project of Kristina Chimbaraite
My name is Salma Badawy, I'm 24 years old, from Cairo-Egypt. I am passionate about cooking, love swimming and writing. I am working with African refugees in Egypt.
I went to Bulgaria in March 2019 to volunteer in a Meth Studio project. It's an online library that collects myths and legends stories from different countries. I was responsible for the translation and recording of audio files.
What do you feel or imagine when you hear the word ‘loneliness’?
I imagine an empty room. Everything is white. And I imagine streets with no people. And it’s very, very cold. So cold that your thumbs are swelling and getting red, and you want some warmth; because for me loneliness is the opposite of being warm.
When was the first time you realised that it is more than just some alone time, but you are really stuck in loneliness?
It happened maybe 3 years ago. Someone really close to me went through severe depression and started using drugs. This person was like a role model to me and seeing him like this made me feel depressed. And after that whenever I went with friends, to a party or whatever, any gathering, I felt alone because no one shared this situation with me. The feelings that I felt during this period I didn’t share with anyone, even with this person. I tried as much as I could to support him, but in fact I was ignoring my own feelings. I felt hurt and alone, and it started to affect my health: my mental health, my physical health. I tried as much as I could to speak about it, but it was so difficult back then. I think I spoke about it only after one year. I held it for a long, long time and when I was about to burst I just decided to talk about it. So this was the first time that I really… not maybe the first, but it was really like a mark and strong moment in my life.
And second time… I volunteer here in Bulgaria and I had a chance to go around Europe. And I made a journey for few days alone. During this journey I was really overwhelmed with emotions and at one moment I felt really, really lonely. I didn’t talk to anyone; I didn’t speak the language of the country. I felt really alone, I was walking with no goal and no direction, I didn’t care about sightseeing; I was just focusing on myself, but I felt really, really lonely. And I received the news that the same person got back to drugs again. And I felt devastated; I was on the street alone, crying. And at this moment I was completely alone, I couldn’t share this with anyone. I wanted to scream, I wanted to tell people ‘I really feel lonely now, I want to go back home’… but I cannot. I cannot even afford the ticket to go home to Egypt. I just said to myself: ‘Ok, whatever it takes during this journey, I’ll try to hold myself together and try to continue’. And it was like 4 days before I went back to Sofia to my volunteering house. When I got back home I talked with my brother about it and I felt a little bit relieved.
Do you feel like when you get into this state that you can’t speak about it?
Yeah. This state is like being locked in a room. You know that you can go out and the door is open, it’s not really locked, but you cannot. You don’t have enough strength to go outside. You’re so overwhelmed with emotions; emotions are like handcuffs to you. They are holding you back and you cannot go outside.
"this state is like being locked in a room. You know that you can go out and the door is open, it’s not really locked, but you cannot. You don’t have enough strength to go outside"
Do you feel like if someone would approach you during this time it would be easier for you to go to this door? Or do you need this time by yourself and only when you’re ready you can open this door?
It depends. Sometimes you are in this state that you don’t want anyone to talk to you. But back when I was traveling I really needed someone. I felt paralyzed and I needed someone to grab me, but I was alone, literally alone in the country where I don’t know anyone. So that time I had to move on by myself.
I have a question about the pattern. For me it is usually coming from the inside, I isolate myself and then I see and recognize it. Something happens, I don’t feel comfortable, so I stop talking to people and afterwards it’s very, very complicated to communicate in a proper way again. And I continue isolating myself even more until it goes in a very wrong direction. Do you have any pattern you recognize like ‘ok, now I know what is going to happen’ and you can make little adjustments to fight it better. Or it just happens and you deal with it afterwards?
It happened to me when I was in a high school; I felt what you talked about. This is the time when everyone supposed to be sociable and I was isolating myself from everyone. When I realised that I’m really, really lonely and I had no one to talk to, and I felt always sad with no reason, what I did is going the wrong way to provoke the state I was in. I did some stuff that wasn’t me. You know, when you want to go out and that door, it’s open, but I literally broke the door just to go out. So that’s what I did back then. I think if I would go back in time, I would do it again and again. For me back then it was the most reasonable way to do it.
