Beautifully Damaged Like Jared Leto’s Joker


The Joker's level of psychosis isn’t beyond what’s seen today. I should know because I was there once.

As part of my birth-month celebration, my son and I went to see the movie Suicide Squad. Much to the critics’ dismay, we loved it.

Jared Leto’s portrayal of the Joker as a wealthy street-gang boss was flawless. With today’s tattooing styles, plated teeth, and hair-coloring trends, I could actually believe this man might exist in our society. His level of psychosis wasn’t beyond what’s seen today. I should know because I was there once.

Right before I began a week-long aggressive pharmaceutical vacation, I was crazier than a circus act. My mind was “aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought, careening through a cosmic vapor of invention” (Google it). Only a fear of incarceration kept me in reasonable check, or else I might have been sporting bright green hair and committing all kinds of felonies and indecencies.

The one thing I love about the Joker is how front-and-center he is about his mental illness, behaving in any manner he sees fit, sporting a “Damaged” tattoo right in the middle of his forehead as he goes along. I’m less bold about my issues. Friends have told me I do a really good job of hiding “The Crazy” or, as I refer to it, “The Monster.”

I’ve seen and endured a great deal. Without digressing into the details, let’s just say I learned how to wake up early with knots in my stomach in fourth grade. Those who know my story are often amazed that I turned out so well, and I agree.

I could be an accountant’s nightmare with more W-2s in my history than Donald Trump is willing to show, but this coming October, I’ll be celebrating 20 years with the same company. Sure, I had some rough patches, but I managed to survive, and now I actually use my bipolar disorder to my advantage in my career. The laser focus, the speed with which I do my job, and, frankly, the fear of making a mistake are all traits that I make work for me in the workplace. They make for a level of meticulousness that few others have. Triple-checking is my standard.

I didn’t marry my Harley Quinn, and, for that, I’m eternally grateful. Had I wedded a psychotic partner in crime, I probably wouldn’t be writing this column. I’d probably have been dead for about 15 years now. Whereas Harley feeds the Joker’s psychosis, Sheryl (my balanced and healthy life-mate) thankfully keeps me grounded. When I feel like I'm “going off of the rails on a crazy train,” Sher gets me back on track. She’s more of a Barbara Gordon in my life, and that’s exactly what I need.

Between my daily pharmaceutical cocktail and my biweekly visit with a good therapist, I’m in a very good . Although I’ll never be rid of The Monster, I can keep him at bay, using him in a manner I see fit.

Mental illness doesn’t have to be debilitating; it can be harnessed into great accomplishments. I like to think that I’m living proof of that.

Jay Sochoka is beautifully damaged.

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