Depersonalization and the Effects of Medication


word by Annie Rubin 

colour by Garry Tugwell Smith

She’s flying. In wisps of purple clouds, planets whizzing by, spinning and floating and falling. It was this chalky white pill, that kind of separated reality from the extra terrestrial. Worlds weaving in and out, setting apart the frenzied train ride from this spontaneous trip in vibrant flashes.

        The notion of the free-fall makes her jump with eyes fixated on the green circles of the metro line, they’re reading something altogether different than the weightlessness of her stomach or her fingers pressing onto what could only be hundreds of pins or the tightness in her chest: rising and falling in bursts of colour.

        The same five senses designed to orient are skewed. The scent of the subway, the burn of the wheels against the hot metal tracks, and the chorus of echoing voice, chanting something painfully inaccessible are present, distant.

        Fighting to define the boundaries of sobriety, she pieces together the images. There’s an empty seat beside her, she tries to listen to the silence. Wanting simultaneously to lie down and to break through the window of the train. 

        She’s watching herself hover above ground as the medication kicks in. Limbs go numb and the colours fade to a gentle hum of grey. Mood has been stabilized. The subway lurches to a stop and in the mass of bodies collecting at the doors, she makes her way onto the crowded street where her feet plant firmly into the concrete and her head feels lighter, less explosive.

        What is left to believe when perception becomes unreliable?*

From the author: “This futuristic image depicts outer-worldly colours and objects. It inspired a piece that confronts mental health topics of perception, depersonalization and the effects of medication. The mixture of sensations represents the profundity of mental illness in its capacity to debilitate a person throughout daily life and the idiosyncratic experiences of depersonalization in a mental health crisis.”


Read more of Rubin’s words on mental health

See more of Smith’s colour

Finding Who You Aren’t At The Party

word by Sam Fresco 
colour by Burkhard Müller

Chet looked down at the bushy red fox. The fox looked back.
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You have to get home, Chet – you don’t belong here, said the fox.
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Chet stumbled back: his head was spinning. He ducked out of the crowd, standing over him. He ran past the counter and into the lift. 
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The doors closed. No buttons. It started going up – the lights above the doors showing it near the roof. 39, 40, 41, 42. 
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As he came out on the roof, a man in an ill-fitting brown suit was panting, hands on knees. 
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Celeste, where the hell have you been?
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Why do people keep calling me that, he thought. 
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Here now. 
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The small man lit a cigarette and offered one out. Chet hesitated because he didn’t smoke.
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Johnny, come on, what’s the matter?
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And Johnny now? 
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He took a cigarette although he felt he had never smoked before.
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OK, so we got your little shit. Now you just, y’know, you beat him around a little and we’re all down here. OK?
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He looked down to the short and balding man. No: a teenager
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A man held red gloves to Chet. He took them. The teenager spat out a tooth with a clump of blood. He couldn’t help feeling that he himself looked a lot like the teenager.*
word by Sam Fresco 
colour by Burkhard Müller



word by David Fleming

colour by Burkhard ller 

On the metro delivering the girls to my ex in a mall.

A young woman close by waves to them. She smiles her surprise at the sight of a man with children. I smile back, upholding her fantasy.

It’s alarming how the mechanics of a city collide and separate us. On the teeth of the upward escalator, I am holding my three year old. Her big sister wraps her limbs around my leg like a koala. I’m a little escalator, here for them to ride up and down.

Down a hallway, another escalator. I am sweating in rush hour.

I wonder how Sam’s managing. Trying to remember if I left her, or if she left us, and who the kids think left whom, and who they feel is still fully present.


Daddy, I STEAL YOUR NOSE! says the girl in my arms as she swats at my face.


Down a yellow hallway, offices curve into their little corners. We are in the space where underground becomes above-ground, where I sometimes feel myself gasping for air.

Don’t know why she wanted to meet here, this week.

A memory: eating in the food-court up the next escalator. J’adore la poutine? or la cheeseburger? I always goofed her with my fast food Franglish. 

Again, we escalate quietly, a few impatient people pass to the left. For some reason, the toddler shrieks Mommy’s house! in my ear.

