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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

We Have To Make It Better

Posted on | January 27, 2012 | 7 Comments

On June 28th, 2010 I came out about my experiences with anxiety and depression.

Any employer  can do a Google search and find out about the battles I have fought and how close I came to losing them.

I write to remind myself that the best of what I am came from emerging out of that darkness. To remember how lonely it feels to live at the end of the world.

I learned about mental illness by watching friends die and lose themselves to drug addiction.

We only talk about mental illness when we have no other choice.

Inside the silence 4000 people die every single year of suicide in Canada; in it lies the 2/3 of people who suffer from mental illness who won’t receive help due to the tremendous stigma.

It’s time to talk about it.

My story isn’t special.

Do I have to tell you about the people I have lost to drug addiction, the children I have loved who never became adults; do I have to tell you about my nightmarish trip through insomnia and anxiety? Do I have to make you feel the tears as they slid down my cheeks or can I trust that you have wept? Must I tell you my story when I know that you have your own?

I know you’ve watched loved ones crawl into the darkness unable to stop them.  I know that you’ve wondered if you could live to see tomorrow.  I know that you’ve run away from yourself and wondered if you could ever get back.

Mental illness convinces us that our story is special. That we alone suffer this great darkness and that we alone are too weak to win it. To feel that you alone are not worthy of being loved.

I called it the Come Out campaign because the LGBTTTIQ community had to deal with a similar stigma when they took to the streets, announced their identity and became a political force that could demand the rights society was denying them. They could have remained hidden, they were an invisible minority. They risked their lives and careers for hope of living the life they wanted without hiding who they were. Nothing could be braver than sacrificing for a dream you can’t possibly imagine coming true.

People tell us it’s 2012 and things have gotten better.  However you merely need to watch a GOP Presidential debate to realize they have a long way to go.

It’s 2012 and the World Health Organization says that depression is approaching epidemic levels.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech on MP David’s Batters funeral is some of the most beautiful writing on the stigma surrounding mental illness I have ever read:

We need to know that mental illness like Dave’s is shockingly common in our society. It affects the great and the small alike despite the stigma that still too often surrounds it. “

The problem is that the same quality of treatment is not offered to the great and small alike.

Our rich can afford the quality therapy our medical system doesn’t offer the economically disadvantaged.Harper plans to build prisons for our drug addicts rather than treatment centers, to jail the homeless and mentally ill rather than offer them the healthcare services they need. The Correctional Service of Canada reports that 13 per cent of male offenders in federal custody presented mental health problems when they were admitted in 2008. That’s up 86 per cent from 1997. For women, the figure reaches 24 per cent, and 85 per cent increase over the same time. It takes a year to see a state sponsored therapist. To get immediate treatment you must be suicidal and have a plan. We have institutionalized discrimination against people living with mental illness.

There is a difference between words and action.

It’s 2012 and Canada’s overburdened mental health system is on the verge of collapse.

People ask me about how I recovered.

The answer is that I was lucky. My parents had money so I could afford to get the help I needed.

Most of us find a way to cope without getting the proper help.

For those of you beginning your journey all I can say is that falling down happens in an instant and getting up feels like it takes an eternity. That there is no simple easy one step solution that works for everyone.  That recovery isn’t writing a blog, doing yoga or even taking medication.  It’s about self-acceptance, realizing that you can’t cut yourself into pieces and live in only the “good” parts of who you are. Realizing that this is part of how you think. You cannot take this feeling away without taking feeling away.

I used to beg just to be free of this pain.

I took drugs, from doctors and drug dealers, I meditated for hours, and I scoured the Internet looking for the pill that would make me a better person.

I couldn’t imagine a life so fantastic as to justify such cruel torture.

Too often we look to forget through drugs and alcohol, we run away from the unbearable beauty of a life worth living for.  We think that if we curl up and die, that if we starve our system of the things we fear, our demons will die.  That if we isolate ourselves so that no one can see our degradation, we will be able to look in a mirror. When it’s only by rejoicing, by ravenously seeking life and the things that hurt us that we can find a reason to be here.

