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

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Rendezvous with Madness, My Suicide and Piss Paranoia

Posted on | November 13, 2010 | No Comments

I suffer from a serious condition called “movie theatre bathroom thirst paranoia”.

As soon as I take my seat the psychological warfare begins.

My throat becomes parched and I suddenly need something to drink. If I don’t have water with me I find the nearest faucet and give into my thirst.  Once I have done so I return to my seat, watch the movie and the second terror begins.

No matter how long it’s been since I went to the bathroom I feel phantom pressure on my bladder that says, “You need to go to the bathroom. You need to go now” Even when I have just gone to the bathroom I feel this strange fear that I will need to go to bathroom at a key point in the movie and miss the best part. I tell myself I’m being ridiculous.

This doesn’t help.

I’m sitting in the reserved section at the November 12th showing of David Lee Miller’s “My Suicide”.

I’ve been asked to sit on the panel at the Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival that will discuss this movie and as such have received a T-shirt and a program in thanks.

However I’m helpless against my affliction.

You just went. Be cool, mang. Then my fear replies, “What if you cause merry havoc by going to the bathroom directly before the panel and delay the proceedings? What if you don’t go, lad? Think about the torture as you try to speak, squirm and slowly die.”

Trying to sneak to the back of the theatre involves stumbling through the dark while attendants lead me on my way with flash lights. As such it is hard to be subtle when I make my way down to the bathroom for the third time.

The most annoying part of this endeavor is that the stairs creak like a haunted house turning over in its grave with each step I take. I shouldn’t have had Lakeview Poutine but it was so delicious and gravy slathered.

You might be wondering what a movie called “My Suicide” is about. Having this movie on my desk made me wonder if my landlady might get the wrong idea as she too has learned about my blog and its focus on mental illness. The words “My Suicide” do seemly awfully suggestive.

I expected the movie to be depressing and somewhat of a chore to watch.  In this, like most things, I wad totally wrong.

“My Suicide” focuses on a 17-year-old named Archie(Gabriel Sunday) who has decided to make a documentary about his suicide. What follows is unlike any movie I have ever seen as we are assaulted with media, offensive humour, the ugliness of life and somehow uplifted past clichés into the comfort of a world that exists beyond the stories we tell our children and the truths we try to keep from them. Somewhere in this awkward horrifying and hilarious movie is an honest dialogue about things we don’t know how to talk about.  That the prescribed easy answers don’t work and we need an authentic conversation about suicide. At no point are we lectured about this. In fact as a therapist tries to reach Archie by condescendingly describing himself as a friend, Archie repeatedly calls him a cunt over and over again. Told with animation, a million movie quotes and genuine feeling “My Suicide” is one of the few movies I have ever watched that hit you with the complexity of an issue rather than a conclusion that simplifies the issue into nonexistence. I’m trying to think of something clever to say about it as I flush the toilet and stand up.

I’m dressed in my best suit, I’m sitting on a panel and I remain awkwardly Mike Kimber. I wash my hands and go to watch the end of the movie.

The credits roll, people dry their tears and I stand up waiting to go onstage. I stand long before the credits are over and begin shuffling back and forth nervously like I’m preparing to run a race or make a last panicked escape to the bathroom.

Chairs are set up on the front of the stage and the credits end and we go up to begin the discussion.

The moderator introduces us and reads the special introduction I rewrote in the Green Room before the movie began.

“Michael had something to add to his biography,” she says in a vaguely British accent. Shit. The game has been given away. “He is a prolific writer on mental health issues, his website Colony of Losers receives 10,000 hits a week and led to Anne McDermid signing him to their literary agency. He is now shopping his book “The Cure”. In case there are any publishers in the house.”

I blush, hypothetically ashamed by my callous attempts at self promotion.

The panel consists of two people physically in the theatre, which is myself, and I have  the words personal experience next to my name and Dr Harry Karlinsky, clinical professor of psychiatry at University of British Columbia and the creator of the award winning frames of Mind Mental Health series. He also writes film reviews for the Canadian psychiatric association.