A crazy idea: I could ask Sam to have dinner in the food-court. Family hour. Our future, joined somehow, could be pleasant. We’d exchange small talk, remind the girls to sit and eat. We could be like coworkers, sitting in a lunchroom, rolling our eyes at the orthodontist bill.

Can’t you love a person the same from a different building, a different room?

An excited shout from my side.




Sam’s best friend. When we met in college, I liked her first, though she was always mean. I told her once, years later, when we were alone, in a season when we were getting along.

Wearing gym clothes, her hair in a tight bun, her glare scolds and scalds me.

I remember, now, Jess moved into a condo in this building last year, when it was ending.


Where’s Sam? I ask. I was hoping to speak with her.

She wanted me to pick them up today.

Oh, I said quietly. What’s she up to?

It’s not important. I’m in a rush, though.

I have some things to discuss with her, maybe I’ll just call.


A huff over her shoulder.


Look, I don’t know what you have in mind, but Sam’s busy.


She takes the girls, one on her hip, one by the hand, and gets on the elevator which, presumably, leads to her home.

Before the doors close, she leans forward intently.


Your choice, she whispers. Your choice.*

word by David Fleming

colour by Burkhard Müller 


On Desensitized Violence: “Muted Colours”


word by Annie Rubin

colour by Mojo Wang

There was no one in Bill’s house to turn off the TV when channel four came on. We thought of him as some sort of guru: he told us of kidnappings; of guns and knives and fires and what it meant when there were people on roofs about to jump.

It happened when we were in our sevens and eights that we realized we could press play when mom was in the kitchen. Imaginations were running crazy and fueled by these wild images that kept flashing across the screen.

My brother always liked video games. There was this one where you got to steal cars and ride away, hair all wind-swept. It was cool to be able to drive a BMW even on a screen where his fingers turned the wheel with a flick of a button.

The rest of us were playing hide and seek where the floor was lava. No one ever found out what happened when you touched because maybe your shoes were fireproof, you grew wings, or we just didn’t want to think about the truth. Mom would be in the other room watching the news. We’d ask to sit on her lap and she’d usually put on PBS but that day she was in a trance, eyes fixated on the screen. The television was on mute but you could still hear shouting.

The walls were this grey even though I swear they were melting that day we couldn’t walk outside because of the smoke. They don’t give you a trigger warning on the streets of Manhattan. We were six and eight and felt too much older.

Close your eyes, she said to me, holding a cupped hand over my face to shield from the screen, the same way she had done at the movies when couples started kissing. I held my breath, too.



From the author: “This portrait of muted colours evoked desperation and frustration. The arms reaching out to grab hold of the figure whose muscles are exposed inspired a piece that targets vulnerability. The story tries to raise questions about exposure to graphic images, and question the idea of whether vulnerable children should be censored from the media. Ultimately, begging the question of whether striking headlines are desensitizing our population and how to cope with horror on the news.”

on depression: “the red door”


word by Kate Shaw

colour by Joe Hengst

It has been several days since I’ve left the house. In a significant way, at least – I’ve left to take out the garbage, to buy eggs, to remember that I owned clothes that weren’t pajamas, but it has been several days since I’ve gone anywhere, done anything.

It’s cold. Not northeastern U.S. cold – worse. Wind chill down to thirty below zero. It’s amazing, how cold it can be. Every time I walk outside I re-hear those news broadcasts about Canadian citizens suffering severe skin injuries from five minutes of exposure to extreme cold. Is it cold enough to be dangerous right now? My cheeks feel like they’re turning to putty.

Hour after hour passes by and I pace, I sink into the torn, velvety couch, I heat oil in a skillet but forget what I was planning to make (did I have a plan?). I sit on the ledge by the window and look. See. It doesn’t look so cold out there, I think. There are people out there, walking around, and they’re not collapsed or clutching at their putty cheeks. They’re living despite all this, despite this unbelievably-wind-chilled air.

And then I pace again. Sometimes I pick up a book, but usually the words just end up dancing out of my consciousness before I can understand them and I just read the same lines over and over, absorbing nothing. As hard as I try to focus on the little letters, they blow away.