No one was born to sit on their couch and watch Netflix. No one becomes more of a person when they do coke.  No one does honor to the things they lost by trying to lose themselves.

You aren’t broken.

You are whole.  Which means you are filled with contradictions, love and hate so vast you can’t begin to understand it, created to give you the possibility of compassion for a world that is as crazy as you are. The desire to simplify the world, the desire to simplify yourself, is what creates the horrors in ourselves and in our world.  It’s also the danger of awareness campaigns.

Recovery means different things to different people. Recovery is the courage to get out of bed in the morning, it’s looking for help when you need it, it’s going to work, it’s realizing that this crushing pain is something we can live with.

.This isn’t about false hope but a pursuit of real understanding.

All I can do is hope that when you reach out to the world we reach back. Too many of us look for help and don’t find it. In the pursuit of happiness, we have forgotten our right to suffer. No one can tell you that you don’t have the right to your pain.

We have to stop telling people it will be okay and start listening to each other.

Great changes begin with a single step. Until we are comfortable saying what we suffer, there won’t enough beds in hospitals, access to therapy will depend upon economic status not need, and we will continue to lose irreplaceable people. We can’t change the world by hiding from it.

It’s 2012 and the journey is nowhere near over.

This isn’t It Gets Better, there is no better future promised unless we make it.

Until we can admit who we are without shame, things won’t get better.

This is our story.

It’s time to tell it.

 

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7 Responses to “We Have To Make It Better”

  1. Rian Malloch
    January 27th, 2012 @ 11:58 am

    Michael,

    I have been following your blogs, and reading past blogs since your story came out in the Globe and Mail.

    YOU are the reason it will get better. People like you, ARE making a difference. Thank you, and keep going.

    My partner and I started a counselling firm in Oakville Ontario, that has been founded on the principle of ‘Talking’. Dialogue will make a difference. I have my own story with mental illness, and I am one of the small army waving the flag, that the stigma NEEDS to end! I hope when you are in the Toronto area, that we can get together and talk. We recently launched our company at an event attended by all three levels of government for our community. Our Co-Founder used her short time to speak, to not only talk about the stigma surrounding our illness, but also the imperative need to share with the world that mental illness has no prejudice, has no boundaries, and WILL kill!

    Thank you again for being one of the people fighting this fight! And thank you for not giving up on yourself. Your humility in understanding that your publicly discussed story could likely be told by millions of others, shows that your heart is in this.

    Be Well!

    Rian

  2. Jennifer Foulds
    January 27th, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    Thanks for such a great post. It’s bang on. I hope it gives others the courage to speak openly about their mental illness. The more people who do it, the easier it will become for everyone who lives with a mental illness.

  3. +Jay Dee
    January 27th, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

    Hi Michael – very inspiring and motivating words.

    I will come out and admit I hide who I am online. +Jay Dee is an alias I use because I am afraid of people connecting the real me with my experiences with bipolar. I have never even existed on Facebook – I have been in hiding since my first episode back in 2001.

    After my diagnosis, I went from being a socially active UWO frat boy to a reclusive self-loathing couch potatoe. I changed schools and then never finished. It took me close to three years to stabilize.

    I have since been hospitalized on numerous occasions and have found ways to bounce back. I have been a co-founder of a successful start-up and manage to work full-time in the marketing industry.

    Your efforts with this blog resonate with my hopes to share my own story.

    (Self promotion plug here:) I wrote an introductory series for my blog in August and have yet to contribute more content. The direction of where I want to go with it is up-in-the-air.

    I would be so grateful if you could have a quick read and let me know if you agree with my approach. You see, I see mental health – or having a mental illness – as a lifelong journey of recovery. If we must accept our illness, is not then forever a part of us? And how much does that affect our personal growth?

