Days Behind the Plexiglass | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Days Behind the Plexiglass

By Seamus Kirst

No matter how many episodes I've lived through, I never feel prepared for the depths of my worst depression.

No matter how many episodes I’ve lived through, I never feel prepared for the depths of my worst depression.

As the depression slips in, I often feel sad. I begin to cycle thoughts of disappointment, but it is manageable.

But, the sadness normally doesn’t last very long. It gives way to something much more terrifying: an utter sense of emptiness.

Then suddenly, I know the bottom has fallen out, when I feel a physical and emotional sense of numb. It suddenly feels as though everything in my life is wrong; it feels like every decision I have ever made was the wrong one, and that I suddenly am an imposter in the life I built for myself. I know I am depressed when I am not panicking from this feeling, but rather am tempted to give in to it—to accept that I may live a life characterized by an everlasting sense of disappointment.

Worst of all is when the feeling of being stuck behind the plexiglass sinks in. It suddenly feels like I am physically being pulled back into my body; the outside world feels so much further away and the only thing that feels near are my negative, looming thoughts. People I love suddenly feel like familiar strangers. I remember what it looked like when I enjoyed being around them, when I knew how to relate to them, but in these periods, all my interactions become forced.

When I am behind the plexiglass, even the simplest of tasks feel daunting. Whether it’s sending an email, doing my laundry, calling a friend or even eating, I suddenly notice that I have to will myself to do something that would normally come completely naturally. The concept of an activity, interaction or accomplishment bringing me joy feels near impossible. When I am at my lowest, everything feels like a chore…empty obligations.

I’m having an episode right now. People who don’t suffer from depression often seem confused when I try to explain the bizarre intermingling of psychological and physical symptoms. I do not know how to better describe it than to say that at my lowest, I feel like my soul has the flu. I wake up in the mornings exhausted, regardless of how much I sleep. Most of the day, I feel lethargic, but at night, sleep won’t come.

I hate when I get to this place; I hate when it feels like the other side is so far away, even though I know that I always get there. It is hard not to feel discouraged when everything feels so devoid of significance—when no matter how much I achieve, or how fortunate I know I am, I cannot convince myself to feel content, or sometimes to even feel okay.

When I am behind the plexiglass, I want to be alone. I want to isolate, and to allow my worst thoughts, insecurities and doubts to cycle, until their presence is no longer alarming, but rather just is.

But, I always have to remind myself of the way my mind works when I am not here; of the way my mind works when happiness does not seem as near impossible of obtaining as a unicorn.

I don’t want to see anyone, I think.

But you have to, I tell myself.

I want to stay up all night and then sleep all day, I think.

That will only make you feel worse, I tell myself.

I want to just stop for a bit. I want to do nothing, and think nothing and feel nothing, until this passes. I want to wait it out, I think.

You have to push yourself through, I tell myself. You have to work to get out of this; you have to fight the illusion of a permanent void within yourself.

So I fight: I drag myself to yoga when I feel as though I can barely muster the strength to lift my head and I talk to my friends when I want nothing more than to lock myself in my room for a week. I keep taking my antidepressants and making myself eat real food and sitting beneath my bright light therapy lamp, no matter how ridiculous it sometimes makes me feel.

I remind myself of what used to happen when I didn’t acknowledge I was depressed; when I didn’t honestly speak about the fog that set in. I remind myself of the alcoholism, of the suicide attempts, of the ever-present instability. I remind myself I don’t want to be in that place; that I won’t ever again be in that place.

So I write; I write about the feelings that I force myself to remember are still there, beneath the numbness. I write about the feelings that I recognize I yearn for; the feelings that always eventually come back when I put up my best fight for myself and the plexiglass again disappears.


Seamus Kirst is the author of a memoirShitfaced, about mental illness and addiction. He is the co-host of the Mental Health Hangouts podcast.

Follow @SeamusKirst on Twitter, and like his page on Facebook.


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