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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Happy Holidays#3: Christmas for the Jews and Papa Quimborius

Posted on | January 26, 2011 | 2 Comments

My dad is driving me back from the airport.

I’m making jokes and talking about my latest plots to make my dreams come true.

He’s been listening to these stories since I was ten years old. When I was working on my first novel, as our idiot dog Gabby dragged me through Point Pleasant Park, never once stopping my ramblings.

I always hoped that if I could write like him, I’d somehow manage to grow up to be as good a man as my father.

I still have a lot of growing up to do to reach this goal but inside the car it doesn’t matter.

He believes in me and that mean’s something.

Especially since my dad has never been particularly adept at bullshit. I remember when he told me that I should stop my eight year journey towards finishing my epic fantasy novel. Looking back on those chapters years later I can see what he meant.

Which also made his genuine compliments mean a lot more.

“I can’t help but remember last Christmas,” I say, in lieu of nothing. Maybe in lieu of the first sights of my hometown where I have been happiest and saddest and lived until I had to leave. In Toronto, I felt Halifax like a heartbeat, moving me forward, heard in every still moment I stopped frantically working. Right now it feels like an open wound. “So much has changed.”

The absence of my depression doesn’t fill the spaces she’s left. I’m thinking about her but I think about her too often and that is beside the point. The point is what my dad says next.

“So how you doing?” asks my dad.

What he’s really asking if I’ve been rocking a little depression or anxiety on the quiet in Toronto.

I take a second trying to think of the right words.

“My insanity is in proportion to my life problems,” I reply. “It’s a little lonely out there. What with the hour transport back and forth needed to go see anyone and I could probably use a job,” I reply. “And I miss her a lot.  But I’m mostly happy. And when I’m not it’s nothing like last year.”


He drops the parent screen and we start making jokes like we usually do.

I lied a lot about questions like this last Christmas.

I never wanted to worry my parents.

I failed in that.

The best part about moving out of the house when I went to university was the transition from child to friend.

While this was obviously an illusion, as I frequently needed to ask my parents for money throughout the years, it was one I clung onto.

In November 2009 all of my illusions collapsed.

I can remember the moment when things changed between us.

My parents and I were having Dim Sum and they were giving me a pep talk about the future and how I didn’t need to worry so much. We ordered too much and I tried to pay attention to their kind words and make myself feel the reassurance I was desperately seeking and they were trying to provide.

Suddenly I started crying.

I was as surprised as they were and I couldn’t stop.

I usually cry once a year with a self consciousness awkwardness and manage to squeeze out only a few tears before I talk myself out of it, usually while looking in some bathroom mirror, cheered up by how ridiculous I look, embracing the hilarity of snot dripping and tears leaking my emotional insides.

Not this time.

We’d already ordered and the food was slow in coming. I caught a few people staring me and quickly looking away. Everyone besides my parents determined to pretend I wasn’t crying.

I went to the bathroom to pull myself together, looked in the mirror and couldn’t find the humor in my situation. Trying to stop crying just made it worse. I hadn’t yet realized how much my brain hated being told no to what it was feeling and the vengeance it would wreak on me for doing so.

I managed to stop for a few seconds. Blow my nose, wipe my eyes and make my way back to the table.  Waiting for the food to arrive so that we could leave was like holding in Diarrhea in my brain instead of my stomach.

“It’s going to be okay,” my dad said.

You okay? becomes it’s going to be okay when it’s obvious that you aren’t.

I started crying again and my parents had to get dim sum to go.  I couldn’t stop all the way through the drive home.

Six years earlier we had a similar drive, back in the days when I thought my anxiety disorder was a heart problem.  One day my legs went numb and I lost the ability to breath. My friends called my parents. My mom held me in the backseat. My dad decided to disregard traffic lights. Calm and cool in his voice but not willing to wait an extra second to get me where someone might know what I needed.  Ready to do anything to protect me. I remember seeing his eyes in the car mirror.

It’s the only time I’ve ever seen my dad scared.

Years later we are in the car, fully realizing that the problem isn’t my in my heart, it’s in my head. And I couldn’t stop crying.

Crying because the tears were coming out but weren’t letting any of it go.  More fear moved into the fill in the space it left. The fear that somehow in the past week I had gone insane and would never get back.  That I was being pulled away kicking and screaming from the girl I loved more then I imagined possible. That somehow my life had become about the things I was leaving behind rather then the future I was going towards.

Crying because I couldn’t stop.

When I was “away” at university I would call maybe once a week. Even though I was just down the street. In November and December of 2009, I called everyday and stopped by for dinner every two or three days.

Now a year has past and a lot of things have changed. The only thing that hasn’t is the knowledge that my parents are there for me no matter what I need.

It’s nice to need a lot less.

