Goodbye To Comics #12:
How Comics Almost Busted A Cap In My Ass
Okay, so here is the story how the comics industry almost drove me to jump out my 6th-floor window. It is theoretically fucking hilarious. It's like Frank Capra by way of Dante. I mean, I hear they're going to do a "30 Seconds With Bunnies" version of this one.
We start with a conversation between me and my doctor:
"I have heart palpitations, stomach cramps, and migraines. And insomnia."
"Gee gosh why?"
"I'm in a very stressful situation right now at my job."
"You should find another job."
"But then how will I pay you?"
"Besides, I just need to stick it out just a little bit longer, and then I'm sure things will be okay. I have to keep this job. I've wanted this job ever since I was a little kid."
"No problem. You should do what most people in our society do -- ignore the problem and take these blue pills instead. These blue pills make you all numb so you can go through all sorts of indignities and not care. It's what everybody does -- even some people in elected office!"
"Cool beans. Only thing is, I have a history of being sensitive to drugs and medication. Might these blue pills negatively impact my life, potentially?"
"Oh not at all. They are totally safe. Here, take these samples."
"Wow, thanks. I can't wait to feel numb to my pain."
ONE DAY LATER AT WORK:
"Oh, God," I say, clutching my chest, "I'm having a...a...heart-attack!"
THE NEXT DAY:
"Yes? How's those blue pills coming along?"
"Well, I fell down at work and thought I was having a heart-attack."
"Yeah, but the paramedics came and said it was just a panic-attack."
"Yeah, and then the guy I was having problems with at my job told people that it just went to show that my job was too stressful for me and I couldn't handle it. And I felt very angry and humiliated."
"Yeah, and I think it was the blue pill because I never had a panic attack before in my life."
"NOW WAIT JUST A GODDAMMN MINUTE!!! Don't diss my pills, yo!"
"No, I'm serious, I really think I shouldn't take this blue pill any more."
"You're just over-reacting. Try it for another week or so. Just until you get a nice, healthy concentration of the stuff into your system. And then everything will be fine."
ONE WEEK LATER:
"Uh, Doc? Sorry to call you at such an odd hour."
"Not a problem. What's up?"
"I can't feel the left side of my body. Am I having a stroke?"
"No, it's probably just nerves. (It's certainly not my blue pill). Let's try to get you another type of drug to cover up the effects of the first drug."
Within a month I am suffering from extreme nerve pain, migraines, and fatigue. While it becomes more and more clear to me that I am allergic to these drugs and I need to stop them, they are already concentrated into my system and trying to quit cold turkey gives me a series of seizures. Besides, I don't have time to take off work from Gilgongo! Comics, because it's the holiday rush and half the staff are on vacation or maternity leave. Besides, apparently I "don't have paid medical leave."
Here is a theoretical conversation between me and a high-ranking supervisor:
"Well, we know you're going through a lot right now, and, while we can't give you paid medical leave, we talked it over and have decided to grant you ONE WEEK OF UNPAID LEAVE! Isn't that generous of us?"
"Wow, that's great. But I'm a person of low self-esteem who only feels worthwhile if I'm working like a dog and producing income. So I'll choose to work in sheer agony because I'm fucking martyr."
"That's why we love you here."
In the meantime, I had privately discussed with "Willy Wonka," one my bosses, that a situation with a certain employee was reaching the breaking point and had to stop -- but that I didn't want to make a big stink about it. Willy offers to step in and talk to this person privately. And while the initial harassment stops, this individual now hates my guts and is hostile towards me, creating vitrol and tension in the environment.
My physical condition continues to deteriorate because of my body's sensitivity to the prescribed drugs. But to stop causes seizures. The only solution is to slowly taper off of them.
"You might feel a little sick with the tapering," my doctor cautions.
"A little sick" does not begin to cover it.
My nerve endings become so damaged that touching my cat's fur registers on my fingertips as touching a smooth glass surface. Limbs go "dead" and completely numb without warning. I have tiny red spots all over my body, a sign of a poisoned system. My skin suffers constant nerve pain that makes me want to scream; unfortunately, since my body is so sensitive to medications, my doctor doesn't want to give me a pain-reliever.
And the migraines...so intense that at some point I sincerely wished I was dead to make the pain stop.
I mentioned this to a moderately high-ranking Gilgongoite and confidant:
"Sometimes these migraines are so painful that I just....I just want to put a bullet in my head."
