project of Kristina Chimbaraite
I’m Jay, 23 years young. I moved back to Bulgaria a few years ago and I’m still figuring the best ways for emotional and mental self-care. I hope I’m on the right path ☺
What do you feel or imagine when you hear the word “loneliness”?
Well to me it has more meanings because you can be lonely in its complete meaning when no one is around you and you are completely alone. And you can also feel lonely even if you are surrounded by so many people. I think what is most dangerous is to be lonely by yourself, in your head.
Do you have a specific picture in your head when you hear about loneliness?
In Germany it was the forest, but it was also like my home. I had different types of loneliness. It was the "happy" loneliness and the "sad" loneliness I spent there. So I tried to build like a little house there from woods and sticks. I just found a bunch of dead trees and put them together and made something like a house. I used to hang out a lot there because nothing felt like home, which is kind of sad. Because in school I had many troubles for being a foreigner, for the way I dressed or whatever, and I felt safer outside of my home as well because home was not really a good place at that moment when we moved there. So the forest was my home and I loved it. I named my trees. One tree looked like the letter 'E' because the stem and branches formed an 'E' and I called them Eddard and Ella. Because there were two of them.
"I missed my family being a family"
If we go back in time… When did this feeling start? When did you realize that you start to feel lonely? It could be the first moment or the most memorable experience?
The first moment, which I did not even realize back then that it was loneliness, probably was when I was 11. My parents divorced. And we stopped hanging out that much with our family friends, because my parents were not together. Before we used to go camping or to the seaside or something with a bunch of family friends. So I missed a lot of people. I missed my family being a family. And I stopped caring so much about school. I guess I did not take the divorce so well at the begging, but then it was okay, it was actually a healthy decision. And then the loneliest I was in Germany. I changed a lot when I was there. I had a stage when I thought I don’t need anyone, when you kind of want to protect yourself, if you don’t have friends at that moment so you start to think: ‘That’s okay, I don’t need friends. I can be myself. Everything is fine.’ At one point it’s good because you need to be okay with yourself alone by yourself. But it’s also good to have friends, to have people you can count on, they can help you. I realize that I was wrong when I thought like that.
Why did you move to Germany?
My parents separated and my mom had a boyfriend, he is a teacher and he tried to find a job in Bulgaria but there were no positions, so instead we moved to Germany. And that was actually a very strange decision I was not aware of, it kind of came out of nowhere for me. I think I was 12 or 13 and I had plans for summer with my classmates. We wanted to make a movie because I was writing books. I was very creative at some point. So I wrote a book and wanted to make either a movie or a show or something, we picked a crew from our class. We decided who is going to be a makeup artist, the actors, and everything.
"when we came back she told me we are actually going to Germany and we are going to live with him. That was a bit too much when you are a kid"
And then… in the summer my mom told me that I have to learn German and go to German lessons and that we are going to Greece to meet her boyfriend, I think I didn’t know about it. After I met him I thought he was cool, he was very chill. When we came back she told me we are actually going to Germany and we are going to live with him. That was a bit too much when you are a kid. I think most teenagers don't like when their parents get a new partner and everything changes. They don't like the partner; they are angry with everything. I think this is a common thing for teenagers because when you are little kid you don't really care about the partner of your parent and when you are older it doesn’t really concern you. When you’re a teenager you are more sensitive. I was not okay with that, but then we moved to Germany.
I didn’t know German as I supposed to, because I was against it, I was very angry and I didn’t like it, it sounded super ugly to me. I tried to speak it there, but my classmates were very rude, they would make fun of me if I tried to speak German, so I didn’t. Only after 2 years I decided to not care about what people say. I tried to speak and If I was wrong people would correct me, that’s how I learned it
How many years have you spent there?
I think 8 or 9.
And then it was your decision to come back?
Yes. I wanted to come back when I turned 18 because Germany was very depressing for me. I felt really bad in school, I found friends there only in my last 3 years. They were good friends, I didn’t feel so lonely, but I still wanted to come back because I had suicidal thoughts when I was there. I actually tried many times, it was never successful. I even got to the hospital.
So I told my mom that it’s important for me to come back. In order to buy me a ticket back, she told me to first secure a job in Bulgaria, because of course, I didn't have any money as a student. I talked to a friend who worked in a call centre and asked for more information. But I still convinced my mom that I need to be in Bulgaria and then apply for a job. She felt very weird about that because times changed, now it’s way easier to find a job with a second language. So I came here and in 10 days already had a job. It was kind of my last chance, I told my mom if things didn’t work out in Bulgaria then I would still kill myself. But they worked out, which is good. It was my last hope.
Was it the circumstances or the feeling inside that hurt so badly?
Both. It was a very lonely place. We lived in a small town in Germany where the people were very limited in their mind and some of them were racist as well as homophobic. I didn’t feel good there because it’s a village so whatever you do, the neighbours are going to know, so you have to hide yourself. You couldn’t have very intellectual talks with people; I thought that I’m getting dumber from being surrounded by dumb people. My friends in school were 2 or 3 grades older than me because those were the people I could communicate with. And I had to find people who could speak English well, so I was mostly friends with older people or my teachers. Yes, I was that kid who was friends with teachers. And at home we had a lot of fights because I was against my mom’s boyfriend.
