Audio Piece, Installation. 2017.


This sound piece is intended to cause feelings of discomfort or distress for listeners.
Listener discretion is advised.

Let's Stay Home (2017) is a sound piece reflecting on Kaitlyn's lived experience of a mental health crisis. During her time in university, depression and anxiety engulfed her world. Day to day, she would be intensely disconnected from reality, feeling very little emotion or sensation at all, just an unmoving "baseline". Yet, in times of crisis, she would be engulfed by intense, unsettling, and disturbing sensations. 

Kaitlyn describes these breakdowns as being trapped inside her body, her 'self' shrinking slowly inwards to become an observer to herself - still joined, yet separated from one another. The detachment strangely was akin to watching a movie; while she was supposed to be present within the happenings, she felt instead as if she were watching pre-directed narratives unfold, even if it was her own undetermined path. The trance-like state would last a few hours before she returned to her usual, detached reality. 

This work was originally conceived as an installation. The audience is invited to make themselves at home on the sofa and start the piece when they are ready. As the piece plays, the audience hears piano and unsettling bass, prolonged banging and pained screams. The sounds fade in and out, and range in intensity, often becoming unbearable and uncomfortable - much like how Kaitlyn felt. In this sense, it bridges Kaitlyn’s experience and those of her audience as they listen.

My Life Behind "Let's Stay Home"

May 7, 2021

My university experience wasn't a good one. I expected to enter school and make friends, feel accomplished, and make a 'new, cooler me'. Instead, I distinctly didn't fit into the culture on campus and my best friend dropped out that year. The other friends I made weren't close enough - unlike high school, they didn't call me to hang out, they were too busy with their own lives. My good first year turned into a horribly lonely second year. My roommates were a clique of engineers, no comfort there. Loneliness is a quiet disease. 

I had my first disassociation episode that year - I'm not sure what else to call it. I was listening to music and suddenly I remember this inability to move; everything felt unreal and I was crying. I studied my hands: they seemed like they were from a movie, a 2d projection. My psychologist described this sort of experience like being "a fly on the wall". I'm bothered that so many describe it this way -  that wasn't my experience. I prefer the 'skin suit' metaphor: I was distinctly stuck inside my body. A black mass - a thing shifting inside the bones and skin unable to escape. Only able to shrink inward and look at the world through pinholes.

Eventually I managed to break out of it long enough to get help from a roommate. I went to a crisis mental health center. Felt a little better, but mostly alone. Temporary help - they couldn't do more for me. I had a stint with a psychiatrist in the summer. She made me feel even worse. 

Over time my entire life began to have a 'baseline' feeling. Every emotion, no matter how joyous or depressing, felt exactly the same. I started to call these moments of unrealness "depressive episodes". Not the right term, today I'd say it was immobilizing anxiety. When you're not taught the words for these kinds of feelings, what else do you do than find the closest label? They were these intense separations from reality - the 2d movie again and again. Those episodes became more and more frequent, but I started to feel them less and less. I recognized these were a problem, so I pursued help with Counseling Services. When I brought in the papers I'd scribbled on in the midst of one of my episodes, the consoler looked at me with this concern and helplessness. I couldn't tell if she thought I was insane and faking it, or if she was actually just unable to help. She gave me grounding exercises, which at that stage, weren't really of any help. More temporary "help". 

Nothing stopped the depression from growing. Go on a beautiful cross Canada trip with unforgettable sights? I still wanted to just sleep my whole life away when I was on the train; I didn't want to be conscious anymore. Getting my brains fucked out my by lover? Worked for awhile, started to not work when it took me hours to feel safe enough to be intimate. The pain was omnipresent, but I couldn't tell how unwell I was. How do you know if  you're in the dark if you've lived in a cave for your entire life? 

By now, I was just letting the stress and work of classes distract me from my huge, growing depression and hate of my current life. I had tried to ask my parents to switch out of my university in 2016. They reacted with disbelief and a barrage of questions on how exactly I was going to switch given the money for tuition and rent had been paid. I didn't know and how could I? I knew nothing of real personal finance or how all this money worked. I hadn't been taught. I didn't have the answers. I needed help - that's why I went to them. I was barely mustering enough energy to go to school or think rationally. I didn't have enough energy to fight back the anxieties of my shocked parents. It wasn't ill intended, but that's what it became. I didn't know any other option and no one else was going to grab me and trudge me out of my situation. 

Despite voicing how much I disliked my university to many I knew, I was never taken seriously. I was told "it's just another 2 years". I was met with an inability to understand or do anything about how terrible I felt. Everyone thought "it wasn't their place to interfere". So I stayed in misery - I froze. I did the only thing an art student can do: put my pain and misery into a sound piece and got graded on how 'good' it was. Shared it with friends. Then, like everyone else, moved onto the next project.

- Kaitlyn Hollander