ENCOUNTER: Understanding Homelessness & Its Hidden Barriers

The forty-pound backpack, which hadn’t seemed all that debilitating when I first put it on, was growing increasingly heavier the harder and faster I pedalled. And the harder and faster I pedalled, the more cumbersome the enormous hiking pack was becoming, and the wearier I was starting to feel.

But I had to keep pedalling. Because the instant I stopped, we would be enveloped in darkness, and my Encounter buddy Kit Watson (who was struggling to locate a specific housing form in a stack of about twenty) would be too.

The symbolism of this room wasn’t lost on us: a metaphor to simultaneously represent both the desperate desire to keep pushing despite exhaustion, and the fear that your hopes of a warm home may be dashed in an instant due to circumstances far beyond your own control…

I’d been lucky enough to be invited by a friend of mine at Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver to experience their latest project, ENCOUNTER: an educational, interactive experience (modelled after the ever-popular escape rooms) to help us understand the hidden barriers and obstacles faced by homeless Vancouverites and others worldwide. The project is co-hosted by UGM and EXIT Canada, and developed with formerly-homeless folk (who I found out are paid for their time, which is awesome!) working hand-in-hand with the volunteers and staff to create an immersive learning experience that mirrors a much colder reality.

The fact that I was slightly shaken as I clambered up onto the bike was probably to blame for me being so quick to fatigue. But hey, that’s no excuse. The streets don’t give a shit if you’re tired. They don’t give a shit if you’re anxious or hungry or still smarting from something you experienced five minutes ago. The streets can be cruel and unrelenting for those who are forced to weather them… and, as we had already learned in the room we’d escaped immediately before, the physical and mental barriers you often aren’t even aware exist can hold you back from doing things that otherwise seem pretty damn effortless.

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#MentalHealthAwarenessDay: I Need To Come Clean

This #MentalHealthAwarenessDay, there are some things I feel I owe my friends and fans: an apology, an explanation, and a little spark of light.

I’m going to be pretty brutally honest during this lengthy post… and I want to make it clear I’m not looking for attention or pity. Just understanding. So thanks for bearing with me.

For the last nine years, I’ve only been operating as a musician, artist, and person at about 30% capacity. For the longest time, since my diagnosis at twenty, I thought it was because of my autism, and perhaps even my chronic depression.

I hit twenty-four and things started to go downhill fast. I no longer received joy or excitement for the things I cared about, and my anxiety was rapidly increasing to a point where I couldn’t follow through with any task or project I started – as I’m sure a lot of you have noticed or been on the receiving end of (merch, cosplay groups, and long drawn-out waits for singles to be released to name just a few).

The depression and anxiety continued to worsen until I was at my breaking point. I attempted suicide on my way home from an anime convention in 2016, by trying to throw myself out of the car on the highway. I nearly joined the 27 Club alongside Jimi, Janis, Kurt, Amy, Anton, and more. Daily (no exaggeration), I thank whatever power that may or may not exist that Kit was in the car next to me, and that she was able to both wrestle me down into my seat and take the next exit at the same time.

This was the absolute zenith of my downward spiral: this was when my immediate road team and I both realized how low I had sunk, and how desperate the situation had become.

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A MUCHLY Required Update: apologies, changes, and NEWS! :D

Strangers, friends, fans, and anyone else who hangs out here!

It’s been a while. And if you’ve hung on this long, I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life rocking out as hard and often as I can for you, as a thank you for your patience and understanding!

We’ve got a lot of exciting things coming your way, and I’m stoked to share them! Because my updates have been sporadic and scattered til now, here’s a quick run-down of stuff you might know, might not know, and might want to know!

  • WAIT, DID SOMEONE SAY BAND!? I’ve teamed up with Dave Kitsberg (The Spoony Bards, Time Crash, Random Gibberish, Arc Impulse) and Arnell Damasco (SixOneForte, Better Off Fred) to form a new music project: WE ARE THE CHAOS! And we’ll be HOPING to bring a two- or three-piece group to our conventions in 2017/18 in order to rock out even HARDER for you!
  • POSSIBLY A NEW ALBUM…? In a similar vein, Dave and I have been writing music together and separately on and off for the last little while, and are about to hit it hard again. Which means we have a new announcement about a new lump of tracks coming up… possibly… in the next few months…………….
  • IT’S ALMOST TIME TO DEFEND YOUR LEGACY! Those of you who came to cons in the fall/winter/spring know that we have a new single coming out inspired by the Captain America: Civil War movie called Legacy! And again, we’re hoping to make an announcement shortly about that after we manage to wrangle a couple more li’l baby ducks into a row.
  • WHO IS AGENT SPARROW!? I released my first ever sci-fi urban fantasy novel, BLACK TIE: Book One of the Sparrow Archives. You might notice there’s a new tab on my website HERE!!!! for you to check out information about the series, characters, universe, and story. It’s been very therapeutic to write something like this… something that takes intense action, quirky humour, strong character development, political/emotional turmoil, and sciencey-wiency-stuff. BOOK ONE is currently available HERE ON AMAZON!!!!!!!, and BOOK TWO is currently being written for a summer release!

