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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Purgatory and Purgation

Posted on | April 21, 2014 | No Comments

It’s completely dark in here.

And it smells of smoke and there’s broken glass on the floor. And I’m alone and I’m taking more breaths than I need to especially when I don’t want to take any because there might be poison in there and I know what asbestos can do. I remember the last time I was in here with fire men and we were searching for my medication and they told me to take my vitamins and I was wearing two different pairs of shoes and laughing about taking my vitamins and wondering when things would get back to normal when my brain still hadn’t registered that things weren’t normal, when my downstairs neighbour had been saved and I hadn’t seen it on the news just with my eyes and didn’t realize she wasn’t going to make it, where my biggest concern was yelling at camera people and making jokes about how Alejandra stole my jacket and how I wanted the coat back because I thought it was funny to ask for it back because that is totally the wrong thing to do and it was cold outside and she was smaller than I was and I had on only my socks because when I heard Evan yelling I panicked and it was really cold outside and there was someone screaming in the alleyway and we couldn’t do anything beside scream and shatter glass and call 911 and wait and we waited and they came and then we made jokes about getting my vitamins before the detectives came into the TTC bus and looked like Mormons and we laughed with my neighbours who were on the weed and loved eachother and have a blog where he takes about what he’s learned from tantric sex and enjoys Chinese Medicine and I used to listen to his shamanic music on the deck and came to the conclusion he was a pretty nice guy and liked seeing him when I liked seeing him when I walked onto my deck during summer days which I had been doing for two years and a little more when they fire decided I’d wear the wrong shoes and search through blackened rooms for my vitamins and antidpressants.

And I’m standing there now.

Where no one has been for months. The bathroom on the second floor used to have a picture of a waterdroplet that would help when me when I overthought peeing and a mirror that looked like the Buddha where I’d watch myself taking a shit and Heidi, a girl from Lollipop Land put the Buddha there and I don’t know about the water droplet but whoever did it deserves my thanks and it survived the bathroom’s roof collapsing and the lines of smoke where I used to take showers and sing operas in languages that don’t exist. Where I stare without shaking. Still not ready to feel this yet. Life like one of those pictures you stare until you see something else, until you realize all the artistry it takes to make a picture you remember and you feel it in some place other than the surface of your eye.

I go outside and grab a flashlight from the landlord. He is awkward. This is unsurprising. He is trying to be a nice guy but it’s hard to do that when a situation thoroughly declares you are an asshole, not because you are evil but just because you let the wrong things slip past and you lost what was important and now it’s a long way away from when you didn’t have to live with those mistakes and you can’t be overly polite or jokey with your former tenant because he might take that the wrong way and punch you in the face. Because you can’t say you’re sorry for some things even if you want to.

I walk up the stairs that Clair fell down because she was a klutz and was annoyed no one saw her falling because she thinks like that are funny and we use to hang out in the kitchen but the roof collapsed and she lives in Australia and I can see Alejandra’s room through the cracks in the ceiling and I realize that if we’d been sleeping I’d be dead and the complaints I have collected wouldn’t mean shit and I would have only fallen in love once instead of twice and I’d be forgotten after people got sick of remembering me and I’d never have been able to turn 30. When I turned 30 I learned that we would be allowed into the house. A few days later I learned the insurance hadn’t come through and the landlord wouldn’t pay to have our things cleaned and if we wanted to go inside that was our choice.

And I got scared. I mean I have been scared for a long time. I think that is the mark of being an adult. The things that are both reasonable and unreasonable that terrify you into learning something about yourself and the world and the spaces in between. I mean the things that scare you always lurk behind a door you have difficulty opening or lurk in the shadows of rooms you are used to and you know they are there but you don’t want to see them so you look in another direction and when you see the shadow perched over your shoulder and you forget that small things cast large shadows, and big things can drink in your shadow until you forget you have a body and you don’t realize anything has a shadow.

I guess you could say the fire was a big thing.

So big I forget it was there.

Like why am I upset when I don’t feel guilty about what I did and I don’t regret moving into the house because it was one of the best experiences I ever had but for some reason it’s a struggle to access all those good memories even if I can talk about them and make it seem like I remember them, and how can I be upset when I feel so happy because I found someone I love that loves me and I feel lucky to be alive and I’ve felt worse than I feel now because the last time I was in this much pain I had anxiety and depression and couldn’t sleep or escape the inevitable conclusion that nothing was wrong but me. And I did all I could.

