So many long hours spent around sick people, and I got numb to it, I stopped caring. Do you know how many hours I’ve spent awake at night, wishing my powers would just go away, or that some circumstance would come up where I’d make some excusable mistake where they would eventually forgive me, but where I couldn’t visit the hospitals anymore?
Exactly What It Says on the Tin
, this is a trope where The Hero
, suffering (or enjoying, depending on the mood of the story) from Chronic Hero Syndrome
, spends so much of his time and effort helping people, that it is physically and emotionally wearing him down to the breaking point. It can be even worse for him
if he has something akin to super hearing
, so he can always hear people calling for help, even when he's trying to get an hour or two of sleep before clocking in for his Stock Super hero Day Job
and chugging coffee for the entire day
This may lead sooner or later to Passing the Torch
and Retired Badass
, or in more cynical works, a Heroic BSOD
or a Despair Event Horizon
, as the increasingly strung-out and hopeless hero just loses it because he can't save all those people who need him
. This could of course apply to the villain, for many of the same reasons (well, presumably not the strain of constantly having to save people, but certainly the stresses of dealing with the superheros and law enforcement would be an issue)
- Spiderman has gone through this more than once. He got his powers as a teen, had no adult guidance and was trying to fight crime, help Aunt May with bills, keep up school work and try to have something resembling a social life all while being the quintessential Hero with Bad Publicity. He's been shown quitting, trying to get rid of his powers and even resorting to crime to get whats owed to him.
- Daredevil: We see the hero going through his before-bed routine, getting everything put away in just the right place, climbing into the sound-proof casket (necessary due to his super hearing), only for him to hear a woman somewhere nearby crying for help. He only lets out an exhausted sigh before slowly closing the casket to close out the sound.
- In Megamind, Metroman gets so tired of being a hero all the time he fakes his death.
- As with the comics, this is a recurring theme in the Spiderman films. Its most pronounced in the second movie where the stress of his chosen life causes his powers to start failing. By the beginning of the third film, he seems to have found some balance and Mary Jane being in his life helps.
Table Top Games
- In Smallville, Sneeze, Clark wears himself out trying to fix an entire ruined Metropolis.
- In Heroes season 4, Peter wore himself to the breaking point trying to rescue and heal people in his job as a paramedic using his abilities.
- In an episode of Lois and Clark, Lois was near the breaking point when she realized that even with all of Superman's (borrowed) powers, she could not save everyone.
- In The Listener this turns out to be a plot point. Toby will die if he continues to use his powers and in the second season finale, shuts off his telepathy
- Merlin: Almost every character will at some point suffer this, but Merlin the most.
- In the Pathfinder Adventure Path Curse of the Crimson Throne, most descriptions of Field Marshal Cressida Kroft—the captain of the city guard and resident Reasonable Authority Figure—stress how exhausted she looks from dealing with the various disasters of the city.
- By Mass Effect 3, Commander Shepard really starts getting hit with this. Companions bring it up to him/her fairly often and by the end of the game, even before the final battle, s/he sounds completely exhausted and spent. The player is made to feel his/her exhaustion at the very end when after being injured in the dash to the teleportation beam, Shepard is reduced to a slow stagger for the remainder of the game.
- A superhero in Mandatory Roller Coaster routinely stands atop buildings in order to curse the city's inhabitants and feel sorry for himself.
- Sailor Nothing has a nasty case of this, to the point of her being constantly on the verge of a complete breakdown. Doesn't help that she gets splitting headaches every time a Yamiko is created, and goes out to fight even when she's badly injured.
- In Worm, Panacea has the power of complete control over the biology of anything she touches. She uses this to simulate Healing Hands, and she can cure virtually any ailment or sickness. From the moment her powers triggered as a child, she spent all her free time visiting hospitals, because she couldn't live with herself if she didn't. As time went by, however, she got sick of seeing illness and sick people around her all the time, to the point that she was almost on the edge of a complete breakdown, so when Tattletale, Bonesaw, and Jack Slash administered successive Breaking Speeches to her, she had a nervous breakdown and turned her sister into pure Body Horror