We represent the doctor and the patient in the upcoming dialogue.

The other members of the panel are projected on the big screen behind us via skype. One is David Lee Miller who wrote and directed “My Suicide”. He started a non-profit media organization for youth by youth called regenerate.org who’s mission is  “ is to amplify voices for human rights, public health, the environment, and the expansion of art.”

Producer and cowriter Eric J. Adams has written for the New York Times and produced “To Save a Child” an award-winning documentary on suicide.  Both have beards that make me envious and have created something of beauty and complexity I can only dream of.

Now I have to talk about it.

I need to go to the bathroom again. I see a water bottle. Let’s try this compulsion instead.

Dr. Karlinsky explains how he identified with the movie because so many people in his profession are at a loss for the proper words to reach young people and often rely on formulaic and useless clichés.

Then it is my turn to talk.  A part of me wanted to clarify immediately that when they said personal experience that it was with mental illness not suicide itself and then I thought about how that is sort of besides the point of this discussion. I was here, obviously I didn’t have an extremely close personal experience with suicide.  I wonder if I should mention my friend who committed suicide doing university and that numb feeling for the six months that followed.  Another part of me wants to say something eloquent. Neither happen.

“As he identifies with the doctor, I identify with the patient,” I say. “I suffered from depression. I lost the ability to sleep for about three months.”  Where am I going with this?

What emerges next isn’t exactly sensical.

A long burbling rant about how in depression, mental illness, what have you,  you lose a sense of what’s real and what’s not. How Archie’s movie about his suicide manifests that confusion where we don’t realize the difference between the stories we are telling the world and the ones we are telling ourselves. That part of losing touch with the people around us is creating a narrative that doesn’t include them. Something about how everyone with mental illness wanted to sleep with the female lead of the movie(she is really really hot)…burbling, end, look at audience as though I have said something profound.

They stare back and look enthusiastic.

If you want a recipe for my comment combine a little intellectual masturbation, an English degree with a titch of attention whore and you’ll have a good idea of how to say nothing while talking a lot.

Thankfully we move onto the two people principally responsible for making this incredible film. I contemplate where I should hold the mic. At what angle does it not look phallic? I try numerous permutations and can’t seem to find one where it doesn’t look like I have a dick in my hand.

David and Eric say a lot of insightful things, I nod my head, look serious and congratulate myself on not making the joke I was thinking of opening with.  “Suicide, it’s an awkward topic…always hanging around.”  Thankfully I stopped myself from making this comment not simply because it’s tasteless but mostly because it isn’t funny and not a good example of my punning skills. People need to make more jokes about mental illness. If we can’t laugh about something we aren’t comfortable with it.

We get to questions from the crowd and a short woman wearing many necklaces raises her hand.

“What is your blog about?” she asks. “I hope that’s not too personal.”

“Thank you,” I say. I look at the microphone that refuses to not look phallic as I move it towards my mouth. “I have been waiting to jerk myself off for a while.”

The crowd laughs which isn’t surprising. Generally speaking if you make jokes after admitting you suffer from a mental illness people will laugh. Otherwise you might go home and cry about how no one likes your jokes. Plus masturbation is funny.

I tell her about how the most pertinent element in the blog is called “The Cure” which is about my search for some solution to my problems with anxiety and depression. About how I eventually realized that  that there was no breathing excercise, meditation method, medication or therapy that would make immune to suffering. That I had to accept myself, that it was a part of me and the more I fought it the more it dominated my life.  A story about the search for a cure and the people that loved me enough to convince me to stop looking.  You know…explaining how I market my mental breakdown.

The next person raises their hand.

“So, I don’t mean to pry,” says a lady from the audience. From my experience, anytime someone says this they are in fact about to pry. “I was wondering how your mental breakdown happened. Was it quick? Or was it gradual?  Was it one thing or a combination?  How long ago was it? And have you had numerous episodes?”