My roommate died for reasons larger and smaller than me. Fire code violations or candles, accidents, human error, whatever that means, but I sometimes look at her mother’s web page for her daughter and it makes my heart hurt and I check it out because I want to remember how badly things like this hurt because I don’t feel the hurt in an upfront way. I do it behind my back. I feel anxiety about things that aren’t related and I work and I work on finishing work for my job and giving feed back on the latest edit of the movie Lemonade and Lye, which happens to take place in the house which I’m standing in, that I used to live in before the fire.

Dan joins me. He directed the movie. His equipment is in my room. He told me he didn’t care about his equipment. He cared about me. That meant something.

Soon it will also be his girlfriend too and we’ll start packing away all the equipment which seems to be in good condition. My friend Lauren is coming to take me out for dinner and hold me if I lose my shit. I always take precautions. And my breathing starts to ease. There’s something about not being alone and it not being dark when I tear down the film blacks on the window and I realize the sun came out a few minutes after I began going through my room.

I start thinking about all of the little ironies involved in the last months of my life. About how the movie begins and ends with a suitcase being packed. And my new suitcase is what I’ll carry my remaining items out of the house with. Which won’t include the other suitcase because it smells like a campfire. And there was a picture of New York on the wall and it’s cracked maybe from the heat of the fire and I can tear a building off with my finger and let fall to the ground next to the broken glass. I use to meditate on the bed in my underwear and think of my problems and let them go and grab them when I was going to sleep like a warm blanket to remind me that I had survived my depression and I was more than my pain even if I could keep it as I fell asleep and let go of it when I woke up. And I remember we made a movie here and it was one of the happiest times of life hearing my words coming out of actors mouths when it sounded right and I knew I was doing what I was meant to do with my life and I made it myself with the help of my friends. And one of those friends is with me. Cleaning up the mess. And I watched that movie as I clutched my unresolved fears deep into my chest on friend’s couches and in new apartments that weren’t quite home.

My mind starts to slow. My hands are covered in ash but I can wash them. Not in the bathroom where I used to struggle to pee when I overthought the process and the kitchen where I ate yogurt barely exists as a room and I can see Alejandra’s room through the kitchen ceiling.

Only a few more times up and down the stairs. Where I fell once and Claire wasn’t there to see it.

Just a few more minutes.

Collecting my passport.  And the Nazi coin a friend gave me because they thought it would be funny to give a Nazi coin to a Jew because they found things like that funny.

I can go anywhere. I can go to New York. I can write in new rooms and my favorite coffee shops and in my girlfriend’s house in Ottawa where there is a couch where everything made sense because when I was in more pain than I thought imaginable I found her and we fell so deeply in love everything felt like it added up. I had to get sick and lose my mind to love myself like a person rather than like an idea or a story where I was a hero which meant all of my bad actions were unforgivable unlike the way I loved her where her mistakes added up to all the places she built an incredible person. It was in this house I let go of all the pain I accumulated at 25 that made sense at 29 and a half when I was sitting on her couch listening to breath and smelling her neck to remember that she was real and I was real and it was amazing that I got to be alive.

Since the fire I have been working hard to keep it together. Sometimes this meant writing until my hands hurt. Sometimes it meant calling her at midnight and talking until two in the morning just so I could remember the couch and how she smelled when I held her little body in my arms and addition added up to me being alive and in love.  Getting back the equipment and my passsport were the last thing I had to do.

I have this fantasy. It’s a mundane one for someone who has as big of an imagination as I do. You’d think I’d imagine happiness as fireworks and gunfights and balloons falling in their thousands and Hollywood premiers and saving the day and saying the most clever thing I could think of but that has nothing to do with my fantasy.

It happened shortly after I emerged into the sunshine. A little bit after we packed my remaining items and the film equipment in Dan’s car. After I entered my new house which I got because 6 weeks without a home was too much. After I laid down my suitcase in my room, and I put my clothes in the washer.

It is a shower. Where I didn’t have to do anything else. Where all I had to do was be myself and let myself feel this. Not just luck. But pain. Such intense pain. Where you didn’t make a choice and life changed around you and somehow you were still alive to make the changes you wanted and become the person you wanted to be. Which wasn’t a hero. Which wasn’t a victim.  Which was simply a person who didn’t have anything left to do to be worth loving. Who could relax and not be an ideal.

Under the hot shower my hands wipe free of ash.

Taking a deep breath I go with my friend Lauren to get a bite to eat.

A fire engine rolls down my street. Slowly. Like it’s going to stop at my new house and a laugh creeps from my stomach into my throat. I turn the corner and watch it slowly inch past my house on the way to some other Emergency.

And I’m okay.

All I have to do is feel this.

And I’m alive.

And there’s nothing left to do but live.



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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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