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Painted Brain | Almost Normal
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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  • May 17, 2016

Almost Normal

Blood soaks the bottom of my feet. I tilt my head, watching with mild interest as the little scarlet river runs down my leg and pools on the bathroom floor. There’s a vague stinging in my calf, where I slid the blade across my skin a few minutes ago, but other than that – nothing.


I exhale, dropping my head back to stare at the ceiling. The scissors still dangle from my fingers, brushing against my skin.

I’m so bored. 

I feel nothing.

It’s not as if I’m numbed by the pain, or even trying to numb the pain: there simply is no pain to numb. I’m just empty, can’t feel anything, just –

Ugh. So bored.

With a sigh, I will myself to stand. The blood continues traveling steadily down my leg, but I ignore it, tossing the scissors in a drawer and bending over the sink to wash my hands. Humming softly, I rub soap between my fingers and rinse them under the running water, shake them off, not bothering to dry them before leaning forward to study my reflection: a tragic little red-eyed princess with mascara streaming down both cheeks stares back at me, but I know it’s all for show, so I don’t pay her any mind. Instead, I turn my face to the side, checking to make sure that I didn’t inflame that rash any more. Eesh. I wince, touching my fingers to the little red bumps freckling my cheek. Might need some Cortisol on that. 

Stepping back from the sink, I turn to the side, raising my shirt so I can continue my inspection. My ribs are fairly visible, my hip bones protrude enough to look graceful but not sickly; and my stomach is flat enough so, Yeah, I shrug approvingly, tugging the shirt back down. Good enough. 

I check the scale, just to make sure: right foot, left foot, wait patiently for the numbers to run.

98.6 blinks on the small screen.

Oh, well done, I congratulate myself as I step off and turn back to face the mirror. Ever since I made it to a hundred pounds, I haven’t been trying to lose weight, but if it happens, it happens, and I don’t complain.

I pull out my hairband and start to regather my hair into a tighter ponytail. Usually, the most annoying part is trying to get my bangs to cooperate, but they’ve actually been behaving themselves today, so I manage to tie my hair up quite nicely. A few splashes of water and gentle rubbing takes care of the mascara trail under my eyes; and after a little cover-up and some eyeliner, I look almost normal.

I am almost normal.

Emphasis on the almost, but really, the stage make-up makes me look a lot more screwed-up than I actually am. Most days, I’m just a sarcastic little shit who walks around with one headphone in my ear and a wad of gum in my mouth. Everyone at work thinks I’m a bro; everyone at school thinks I’m a genius; and everyone at home thinks I’m hilarious, but “Chela, I’m on the phone, could you shut up for two minutes?” Most days, I’m pretty satisfied with myself.

The panic attacks are what throw me off the track. Every once in a while, this – I don’t know – hurricane, if you will, rises up within me. It starts churning all these emotions, all these thoughts – violent urges, ear-shattering screams, a sadness so deep, it feels like a black hole trying to swallow me. I can’t breathe, I can’t think, it seems to be a force greater than me. My mind can’t hold it, it bursts out – an explosion of sheer panic. I scream and shout, ripping my nails through my skin – beating myself with my fists – throwing myself to the floor and sobbing until my lungs give out and I choke on my own breath.  I take the scissors and frantically slash my arms and legs, spattering blood everywhere. I think I’m going mad – I can’t take this – I don’t want to live – I don’t want to do this anymore – why can’t anyone – HELP ME, SOMEBODY HELP ME BEFORE I—

And then it stops.

It stops, and I wake up on the bathroom floor with a pair of scissors in my hand. I frown, looking curiously at the cuts on my arm, trying to remember exactly what happened. It’s a blur: my muscles are tired, and the cuts still sting, but other than that, the memory has already slipped away. The madness is gone.

With mild interest, I slide the blade along my leg and watch the little beads of blood forming on my skin. It’s pretty, but – dull.

I shrug, and pull myself up.


Michela Marcucci is an optimistic nihilist and young author whose work appears in Painted Brain News

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