So, as I referenced at the bottom of my review of CA:CW, Ben Kuchera wrote a great article called “Someone Help Tony Stark.” It is a wonderfully written article, and I agree with Kuchera’s description of Tony Stark, as written, sliding further and further into PTSD and other mental health issues. He wants to know why no one thinks to reach out to Tony Stark, to “ask for the proverbial keys for the Iron Man suit for a week or two while he talks to a professional,” or something.
As someone with PTSD, Anxiety and Depression, I’m just going to put this out there: We can be really hard to deal with when the trauma isn’t caused by something as big as flying a nuke through a wormhole. Even when people love us like our spouses do, it is not easy to deal with the screaming fits, panic attacks, the night terrors and/or the inexplicable fits of inconsolable weeping. Honestly, I feel like some of what I’ve put the Geek Husband What Rules through is far above and beyond the call of duty for someone to put up with in a marriage, let alone in a friend/co-worker situation.
A lot of the time we won’t ask for help outright because we think we don’t need it, or we think we don’t deserve it. I’m pretty sure that Tony leans more heavily in the direction of latter, particularly after Ultron. And I don’t think it’s that everyone assumes Tony will be fine. It’s that he’s spent so much time pushing them all away in one way or another. Tony’s wisecracking and quips are a form of armor meant to keep him from getting hurt, they’re meant to push people away. And, the thing is you can’t help someone with that melange of mental illnesses unless they want to be helped. And by want to be helped I mean are ready and willing to accept that help from the person offering it.
Also, it’s gonna take more than a couple weeks, pal. Therapy is a lifelong pursuit for some people.
Honestly, the only one of the Avengers who should say something is Sam, and I don’t get the feeling they spend that much time together. You know, Sam working with vets with PTSD at the VA and having a raging case of it himself, that he seems to largely have under control.
The only real friend Tony has ever been shown to have is Happy. And he disappeared after Iron Man 3.
Also, I would like to take a tiny issue with this sentence from the article:
Of course he’s hitting rock bottom and feels backed into a corner: Stark is having an increasingly impossible time processing his own trauma while continually being put into violent situations as the direct result of his own attempts to work through his pain.
I would like to make one teeny change there. “…while continually putting himself into violent situations as the direct result of his own attempts to work through his pain.”
Don’t erase his agency. Tony is the captain of his own ship, and he has gotten where he is, both good and bad, largely through his own actions. And he’s only really going to be able to get the help he needs when HE actually reaches out to someone he can trust and says point blank, “Please help me.” Maybe what happened to Rhodey is enough of a wake up call that he’ll be able to do that. Maybe. We can only wait and see.
Now when it comes to Steve and PTSD, it is definitely there. He just expresses himself differently. Look for the clenched jaw, flexing fists, and quick eye movements. He is not going to display symptoms in remotely the same way that Tony does, but Sam still recognizes the signs in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Steve comes from an era where they referred to PTSD as ‘battle fatigue’ and frequently dismissed it as gold-bricking or a moral failure of some kind. So, this is also a guy who is unlikely to look for help, and more likely to hold everything so deep inside it only comes out in his willingness to do things like jump from planes into stormy oceans without a parachute, or let his long lost childhood friend kill him, if that’s what’s gonna happen.
Both Tony and Steve are victims of how our society conditions men to deal with feelings and mental illness: poorly. They just manifest it in different ways. Tony in trying to keep himself and his world safe. And Steve by acting with extreme indifference toward self-preservation.