He asked if I was okay and I was.

There is nothing particularly special about this exchange besides that it was the only time during my Christmas break that he or anyone would ask if I was okay.  Last year everyone in my life asked me how I was doing on an hourly basis.  The most frequent question was how did you sleep the night last night? My life became a predictable cycle of questions asked and answer, uncomfortable truths and the occasional lie to make us more comfortable. I’ve always built life around being honest and telling people what I was feeling. As a result I made my life about my depression, making every conversation about the hole I was falling into. It took me a while to realize that if I was always talking about it, I was missing out on the things that made me happy and the joy I got from other people.

Now no one asks and they don’t have to. If I were fucked up, you’d know. Because I’d be blogging about it. So mom, dad and all the rest of you fucks that love me rest assured.

But save the Fullhouse moment.

Now we are on my way to a dinner of Sobey’s barbecue chicken, mostly cooked potatoes and awesome hugs from Mama L.

I’m telling my dad my latest plans for world domination and he’s laughing.

We are on our way our home.


“Get your ass down here, Brat,” says my sister, over the phone. “It’s Christmas!”

There is no Jew in this world that loves Christmas as much as my sister.

She also prefers to call me Brat to Michael. I grab my presents that I picked out and my father paid for.  One of my Christmas presents was his help in paying for my Christmas presents. By help I mean he paid for them entirely.  Holidays are more difficult when you are unemployed.

I stagger outside at the ungodly time of 10 o’clock in the morning and get in the car. Her husband Greg is driving.

“You look awake,” says Greg.

“I slept more than last year.”

“Yeah that was a fine Christmas,” replies Greg.

“Nice that you aren’t crazy anymore,” says my sister. “Did you get me anything good?”


“We got you something amazing,” she says. “You are going to feel like a piece of shit.”

“I feel that way anyway,” I reply. “Don’t you remember that I have an anxiety disorder?”


Emily once combined the words hippy and emo to describe me as a hippo. My sister is one of the funniest people in the world and hates being on Facebook. She somehow managed to be on all the time when I was rocking the worst of my depression. Always ready to juggle work to give me a pep talk during a period when I constantly needed it. She even stopped being mean to me.

Thankfully that hasn’t lasted.

“You look like you just woke up. Your hair…seriously do you always have to shower before you go to sleep?” she asks. “You need to get excited! It’s Christmas.”

“At least I slept this time,” I reply.

“Again with this?” she asks.

“You were funny last Christmas. Nodding off every few seconds, twitching when you had that glass of tea,” says Greg.

“I didn’t drink caffeine at the time.”

“It’s fucking tea,” replies Greg. “Even old ladies don’t get a buzz off of tea.”

I have only had five hours of sleep, which was almost five hours more then I had last Christmas.

I remember being alone in my circus red bedroom on Lawrence Street, turning on my sound machine to try to fall asleep to the waves. Taking a tryptophan, hoping the big ass Turkey pill would get me to sleep.

Zopiclone worked the previous two nights but was supposed to be habit forming.  Zopiclone sleep is like being knocked out with a frying pan in pill form, you don’t dream, you wake feeling like God shat in your mouth, with a buzzing brain filled with twitching anxiety. So turkey got me to sleep, where Zopiclone suspended my nightmares, tryptophan let the suspended fear run rampant.  I woke up feeling like I needed to scream.  So I waited three hours in bed, trying to get back to sleep, to get the phone call from my sister.

Telling me it was Christmas with the same happy voice.

Which was my cue to try to pretend I’d slept and zombie my way through the worst Christmas of my life. Where all I wanted was my sanity and it was the one thing no one could give me. Where I laughed like there was a soundtrack to every joke and we all tried to pretend that nothing was wrong. Even if my sister was being nice to me and my mom was actively pretending she didn’t hate Christmas.

“Sorry,” I say.

I used to have an addiction to apologies. Apologies force people to feel guilty and help you and are the last thing an insomniac can think to offer the people he loves.  Sorry means I don’t think I can change and it’s shitty you have to deal with me.  I stopped sorry when I realized that I could change things.

“For what?”

“For farting.”

“You are so gross.”


Every year my mother tells us that we are going to have a scaled back Christmas.

Just socks and essentials and every year my dad packs the living room with presents. This year is no exception. My dad is ambiguous in regards to his religious beliefs but he has a real passion for making his family happy and wearing shitty hats. But we’ll get to that later.

My dad loves giving presents more then anyone enjoys receiving them.

When I was a kid he planned elaborate treasure hunts through the house for every anniversary, inspiring my own lunatic romantic gift giving fetish. Every year he gets my mother some elaborate trick present and laughs when she digs through the boxes to find something ridiculous, either a trip to some new location or a piece of jewelry that my sister happened to know my mom would like. Effectively ruining her plans to scale back.