I haven’t been seeing anyone. My roommate is gone and I tell other people – friends, I guess – that I’m just overwhelmed with school, just trying to catch up on reading, thanks for saving me a seat but I’m actually not coming to campus today, oops!


It actually looks lovely outside. If I force my eyes through the grayish haze hanging over the street, I can nearly unearth the image of the bakery with its little orange sign, or the barbershop with its red front door. They were colored once, lovely shades, I know they were. The colors are distorted now. I hope the originals come back.

I’ve decided to start sitting on the floor instead of on the couch. From down here I feel small, and maybe that will make me feel overwhelmed by how big everything is around me, or amazed by how much this new apartment feels like home, or pitiful of what a pathetic spectacle I’m making of myself. Maybe sitting down here will make me feel something.

I lean back against the couch – I think it was green once, but the colors in here are distorted too. I don’t know how long I’ve been sitting, and now that it’s dark outside it could be 5:30 or 9 or 2 in the morning. Now, even if the colors hadn’t disappeared, I wouldn’t be able to see them anyway.





from the author: “The shades present in the visual art piece have an eerie tint to me, which is underscored by the dark tunnel in the center that disappears into nothingness. It made me think of the distorted way one sees the world through the lens of depression and other mental illnesses, so this piece deals with that distortion and the inability to pull oneself out of that dark space that burrows its way to the center of everything against your will.”

On breakups: “Almost”

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word by Hannah Chubb
colour by Stephanie Rivet 
I don’t care what anyone says, it’s the almosts that hurt the most.
It kills me to watch this go down the drain.
You must have dipped your tongue in ink before you said those three words because I can’t find anything strong enough to erase those eight letters. My mind is black and blue with thoughts of you and my sclerae scream red because I can’t categorize these feelings I have for something I may have just created in my head.
You were almost there.
I have no label for you and it hurts because I need to know that I’m not delirious and that my feet were on the ground. I swear to god I remember yours being there next to mine because your shoes were too-white and the left one was always undone and I just wanted to tie it back together for you but I didn’t know how to say it.
I almost told you.
I swallowed a different brand of turquoise pill than you did and I never knew why but maybe that was the problem. Mine came on a shelf and killed the pain while yours was handled by grimy hands crusty with tangerine-tinted drugstore lipstick and made you feel anything at all. You always swallowed more than you should have but I let you because I didn’t even know that version of you and maybe you never wanted to know me anyways. I guess I’ll never know if you wanted me to stop you.
You almost felt like reality was enough.
We never held hands but we spoke in colours and sometimes you walked me home at night. Your mother never knew my name but your roommates sure did because your yellow walls were thin and your voice is loud when you drink enough to drown the monsters in your skull. I swear I could have slayed them but our time ran out too soon.
You almost asked me to stay.
I almost did.
Your mother should have named you Almost because I think that’s all you’ll ever be. I can’t stand you and your stupid razorblade tongue of promises slicing down my already raw throat. I think I belong up North because my head is a messy Aurora Borealis of the colours you used to turn my skin before you left and everything around me turned to black. I tried to be your fuchsia sky but you never told me you were colourblind.
I am a catastrophe of colour aching for the comfort of canvas, but darling, almost is just never enough.


9 Ways To Get Your Groove On

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word by Charlotte Kidd

colour by Jason Middlebrook

1. Meet a guy who builds things. It’s refreshing because he can get out of his head. Now, you can be in Sex and the City (rather than a looped Woody Allen movie, as has recently been the case).

2. Realize that refreshing is a reductive way to describe a person. On the second date, he takes you dancing. As if he existed in opposition to all previous men. As if he was made to fill a gap in your life, like water. Realize this when he is just as funny and charming and soft with you on the second date as the first. Realize that the way he handles the world is gentle, and kind, and generous.

3. Spend a day in bed with him. Listen to all the sad songs. Be cushioned by happiness, sensitive to the songs but never touched by them. Wonder why you’ve never listened to sad music when you felt light.

4. Ask him to build something. Not just dinner (he’s done that already) but one of the things he really makes. Something to hold.

5. Write him a song of gratitude for the thing he made; a perfect painting on an imperfect round of wood. And for the story he tells you, about recovery.

“Idle hands are the devil’s tools,” he says, in all seriousness. Where you would have once scoffed, you instead take his un-idle hands into your own.