How someone could help you in this situation now? Or is there a way to help yourself?
It’s always good to offer help. To offer and just abstain of saying anything, don’t give advice, don’t give anything. Just offer help, and if they accept it then you start to listen. And then you start to listen, you start to think about solutions and then you offer them as suggestions not as advices. Otherwise they are going to think that they have some kind of problem. If they refuse it, tell them that you are next to them and you going to be there whenever they want to talk. I think that’s the most appropriate way to do it.
"just offer help, and if they accept it then you start to listen. And then you start to listen, you start to think about solutions and then you offer them as suggestions not as advices"
When I realised loneliness I was in the state, not after it. So when I realised it, I was in the middle of the state while traveling. What came to my mind this moment that I didn’t want to feel this, because it really, really hurt. What I did was writing. I had a notebook and I kept writing all the events that happened, even the silly ones: ‘I got lost, I didn’t have internet, I met this guy and I did this’. I was writing literally random stuff just to express my emotions, because I felt that my emotions were really strong and if I didn’t do something about it, if I didn’t write I think something would happen to me. I also had a recorder on my phone and I kept talking to it: ‘Ok, this is date this and this, the hour is this, I’m in this country, and I’m in this city. I see trees, I see sun. It’s cold, it’s hot.’ I started to talk just to get rid of the emotions inside me, because it was a lot to take. So I think what you can do, is to speak about it. Even if you don’t want to speak with someone at least express yourself: write it on the paper, burn this paper afterwards, cut it, whatever.
How to describe this feeling to those who don’t get it, especially to someone close to you like your family?
My parents and parents of my friends don’t realize that there’s something called depression or loneliness, they don’t acknowledge it. They tell you: ‘What? You eat, you have money, and you have a bed to sleep. So why do you feel this?’ And… ok, I feel it and I cannot help. I wish that I didn’t have it, but unfortunately do. In the begging my parents wouldn’t understand me whenever I said this or acted weirdly or angrily, or avoided dealing with them. But after that I told to myself that they wouldn’t know how to help me unless I talk to them. So I told them that I had an issue, that I felt this and that, and you have to understand that at least if you cannot help me, accept me as I am. Don’t push me to do what I don’t want to do. It didn’t work from the first time of course, but with time they started to understand.
Moms and dads are the same all other the world, I think.
What would you say to those who are now in this state now?
Whatever you think or whatever you feel, don’t keep to yourself. It’s always good to share with someone, but choose this someone carefully. Don’t think that you don’t trust people, just share it with someone. Even if this person can only listen, it’s always good to talk, to express your feelings. And that might help you to pass this state. Even if the person will not help you that much, at least you will get rid of these emotions that you kept only for yourself.
Maybe do something that makes you happy. Even if it’s something like to watch a TV show or eat some food. I always like to do something for myself, to spend time with myself. I go out in the streets. That’s really helpful actually. Just to go out, walk. Even if you don’t have a direction to go, just to have some fresh air. And even if sometimes you feel like you don’t want to leave your bed, do it… it’s really helpful. And it’s going to make you realize some stuff, to rethink the situation.
"from time to time I like to visit orphan houses and elderly houses. I like to speak with them, especially with the elderly. They are my favourite"
From time to time I like to visit orphan houses and elderly houses. I like to speak with them, especially with the elderly. They are my favourite. When I speak with them, I tell them everything about me. And they give me very powerful advices, because these people lived their life fully. And they are in the position that they actually living in the loneliness. And when you go and support them, you feel good that you did something to them that you want someone to do to you. Even if you don’t have the power and strength, try to give back to the people who feel the same. The universe is going to return it to you in another way.
For me loneliness means that you’re an emotional person. And being emotional doesn’t mean that you are weak. No, not at all. That means that you are strong, you just have to acknowledge your emotions and to be aware of it. Don’t let anyone ever tell you not to cry, not to express your emotions. Through this journey it helped me a lot to recover this state of my life; I came from it really peaceful, really calm and more comfortable. That’s why I told you to go out and walk, even if you don’t have any destination.