The Glass Child

Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of disordered eating and self-harm.

Why do we look at glass? Is it to see the glass itself or rather to look through it and see the beautiful views it allows us to catch a glimpse of? The answer is obvious. The only time we truly notice glass is when there are smudges or cracks in it, we notice its imperfections, not all the things it does to help us. The same can be said for a glass child, this is what I am. If you're not quite sure what that means, the Urban Dictionary is here to save the day. "Glass children are children who are growing up in a home with a sibling who takes up a disproportionate amount of parental energy." In my case, this meant growing up as the youngest child in a family with three autistic siblings who struggled with their mental health. As a child, this was an overwhelming concept to try and grasp.

Amongst all the normal chaos that came with being in a homeschooled family of eight, as I grew up I began to realise more and more that my high-needs siblings took priority over me. My parents did the very best they could but they themselves were in over their heads. I faded into the background, afraid to make waves or cause any disturbance and soon developed a hatred of myself for needing things from others. Soon, I truly believed that the purpose of my entire existence was to help others and take care of myself alone. In my mind, everyone's needs were more important than my own and if I ever relied on anyone, not only was I a burden on them, I was showing my own weaknesses. And weak was a thing I never allowed myself to be.

Along with my intense need to be self-sufficient came some incredibly unhealthy habits. I did anything it took to bury the pain I was feeling in an attempt to disguise it from the world. I struggled with self-harm and unhealthy eating habits, allowed myself to be treated less than in relationships, and lost all focus and interest in school. This resulted in me hurting many people I was close to and failing my last year of school. It seemed to me like there was only darkness ahead, I believed I wasn't worthy of love and got to a point where I didn't even know how to accept it from others.

You see, for almost every family that has a child who is high needs, there are one or more glass children in that family. The hardships our siblings are having to face are very real, very heartbreaking and very much not something we will ever be able to relate to. I am sharing my story, not to discount that, but to raise awareness that the things glass children have to face are also very real, very heartbreaking and very much not something a large majority of people have to face. One is not less and one is not more - the pain is just different.

It took me time to unlearn what I had been taught and had taught myself from childhood. It took a community of people not giving up on me and loving me through my darkest days. I had to learn that I am not a problem for having problems. That I am not weak for needing help. That even if there is no diagnosis for my pain, it is still valid. These statements are true for you as well, whether you are a glass child or not. You deserve all the love you have in your heart to give others. You deserve the time it takes to heal. My friend, you deserve the world and don't you forget it.


Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to ‘find help’ - it’s not weak to speak!

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