6. Dance to your new story, dance to the details, get down to the grit. Marvel at how much you can enjoy something so pedestrian as a slow dance; you didn’t ever think you could love someone you weren’t competing with. Dance to nothing really being extraordinary and nothing being truly ordinary.

7. Keep grooving. Find that it’s easy to bring him flowers if he’s had a bad day. Make him laugh. Plan special things for his birthdays. Not so easy to wash his beard out of the sink, un-dog-ear the pages after he’s read your books. Hard to convince him, after another sale goes south and another one of his pieces ends up in a half-born graveyard, that he does not need to go out and find something to make it easier.

8. Dig out the thing he made. Blare music, emotions of the song intruding your feelings so that there isn’t enough space for them. You are not sure how big they could get if you let them expand. Wonder when he’s coming home. Wonder if he’s coming home. Say he is.

9. Dance to the sound of a door closing. Get down to his footsteps. Feel the rhythm of him coming back to your arms. Dance for the boy who makes things. Groove to the people whose lives are complicated but who touch the soft and fleshy walls of the world with the least pressure possible. Get down to him, in bliss and imperfection. 

When the lights go out


word by Josh Elyea

colour by Jason Middlebrook

What do you do when the lights have gone out? 

You take a walk. Not outside, where the autumn has turned leaves red and a familiar chill has crept into the Montreal wind, but rather inside: you take a walk through the desolate hallways of the mind. It’s best to ignore the part of your consciousness that tells you this is just your mind imagining itself – you can’t know what the inside of your head looks like – and continue to press deeper into the increasingly detailed world of your brain.

The further you walk, the more you notice the darkness; it’s not apparent at first, but before long you can’t help but see that in all these rooms, in all these wrinkles and rooms and chambers and palaces and dungeons that are dedicated to the things you cherish, the lights are out.

After wandering the halls for a while, you begin to wonder whether your brain works the way it used to; you find yourself pondering whether  these rooms can still light up in the way they did when you were young, when things were simple and you didn’t feel so used and so jaded.

You might make an effort to stop in each of these rooms and flick the small switch that hangs precariously on the darkly-papered walls; you might find yourself taking note of which lights shine bright and which bulbs now seem dim, and what this says about how you value the things stored in each room.

You’ll wonder what all this has to do with your addiction to entertainment, and whether there’s irony to be found in the fact that the room dedicated to Friends shines brighter than the room dedicated to your friends. This might be coincidental, but you can’t really know because you’ve never taken the time to understand irony.

You’ll begin to wonder where all the colours of your mind went, and what it says about you as a person that you don’t even have the requisite neuroelectricity to power the bulbs in the rooms you deem essential, those dedicated to creativity and personal fitness and Bob fucking Dylan.

You’ll ignore the advice of the people closest to you,  who tell you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and focus on getting ahead by doing what you can. You’ll try and tell them it isn’t as simple as flicking a switch; by this point, you despise the colours of your mind, and you’re used to life without the lights on.

It’ll start small. You’ll find a room, somewhere deep in the right hemisphere of your brain, where a bright yellow light burns from behind a tightly locked door. Inside will be a book or a movie or a song, maybe even a person  or a pill that’ll walk with you, to remind you that there’s still vivid colour to be found, if you only take the time to turn on the lights.*


See more art by Jason Middlebrook





Blowing Smoke


word by Grant McLaughlin

colour by Michael Ward

Every time I see that sign, I can’t help but wonder what was the conversation behind that choice.

Could they honestly not come up with something better?  In all their brainstorming sessions, was that really the best in show?  No one involved thought for even a moment that maybe they should go with something more eye-catching?

‘Cause I’m not gonna lie.  I can rattle of all kinds of better ideas.  It feels like every time I’m there I come away having thought of yet another superior choice.

Is there honestly someone out there who grew up dreaming of the day they would be the proud proprietor of this: a tiny island of a shop amidst an ocean of parking lot swept up on the side of the latest superhighway.  A forgettable piece of detritus that they could finally call their own.

Wouldn’t want to ruin that with a memorable moniker.

