Freya ‘s ‘The Glass Box’

In which I make bad mental health analogies and attempt to organise my thoughts into vaguely coherent sentences

Imagine you’re maybe ten or eleven, and just going about your daily life as normal. Going to school with hardly any issues, having fun with your friends, all the standard stuff. Then one day, someone comes along with a glass box, herds you into it, then locks the door. At first, you’re confused. What is this box? Where did it come from? And why are you locked in it? You yell at the people walking past the box, “hey! Someone open this door! I didn’t ask to be locked in here!” But everyone is ignoring you. At least that’s what you think at first – you then realise the glass has become thicker and no-one can hear you through it. You shout for a little while longer, even though you know that the glass is too thick. What else are you supposed to do? You might sit down and cry for a bit. You’re in this flipping glass box and you can’t get out! You might try and smash the glass, but that is painful. But at this point you’re willing to try anything.

Finally! Someone spots you frantically waving for help in the glass box. They come over and you explain to them what happened. After a while, they give you a funny look and then say, “what glass box? There is no box, you’re making it up, don’t be ridiculous.” At this point you start doubting yourself, even though you can see it clearly in front of you! You try to get out again, pretend the glass box isn’t there, but you’re still stuck there. Over time, other people come up to you, with various kinds of totally useless advice. “Look, I know you’re stuck in that glass box without a key, but you’re really not trying to get out”, they say as you batter the sides with your fists and stomp your feet. Or, “wow, it must be horrible being stuck in a glass box. I wish I could help you”, and then they walk off before you can even ask for help. Some people just giggle and point. “Look at that person there! They’re in a glass box, what a freak”.

By now, you are completely hopeless and resigned to the fact there is no way out of the box. You just lie there and cry. The box will be forever and no one cares. You don’t understand why people are laughing at you when you’re in this glass box with no way out – all you want to do is get out but you accept that this is it. This is forever. So you just lie down and cry more.

After a while, you realise there is someone knocking on the glass. They tell you that you can get out of the glass box – it will take a lot of time and effort but it’s possible. To begin with you tell them no, you’ve tried a million times and there is no way out, but they tell you there is. You have to get all the materials yourself through the teeniest crack in the glass, but they help you and encourage you and tell you that it is possible. Slowly but surely, you start to put together a key. You make mistakes, lose the parts and sometimes have to completely start again, but gradually you realise that what you are making is becoming a key!

Eventually, after what seems like years of hard work, you turn the key in the lock and it opens. And when you finally emerge out of the box, you look around and discover that there are other people with glass boxes just like yours. The person who was helping you explains that the person with the glass box may well be following you around with that box for the rest of your life, but that’s okay, because even on the occasions they catch you up and you get locked back in, you know how to make a key and get right back out. It’s a bit strange, and not everyone is being followed by a person with a glass box, but lots of people are and they understand, and encourage you to use your key when you need to. And when you finally accept that the glass box might be hovering there forever, that’s okay because you know that you have your key.

In case you hadn’t already realised (which is entirely possible as I am dire at metaphors) the glass box is not actually a glass box: it represents mental illness which for me, was severe depression, anxiety, self harm, and to a lesser extent, disordered eating habits. Obviously experiences are different for everyone, but from sharing shortened versions of this with others, it’s fairly common! Not quite sure why I’ve shared this – maybe because even though we’ve come on in leaps and bounds in terms of mental health awareness, there is still an awful lot of stigma. And I apologise if this was bad/weird/simply made no sense!


The mymind team thank Freya for giving permission for us to reproduce her blog.
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