The “Other” Me || Danny Contreras

Sometime in 1998, the doctor entered the room as if he wasn’t about to deliver me the worst news of my life. But, he nonchalantly sat on his stool, opened up my case file and flippantly frowned. He looked at my grandmother and mom, and shook his head. He then looked at me, closed the file and crossed his legs before he began to speak words I’d never forget. “He will die. If he doesn’t get a kidney transplant by sixteen, he will die.” I sat on the exam table, and the distance between the floor and my feet grew when I heard those words. My hands felt bigger, hotter; and the space between my thoughts was filled with fog. I felt faint, like I floated in a huge ocean.  I was eight. 

My memories from that time are mere fragments. I remember Ponce’s famous, picturesque black and red firemen houses as we left the hospital, the cotton candy clouds up in the azure Puerto Rican sky, and my grandma’s cement, green and white home. And the black door I threw the bottle of ‘malta’ at when it dawned on me I was at the precipice of death. I shook as the door’s darkness swallowed me and the entire room. 

I think the split happened behind the lunchroom at my elementary school a few short days later when I, fed up with being ignored by the other students and being excluded from games and other activities during lunch time, went to my favorite hiding spot behind the cafeteria. There was a Danny before, a heap of nervousness, anxiety, anger, and disillusionment; then, another Danny, distinctly themselves. 

A shadow with my face. 

This other entity felt protective over me, but also dangerous, willing to do anything to protect me. There was a bloodlust coming from it, a bloodlust I felt in myself. But the stronger I sensed it in the shadow, the lesser I felt it within me. The experience was akin to being separated from my body, as if I’d been locked away in some part of my brain, but looking in from the outside. A different world with kaleidoscope views where it snowed in 80 degree weather. 

The shadow spoke to me in a distorted, low growl that sounded like me somehow. It kept telling me, “Vas a estar bien.” 

After being paralyzed for what felt like hours, I regained control of my body, and I ran away from there as fast as I could with my heart in my mouth, and my fingers aching as if I’d been pricked by needles. 

Later I learned the trauma of receiving a death sentence at such a young age, and the isolation I felt at school triggered a split in my brain and created this “other” me. Clinically, scientists and doctors call this a bipolar and psychotic brain, which is another way of saying I was living  with mood swings and hallucinations as wild, intense and uncontrollable as the pendulum swing at an amusement park.

This “other” me and I battle for control of my body and brain. He believes that I’m a pushover and doormat; that I let people walk all over me. And I believe he’s right. I’m averse to conflict and confrontation. It’s why early on, when I realized I’d be living with him, I made the decision to push all my negative feelings onto him. I’m afraid of his bloodlust, that he’ll hurt people or make them miserable. But he manifests when I’m anxious or panicky; telling me I’ll be okay on the one hand, and reminding me I’m weak on the other. 

In one of my many sessions with my therapist today in 2023, as a thirty one year old, they’ll remind me he’s not real—like he’s some sort of imaginary friend—so I shouldn’t put any stock behind his words. I’ll sit on their chaise lounge, and contemplate their words. 

“He’s not real, Danny. He’s. Not. Real,” my therapist says.

Maybe physically he’s not—that’s debatable—but what he says is the truth. I do let people walk all over me. That’s objective. That’s real.

“I’m a total doormat.” I’ll reply to the therapist. 

When I attended the Rockstar Energy Festival in 2013, I was 21. I went to the bar to buy some drinks when these two burly men got in the way of me and the bartender, completely skipping ahead of me. The “other” me watched my cowardice in disappointment and begged to be let out as I allowed the men to order ahead of me. I felt him knocking on the doors in my brain furiously, yelling to be let out. I almost lost control; my hands shook and the bloodlust swelled from deep within my belly. I didn’t know where the feeling of wanting to raise hell ended with me and started with the “other” me. Images of me standing on top of the dismembered bodies of the burly men flashed before my eyes as the rage in me grew. But was it my rage or the “other” me’s? All I knew was that I couldn’t lose the battle because my physical wellbeing was in danger. So, I retreated and wallowed in my cowardice as the “other” me repeatedly called me a “coward,” his voice echoing between my ears, as machine gunning guitars played in the background. 

