Colony of Losers- Fuck Stigma and Mental Illness, I'm like 25

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Cure#12: Drowning and dreaming

Posted on | August 12, 2010 | No Comments

December 10th, 2009

“Ocean sounds?” asks my girlfriend, looking like a princess in her polar bear sweatshirt and flannel pajama pants. Her laptop sits on her knees as her legs dangle from her bed and don’t quite touch the ground.

“You don’t have to do this,” I say. “I can just go home.”

“No you are sleeping over,” she says. “I’m the boss. The one with the boobs. You are going to listen or you don’t get to touch them.”

“Gotcha.”

I’m a constant ball of butterflies and she has a talent for making the chaos into some lucid order. Making fun of me tends to make me aware of how ridiculous I’m being.

“So you are going to shut the fuck up, cuddle me and fall asleep to….waves?” she asks.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” she says.

For years I listened to a sound machine to block out external noise while I slept. This lasted approximately one week into our relationship. The calming oceans sound  made her wake up with the need  to go to the bathroom and reminded her of a constant white static alarm sounding. So I broke a life-long habit and got rid of it. Wasn’t hard. Nothing was in those days. Even now there isn’t a thing I wouldn’t give up for her. The list has gotten long. Weed, unhealthy food, exercise, cigarettes, booze and a life-long habit of ignoring my problems. The thing is she never asked me to give up any of these things. She never would. That’s just not who she is.

Monkeys and insects serenade us from her laptop computer. She has typed in relaxing sounds and this is what came up.

“You don’t find monkeys calming? Or how about one million insects screaming?”

“Too much respect for John Candy in Arachnophobia,” I say.  “No. I wouldn’t call this relaxing.”

A hippopotamus snorts out gushing pools of water from its snout.  She clicks on a different track labeled “Serenade to a young child.” A heart begins to beat in the background.

“Is this young child a psychopath?” she asks.

“His mother’s heartbeat in the womb. Babies sleep to that shit. They love it,” I say, a tad bit defensively. My sound machine use to have this exact feature and more than one person accused me of being a serial killer upon hearing it.

“Sounds of the ocean?” she asks. I nod. “Better not be any  seals getting clubbed to death.”

Waves splash against a shore over and over again. Almost identical to my sound machine that ruined her sleep.

“You see what I do for you?” she says.

I open my mouth and she stops me with a kiss.   Before I can begin the apology dance. She knows it’s not my fault. My problem is that I don’t know this yet.

She slides in and raises her arm so that I can place my own on her chest and pull her close. A tension in the center of my chest eases. I let the melatonin dissolve under my tongue.

The first time we had sex I kicked her out of my house at four in the morning and called her a taxi that took her back to her parent’s place.

The truth is that I had never slept in the same bed with a woman. I’m a person who lives and dies by routine. A lifetime of sleeping alone is a hard habit to break.

The next night she slept over, and despite the cramped bed, and the intense heat in my tiny closet-like room, I slept better than I ever thought possible. There is something about waking up holding a beautiful girl’s hand clutched in your own. The sensation that even in your dreams you didn’t want to let go.

And now I’m ready to sleep like a baby.

I can feel the snow-white cloud slowly taking hold of my tired brain. My doctor has agreed to get me off Trazadone and recommended melatonin as a possible replacement. Since medical school she had suffered from insomnia and found that melatonin and chamoille tea worked for her. Her life long insomnia may play some part in her belief that I have a sleep disorder rather than an anxiety problem.

Melatonin is excellent for resetting your cycadian rhythm, useful for jet lag and shift work. After a couple weeks my body will readjust its internal clock and I can be normal again.

Only life isn’t that simple.

“I am the fucking best at this,” says a deep bass voice through the walls. I can hear shotgun shells being discharged in the distance.

Herman and his girlfriend are playing Duck Hunt in the living room. They’ve had a couple drinks and his deep voice projects through walls even when he’s whispering. I tell myself to block them out which unfortunately makes me sniper scope focused on the sound of their voices.

I know that it isn’t fair to tell them to be quiet, as it is their home and I’m the guest.

Only I know that melatonin ceases to be of much use after a half hour. Past that point you lie awake in the white cloud, relaxed and unable to break through the static to the solace of sleep. Just relax. Telling myself that never works.

I focus on the feel of her body against my own and the sound of the waves. Tension easing. Nonsense thoughts entering my brain. Could Peter Parker pick a peck of pickled peppers? Spiderman wouldn’t like Pickles.