We’ve got some conventions coming up that we’ll be guests or industry at in the next eight months, too – some of which we can talk about, and some of which we can’t, hehehe. But these are the ones we CAN announce:
A-KON 28 in DALLAS/FORT WORTH, TX (Kieran, Kit – panels Thursday and Friday night)
ANIME EXPO (AX) in LOS ANGELES, CA (Kieran, Kit – no panels)
SAN JAPAN X in SAN ANTONIO, TX (Kieran, Dave, Arnell, Kit, Wade – concert + panels all weekend)

I’m also rebooting my e-newsletter, so MAKE SURE YOU’RE SIGNED UP!!!!! You can check out the quick sign-up box in the right-hand toolbar of my website here, OR JUST CLICK HERE TO GET SIGNED UP! 😀

Beyond my room mate and tour manager being in and out of hospital all last year, and several other issues in my personal life including finally finding and exploring my real self via transition, I’ve never wanted to hide the fact that I, like a LOT of my friends and fans, struggle every single day with mental illness. I recently started seeing a couple of new counsellors/therapists, and the cognitive behavioural therapy we’ve been doing has been… absolutely remarkable. I’m also possibly looking at a new diagnosis which, while it’s all very scary and horrifying to think of the things that could be wrong with me, could be the ultimate answer I’ve been searching to for why my mind works the way it does, and why I react to things the way I do. So that’s a plus. 🙂 It’s always a good idea to be grateful for a diagnosis at the same time as being afraid or upset, because it means you know – and knowing is half the battle, right!? Ha ha.

Anyway, long story short, my counsellor said something really important to me: he said that trust is a risk, not a guarantee. A lot of people look at trust as something that is only earned once you have proven yourself… but trust is, actually, something we have to place in people who may very well hurt us. We can’t wait, and wait, and wait, and expect that once we trust we will never be hurt, because that simply isn’t the way the world works: it works because we have the guts and strength to pull our hearts out and hand them to someone we care about, and tell them, “please don’t drop this”… even though you know there’s a good chance they might.

I feel like a lot of people have trusted me, and been patient with me, and taken risks with me. There are so many musicians and activists and online personalities out there. Why me? Why care about me, and what I do? I feel like this musical career… I always feel weird and awkward calling it a “career” because it doesn’t feel like that: it feels like a journey, like an experience, something huge and incredible I’ve shared with people I’ve only met a couple of times (or sometimes not even at all). I feel like it’s something that’s so a part of me now that the first (and pretty much only) thing I can think about now that I’m starting to feel better and recover from this lifelong affliction is that I want to throw myself into the deep end of music and writing and the internet as hard and fast as I can.

I also feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time, squandered a lot of opportunities, and fucked myself over a whole lot of times purely because my own subconscious drive to self-sabotage everything I do has held me back every step of the way. I’m sure a lot of you can probably understand that… I know I’m not the only person who’s unconsciously hell-bent on destroying themselves and running away anytime any glimmer of success looms upon the horizon. And sometimes I look at that, I look at everything in my past and I wonder if there’s even a future given how much I’ve already messed all this up… but there has to be. Because if there really truly isn’t, there’s only one other real choice, and that is an option I have sworn I will never allow myself to succumb to. 🙂 So I’ve decided, weighing my options, to take it on the chin, to human-up, and to try my best to make amends where needed and spend the time and effort to prove that I am a changed person and that I am dedicated and, well, more the better part of me and less the shitty part! 😀

So yeah, thanks, everyone! Seriously… you’re the real heroes here, and remember, not all superheroes have superpowers. In fact, a lot of superheroes are massive fuckups, so anytime you look at yourself in the mirror to remind yourself what a massive fuckup you are, remember that definitely doesn’t hold you back from going out there today, tomorrow, and being a goddamn hero.

I’ll check in with you again soon! Til then, I’m on Instagram and Twitter @KIERANSTRANGE if you wanna chill and hang out, and don’t forget to sign up for my e-newsletter and check out my first novel BLACK TIE!

Kieran xo