Lo these many moons ago, when I was in college, I was fortunate enough to have friends that led me to a wonderful resource my school had. It's called the MLLL (it used to stand for Multimedia Listening and Learning Library), or the Comic Books Reading Room. Such is the beauty of going to a college populated by geeks.
The MLLL was a tiny, windowless room, and you could only get in if somone gave you the code to the lockbox on the door. Once inside, however, you were surrounded by comics. Graphic novels, single issues, multiple single issues bound together on-site - it was the kind of thing to make a comic book lovers' heart leap for joy. And it was here that I discovered The Sandman.
I'll be perfectly honest - I was never much of a comic book geek. Superheroes have never really been my thing, and for a long time, that was the only kind of comic book I knew about. I wish I could remember who introduced me to Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, because it was truly a life-changing exxperience. I didn't know that stories like that could be told with such artistry. I was led to the MLLL at just the right time, too, as I was going through a major depressive episode and needed someplace to hide for long stretches of time. Being able to sit scrunched up in a beanbag chair and read through the stories of Dream of the Endless as he tries to rebuild his world after being away for long felt like a true escape.
Since those nights in the MLLL, I've found some other graphic novels and comics that I enjoy. None of them, however, hit me the way that the Sandman did. I own them myself now, and will occasionally reach for them when things are getting bleak. It's not just a matter of the story itself helping me out of the dark, it's the circumstances in which I first read them that remind me that I've hit rock bottom before, and managed to get my way out.