Coping with a mental health disorder can be one of the most difficult experiences of a person’s life. Conditions like anxiety and bipolar disorder may prevent someone from living to the fullest. One of the most liberating steps is the realisation that you aren’t alone and that it’s okay to share how you’re feeling with like-minded people.
Superheroes like Speedball understand the power of finding a routine that helps to manage a mental health condition. A sufferer of self-harm and low self-esteem, Robbie Baldwin has experienced more trauma that anyone his age should have to face. Read on to discover his coping mechanisms in the latest edition of Superhero Mentality.
A series of highs and lows
Before getting into his routine, it’s important to understand Speedball’s mental health journey. As a high school student, Robbie was involved in a science-based accident that gave him the power to manipulate kinetic energy. Deciding to become a superhero, Robbie tried to balance his home life with his secret identity as a crime-fighter.
Over time, the marriage between his parents broke down and Robbie found himself estranged from his father because he carried extreme prejudice against people he considered to be vigilantes. The breakdown of his family life forced Speedball to put on a happy persona, which led him into the realm of reality TV and he joined a team called the New Warriors.
During a taping for their show, the New Warriors tried to arrest a group of criminals in Connecticut. One of the villains, Nitro, unleashed an explosion that killed 612 civilians and the rest of the New Warriors. As the only survivor, Speedball felt tremendous guilt over what happened. Disgraced and crippled by self-loathing, Robbie went down a dark path. It took a long time for him to learn to forgive himself, which is why finding a routine helped him turn his life around.
Appreciating the small steps
To start off his day, the first thing I imagine Robbie doing is reminding himself of the progress he’s made. After the events in Connecticut, he suffered a mental breakdown that altered his powers and his mindset. Believing himself broken, Robbie had a suit of armour made that featured 612 spikes to remember all the people who’d been killed.
Calling himself Penance, Robbie donned the armour and let it cut his flesh. This form of self-harm allowed him to harness his powers and create destructive explosions. Even after Robbie went back to his Speedball identity, he continued to self-harm. In his mind, he still saw himself as Penance, someone who deserved to be punished. With the help of friends, Robbie finally managed to forgive himself.
By thinking about how far he’s come, Robbie can begin his morning with a positive mindset.
Going for a walk or exercising can be a good way to clear the mind of unwanted thoughts. In Robbie’s case I’d see him going outside and using his powers to bounce around. Speedball’s powers manifest as large bubbles that help him ricochet off various surfaces.
I could see the exercise being therapeutic for him because he would channel his energy into the simple act of bouncing. Not only would it be enjoyable for him, but it would serve as a training session and giving him the chance to gain better control of his powers.
After exercising, Speedball would likely want to relax and spend time with his cat, Niels. Speedball’s affinity for cats goes back to his earliest days as a superhero. The energy source that gave him his powers also affected Niels. Robbie eventually adopted the cat and the two of them became inseparable.
Niels played an important part in Robbie’s recovery. When he was locked up and drugged in a facility owned by Norman Osborn, Robbie was reunited with his pet. Seeing Niels again unlocked a flood of happy memories that made Robbie’s time in the facility more bearable. It may have been the point when he decided to start making a change.
Talking with friends
No matter how busy he was, Robbie would always find the time to reach out to his friends in the New Warriors and tell them how he was doing. When he first realised that his teammates had survived the explosion, Robbie was hesitant to connect with them because he didn’t want them to see how much he’d changed.
But through reconnecting with close friends like Justice and Nova, Robbie learned to let go of the guilt that was plaguing him. Speaking to people you trust can do wonders for mental health. Whether it’s chatting on the phone with a work colleague or reaching out to someone you haven’t spoken with for ages, don’t be afraid to talk about how you’re really feeling.
Having gone through so much at a young age, Speedball made a promise to help other young superheroes find their feet. He joined the Avengers Academy and helped to teach characters like Hazmat how to better understand her powers.
Teaching can be a rewarding experience, especially from a mental health perspective. A teacher has the chance to lead the discussion about mental health and destigmatise subjects, so their students feel more comfortable talking about issues like anxiety.
Going to a support group
Mental health is a complex subject and even with all his progress, there may be times when Speedball relapses into thoughts of self-harm and depression. During those times, I’d see him visiting a support group like Andy’s Man Club, a place that encourages men to openly discuss their mental health.
The UK-based charity was set up in honour of 23-year-old Andy Roberts, who tragically committed suicide. His brother-in-law, Luke Ambler founded the group in Halifax and the charity has grown to include charters all over the country. Groups like Andy’s Man Club can help to save a life and make a real difference to guys who are suffering inside their heads. #It’sOkayToTalk.
(Please note that Superhero Mentality isn’t meant to be taken as lifestyle advice. The segment is designed to encourage the conversation about mental health positivity.)