I know psychosis affects people differently. Some people have a psychotic break once, some have episodes, and others live with psychosis their whole lives. I seem to fall in the last camp. I’ve learned that aside from hallucinations, people experience delusions, disorganized thinking and speech. Amazingly, for some people, their psychosis helps them mediate their world, and in others it is a source of comfort because they see or hear loved ones who may have passed away. But for me, and many others, it is a negative experience. Psychosis leads us to distrust the world we live in. My brain was trying to mediate the world through the “other” me, but forgetting the danger it could put me in, the relationships it damaged, or the holes it was digging. Sometimes I couldn’t control when it took over. It just did. 

In the summer of 2015 in August, when I was 23, the other me took over me when I needed protection the most. Because sometimes the wounds that cut deepest aren’t physical and come from those closest to you. That summer was especially bad for me and my siblings. My older sister had just finished her phlebotomy certification and had found a job in the field, but was still struggling financially. My older brother was transitioning from handyman to barber and had trouble finding clients. And I was in a state of flux, dropped out of community college and in search of a new job while I worked retail—and my mental health went untreated for the fourth straight year. 

It was a tipping point. 

My mother kept complaining throughout the summer how she struggled financially and none of us helped her, and continued to harshly criticize us over everything. Reality reflected a different story, however, and it couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact, she could’ve helped us if she wanted to, and then some. But alas, she continued to complain that the three of us didn’t do enough to help her.  The tension reached a fever pitch one hot night that August. 

I was cutting at this point to quell the “other” me from wanting to come out. Until that night, tired of her complaining, I saw white, and as if a seal was undone in my brain, the “other” me took over and I was sent into that kaleidoscope world again. I kept hearing him telling me, “vas a estar bien,” until he started speaking to my mom.

¿Como carajos te atreves?” Her eyes became smaller, as if the devil himself appeared before her. I had never cursed at her before, neither in English nor Spanish. 

The “other” me continued in Spanish, “we are busting our asses to make something of ourselves, and you want us to give you the little money we make, for what? Pa’ gastarlo en mierda, ¿ah? You have your own money—money you don’t even work for! Tu no pagas la renta, ni seguro, ni medicinas, ni transportación. ¿Qué te crees? ¿qué carajos te pasa?!” She seemed hurt.I could tell she resented everything the “other” me told her and her face contorted in every direction at once to show it. I would’ve never mustered the courage to tell her that. 

The “other” me turned away from her, walked to the door and exited her apartment. I cried trapped in my brain. I would’ve never told her what the “other” me told her,  but deep down I knew she needed to hear it. I realized that I wasn’t crying because of her, though. Rather, I was crying because I was feeling the anger, hatred and resentment that the “other” me had been feeling when he went off on my mom. I hadn’t felt these “negative” emotions in so long that I forgot they could be—cathartic. I looked at the scars in my arms and regretted what I had done to myself, so I cried out of shame. I’d been manic for weeks, but this experience had tired me out, and I fell asleep in the confines of my brain as snow fell on me in 80 degree weather. I held on to some twisted hope that when I woke up, I would understand myself better. 

Ever since I was young, my mood cycles between manic and depressed, affecting my energy levels and my ability to function. It has disrupted my relationships with loved ones and caused difficulties with work and going to school. To add to that, I’ve struggled with anxiety and substance abuse and I’ve also been diagnosed with ADHD. Jackpot. Living with bipolar, psychosis, anxiety and ADHD and a whole other entity hasn’t been easy, but I think I’ve made strides in understanding myself. 

In 2023, the other me and I have a “better” relationship than before. Hallucination or alter or imaginary friend, he exists within me, still feeding off my negative emotions, feelings and experiences, while I get to live peacefully without so much anxiety and negativity. It’s not always perfect. We still consider me a doormat—most of the time. And the other me still tries to take over me. I’m working on that in therapy, and I think I’ve made great strides. I’m learning how to deal with my negative emotions without pawning them off to the other me. I still fail, I’m not perfect. I’m a work in progress, but aren’t we all?


“NIMH » Understanding Psychosis.” n.d. NIMH. Accessed March 6, 2023.

“ – What Are Bipolar Disorders?” n.d. American Psychiatric Association. Accessed March 6, 2023.

“What is psychosis?” n.d. Mind. Accessed March 6, 2023.

Danny Contreras was born in the Bronx, New York and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico before he moved to Hartford, Connecticut when he was twelve. He started his writing journey when he was in the third grade and wrote an ode to Puerto Rico. He wrote essays for scholarship money from fourth grade to seventh grade before finding a home in fiction writing, where he has honed his skills ever since. He currently writes fiction and nonfiction.


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