Unmasked: A self-portrait

She’s looking in the mirror again.

She hasn't slipped the mask into place yet—the cracks are still there. Worn and glazed eyes. Pinched, downward turn of her lips as she stares at the reflection.

What’s going through her mind? Why isn’t she speaking?

Unless. Unless she is. To herself, again.

Usually she talks aloud, lets herself ramble on about herself, or asks herself things only to nod moments later at her own self-realization. What is she thinking?

There’s no assurances. No one in the room, probably no one in the house even, to knock her out of this state of mind.

She’s staring, but really, is she the reflection? Has this turned into a twisted alternate universe where she’s the reflection and the reflection is her? A paradox. Ever-changing and twisting and leaving her in a swirling vortex with no way out.

Maybe. It seems like another of those days. Eyes dim. Shoulders tense. Just what is going on in there?

Wait.

Was that?

Yes.

Her lips twitch and twist up into an ugly smile. That’s not one she wears often. Not publicly, at least. It’s that same one, the one she wears privately, when she’s having those thoughts again.

Negative.

Self-deprecating.

Tormenting.

She’s most likely arguing with herself. She lets the words fill her ears in a taunting mockery of herself. A relentless cycle of you’re wrong, you can do better, what the hell are you even thinking?

It’s strange, really. How easily the human mind can manipulate itself, twisting thoughts and ideas in on themselves: compliments turn into a mocking jeer, a teasing comment on her weight, her hair, her clothes or her face makes her shoulders tense, hunching up to her ears, head down, eyes hurt.

And it’s not as often that she can keep a blank expression. It’s clear as day that she gets emotional at the drop of the hat.

Your hair looks nice, today.

Is that a compliment, or do they actually mean her hair looks awful the rest of the time?

She stares at her reflection. It’s as if she’s waiting for her reflection to reach out and grab her. Drag her deeper.

It feels like it has been hours, but the clock says it’s only been three minutes. It could be worse.

She turns from the mirror. Turns, and goes back to her routine of rush, stumble, fall into the world.

As she heads out the door, she picks up her mask from the shelf and slips it back on. Shoulders straighten, spine stiffens, eyes brighten and lips tilt upwards.

Because really, it’s clear to anyone who looks at her: she’s fine.

If you struggle with depression and anxiety or other mental health concerns, there is help available. Click here to find resources in your community.

Rebecca Costello is a twenty-one year old English Major interested in delving into the field of literature and screenwriting. She was previously both Editor and Nonfiction Editor for her college's annual literary magazine and is currently knee-deep in Saskatchewan history, working full-time in a historical museum for the summer. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.