The patient was a 23-year-old accountant with glass delusion, type B. On first admission, he immediately wrapped himself in blankets to prevent his buttocks from “shattering.” He presented normally in every way, except for the belief that he had turned to glass and that his nurses should not come too close.
His family reported that he had recently acquired the peculiar habit of walking sideways through doorways and passages, tiptoeing and carefully moving his body so that nothing could touch him. When asked about this, the patient claimed that, as a child, he had swallowed a grand piano made completely of glass. This piano was inside him now, wholly intact, but could explode into shards if subject to any sudden movement.
Naturally, given my research, I was intrigued. Why would a person present with glass delusion in the 21st century? Did the disorder have renewed resonance in an era where concerns about fragility, transparency, and personal space are pertinent to our experience of, and anxieties about, living in a world of screens? Is the feeling of being glass a way of comprehending how we negotiate a society in which technological developments isolate us and offer boundaryless communication? Is the belief that one has become glass a way of showing how vulnerable and exposed we feel and a means of expressing humanity, sensitivity, and a desire to be left alone?
During our initial interview, the patient expanded on his feeling of being made of glass, claiming that he was able to turn the feeling of being “here” and “there” on and off, and could “disappear” and “reappear” at will. He pointed at the window in my consulting room and asked what I saw. I told him I saw a street, cars, buildings, and people hurrying by. He responded: “But you overlook the glass in the window. You don’t see it, you see! But it’s there. That’s me. I’m there and not there like the glass in that window.”
Following this curious exchange, I noted that I must henceforward no longer distort diagnostic interviews by intimating notions of fragility and transparency.
The patient later agreed to take Seroquel, which eliminated many of his symptoms, but only partially alleviated a growing depression. He was sad that his perceptions were no longer clearer than those of “men of flesh.” I asked if I were such a man and he claimed that my reflecting on his condition would “open me up.” “I am there,” he said, laughing and gesturing at me. “You think a mirror lies?”
“A window is not a mirror,” I informed him.
“We are all glass,” he said, looking very serious. “The slightest touch of another breaks us, and we return to nothing. You are a glass man for I see right through you.”
The patient was discharged one year later. Five years have come and gone, here and there. I am quite well now. But someone needs to help me. Someone needs to get me out of here.