“Joker” 01.19.24

Sometimes the most convincing comedian is hurting on the inside, while those around him laugh at his intentional hilarity. The joker lacks the smile he conjures on their faces. He lives in a state of invisible despair. Depression takes root, an overbearing monster.

Monsters are created in the dark, but they cannot hide forever. They linger in the deepest closets of our minds; they conceal themselves under our beds, and create shadows on the walls of our childhood, lurking in the recesses of our memories. Some monsters are able to take complete control, while others are suppressed with medication. In many cases, a monster surfaces whenever it pleases, despite the wishes of its host.

Lacking aid and support, rising from a troubled past, and developed over time, the monster grows. In some cases, a “villain” is created. Tragically, the person carrying the monster is often accused for crimes, due to the fact that someone must be held accountable, and the monster is intangible. Blameless, the depression ravages the mind, roaming free while the person takes the fall.

When I watch films, I have sympathy for the “bad guy,” knowing how difficult it is to deal with these issues, especially alone. These characters, fictional or not, are suffering on the inside. Every case of psychiatric disorder is unique and often damaging. We all have a past, and some are without control of their own life, born with an illness they cannot bear. Monsters wreak havoc and sometimes violence is a side-effect.

I recently watched a movie about the creation of the “Joker,” a popular super villain. He wrote a note stating that the worst thing about having mental illness is that people expect you to behave as if you don’t.

We shut the windows, lock the doors, wrap ourselves in tight blankets. If we cannot see the world, the world cannot see us. We hide to protect ourselves in a cruel world, avoiding eye contact, ashamed of our “flaws.” There will always be people who do not understand, who claim “normalcy” in order to shift attention from their imperfections. Mental illness is a sensitive topic of conversation, but hear me when I say that we are not broken. Hiding feels safe, but can be quite a burden. Remember that you are not alone.

A message for all loved ones: Keep close watch over your jokers.