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

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Monsters Don’t Hit Women, Our Friends Do

Posted on | November 17, 2011 | 1 Comment

I’m at an art gallery, drinking before I have eaten, trying my best to look sophisticated. I see pictures of Bill Clinton tenderly kissing Hilary on the lips, love in his eyes, staring at a woman he will disgrace and throw into the upper echelons of American politics. I see Michael Jackson on a swing set, looking like an abandoned child. I see police officers holding hands as Bobby Kennedy makes his way through Chicago.

But mostly I hear about Mel Gibson.

“So you are Jewish and like Mel Gibson?” I say, hoping to point out the obvious contradiction.

“What does that have to do with anything?” asks Nero, my friend I met while ordering a drink.

“Well he said some very anti-semitic things to that police officer,” I reply.

“Was he drunk?” asks my new friend Nero .

“Yeah.”

“And you never made off color remarks when you were drunk?” asks Nero.

“I think there is a difference between making off color remarks when you are drunk once and doing it constantly. He said that the Jews started all the major wars,” I say. “There is also the making of the Passion of the Christ.”

“What was wrong with that movie?” asks Nero.

“Have you seen it?”

“No.”

“It was long. Very long,” I reply.

“Lot of movies are long,” offers Nero. “The Godfather was long.”

“The Godfather didn’t feature Jesus saying that the Jews were to blame for his crucifixion and would suffer until the end of time for their sin,” I reply.

“That would be sort of off topic for the Godfather. Was it good?”

“I didn’t see it.”

“Why?”

“I’m Jewish.”

“So you don’t like him because of something you haven’t seen?”

“It’s more than that.  I mean there is a ten-minute whipping scene. Graphic pointless stuff just to mock the Jews. The whole thing puts the blame for Jesus’s death on the Jews instead of the Romans.”

“I have seen ten minutes of whipping and rather enjoyed it,” says Nero.

“Different type of whipping I think.”

“What about his wife?”

“His wife?”

“He punched her in the mouth while she was holding her baby,” I say.

“How do you know this?” he asks.

“The recordings. The ones they put online.”

“You think she didn’t set him up?” he asks.

“She did ask him if he remembered when he punched her while she was holding the baby. He seemed to have no trouble recollecting it.”

“He punched her?”

“Yes.”

“Did he break her teeth?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then he didn’t punch her. A man of his build would break teeth. He is quite a good fighter.”  Nero shrugs his shoulders like he has proven his point.  “William Wallace would have broken her teeth.”

“He slapped her then…”

“There is a big difference between punching and slapping.”

“He hit his wife.”

“So did Gandhi. Hit his wife, hated black people and hung out with naked 11 year olds. People like him.”

“Gibson isn’t Gandhi.”

Why do people like Gandhi? I think about this often.  I should probably stop referring to myself as the Gandhi of Mental Health. People might start assuming these sorts of implications.

“He has a very serious drinking problem.  90% of people in prison commit their crimes when they are either drunk or on drugs.”

“He is a shitty drunk who hit his wife.”

I have a lot of compassion when I drink and don’t eat.

“A lot of people want to hit her their wife. They aren’t necessarily bad people,” says Nero.

“He is.”

“Have you met him?”

“No.”

“Did you like Mad Max?” he asks.

I nod.

“You like Braveheart?”  he asks.

“Yup.”

“The rest is just fucking conjecture.”

This article is not in defense of Mel Gibson and his drunken slandering of my people.

It is about something significantly more awkward.

We are sitting in a Starbucks and I’m assuming a reasonable explanation will be forthcoming.

“Nelson” got in touch with me on Facebook to inform me that he would be in my neighbourhood soon. Having not heard from him for quite sometime I assumed we would be talking about Jesus as recently this had become his favorite topic.  It quickly became clear that was not the case.

I asked him how he was doing.

Nelson said he was going to jail for hitting his wife.  That he was in Ontario because he wasn’t allowed to be anywhere near her. I asked if he was guilty. He said he was.  I asked why. He provided short hand of mental illness and a significant drug and alcohol problem. He also wondered if I still wanted to go grab some coffee.

There is something about the way he volunteered the information that made me curious. I have known other people who have hit their spouses, including a few women in the practice of hitting men you’d never suspect they’d be able to. This was the first I have ever heard someone admit it. What’s more it was Nelson.