Christmas is an OCD ritual. Each element part of a tradition going back years and years. Comfortable for its routines. That some things stay the same even when nothing else does.

We begin with our stockings and follow it with some sweet breakfast roll, a tradition dating back to the days when I was a stick thin child with hypoglycemia and needed sugar or I would pass out.  One Christmas, I was in the hospital, having lapsed into a hypoglycemic coma. My sister was unhappy that she was unable to open her presents when she woke up.

I’m an excellent Jew…I constantly ruin Christmas.

We open stockings, gush over chocolate bars and magazines and in later years CDs and thumb drives filled with bootlegged television programs.  My dad always gets a stupid hat in his stocking.

One had reindeer antlers.

Another had a bouncy up and down Christmas tree.  And this year he has a pimping red Cowboy hat that makes him resemble a cowboy Eric Clapton.

We take a break for breakfast, which always includes bacon. That might seem strange for Jews if these same Jews weren’t eating on Christmas before opening presents.  To pacify the strangeness of the situation we eat bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon.  My mom makes a big pan of scrambled eggs and we have orange juice and champagne.  The last two years I haven’t partaken in the champagne.

Last year it was because I was scared that drinking would make my depression worse and I was going crazy working every angle of a possible cure to my anxiety and insomnia. I read somewhere that drinking ruins REM sleep and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice any of the sleep I managed to find.  This year I didn’t drink because I’m on medication and it makes me too tired if I drink too early in the day. After breakfast we hit the presents till I’m the last one left.

Usually we have people over for Christmas dinner with friends of the family or friends of my parents who don’t have anywhere else to go. This year we do it alone and have a new member of our family. Just before I left for Toronto, my sister married the love of her life, who goes by the name Greg Arthur. The first time I remember talking to Greg was Christmas five years ago when they were first started dating. I remember he was making Terry Fox jokes, next to my grandmother who couldn’t hear him due to the inadequacy of her hearing aid.

I knew he was a keeper even then. He is a soft spoken man who only speaks when he has something worthwhile to say or a particular brutal pun to share. I remember his wedding speech, liquored off his ass, with tears in his eyes.

“My friends used to ask me if there was a reason I moved to Nova Scotia. And I guess there was. The reason was to meet the love of my life and become a part of her amazing family. I’m the luckiest man in the world”

I’ve already said nice things about their love so I’ll try to avoid saying them here.

But there is something different in the relationship you have with a boyfriend and the relationship you have with a brother in law. I can remember Greg driving me to the liquor store on New Years of 2009. Waiting with me in the gigantic line, telling me his own story of panic and fear at 25. Now they are grown ups with a house and a mature relationship. They found their way out of the Colony using each other as support and a reason to grow.

Presents finished we nap for a few hours, go over to see my grandmother (we call her Nanny) in the retirement home and laugh at her well placed barbs.  We go home, have a big dinner and decide to stay a little longer. Usually family visits last an hour and a half. Just long enough for us to have a competition to see who can be the funniest, tucker ourselves out and leave.

Not this time.

After a huge meal we went to the living room and watched Kick Ass, laughing at the ridiculous violence and the murderous 11 year old who steals the show as she kills hundreds of bad guys.

My sister teases me and makes fun of the women I’m attempting to pursue and my lack of a job. Mom frets about making dinner and makes one of the best meals of her motherly career and Dad wears a stupid fucking hat.

We don’t get Mom drunk enough to plan a trip for Cuba for next year or celebrate with other families.

We keep it small.

And celebrate the birth of Jesus, the way every good Jewish family does, by watching little children murder a shit ton of gangsters. All that’s missing is my brother, wearing every single article of clothing he got for Christmas.

For me it was one of the best Christmases I can remember.

Because even if I wasn’t with the girl I loved most in the world, I could see that real love was possible just by looking a those stupid dopey newlyweds.

Because my sister made fun of me. Because my dad wore a stupid fucking hat and my mom was happy and neurotic and herself.

Because we were together and nothing could get in the way of that.

Not even me.



2 Responses to “Happy Holidays#3: Christmas for the Jews and Papa Quimborius”

  1. Tweets that mention Happy Holidays#3: BDSM, Wheelchairs and Pointless War(Traveling With Porter) | Colony of Losers- Fuck Stigma and Mental Illness, I'm like 25 --
    January 27th, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Kimber, Michael Gray Kimber. Michael Gray Kimber said: Last Christmas I didn't sleep and zombied my way through. This year I'm laughing with my dad thinking of all… [...]

  2. Danny C
    January 30th, 2011 @ 2:19 am

    After reading this post, you reminded me how important family is. We’re all here for you, Mike. Keep it real my man

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    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 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.

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