“Honestly I’m the Dirty Harry of this shit,” says Herman, interrupting my reverie.

“ I’m still beating you, buster,” his girlfriend replies.

The walls are thin and my time is running out.  The problem is that my doctor has set me a bedtime that is far too early for normal people, especially the people I hang out with. Midnight means everyone is still up and there will be several hours before they go to sleep.

I don’t have a chance.

“Highest score ever?” asks Herman. “That’s hard to beat.”

“Just watch me.”

The combative flirtation of a love that has taken years to blossom should be music to my ears. I know how much Herman loves her and the comedic and intelligent exchange between them has been the guiding inspiration behind his work for as long as I’ve known him. He’s happy. It’s not his fault that I have gone crazy.

I try to remind myself that the 30 minutes is just a guideline. However I don’t expect the laughter to end anytime soon.

The more sick I get the more I do to try to cure my disease.  I believe that if I just follow the instructions I will be able to beat it.

I exercise for an hour a day. I eat salad for lunch filled with fruit, vegetables and nuts for protein. I eat vegetarian dinners at the local vegetarian restaurant. I have cut out caffeine and chocolate. I set a bedtime and a waking time and follow all the instructions in the insomniac pamphlets. I use the bed for sleep and sex and won’t watch TV before we go to sleep.  The more I do to protect myself the more I rely on these protections.

Right now I need the waves.

I remember when the waves didn’t come from a machine. As I fall into the white cloud, I can feel the sunlight on my cheek.

She is in a yellow bikini and feels light as air in my arms as the waves crash and her feet glide across the tops of the cresting wave. The sun is so bright that I can barely keep my eyes open. I can’t believe I could ever be this happy. The sound of the waves dissolve into our laughter. The light welcomes me to that spot where consciousness becomes sleep. The land of the golden palace.

Only rushing waves, the feel of her body in my arms and the sunlight on my cheek.

The artificial waves skip as her computer loses its streams of consciousness.

The sun goes out and I’m in a dark room.

She sleeps.

While I lie awake dreaming in the dark of the beach and the sun on my face.

With metallic waves crashing on and on.

*****************************************************************************************************

I’m drowning in medication.

Elavil is my new poison.

The anxiety is gone.

So am I.

I went to the doctor’s office in the morning after melatonin and got a prescription for Elavil, a tricyclic antidepressant.

On this drug, I don’t dream and I don’t feel like I have woken up. The first night I slept for ten hours and could barely get out of bed. The second night I didn’t sleep at all. It’s a muscle relaxant and leaves me effectively crippled for most of the day. When I go swimming, it takes fifteen laps before I can feel my body again.

On the third night it worked at double the dosage.

Today is the morning of the fourth day.

I know the drug isn’t working. I don’t feel better. There is no Michael Kimber in this body left to feel anything.

I want to put on my normal face but don’t quite know what it looks like. Depression left me hollow, anxiously desiring my old self to fill all the holes left vacant by my departure. The longing was me. The smallest portion that remained of who I was. Elavil leaves me filled with a concrete nothing that permeates every particle of my being. I’m overflowing with nothing.

She is coming over and we are going to go shopping for Christmas presents.

Only there is a story to be written.

When my hands touch the dirty keyboard of my laptop I can feel the words appearing like behind the cloudy veil. The first sentence is hard to find. The second easier. Thinking about her. Numb but capable of feeling. Warming myself in the idea of the smile she’ll have when she sees this. The magic passing through my fingertips. Somehow love speaks when I can’t even hear myself.

She’ll know what she means to me. The person that exists in the tomorrow I can’t see yet. Keep typing.

I can remember.

I’m still here.

*********************************************************************

Chapter 2

For most she was merely an adorable girl with a remarkable talent for words and little skill at pottie training.  Hilarious to laugh with. Awkward to invite for a sleepover.

For her parents, Betty and Paul, she was one of the three lights that illuminated their world.  She had a brother and a sister and both were remarkable in ways that appeal to parents, friends and  strangers who look for different tales than this one.

But for you, my audience, this tale is of the Alacorn and not of her lovely family. So let us ignore her mother’s obsessive compulsive yet absolutely delightful cooking and let us look past her sister’s genius academic career and desire never to be told to shut up.  There was always something strange about little Stephanie and it was not merely the fact that she had taught herself to read at age three and wet the bed till she was much older than one would have assumed probable.

