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

Surviving your Quarter Life Crisis and becoming an adult

Waking Up

Posted on | March 5, 2018 | No Comments

Death is both like waking up and being trapped in a dream.

It’s dreamlike surreal to imagine you have no more time with a person you cared about.

And it’s like waking up from all the time you spend on meaningless grievances and suddenly achingly feel the importance of every moment when you aren’t guaranteed to have a next one.

You wish you could wake up from this realization and you know that you have been woken to a deeper truth of what life is.

Life is chaotically, comically tragic, ruled not by order or meaning but by a ridiculousness capriciousness that mocks us for belief that we die as a result of our choices. You are lucky to be alive. Because you can’t control the most important things that happen to you.

For a huge part of my life when someone asked me how I was doing I would respond with, “Living the Dream.”  It was such a positive statement it would discourage people from asking any further questions.

The truth is the natural state of being alive isn’t that different from being asleep.

Invisible factors like brain chemistry, our genetic heritage, what we worry about, what we hope for, dance over the music our brain plays and create a light show we have to interpret. That we have to pretend we truly understand.

When you wake up from a dream you try to come up with an explanation. Your friends at work offer theories. The internet offers definitive answers. They thin all the facts down to a simple you want this or you need to do this.

You have no choice but to narrow your focus in search of a simple answer.

I once talked to a neuroscientist about how he believed dreams work.

In life, we imagine reality as a man gets stabbed with a sword so he bleeds. Cause=effect.

In dreams, it works the opposite way. The man bleeds so he’s stabbed by a sword. Our brain is a reasoning machine. First, we have a chemical flash. Then we find pictures that make sense of that feeling. Your thoughts follow your feelings. The feeling of being stabbed creates the blade and the person stabbing you.

When you think of the senseless conflict you enact to create emotional safety, think of that blade and how much time we spend forging it after the fact. How much life is like a dream. Creating stories to narrativize our pain, because if we understand it at least we can do something about. In our next life we can be an expert fencer. The next time we’ll stab first.

Now that’s dreams. Where we believe we have sent ourselves deep truths. Everything that happens is related to your mind and what you are aware of consciously or unconsciously. In actual life, the dream is spun from things you cannot even be unconsciously aware of. So life is even more chaotic than dreams.

We imagine our brains are trying to tell us something simple. That there is a clarity within us that we need only listen to and all will make sense. That our truth looks like a certainty.

I don’t think this is true.

I think we are all living in a dream.

Think about the nature of the person reading these words. What you imagine yourself to be as you turn my thoughts into chemical sensations in your own brain.

The idea of one voice, one soul, is an illusion created by consciousness. In fact, different parts of our brain are all communicating to us at once. But to prevent madness we synthesize the information in a way we can understand it. So the voice in our heads is not the way we imagine it to be. But what about the words the voice says?

Language works as our bodies operating system.

A survival mechanism.

Which means they aren’t expressly meant to convey truth but rather to keep us alive. Thinking of how many times you’ve lied to yourself because you needed to. Because the truth doesn’t always help.

We translate words into thoughts. Which become emotions. Which due to confirmation bias recursively twist our thoughts. The way we interpret words comes from where we heard them spoken. “We need to talk” doesn’t mean I miss you. It means you did something wrong.

Now we operate under the idea that we are all using words the same. That we have to be or our connecting with each other through conversation is actually just two actors giving speeches from different plays, hoping the other person connects with the performance.

It’s obvious that we don’t know what words mean to other people.

But what about our intuitions?

There are a multiplicity of things that affect every response and you aren’t aware of them all as you are making decisions. Because your intuition is also formed by these chaotic factors. By random chemicals pumping through your brain creating pictures and emotions and recursive thoughts that feel more and more like your identity because you keep having them.

I know this sounds like a little like a philosophy lecture from someone who came stoned to every class and argued with the teachers as they gazed at his 20-year-old majesty and wonder if they too would ever be this young again. I should probably make my point.

People who believe they understand the world, who believe they understand other people, who believe they understand themselves are performing alchemy. To turn anxiety into calm. To turn chaos into control. Righteous anger has been scientifically proven to reduce brain function and to feel amazing.

But it also creates a sense of responsibility that isn’t related to reality.

Capitalism operates under the concept of a meritocracy. If you are failing it is because you aren’t trying hard enough. Ideas of luck, privilege and coincidence don’t factor into arguments. Think positively and you won’t have cancer. Think positively as life beats you black and blue you aren’t deluded you are strong and tomorrow will be different. Even romance operates under this idea. If you are lonely it’s because you haven’t done the right things, rather than the idea of finding love is lucky and doesn’t happen for everyone.

Every time you fight your thoughts and lose it’s because you are weak rather than as humans being we are tiny, insignificant creatures locked in delusion as we struggle to reach out and hold each other’s hands.

If you accept that you don’t understand all the factors that motivate you, all the factors that affect you, you can be loving to yourself. Because you aren’t fully in control.

You can only try.

When you realize this is true of everybody you know, you can see all the effort they are putting in just to get close to you. In the hopes that for just a few moments you can understand each other.

Nothing to me is more beautiful than the effort people make to get close to each other. When someone dies and your heart is broken people reach out and they offer whatever they can. In the full knowledge that they can’t beat death, they can’t beat pain, but they can bridge distance, by standing so perilously close as to feel the fire that consumes you.

To me, the idea that we spend our lives dreaming feels so wonderfully true and merciful.

Where in the face of every disaster in life, somehow something in us forces us to reach out for each other. Where we don’t act because we know but because we hope.

We don’t know what we are doing.

But the world moves us.

And when we’re lucky it moves us closer together.



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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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