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)
- Spider-Man 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 (albeit influenced by a malevolent being or force) to get a form of compensation.
- Batman has a tendency to go through this anytime he (temporarily) gains super powers. Engineering this was Bane's goal in Knightfall, and it worked. Notable in that Batman never mentally tires of the job; in his case, it's always physical exhaustion.
- Happened to The Plutonian prior to his massive Face-Heel Turn in Irredeemable, part of his powerset was Super Senses that he couldnt turn off, so he always heard everyone suffering everywhere. When he decided to go into space for a little while, where the vacuum would prevent him from hearing anything, his absence coincided with an alien virus breaking loose and causing the horrible deaths of hundreds of children.
- 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 Spider-Man Trilogy 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.
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2 uses this trope as well, being about Spider-Man and all. Gwen Stacy's death and being forced to fight a good friend of his drove Peter to despair, and he stopped being Spidey for five months.
Table Top Games
- As a human, Cordelia was not meant to shoulder the responsibility of Doyle's visions ("a big cosmic whoops", as Skip calls it). She secretly takes powerful painkillers and undergoes CAT scans that indicate the slow deterioration of her brain.
- Yet when presented with the opportunity to pass her visions onto someone else (the gallant Groosalugg, and later Angel in an alternate reality), Cordelia refuses, stating that the visions are a part of her and make her who she is.
- 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.
- Aki in Namco High has the problem of having not only superhero responsibilities, but also being possibly the biggest perfectionist workaholic in the history of the world, to ensure a state of permanent exhaustion and being late for things often enough to end up in detention.
- The main character of Contact experiences this after an ignoble defeat about 3/4s through the game. He also has a similarly bad reaction at the end, when he actually tries to fight the player through the screen after realizing he was manipulated.
- 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 accidentally turned her sister into pure Body Horror.
- Batman suffers an emotional breakdown like this in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "I Am The Night". He's finally pushed over the edge when Commissioner Gordon is shot during a stakeout he was late to while putting flowers on his parents death site in Crime Alley.
- J'onn J'onzz temporarily quits the Justice League late in the third season of Justice League Unlimited partly due to this. Mostly due to becoming estranged from humanity, which Wonder Woman pointed out. The next time he's seen is in the Grand Finale... with his human wife.