Friday, October 21, 2011

Why So Serious?

ID: Are you depressed?

B: I’ve been told I brood too much. Even as a child. My mother teased me for being too serious. I frowned a lot- particularly in pictures.

ID: Your mother teased you? That didn’t bode well. But even pre-orphaning, you were serious.

B: As a heart attack, or at least as a Perry Mason wrap-up.

ID: I don’t know, I laughed a lot watching his closing speeches- especially when the detective with the lazy eye was there. I think it was because the show was so impeccably cast, and everyone so impeccably groomed, that that one, off-kilter aspect just undermined everything.

But you just seem so… depressive. In talking about your children, in talking about Zatanna, one thing keeps coming up: how optimistic they are, how bright, sunny, happy. How much they help you leave your personal darkness behind, put it away and remember what it’s like to be alive. So I’m wondering if it isn’t just moodiness, but depression.

B: Clinically? You aren’t the first person to suggest it. Basically, major depressive disorder is characterized by low mood,

ID: Check.

B: low self-esteem,

ID: Uh, check? Maybe?

B: Losing interest in all pleasurable activities. And for that, well, there’s one thing I never stop enjoying.

ID: Kicking bad guys in the scrotum?

B: I would have put it more tactfully, but in a nutshell.

ID: Oh my god, a testicle joke. I’m so proud of you. But I kind of stumbled on self-esteem, and you did not give me anything to go on by way of reaction. You can’t possibly have low self-esteem; really, you and men like you give me my low self-esteem.

B: I’m an Olympic level athlete. I always score in the 99th percentile in aptitude tests.

ID: You always score.

B: I’m successful, socially and otherwise, and wealthy. I’d say, with all due humility I’m easy on the eyes. Any feelings of inadequacy given that starting point would qualify as low self-esteem- though I’d put that at intermittent. So maybe one and a half checks.

ID: But attachment theory, John Bowlby’s baby, says that experiencing early loss or separation from parents or caregivers can lead to insecure working models.

B: So you’re skipping the diagnostic criteria and going right for the anecdotal drive-by hackery, huh?

ID: Hey, if you want the diagnosis, all you had to do was ask. Remember at the beginning, when we did the Hamilton rating scale for depression worksheet? About the only thing you didn’t score a 2 in was psychomotor retardation; you’re high functioning.

B: I also wasn’t fidgety.

ID: Not physically, no; but your mind was twitchy as hell. And it isn’t helped by the fact that, physically, you’re impossible to read. Between the AIDS, the medication for the AIDS, and the fact that you still bullishly exercise, it’s kind of hard to tell what fatigue is normal fatigue and what might be depression fatigue. But, I tallied your responses, or made things up when you weren’t helpfully responsive, and you’re depressed.

B: One last point: Hamilton himself said his scale shouldn’t be used as a diagnostic criteria.

ID: Really? I guess that makes my “finding” anticlimactic, then.

B: Kind of.

ID: All right, well, social cognitive theory asserts that depressed individuals internalize guilt but rarely acknowledge positive outcomes. I’ve known you for a while, and you do seem to be a personal blame magnet.

B: Guilt can be a useful tool, if it drives progression, revision, critical examination. Internalizing guilt merely for self-flagellation is counter-productive. And I prefer Maslow, who believed depression came from individuals unable to reach their full potential.

ID: Have you?

B: I’m not sure what more you think I should have accomplished.

ID: Actually, my question is less focused on what more, as what you might have been able to do otherwise. You’re brilliant. Handsome. And capable of doing great things. Instead you’ve run around in a bat-shaped unitard kicking people. From that description, you sound like the slow kid in my first grade class who kept getting into trouble for running around in just his underpants, sniffing glue and stomping on people’s toes.

B: That’s… harsh. And insensitive to the challenged. But if your point is that my life has at times been self-indulgent and not always maximizing. You’re right. I haven’t always been the best man I could be. I spent years probably selfishly training, for a very personal quest. Maybe I should have been doing more charity, more philanthropy. Maybe I should have gone into politics.

But as Batman, I helped save the world. More than once. Maybe the League could have done that without me. Maybe they couldn’t have. If you examine every possible outcome of every choice in your life, and assume the best possible outcome, of course you’ll be found wanting.

But I don’t have any shame about who I am, the life I’ve lived. In fact, I’m damn proud of the things I’ve accomplished. I’ve sweat, I’ve bled, and when I go, I think the world will be better for having had me in it. Everything else, those details… they’re just that.

And I guess, ultimately, it’s a dark, and sometimes unforgiving world. There are mainly two methods for dealing with that. One, was Clark’s, and Zatanna’s, and Dick’s, and that’s meeting that darkness with light. With happiness, and optimism, and charity.

And as much as I love them, and much as I wish I could be them sometimes, I’m not. So I confront that darkness with darkness. I melt into a world that isn’t perfect and isn’t always fair, that can harsh, and even brutal. I became a creature of that world. I thrive in that world by being a part of it. It’s taken its toll- but seeing Clark, Dick and Zatanna, I can say being a bright light in this dark world takes its toll, too. The only difference, I think, is that they enjoyed it more. They were happier for it.

Sometimes, I think I was able to do things they weren’t, see sides to problems they couldn’t. Maybe I’m just rationalizing it. Maybe I’m trying to find a way for it not to have been a flaw, or at least for something good to have come out of my misery.

But for better or for ill, I don’t think I would have survived it, without people like those three. And I don’t think I can honestly say the reverse is true. In fact, sometimes I wonder if their lives would have been happier without my darkness.

ID: Wait… are you talking about suicidal ideation?
B: … No. I wasn’t ever thinking of killing myself. I don’t know what me not surviving would have looked like; if psychologically, or emotionally, I would have withered up and blew away, or if the ravages of that internal hollowing would have destroyed me physically. But they saved my life, in ways I can’t explain; but I know it, more intimately than I know anything else.

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