    Recovery is my key word and I am very interested in your interpretation of it in correlation to accepting the illness.

    Thanks for reading – +Jay Dee.

  4. Blue
    January 27th, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

    Michael,

    Your story is wonderful. It’s exactly how we feel. Although, I never turned to drugs I felt those old “enemies” in every word I read. I am, was, could be again part of the “darkness”.It never entirely leaves. Sure, I feel better today but I still know it is there. A word, an action or a look and there I am again, alone looking up from a dark well. As you said,
    “Most of us find a way to cope without getting the proper help.” How very true.

  5. Levi Cooper
    January 27th, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

    wow this is truly empowering stuff, its awesome to see this message promoted all around the world I hope this helps people as i’m sure it will. Its great to hear a case by case situation of someones experience an journey of there own mental illness and how they have managed and come out the other side a better person

  6. Heather
    January 29th, 2012 @ 6:26 pm

    Absolutely….we do need to speak up… but we also need to be in a ‘healthy enough’ position where we can deal with the fallout. There will always be fallout.

    Shortly after a long hospitalization about 7 years ago from one of those “super rare” black box warnings of suicidal ideation I decided that I wasn’t going to be silent about my illness anymore. I tried to dialogue with my friends and roommates and the result of it was that I lost said friends and my roommates tried to have me declared dangerous and have me kicked out of university (I have a simple anxiety disorder–not much dangerous about that).

    In retrospect, it was too soon…and I think it set me back quite a bit.

  7. M.Kiriyama
    February 9th, 2012 @ 11:14 am

    I found this blog after watching MTV. See, I’m home and not working because I’m on disability for depression resulting from PTSD. I won’t go into it, but basically I had numerous shitty things happen to me in my life, one after the other, and like you, at 25, I had some kind of breakdown ( is that still what they call it? Is it PC? lol ). My brain just couldn’t handle it anymore. I’ve suffered so much at the hands of the Canadian Mental health system. They made it worse for a long years~ medicating me to the point where I couldn’t think, or couldn’t even eat ( I couldn’t keep food down, which then convinced my holier than thou shrink that I had anorexia..). It took me many years to finally get a psychiatrist that wasn’t a complete wackjob.Why? I’m not rich. Just as you said. Guess where I found him? Japan. Yep, I moved to fuckin Japan.
    Couldn’t stay though, but the doc in Japan helped me see they were over-medicating the crap out of me. So I managed to find a non-nutcase psychiatrist in Canada. I actually didn’t get my true diagnosis until maybe 2 years ago.
    I’d love to think people just need to be educated. However, I find it doesn’t help much. Currently, I’m desperately trying to get back into my field of work, and every “organization” I go to treats me like a drooling idiot. The CMHA program “counsellers” speak to me like I’m going to bite their face. I used to be a professional in digital art. I haven’t lost my skills~ in fact, they’ve advanced. But getting over that gap of not working for years is killing me and I dunno how to get around it. The government agencies treat me like I should be kissing the fuckin ground they walk on if they get me a job in McDonald’s. What person who lives alone in downtown Toronto can possibly afford rent and bills in a place where they won’t get eaten by cockroaches for minimum wage? I have a specialty degree, experiences, skills, talent, and no one actually helps you get from being on disability in the system, to being BACK in the work force as a normal human being.
    Don’t mind my rant. I’m having a hard time of it. And then just today, I phoned this charity/organization called lights-camera-access.ca that supposedly helps people with disabilities get jobs in the arts/tv/entertainment field ( where I worked previously)- and the man on the phone told me my “disability” wasn’t up to par. He then proceeded to compare depression/PTSD to alcoholism and chronic drug addiction. In a nutshell, what I have isn’t disabling enough.

    So I was just discriminated against by an organization that helps people with “disabilities” get back to work.
    Obviously this would be on of those incidents where informing the masses would be helpful.

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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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