"Oh, don't do that...it will make the Company look bad."(<----not a "joke" quote) Eventually, I call an administrative person in another building to go on what I think is an unpaid medical leave of absence. To my shock, I find out that I was qualified to have paid leave -- multiple weeks of it in fact -- all along. "But I was told that they couldn't give me paid leave." "Well I don't know what they said, but this is what I'm telling you." And so began months of excruciating tapering and recovery. All the time I wondered about my job, my reputation, and what would become of me now. When the paid leave ran out, I came back. I was still sick and in pain. But I was back. Of course, in the meantime between the leave & my return I made an official complaint regarding the problematic Gilgongo! employee. Which meant that when I returned, everything ran the gamut from surreal to fucked-up. I didn't feel welcome anymore. And I was ill. Who needed this shit? When you're healthy you can put up with a lot of shit. When you're sick, your threshold for bullshit, intimidation, and general fucked-upness goes out the window. After a few weeks, I went to my supervisor's office, closed the door, and announced my resignation. To my surprise, he insisted I stay. I insisted that I knew my own body and that I was going to need many weeks if not months of recovery to get the rest of the medication out of my system and to heal. He insisted that he knew if I stayed I could forge ahead and everything would be fine. I insisted that I wanted to resign now, with dignity. He said it would break his heart if I left. So I stayed. I only lasted another two weeks. By then, most of the medication was out of my system but my body was so damaged that everyday living was a nightmare of nerve pain and migraines. One day I stoically went into Willy Wonka's office and had a long talk with him. The last thing I asked him was, "What do you think the chances of my ever getting promoted in this place are, after I recover?" "Pretty bad. Even with the recovery they'll just use your illness as an excuse." "So I'm fucked, basically." And so I went to my office, cleaned it out, typed a resignation letter, and split. I knew that was the End. That whatever dreams I had of Big Comics, at least at Gilgongo!, were over. In the period of time between first offering to resign and my eventual departure, I was given a whole slate of new assignments that I had to now suddenly abandon. I felt so humilated. Why in the hell did my supervisior insist on me staying when I made it so very clear that my health couldn't hack it? Why couldn't he just take my resignation? Why did he insist? Now I am sitting across the room from my therapist, a year later, and I offer her a "crackpot" theory: "Because if I stayed...I wouldn't tell." And now I'm back at my apartment after just quitting the job I wanted my entire life. My nerve pain is still there in full force, one more fucking day of dealing with it. I put down the bags of belongings from my office in the kitchen and head for my bedroom. I get out my laptop and write in great detail everything that happened to me. I save in on my desktop in a folder marked "read this first." Then I get out some pieces of looseleaf paper and write out my will. I mean, according to my research, the bodily effects of this sort of catastrophic drug reaction can last YEARS. Who needs it? I was fucked up. My career was over. I really didn't feel like I had any allies or defenders. Soon the medical insurance was going to run out. I was going to have to live on my savings. And if I was too sick to get a job after that? What, welfare? Disability insurance? No. I had it. I was through. But how would I do it? I pictured sailing over the edge of the one window in my room without a child-guard. But then the following line ran through my head: "Oh, don't do that...it will make the Company look bad."
Oh gosh, no. Don't make the Company look bad.
I looked at the four pages of of my will that I just wrote out in pencil. Typical fucking fan-geek will.
"I hereby bequeath my set of Buffy DVDs to..."
I was going to end my life for what?
For motherfucking comics, I was going to be street-pizza?
For Phantom Girl, Herbie the The Fat Fury, Angle Man, Cottonmouth, and the Woodgod? For Paste-Pot-Pete, the Inferior Five, the 3-D Man, and Squirrel Girl? I was going to lay down my life for the industry that introduced glow-in-the-dark multiple cover gimmicks? That elevated Rob Liefeld to the level of DaVinci? That still, on average, produced the same adolescent male power fantasies as they did 50 years ago -- men in pajamas, women in bondage? For being cast out of the realm where power is signified by how many action figures you have on your desk, this was why I was going to end my life?
Well, there was also the matter of the continual pain.
But I threw the will away and slogged through it. I wrote a book. I went on a strict diet free of MSG, preservatives, and sugar to bring my pain down to managable levels and eventually lost 60 pounds. I managed to recover enough to get a part-time job, and when that was successful I upgraded to a full-time one where I made more money than I ever did at Gilgongo! Comics. And I thought I had processed everything, that I learned my lessons.
Yeah, I said to myself that I would write this all down one day in some sort of memoir, or I would become active in Friends Of Lulu and protect women everywhere, or I would do a half-billion other noble things so I could see the "silver lining" in my struggle.
But deep down I could still see my dad ripping that Wonder Woman poster off my wall:
"You ungrateful bitch! You fucked it all up! You touched the fizzy-lifting drink! Now you win nothing--NOTHING!"
And I just wanted to make him happy.