It was something more than that.

The family lived in a split level house, in a nice community, where there were trees you could climb and grass you could roll in.  The children’s elementary school was right next door. Stephanie, our heroine sleeps with the glasses she constantly loses now resting conveniently next on her bedside table.

While the whole house was asleep, she awoke, legs covered in a drizzle of yellow urine. She cringed when she noticed her ruined sheets and prepared herself for much gentle ribbing in the morning. Still she felt very out of the ordinary, her body felt as swollen as the girl who ate the forbidden candy in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory.

Squinting she looked in her mirror and noticed that everything was normal except for one thing: she had a gigantic horn peaking out of her forehead.

Actually two things: her silver blond hair was more like a mane belonging to a horse than the cute haircut she’d gotten a few weeks earlier from her mother. Looking down she was startled to see her dirt covered feet had somehow become hooves. Ok, three things.

She reached for her glasses but she could not seem to get a hold of them-she could only manage to slide them back and forth a bit and then—crush—they flattened instantly beneath her hoof. Hoof!  She was so alarmed that her wings began beating at the air behind her.

Wings?

She clapped her hooves together in joyous delight. She looked down at her bed, covered in urine. For the thousandth time she realized that the transformation was responsible for her bed-wetting.  She couldn’t wait to tell her sister that it wasn’t her fault, this time she peed the bed because she was an Alacorn not because she was an idiot.  As always she would forget this come morning and have to face awkward jokes from her family at Betty’s color-coded breakfasts.

Her eyes went back to her wings and she giggled when she heard them flapping together.

Alacorn’s wings are of a different variety than those of say a bird, or even the metal birds of the sky that humans call an “airplane”.  See, those wings move with locomotion, whether generated by biological or technological sources.  She moved with magic.  And move she did, down the stairs, past the smell of baking pies and her brother’s stinking feet, and out the door to the trees surrounding her house.

Her wings began to flap, creating powerful thrusts of wind that sounded like the laughter of a thousand innocent babes tickled by feathers.

The air began to blur, caught in the waves of wholesome laughter, so joyous that space and time could not stand in its wake any longer.  It was as if someone had laughed so hard that all reason had been shushed for good.

She smelled curry and saw beautiful brown people dancing to strange music created from flutes and tiny hand held drums.

A Greek historian named Ctesias drinks from a cup of what one day will be called tea. He looks down at the tea, wondering if it had hallucinogenic properties. He has seen horses before but none that laughed, nor had wings, and indeed he had never a horse that danced with such rhythm.  He was tempted to ask if anyone else could see this shit.

“Horsey?” asks Ctesias.

The girl responds with a gentle neigh. What she meant to say is no “I’m Stephanie.” Very few people speak Unicorn as it is a tongue she had recently made up.

He didn’t understand her words, but merely noticed her beautiful horn and the friendliness in her gray blues eyes. He has never seen such love in the eyes of either animal or man. He fell to his knees humbled before such a joyful sight.

The girl does not realize that in this moment she begins the legend of the Alacorn. That this Greek scribe will write a tale that will capture her own imagination millennia later and result in the purchase of thousands of dollars in related merchandise by friends, family and lovers for birthdays and holiday gift items.

“Are you god?” he asks.

She giggles and time disappears once more.

Suddenly she is back in her damp bed, ready to wake and  be mocked by her parents and siblings for her little accident.

Her father Paul comes into the room to wake her for breakfast. She can smell the sizzling bacon in the air. She notices her face has returned to its normal proportions.

Seems she just had that dream again.

“Always sleeping, little one. So lazy. Wonder where you get that from.”

During her next sleep she will first visit ancient Babylon, then save the life of the heroic knight Lancelot and finally journey to China to the most decorous of Opium dens and begin the legends she would become obsessed with. While others were sleeping and dreaming, she created what she dreamed about during the day.

The little girl has always had a habit of making dreams come true. But again more will be said of that a little later in the tale.

Welcome to the Colony of Losers, a world of quarter life crises, anxiety, depression and the friends and the failures on the way to finding your future. This is the story of Michael Kimber’s panicked fall into adulthood.

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  • About

    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on twitter.com/colonyoflosersand twitter.com/quimbo. If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

    Really obvious disclaimer:
    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out Mindyourmind.ca. I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

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