beat-up Brooklyn and paints the character as something that no other comic has been able to do: a human.

Because, see, Hawkeye lives in a building where on his off days, he grills on the roof for his tenants and watches his neighbors’ kids. Hawkeye makes amazing coffee (at least, the way I’d want to drink it). Hawkeye is GREAT at shooting a bow and arrow — there’s a reason he never misses. Hawkeye is super compassionate and cares about the people he considers important in his life. Hawkeye is only serious when he has to be and is unashamed about his thoughts and doesn’t bother to censor himself. And Hawkeye has no real superhero abilities, unless you count that awesome marksmanship. He doesn’t have super soldier strength, or a metal suit, or gifted abilities, and he doesn’t hail from a God’s royalty. He’s not destined to be a king or a leader. He didn’t come from a family who expected great things from him. (His family didn’t care about him at all). Hawkeye is all talent, muscle, luck, perseverance and heart, and he’d rather save the day and sit at home with his dog and eat pizza, rather than sit on the throne of Asgard.

The thing is, Hawkeye is great at being a superhero. Most of the time. But Clint Barton? He’s messed up his life. A lot. He’s screwed up relationships. He’s screwed up friendships. He’s said the wrong things and gotten so down on himself, he’s wondered if it’s even worth getting out of bed. He’s had moments where he can’t see past the fact that all he does is shoot a bow and arrow, and he wonders if the world even needs him when they have other people who save the world with more success. His stubbornness and coping mechanisms during bad days have caused strains and fights with close friends, lovers, and teammates, and there’s a reason why sometimes he’d rather just go back to bed then be reminded of the fact that today is his divorce anniversary. I can’t relate to being a superhero, I can’t relate to shooting a bow and arrow, but boy, can I relate to losing a job and questioning your place in an industry you desperately believe you belong in. I can relate to looking at your life and your experiences and wondering if you made the right choices. I can relate to screwing up relationships and doubting yourself. I can relate to that feeling of wanting to go back to bed, rather than having to face another day of nothing. I can relate to a friend slamming a door in your face when you won’t talk to them about your problems.

A few weeks ago, spurred by social media’s awareness, I picked up the bookLast Night, A Superhero Saved My Life. In addition to the obviously on-brand premise, I was lured by a collection of stories from some of my favorite authors, including Neil Gaiman and Jodi Picoult, as well as a story from a former colleague at Entertainment Weekly who served (and continues to serve) as a mentor in this strange, overwhelming industry. I knew what I was getting into when I started to read, but I don’t think I realized how much each story would affect me, or how much I would see myself reflected in these honest, earnest tales about people who felt truly attached to these characters in a very personal way. My superhero obsession isn’t a secret, but I often don’t tell people about my personal connections to them, or why they mean so much to me. And if I do tell people about my love for Hawkeye — a well-known aspect of my life among my friends or anyone that sees my apartment or work desk — I often pad it with the explanation of being a fan of Jeremy Renner, who portrays the character in the films. It’s not a lie, but it perpetuates the idea that most people think I like the characters I do because of their pretty faces, or because of their superhero physique. But would they believe me at all if I said it was because these characters saved my life? Or would they continue to roll their eyes at the admission?

We don’t talk about how we deal with our issues. The world has enough bad stuff going on, and so I don’t need to tell my friends or the general public about the medications I take, the self-harm I’ve inflicted, the journal writing I find solace in when I find myself crying about things that make me unsure of where I am and who I’ve chosen to love. Despite putting myself out there in my writing and profession, I remain wholly unconvinced I have anything to offer the world. (Self-confidence: it’s a bitch.) The past few months have put me in situations which have led me to struggle with old demons in ways that I feel unhealthily overwhelmed by. During one particularly tough afternoon, in an effort to distract myself from sitting around in depression, I found myself picking up my hardbound Hawkeye omnibus without thinking about it. I sat down on the couch, opened the book, and read straight through all twenty-two issues without stopping. I let myself cry at the panels I needed to cry at, I let myself feel connected to the panels I needed to allow myself to accept. It wasn’t my weekly hour of therapy, and I didn’t even have to pay a dime, but it worked. And in the same way I found solace in Clint Barton’s story while the comic was running, reading this series over and over became a coping mechanism that I desperately needed. When I felt depressed or anxious, I would open the comic and read a few pages, or a ton of pages, and I would find myself again. Like Hawkeye, I’ve had moments where I’ve felt inspired, empowered, on top of the world. Like Clint, I’ve been knocked down because I’ve fallen — oh how I’ve fallen. So what do I do? I get up. I keep fighting. Because what else am I supposed to do?

Because Clint Barton is a fighter. He came from a broken home where he was taught that he was essentially worthless, thanks to an alcoholic father and parents who died when he was young. He ran off to the circus, he tried to change his fate, and he was screwed over by people he thought wanted to help him. He struck out on his own after learning he couldn’t trust people who he put his faith in, and he made his own luck. But he used all those things to make himself a better person. He’s an archer not because he doesn’t want to be a more powerful superhero, but because this is what he’s trained in, and because this is what he has to offer the world. If he fails at the one thing he’s known for and proud of, he may not even bother to call himself an Avenger. And he knows that.

“You’re gonna miss each and every shot you can’t be bothered to take. That’s not living life — that’s just being a tourist. Take every shot, Kate. If it’s worth caring about, no matter how impossible you think it is — you take the shot.”

Clint Barton was depressed and he had a hard life, and he failed more than he succeeded. But he was also a superhero. And the fact that I could see myself so accurately reflected in the pages of a comic book, the fact that I knew he had all these doubts about his life, that he struggled with all these internal demons and he could still continue to put himself out there was mind-blowing. Because he never stops believing people can change. He never stops helping people, or trying to prove his worth. And because he won’t stop fighting, that means I shouldn’t stop fighting, either. Even if I have to accept help from outside sources. Even if I wake up some days thinking about how easy it would be to not get out of bed at all.

Dana Scully made me work harder in high school and James “Sawyer” Ford helped me not go down a deep dark road when I first stepped into the real world. But Black Widow inspired me to keep working against my obstacles and not care about what people were saying, and Iron Man guided me through the start of a second career when I wasn’t sure if I was making the right choice, and Hawkeye showed me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that I wasn’t alone even when I felt like I was.

Comics helped me. Comics saved me. As cliche as it sounds, a superhero saved my life. And like the people who put their own stories into my hands, who allowed me to realize I’m not alone, I’m not ashamed to say it out loud.