After you came back did you still feel lonely?
Sometimes. But it’s okay, it goes away. When I started my job I was very worried, I was still lonely, I found out that things have changed since I was away. A lot of friends were not friends anymore, there were 2 or 3 friends left from our group from school, classmates, who were so many, and now it’s only 1 person left. It’s me and another classmate and that’s all from all our school friends. It's kind of sad because you grew up with those people and you thought nothing is going to change, but of course, it does. There are also a lot of songs about how students get apart and you think: ‘we gonna make it different’ and you try to keep in touch with each other, but then, in the end, it doesn't work out. But then my job kind of got me distracted from the loneliness, the work keeps your mind busy, it made me very tired, so I came home and just slept. You don’t really realize that you are lonely when you are busy. But you are kind of in a loop –work-sleep-work-sleep.
Have you noticed any pattern of your personal loneliness and have you figured it out how to fight it?
Well, I build a wall around me against people and can't communicate with them sometimes. I just isolate myself, I eat a lot of junk food and stay in bed and do nothing. But my biggest “symptom" of loneliness is when I don’t want to do anything, I have absolutely no motivation to get out of bed, even to play games or read a book or watch something. I start to watch something but then I think ‘it’s just a waste of my time’, but everything is a waste of your time because you don’t want to do anything. And that’s when I realize that something is going wrong. And then I just try to cheer up myself somehow, usually I just start cleaning and that kind of gets me back on track. I usually don’t clean right away and then I clean everything and it makes me feel happy. I could also play music and start singing and dancing it makes me feel okay again.
"but my biggest “symptom" of loneliness is when I don’t want to do anything, I have absolutely no motivation to get out of bed, even to play games or read a book or watch something"
How did your relationship change with your mom during these years? As a teenager you were rebellious, did it change and when? Has your mom realized what was going on with you?
Well, my mom had me and her boyfriend. We didn’t want her to pick a side. Well, I did, I wanted her to pick my side of course. I blamed her boyfriend for most of the things, which as I realized weren’t just his fault, because there is everyone’s fault at some point. But I just focused all of my dark energy on him. But then I did something wrong and I realized there is also my fault and that made me realize that it’s not always just him.
My relationship with my mom wasn’t really good, when I was a kid I grew up apart from my parents, they didn’t know how to take care of me as all new parents, so they left me with my grandparents or with a babysitter. My mom was very busy with work; she couldn’t stay at home with me. And because my parents didn’t really understand each other well, which led to the divorce, so she was always angry. She was tired from work, then had fights with my dad, so she didn’t want to spend time with me. So we had a lot of fights with mom when I was a kid.
"and we realized that we actually have to support each other instead of going against each other, now she is my best friend"
And they only got bigger when I was a teenager. I always thought that she doesn’t understand me, so I started to go against her. I built the wall between us. She had the answer and the explanation to whatever I say, in her version of course. She never even listened to me. Sometimes that was the case of the fight. With time it became better, she started to listen to me. I started to listen to her. And we realized that we actually have to support each other instead of going against each other. Now she is my best friend. We are very close and important to each other, sometimes she asks for advice and it makes me feel great. It’s really cool when your parent tells you that you are right.
When you were in Germany did you have something that would cheer you up during this dark period? Have you developed something that keeps you away from that state now?
We had a dog in Germany who saved me. I could just cuddle him and everything felt okay. I could cry with him and felt that everything is okay, because he was with me, so I took him with me to the forest and just stayed there, it made me feel better. I didn’t like to cry at home, I didn’t feel that my room was a safe place, so I cried in the forest most of the time, or if I couldn’t control it would go to the bathroom. At the begging I thought it's bad to cry because it shows that you are emotional, but then I learned it's good to cry, even when you don't know the reason why. If you want to hide you can go to the bathroom or your room and just cry, let it out. Because it's important, we collect feelings, keep them, hold them, it gets so much that we don't know how to distinguish them, where does it come from. Sometimes we really don’t know why we cry, but we just have to let it out. Or go to the mountains and scream or break something.
Is there something else you would like other people to know about loneliness?
If you are a friend of someone who is lonely or depressed at that time, you need to know that sometimes you need to give them space. Don’t be offended if they build a wall between you, because sometimes they need that wall. But at the same moment let them know that you are there for them, and after some time you just have to break that wall and go help them. And it’s good to know that loneliness can be healthy to some point, but not too much, because you can go too deep towards hardcore depression.
And what I found very healthy, because one time I felt really depressed and really lonely… and I decided to go on a date with myself. Take yourself out to a restaurant, take yourself to a cinema. It was actually very funny because there was no one in the cinema, so I was really by myself. Because most people think if they go somewhere alone, it will look sad and people are gonna think that this person has no friends, but leave that aside, don’t think about that. It’s actually really nice to spend some time with yourself and it's also very healthy, it's very self-care. Because right now I'm on a self-care wave, I want to be happy with myself. A lot of people put their happiness on other people and make themselves dependant, which is not good. You can let someone complete your happiness or be a part of your happiness, but not completely your happiness, because when that person is gone for whatever reason, then you’re left unhappy.