The terms episodes sound strange to me. Like tonight in Michael Kimber’s anxiety driven depression we have him groveling on the ground asking god to let him sleep.  On Friday’s episode we have a real cliffhanger…will he or won’t have to change to a new medication? Will this crazy son of a bitch find love or a panic attack just around the corner? Tune in next time to see.

I answer the questions one by one as honestly as I can and express my hope that I will only have one episode.

I know my present lucidity doesn’t guarantee this and that I don’t like to contemplate the dark place all of this writing comes from. I came back and find myself after thinking I couldn’t. I assume I’ll be able to find myself again with the help of the people who love me even if the person who got me through last time isn’t a part of my life anymore.

Then another hand raises and I’m asked another question. What follows is psychiatric show and tell. I can feel the sense of freedom they have in asking these questions because usually they can’t.  My complete lack of social graces allows them to forget their own.

There is something exciting in that freedom to freely discuss what we aren’t able to talk about on a day-to-day basis. Drugs, sex, medication, Michael Kimber, nothing is forbidden.

Finally the panel comes to a close and I walk out into the audience, having told them my secrets and said numerous offensive things to ease the tension of said honesty. Different people approach me and ask me questions about medication and therapy and what works and what doesn’t. I remind them that I’m just one fucked up person who found my way back and the doctor is the other dude on the panel. I know nothing about a cure. Then a 60 year old woman walks up to me and takes me aside.

“What were you going to say about marijuana?” she asks.

“Well I was saying how when I stopped smoking weed I got really anxious,” I say. “Any drug gets you high by replicating a natural process. Weed works by engaging cannaboids in your brain, which is your brain’s natural relaxant. So when you smoke like I did your brain doesn’t produce any when you quit.”

“My son smokes I weed,” she says. “I kicked him out of the house for using it when he was 15. Didn’t work. He’s done a lot of hard drugs. Heroin. He’s finding it hard to quit weed. He’s on methadone for the rest of it”

“A good friend of mine had the same experience,” I say.  “Mental illness and drug addiction at the same time. It was a tough thing to live through but he’s clean now and writing amazing shit. He has a blog as well that your son should check out.”

“I was going to ask you to write yours down,” she says. “What’s his?”

Prose-and-conz.tumblr.com,” I say.

She pauses for a second unsure if she wants to take the leap of faith and she speaks quickly, trying to get it over with.

“I’m bipolar.  What do you think about medication? You said it wasn’t the cure,” she says.

“I don’t think there is a cure to mental illness. I think you have to learn to live with it.  But I think medication when you need it is really good,” I say. “And people who are bi-polar you usually need to be medicated.”

“I hate it,” she says.

“Hate what?”

“Needing it,” she says. “I feel like a failure.Like I should be able to get by without it.”

“Why?” I ask. “If you were a diabetic you wouldn’t be weak for needing insulin. You wouldn’t walk up to a diabetic and say why isn’t your pancreas secreting insulin? What are you fucking weak?”

She laughs. “Do you actually believe that?” she asks.

“I’m on medication myself,” I say.

“Me too,” she says. “I still think I shouldn’t have to be.”

“It isn’t your fault,” I say. “Some people’s brains are just wired a little differently and you have to learn how to deal with it so that you can keep on living.”

“I thought it was my fault,” she says.

“Why?” I ask. “You didn’t want this. You didn’t ask for it. Why would you?  Who would?  You just tried to be happy and this is the difficult thing that gets in the way. It’s not your fault.”

She doesn’t say anything for a few seconds, a little surprised by my arguments.  Arguments which were given to me by my therapist and my mother when I echoed these same sentiments a few months ago.

“Thanks,” she says. Tears glisten in her eyes. “I think I needed to hear that.”

She leaves and I talk to the next person about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Yoga Farts.  Happy that for now the episodes of my life are about self promotion, poutine shits and piss paranoia.

Life is good when these are your problems.

Tune into the next episode.  In these, the days of my life.

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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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