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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Call And Response

Posted on | February 27, 2018 | No Comments

Note:  I was asked to do a speaker’s series where you tell a story with no notes for the awesome Spoke Series by Outside the March for their February event themed “Secret Admirers I met Under A Tree”. This is the story that came out.

I originally thought I should do a story about how I hate Valentine’s Day and would prefer to celebrate love on a Tuesday. But I figured it would mean more if I told the reason why I don’t like Valentine’s Day.  It all begins with  girl taking my hand on the campus of the University of King’s College.

I think the trees were covered in snow. Sagging beneath the weight of winter. I think I wanted to punch someone in the face because I was sick of hearing about the meaning of life and the categorical imperative. King’s College looks like Hogwarts. Huge buildings filled with extraordinarily smart, creative weirdos who wanted to know the meaning of life.

The girl takes my hand. I’m about to become a man.

Sounds funny. Like the beginning of an adolescent fantasy.

Her fingers feel constricting. She guides me towards the residence where I used to live. She simply says, “Come with me. ” As we walk my footsteps feel heavy. The air feels like it has weight inside my lungs. Like I can feel each breath entering my mouth, traveling down my throat and the oxygen seeping into my blood.

We enter Middle Bay. My old residence building.

I can hear the echo of the laughter we used to share. My friends were rappers, philsophers and weirdos who smoked weed at a parking lot we called Plato’s Cave. There was a Hurricane a month after Frosh week. And the power went out. And we rapped in the staircase. We went to the DJ Olympics and my friend Jason battled the foremost freestyle MC in the city and won the audiences heart and lost the decision. He grabbed a suitcase and walked down these hallways prepared to argue for a rap show in the pit. A black box we used as a theater space. It was in these walls that he plotted total victory in a water fight that would become legend.  I can still hear the panicked screams of our enemies as water balloons burst and they ran throughout the quad.

She holds my hand. We walk past where Dan and Dennis used to play Blackbird. Up the stairs past where my friend Jay Gillette opened an illegal liquor spot and we learned how to get drunk every day.  Past the toilets where we all get sick at least once.

Up to a room at the top floor.

Where a door opened and everyone was waiting.

With tears in their eyes.

I know what was going on before I was told. Jason was dead. He had taken his own life.

Everything had changed.

I want to take back to the night before. But to do so I have to go back a little further than that. Months earlier an ex-girlfriend needed weed for a funeral. Her close friend had taken his own life by jumping off the bridge in Halifax. He had been a drug dealer and he had given his best friend heroin instead of cocaine. He hadn’t been able to live with it. I always wanted to be a writer and I wanted to understand how someone could make that sort of decision. So I imagined myself in that place. Where I couldn’t live with the guilt. And I put myself on that bridge in my mind and jumped. Not surprisingly this insane attempt at empathy left me unable to breath in my first panic attack.

I wrote a poem about that mental space. I was attempting to record it that night with my friend David. When we found out that Jason had gone missing and we tried to find him. The poem was so disturbing that we left Dave’s house. And Jason called. We missed it.

See we all missed a lot. Because his breakdown looked like a philosophical revelation. He thought he understood the world. We all did. Because we were kids.

And we studied philosophy and things were so incredibly beautiful because we didn’t understand the world. So we thought we could hold it in our hands.

Suicide is a really difficult thing to deal with because you always feel like you could have done something.

My friend Dave and I talked about the phone call and he said we could never understand what would have happened. And I let it go.

See being a kid involves a belief that the world is simple. It’s like my belief that I could understand the most horrible situation by creating a fantasy. Compassion isn’t really about empathy. It’s about understanding that we can’t really understand what anyone else goes through.  We couldn’t have kept him alive. Because he didn’t know that anything was wrong.  He didn’t understand what we were going to go through. We looked for a sensible explanation. Something that could protect us.

Only life isn’t like that. It’s so much more complicated than we are able to understand.

Life’s beauty doesn’t become clear through simplifying it. Making it something we can hold. We see life’s beauty most clearly by realizing that we are lucky, that each moment isn’t guaranteed but a gift. Somehow when our parents were fucking and we were good swimmers and we got to live for a little while. Everything we thing we got to experience from that point on was luck. Even getting to know Jason for that brief moment in our lives.

See it was adulthood because we understood how fragile everything really is. All the bullshit, all the self important trips we lay on ourselves, is unimportant. Just the connections we make. After Jason died we were all dominoes. Ready to fall. But we held eachother up in desperate freestyle sessions we held as funeral at the Public Library. In drinking so much we cried in eachother’s arms. Because every single moment was precious.

Here is something I learned. That relates to the idea of secret admirers and the theme of this gathering. You have no idea how much you are loved. The place you hold in people’s hearts. What it would mean if you were gone.

Jason had two funerals. One in his hometown and one at our school. In the King’s College Chapel we cried together row on row of boys who usually only expressed their feelings in their music. Holding each other as we were shaken by loss. The President of King’s College William Barker spoke. And told us he had experienced a similar loss when he was our age. And that he never forgot his friend. That for the rest of our lives we’d remember him and as we got older we’d remember the good more than the heartbreak.

It’s been 13 years since Jason died. Every February is hard. Imagining what it would be like if only we could have seen him grow up. But we still play hip hop shows. Where the heroes of our youth are praised. Where Jason’s name is always spoken.

Jason Lionel Walsh rapped under the name Litterbug. In the Middle Bay Crew.

We were boys, we were mighty and we still miss him with all of our hearts.

We loved him so much there is a piece of our heart that will always be broken. Because we refuse to forget his smile. We refuse to forget his jokes. His music.

I bought my first suit for his funeral.

I wore it to hip shows I thought he’d like to go. Where I wanted him with me.

At those shows my friend Dave did a song about him. Which he practiced for weeks so that he could get through it without crying. The front row of the show was filled with his friends. Who were there with him. Who fixed all of their attention on him to help him lift that terrible and awesome feeling of grief and honour our friend.  Who felt something indescriable as he spoke words that had been carved into our young hearts. He did a call and a response.

This was what he said.

When I say LB. You say  Rest in peace.

We were going to do that now.

Because we were rappers. Because we loved him. Because I’m going to make you.

When I say LB, y’all say rest in peace.


Rest in Peace.


Rest in Peace.


Rest in Peace.




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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.

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

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