So I am ordering an Avanti sized green tea and trying to put things into some sort of perspective. I am contemplating Gandhi as I often do. Trying to make sense of the idea of a leader in non-violence hitting his wife.  You figure someone like that would take their work home with them.

Within a minute he arrives breaking me from my reverie.

I like punctual people.

Nelson isn’t Gandhi and is no longer well liked. This is not helped by his honest desire to tell everyone about what he did.

“Hey man,” I say.

We hug for a moment.

We sit down in the plus leather Starbucks seats and look for an opening line.

“So….how you been?” I ask.

He shrugs and we begin talking.

When I first met him he wrote poetry like Kerouac and had a drinking habit I assumed would be the death of him. He dressed in hipster hats and denim jackets. It was rare to see Nelson without a half empty 26er of rye and a handful of magic mushrooms.  He was one of those people you wouldn’t assume actually exist outside of movies and good literature.  He was Hunter S Thompson without the politics and his stories involved debauchery and the type of shit you don’t believe happens in real life. He did poetry that pissed people off and he shouted it like we were all going deaf and he had something important to say.

See Nelson had an obsession with farming and digging a hole that he couldn’t dig himself out of.  Before I met him, he was slowly dying on that farm, as a lack of feed back, left him alone with his delusions, without a world to bring him back to sanity.  Somehow he dug through the center of the earth and found himself in China, or rather, my hometown of Halifax. He sold the farm and was living a rather confusing life in the big city

When he offered fresh milk to a female friend of mine I wasn’t sure if he was offering sexual favors until he pulled out a gigantic container of cows milk from his backpack. He has the type of passion for life that was like a firecracker, half lit ready to explode in everyone’s face.

He started filming my freestyles and captured a lot of strange things on tape.  Including a five-minute film of my very determined attempts to sleep with a rather horrible girl.  This passion for film led to a short and unfulfilled dream to make porno movies with couples that care for each other.

I remember when the experiment collapsed.

“The whole porn thing was a test from the lord,” explained Nelson.  “The whole idea was a test of my spiritual beliefs, my book of Job.  I could turn to the Lord or turn away.  I was really lucky that I didn’t end up filming anything. I would have shamed my family.”

Next he was sober seeing signs of Jesus, dressing like a 1920s businessman in suits with tails and falling in love shortly after. He didn’t drink, do drugs and every conversation became about the Lord. In the IMF, my rap crew that included mostly atheists and poets, he tried to make us see the face of God.  From most it would be incredibly obnoxious and hard to deal with. In this Nelson was not an exception.

Soon finding God led him to finding her. She was also very into the Lord and him.  Suddenly they were married and he couldn’t stop smiling or sermonizing. He had a strange sense of stability that seemed like he had stepped out of his past into a future he could live with.  We didn’t see him very much and it didn’t matter because he was happy.

Unfortunately his greatest addiction called him away from his happy life.  He went back to the country to start a new farm with his new wife. With trademark obsession he ripped life from the earth and himself. Gradually all human contact ceased except for his wife.  His life became fishing and planting, growing beneath the earth and withering above it.

It was his Noah’s arc and the world he escaped lead to the edge of himself.

When love begins you shut out the world to experience it in its totality, and to protect the people in your life from the absolute nature of your addiction. For a while you survive, like man walking on the moon with one last hit of oxygen as you hold your breath and hope the asphyxiation lasts forever. Eventually you need the world again. Because bullshit is the foundation of every relationship and without other people to make fun of, world events to mock and stories to share, you become Romeo and Juliet stuck in hell, proclaiming your love with nothing left to say but beautiful soliloquy’s, trading a perfect script for the world. Without bullshit we die.

It was Nelson, his wife and his farm and the Shining effect started to kick in.

Booze and drugs entered the mix. He turned against himself and he gradually turned against the only person who had ever brought sense to his life. He has always been imaginative in regards to his sanity.  Nelson is the sort of guy who has visions of God and you wonder if he might be schizophrenic. He certainly had a bad case of depression and an extreme sense of reality.

It’s not easy being with a person when they totally and completely lose their mind.

On the farm, there was no one else to lean on. Things started to go bad with her and there wasn’t anyone else. No one should ever become your world. The world is a horrible place.

I always thought he would kill himself. I never thought he would hurt her.

It could have gone the other direction fairly easily. When you are young your stories aren’t set in stone.  A few small coincidences and you die before anyone gets to know who are you. A few small steps in the other direction and you ruin your life and have to live with the shame.

