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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Lynch, Lifeboats and Love

Posted on | April 22, 2014 | No Comments

I was watching the first episode of Twin Peaks, eating large chunks of dark chocolate infused with mint, and there was a moment of silence for Laura Palmer.

She’d been murdered. Wrapped in plastic.

This was followed by barroom brawls, a phone call where a father comforted his wife that her child was just fine and she was probably just out with her boyfriend and to stop worrying because there was no reason to, until he saw the cops coming to talk to him and he let the phone cord drop from his hand, and you could hear her mother screaming as she realized her baby was dead into a phone line where no one was listening and the assurances that everything would be okay had turned into silence where you can’t find words because you can’t say everything is okay, because everything is wrapped in plastic and all you ever needed is permanently outside of your grasp.

I found myself focusing on the little Lynchian details rather than the actual picture of a town swept away by grief. Like how the light Agent Cooper used to examine Laura’s body kept flickering on and off, like a strobe light, like our own eyes close when they don’t want to see what is in front of them. Like how the police secretary uses all of her words, in the hopes that she will say exactly the right thing, even if it requires saying far more than is actually necessary, even if she can’t say the words the parents needed to hear which is that it was all mistake, no one dies, parents never lose their children and friends never have to say goodbye.

But it’s all in those small details.

It occurs to me there is actually something beautiful and life affirming about a murder in a small town. In a population of 50,000 it’s entirely possible for your tragedy to be the tragedy of a whole town, you don’t live under the common grinding goals that make your pain invisible, that let your agony disappear into the details of day to day life and your singular hope that your legs are strong enough that you can run from your problems. Everyone reacts differently. Some break immediately and go into hysterics. Others joined their friend in a bar fight because that’s what you have to do sometimes. The world rarely stops to acknowledge that it is no longer whole.

Lynch began with the plan that the murder would remain unsolved throughout the entirety of his series before caving into presssure from the network. There is something  profound in that idea.

Because the things that hurt us most deeply tend not to have a tidy solution. They sneak up on us while we are sitting in our rooms, eating dark chocolate, brushing salt and vinegar crumbs and watching Twin Peaks. While we are in university dreaming that we would live forever once we grasped the secret of the universe. Inside a rut of normalcy, ready to play a chaotic groove that would change everything.

The first question people ask when I tell them about the fire is what happened. It’s hard to explain how little it actually matters, how the chain of events doesn’t explain the outcomes, how little life is an experiment or explainable down to the atomic particles. That it’s a question for a story and not for real life. In fiction fire investigators would discover a Satanic cult. Or a nefarious landlord looking for insurance money in league with crooked politicians. And when they brought the criminal to jail they would bring the world back to harmony. Only stories tend to use victims as narrative devices and their family’s grief as a way to pump the audience up for some serious ass kicking. I don’t know what caused the fire. It might have been tea lights. According to the police it was human error whatever that is. According to the fire marshals, our landlord was at fault for not having a secondary exit to the basement apartment. He won’t be a landlord anymore. This doesn’t do much for me. Punching him in the face would do even less.

You ask what happened because you don’t want it to happen to you. Only I lack the magic to prevent it. I don’t know what happened or what will happen next. That sense of certain doesn’t exist for me anymore.

The tragedy of Laura Palmer’s death isn’t that someone committed murder. It’s that someone was murdered.

In this case fire killed a person I barely knew but happened to share a home with. I can’t really speak to what this is like for her family. I know that I can feel a strange rumbling in the back of my brain when Laura’s mother cries out through the phone line dropped by her husband as she realizes her child is dead. Someone had to make that call to my roommates mother.

When I watched Fruitvale Station I started crying and couldn’t stop. When the tears first came to my eyes I thought about squeezing them out. You know show my girlfriend what a sensitive guy I was. How disgusted I was that police shoot innocent black men because they are trained to be terrified.

Then the mother saw her child and started to break down and I felt this weight crash down on me and I was swept aside in the automatic tears that come when agony can no longer hide in your body. Where you’re just bawling and breathing and you aren’t humiliated, you aren’t anything besides that feeling coming crashing down from the top of your skull to the bottom of your toes and you’re body is shaking because it needs to live and it’s hard to do when you feel death this closely but that isn’t it. It’s how incredibly powerful the love a parent feels to a child actually is. And it’s vulnerable and it’s placed in this dangerous world where anything can happen. It seems so unfair that this much passion would be bound to temporality and accident. It’s so unfair. No child can ever love their parent enough to repay all the obsession and attention and pain on our behalf. Watching Twin Peaks and Fruitvale Station I can see that love reflected in those faces as grief, like a glass poured onto the ground for no reason.  Like trying to drink from it once you have shattered it on the street in rage. And it hurts to see something that beautiful break.

And you remember that love you’ve always been seeking. The one you won’t find in any relationship after that first one. Between you and your parents when your life was more important to them than their own. The only piece of unconditional love life ever gave you and for no reason connected to your character it was taken away. To know how intense it must be to feel it towards someone and to understand how that great gift could become a permanent knife in the stomach.

