On Escaping Your Own Prison: An Introduction of Sorts

You’re probably wondering why a person would create such a tiny space for themselves, this prison cell. Well, why does anyone build walls? For protection.

Let’s go on a little journey shall we?

Imagine this: you’re stuck in a room. It’s not very big. The walls are all grey, you can’t see a door, and the only window is very small and high up—always out of reach.

You know you’ll never fit through the bars. You know this because you built this room, all of it, from the inside out.

You’re probably wondering why a person would create such a tiny space for themselves, this prison cell. Well, why does anyone build walls? For protection. The walls of your house protect you from the elements. Prison walls can protect those on the inside from the world and society beyond their lonely grey box.

So how does one exist in such a place, in such a prison, at the same time as they’re moving through society? It’s fairly simple, though infinitely detailed and time consuming. You build your box, your prison, to be what the world sees, what it hears, what it thinks you are…

Imagine time passes: days, weeks, months. Years, then decades. You fine-tune your outer appearance, your persona, that part of you that you’ve let the world see. You steal glimpses through the tiny window at the world beyond your little grey box. You desperately wish to get OUT, to live, to truly feel sunshine and freedom. 

But you’ve never found the key for the door you cannot see. 

Then one day it’s there. You can see it: the Key—just out of reach, try, stretch, almost— grow, just a little— Ah! Got It… 

And you think: that’s enough. You just need the hope, and you can survive here, forever.

Then you look out the window: is it a bit bigger? No— you are. You’ve grown just a little— WOW! You can see more now!  You can see, you can hear and feel so much more than before.

Now you want more.

Then your self-awareness grows and you think: maybe. Maybe you can. Thinking: oh God please…maybe? You look out your window again. It’s bigger again— no, you’re bigger, now you’re growing, looking around at your cell that gets smaller each time you realize your own growth. 

Then: what the hell is that? you think. That wasn’t there before.

A shape? No: a door! 

Oh God, you think. Will the key fit?

It slips in with a twist and a click. 

You push but it’s stuck but you’re bigger now. Heave!

There is a creak, and it opens out to a long corridor.

But there, at the end, a glimmer— a light. So you begin a very long walk. But you start finding ‘things,’ like easter eggs in a video game: articles, resources, courage, people and friends who are cheering you on…. 

You’re running now, flat out, chest burning, rubber legs, arms pumping. Just a little more you think and you’re there— the light. It’s on your face; warm, inviting, comforting, and glowing.

And you’re free. You are you. You can finally show the world the person you were meant to be— the grown, happy you!

So: now you’re out. You’re free. But you can never really forget the box that you ever-so-meticulously crafted, your prison cell. 

Nor can you forget the person you created, that you made for the world to see. The one that was picked on, beaten up, physically, emotionally, and yes, spiritually abused. The one who protected the real you from the world. Even when both you and he wanted you to cease, to go away, and yes, to die. You persevered, you endured, and you survived.

Looking back you can smile, even with a tear, now at how small your world was when you started this at 6 years old.

By now you should have figured out I am the person in the box, the girl trapped by her own design. A girl self-cherished and loathed by equal measure all these decades. 

I was born in 1967 and the doctor said congratulations, it’s a boy. Well, why wouldn’t he given the anatomy that was presented that night? But that’s just my biological body, my role in perpetuating the species, maker and deliverer of sperm to an egg.

But then one day was one of those watershed days when your world changes. (I was 6 I think, but it isn’t important.) I wanted to play with my sister and her friends but I wasn’t allowed because boys don’t play with dishes.

Go play with your brothers: in my young head it clicked. I’m not like them, any of them and construction started. 

You can’t tell, 

You’ll get in trouble, 

They’ll hate you, 

You’re a Freak, 

You’re alone, 

There’s no one in the world like you;

The thoughts in a child’s mind, in a child’s mind…

So I built my walls, my protection, my sanctuary, my cell and the person the world has come to know. This has kept me safe till now when I can come to the world as a Bright, Vibrant, Strong woman with Friends, Family (birth and chosen) and most of all, Hope.

And if I may? A word about him: my vessel, myself, really my other half. I am so thankful to him. He has kept me safe and alive. He is part of me, of course he is, I made him. I cherish him and love him. All his memories, experiences, hopes, dreams and being are part of me and will always be a part of the woman I am and the woman I am growing to be.

So thank-you, with all my love.

My name is Sarah-Dena Drucilla Harnum, and I use she/her pronouns.

Photo by Simon Burchell.

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