He spent the afternoon in his barn with his neck in the noose shortly before the incident that would lose him a wife and most of the friends he had.  When she found him, hysterical, she didn’t know what to say to bring him back to himself.  In an argument without sanity to govern its border, he beat her.

I can’t say what he was thinking during those moments.

I know that when I was on the furthest edges of my own process of falling down it was hurting the woman I loved that brought me back. Instead of violence, I acted with extreme jealousy and made someone who walked me through hell feel unloved. It was seeing her tears that led me back to myself. Showing me that I had a choose in how I lived.

Hurting her is the moment he relives a thousand times a day. A completely stupid irrational moment where he lost control of himself and lost the one person who was important to him.

Nelson tried to get help and was told he had to wait between six months and a year. He was told that he wasn’t sick enough.  He tried to get himself institutionalized and they wouldn’t let him stay. When his wife pressed charges he was relieved that his actions would have consequences. He believes that God wants to help other people before they reach the same place. That maybe some good would come out of the hate that lived inside of him.

He hasn’t talked to her since the charges have been laid and hasn’t been able to say sorry. Most of the people in his life have given up on him. One by one he has lost most of his connections that keep him in the world.

He might have expected to lose me as well.

Hypothetical Michael Kimber wouldn’t be a friend with anyone who could hit a woman. However my logic for my friends is not the same I apply to Mel Gibson. It’s hard to hate someone for a principal when you look them in the eye and they look exactly like someone you love.

To hurt the person you love most is the most horrible thing a human can do.  Something we all do to greater and lesser degrees in the relationships that are most important to us. I don’t think I have that sort of hate in me.  Neither did he.

There is a desire to demonize people who show us what we are all capable of.  To rid ourselves of reminders of the incredibly fragile nature of our existence as the people we would like to be, we decide what actions can come from people we love and what actions must engender a holy form of judgment. There is this sense that if we acknowledge the humanity of an abuser, we take away the humanity of the abused. I think that we do as much harm to the victims by denying the humanity of their attackers. We make it a game of good and evil and it doesn’t happen in real life. This is not a problem the victims can solve. This is not a problem we can solve by giving up on people like Nelson. We all wish we lived in a world where it was stupid to love someone who would hurt us. Where it was easily predictable and you could divide the good from the bad and walk in a straight line from birth to love to death to heaven.  Unfortunately a lot of people who lived fucked up lives passed that onto other people. Broken begat broken until our history was a fist that moved like an arrow through time.  Most of us have some sort of scar that we pass onto the next person we love.

I have to believe there is a way back, even from this.  I have seen drug addicts whose lives became lies, fight their way back and become people I deeply respect. Self-destructive people live until that part of themselves that try to kill them dies and they get a moment of crushing calm. I have seen people get help and come back from extremely dark places.  They needed help and the system isn’t set up to help people like Nelson.

I am not trying to justify his actions.  Mental illness isn’t an excuse. Nor is booze and drugs.  There is little he can do to get back the love that meant so much to him. I think you have to take responsibility for your actions. Nelson hasn’t run away from that. He wants to do his time. I know he means it because he doesn’t hesitate to tell you what he has done. He doesn’t try to justify it. He wants to change himself and the first step in doing so is acknowledging his problem.

I know we can get better. I also know that we need people in our lives to do so.  That we need a reminder that someone who remembers the best parts of us.

1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime. We can’t deal with it by pretending that it’s one guy named Tregar who is doing it. They aren’t hit by monsters. They are hit by people we know.  I have known a lot of people who have been crushed by their demons. Done things they never thought they were capable of doing. When we saying that a terrible action is inhumane, we deny our own human possibilities.  By restricting domestic abuse to evil people, we stop ourselves from doing anything to improve the situation in the future.

I don’t know Mel Gibson. I do know Nelson.

He isn’t a monster.

He is my friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Response to “Monsters Don’t Hit Women, Our Friends Do”

  1. Michelle
    November 17th, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

    This post really has me thinking because I have for lack of a better term, thrown away friends for violence and infidelity in their primary love relationships. It’s something I struggle with each time it happens because it does not jib with my expectations and the need to disassociate from such horrendous acts becomes overwhelming for me. Thank you for showing a different end to the story. I think this will help me ask myself more questions as to how to handle these incredibly difficult situations. I wish your friend, Nelson, good luck on his journey back from the dark side.

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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 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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