And it’s worse than the idea of dying. The idea of all the pain your death would cause to the people you love and knowing there is nothing you can do to prevent it.

Because my fear  of death isn’t simply that it would be the end of life or a fade to black Sopranos style. That’s the death that people waste their time being scared of. For me it’s the things left undone, the lives that are tied to mine that will be dragged into those depths with me, like a parachute tied to an anchor in the ocean. The people that would hurt so bad they would lose months and maybe years of their life wishing they could hear me rant at them in a caffeine fuelled megalomania. Because my life is precious and it belongs to other people as much as it belongs to me.

My chest hurts when I think about how much time I spent laughing in that home. Where the ceilings fell and the walls are fire scorched cavities in the mouth of hell. Everything we are exists balanced perilously between laughter and tears, and that’s why crying sounds so much like laughing but upside down, where you laugh and you feel the possibilities of life expand and you cry and you feel them contract into that hole in your chest you wanted to make into safety deposit box to keep your most valuable possessions safe.

When you’re alive you learn the trick of building on fragile foundations and you fill in holes with the dirt you used to bury things and your keeps expanding in your chest until you feel like you’re going to explode with so much life and death contained inside, rising on tides of breath where you go out to sea and desperately seek the shore.

Your death is a tragedy other people live and fill in with pictures and the sound of your voice becomes an echo, and a voice on an answering machine that someone you love listens to until your phone is disconnected and messages on your Facebook wall you never get to read and words muttered in pray to make the pain stop .

You feel the pain most viscerally in the love you still have. In the voice of my mother when I call her with tears in my voice that say I’m so happy to be alive and be able to hear your voice even when it’s shaking, even when I want something a child wants which is to be told it’s all okay and I can return to your arms whenever you want because I’m alive even if I’m hurt and I’ll be alive as long as I can because I never want you to sound like Laura’s mother on the phone when you can’t call your child and hear I love you so much that I want to be told it’s okay because you used to read Narnia to me and told me the best stories when I was a kid back when I believed everything.

I shouldn’t eat a ton of dark chocolate before I go to sleep because it means I toss and turn and wonder why my heart is beating so fast. If this might be the first panic attack I have, and I couldn’t control it because I ate too much chocolate and felt too much pain when I was looking simply to be entertained and drift off into the satisfaction of closing a door to places I don’t want to go back to. I know this doesn’t end simply because I walked out that door and the stuff left inside that house that’s mine is to be thrown in a garbage dump as a new family builds a new life on top of it.

We couldn’t catch the villain. Emergency services arrived. They got my roommate out and they got her alive all caught by television cameras that weren’t there when she died. It was an accident and accidents can’t be held accountable.

I’m not over this pain.

That’s like walking on water and I gave up on being Jesus after my twelfth birthday when angels didn’t come. I’m not under it either. I’m simply treading water as friends come by in their boats and take me into their arms and remind me how much I’m loved. As my arms, tired from all the exertion, reach towards the shore and build bridges out of sand running through water running through my palms as I try to create something beautiful to remind the people that we were there, that we are still in other places that don’t feel quite like home. That we laughed in 189 Sheridan. That Hotel Internationale threw the best New Year’s party you’ve ever seen. Where people came together in defiance of language and geography and built families ontop of plane tickets that would eventually take them home and out of my life until I needed them to arrive in my Facebook with words like I love you and I’m here for you and I won’t abandon you even when you say you’re okay and you think you’re okay and as long as you need me I need you because that’s what love is.

Life like death isn’t really about you. It’s about the people your life touches and how they touch you and how the infinity of space time closes around you when you connect. The knowledge that when we fall off cliffs other people are going to grab onto us and pretend we are flying and drag us back up to the surface when we are diving and didn’t think of how far it was to hit the water.

Sometimes it’s screaming into phone lines when you can’t reach the person you want to. Sometimes it’s just listening when someone needs to talk real fast and say things they don’t really understand yet. It can take your breath away when you realize how small the distance is between you and the people that love you.

And all I want right now is to keep writing until the waves stop crashing. Until this feeling of terrible beauty passes and I can forget again. About mothers who post pictures on Facebook of their children after they died. And I’ll remember how much I love my mother and how little I want her to carry me in her chest all the time like a bullet from a gunfight. And think of all the kids who grow up and are so alive that we forget that people ever die.

There’s children on the playgrounds. There’s my nieces in adorable pictures where they look costumed angels. My cousins are going to high school.  My friends are getting married and having kids. Every fiber of my being says the pain is worth the purchase price. One way or the other I lost my ticket and there isn’t much I can do about it.

There isn’t justice, a moral or a necessarily happy ending.The crime of why bad things happens to good people remains unsolved.  There is only life and you’re ability to see it. To not let it pass you by. To seize on the people you love and make them aware of how much your life revolves around them and how fast the world can spin.











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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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    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 I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

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