The lack of creativity is extremely galling.  We already know that all we’ll find inside are shoddy sunglasses, miniature American flags, and a shit ton of cheapo cigarettes.  That Family Feud list of things that no one needs.

The least they could do is dress it up with a better sign out front.  A façade on the façade, if you will.

Are they describing the activity?  What you’ll be buying?  Just in case their patrons are so slack-jawed as to need the extra hint.

It could be a command.  An imperative order to any who find themselves wondering what they should be doing with their lives.

Or maybe it’s simply old school arrogance.  A belief that through their very existence they will be patronized.

“In my mind, it’s always been a concession.  They know the tides of history have come out against them, the studies are damning, the fix is in.”

It’s a white flag.  A desperate plea.

We don’t have a good reason to convince you, but we’re hoping you’ll do it anyways.

A discount name to match our discount product for you discount people and your discount dreams.

As rallying cries go, it isn’t terribly inspiring.

But I keep coming back, so I guess it doesn’t have to be.



On Love: “Teach Me to Speak”


My apartment has the music of love in it.  There is a row on my left and soupy breathing on my right.  I hear “fuck you” and I hear “fuck me.”  In love, someone is always getting fucked.  The rain outside patters the windows like a bowl of milk being filled with Rice Krispies and these slow and then moderate and then fast percussive bangs mimic the action unfolding here and there.  Snap crackle pop snap crackle pop snap crackle pop.

Behind the closed door to my right it sounds like my roommate and his girlfriend are hiccupping in harmony and it dawns on me there, wrapped in nothing but a towel, that this marked speechlessness seems more conversational and comprehensive and wholesome than the stuff going on to my left; but both still sound like love.  These are but two of love’s many iterations.

When I was younger, I would tip toe from my room to the stairwell that led to the kitchen to sit there and listen to my parents disagree loudly, hurtfully.  And I’d fear that the two people no longer loved each other.  I might enter the kitchen, crying, and ask if everything was all right, if they weren’t going to get a divorce.  It was in my kitchen that I learned that two people in love are allowed to fight.  Love necessarily yields war but war does not necessarily yield love.  And so back in my apartment, I feel like I’m seated again at the top of my staircase, all teary-eyed, only now I see that love can not only be scary, but that it is a choice.

Each of my roommates feels something in his heart if it is possible to feel there at all.  Right now I feel something there too.  Right now the Yankees are playing the Blue Jays and Lord knows a W for the Yanks here is huge.  Right now I have an unwritten story that my publisher needs by Wednesday.  Right now my English professor wants 500 words from me on the tension that Hemingway generates between language and experience.  I like that writing prompt.  It is worded beautifully.  My publisher also wants 500 words from me.  Twitter wants 40 characters.  That last sentence was 36.  Forty characters, 500 words: who cares?  It’s as if I’m talking to you through a damn keyhole.  Right now I have all this inside me but to you it’s only words and words and words.  Right now I wish my heart could talk because it has so much it would say to you.

Love and conversation, though, aren’t characterized by words; it is me and it is you, bundled up for minus 50 degree cold, undressing one another without letting either of us freeze.  My roommate engaged in the stuff at the end of the hall, you see, though, is freezing.  He moved too fast.  He inhabited himself without inhabiting his girlfriend.  So that makes true love going up to someone and saying, “Let me thaw you out.”

Can I?


word by Jacob Goldberg: “The image has a heart in it.  This all happened in my house the other night, and I thought it was fitting to write about love.”

colour by Sylvie Adams

“A native New-Brunswicker, Sylvie Adams has lived mostly in Montreal since the 1980s. She has travelled intensively throughout her life, residing for brief periods in Germany, England and France.

She obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Concordia University and a Master’s Degree in Applied Sciences (Architecture) from Université de Montréal. She worked in the design field for close to fifteen years in Canada, the United States and Europe. Her love of visual arts brought her back to painting and she now has her own studio in Montreal, where she paints. 

Her work has been featured in solo exhibitions. She has also participated in numerous group exhibitions, nationally and internationally, in Quebec, Ontario and at the Affordable Art Fair in Seoul, South Korea (2015).

Her work can also be found in private and corporate collections, including the Permanent Art Collection of Rio Tinto Alcan.”