project of Kristina Chimbaraite
country. North Macedonia
I am Viktorija – people call me Vicky. I am a psychologist, humanist, and activist. My relationship with Bulgaria started from EVS volunteering by providing sexuality education to youth and ended up in the business sector - IT recruitment. I am passionate about traveling the world, psychology and mental health, human sexuality, community research, and contemporary art.
What do you feel or imagine when you hear the word ‘loneliness’?
I don’t know properly… I feel like I am in a hole. A Black Hole. And that I’m lost in this space. That’s how I see it.
If you go back in time… when was the first moment you actually realised that you were lonely? How did your relationship with loneliness start?
I think it started like one or two years ago, something like that. I was generally travelling a lot, living in different places, seeking different opportunities and I had some time, maybe two years, while I was living abroad - in Macedonia. At some point I just started feeling some… I can’t even describe that feeling. I felt weird waking up in the morning, going to work and do the regular everyday stuff because I just felt so empty. I felt that I need something, a change, but I didn’t know what it was what I needed. I didn’t feel connected to anything, so I just felt the urge to change. It happened maybe after a year of living there. I wanted to escape from that point. That’s how it happened to me.
"I can’t even describe that feeling. I felt weird waking up in the morning, going to work and do the regular everyday stuff because I just felt so empty"
Is it just the feeling of emptiness or is there more? Like do you have a location or place which is connected to this feeling of loneliness, or maybe contrariwise – the place of safety?
I think my safe space at that time was my office at work because I only felt fulfilled there. In that room between four walls. When I finished the work hours I had, afterwards I felt really empty and weak… that unpleasant feeling was coming, taking over. But in general, that is what comes to my mind... the desk, the office, that space where I felt connected.
And did you live alone at that time?
No, I lived with my parents but this was the first time I experienced it more intensely. However, back then when I lived in Croatia by myself I probably felt it as well but not that intense for sure. That was maybe three years ago, and I had some critical moments in Croatia as well but not like this.
Do you have some kind of pattern which makes you realise that you are stuck in the state of loneliness? And how are you dealing with it?
Yeah, actually I do. And even right now it happens. In some way. For example... I think the last time a few months ago. Usually it happens to me when I come back from work. And especially because I am living abroad, I know that I am far away from the people who are the closest to me... and then, when I am already not in the best relation with my partner or friends, it’s all summing up and I think that I am in some crisis. I come back home feeling this kind of emptiness and end up crying. That’s my usual response for moments like that. And I like to isolate myself. This would be my usual behaviour.
And do you have something that helps you in situations like that?
It depends on the mood. Sometimes, what helps me is to socialise, attend social gatherings, participate and connect to people. So I go out to events, I really like to visit exhibitions for example. And I also like to travel, if I have the opportunity at that time. This really helps me as a strategy so-to-say to connect to people, organisations or whatever. So just spending time doing things I really enjoy. Another thing is to build closer relationships. So I like to drink wine, having deep conversation... that can relief me for like a short time. And psychotherapy of course. Whenever I face something bigger, psychotherapy is the first thing I am consulting.
"just spending time doing things I really enjoy. Another thing is to build closer relationships. So I like to drink wine, having deep conversation..."
Unlike the other people I have interviewed, you seem more outgoing rather than introverted. And I think that is very interesting to see how you deal with loneliness. So is it true?
Yes, that is true. So, in general I perceive myself more as an extroverted person but no that much anymore as I used to be. In the past I was really outgoing, like 100% extroverted. Now I am more a combination of both, maybe 50/50... it depends on the period. So, I believe I got more introverted with time.
So you said that those periods of loneliness are still present. But how is it for you now?
In the past, maybe a year ago, it was a longer period. So it was like months. Months, in which I had the same feelings more or less, just with different intensity. One day can be really bad, the other one less. The feeling was consistent so-to-say. Right now, I can say that I am not in this state but it can happen occasionally, maybe once in two months. I get into these critical moments and it comes as a wave. Like it’s a whole day with all these feelings and thoughts but the day after I find a way to overcome it.
And do the people around you notice? Is there maybe something you would want them to know, how to help or support you more?
I just discussed it with my closest friends when I was in this longer period. And psychotherapy of course. So the first action I normally take, the thing first I am doing is talking to my therapist. This is how I usually cope with it and it helps me a lot. I always rely on the psychotherapist for this specifically. But when it comes to my parents... no, I don’t really talk to them about deeper matters. Maybe three close friends that I have know and with them I can discuss everything. So yeah, in general I talk to my friends.
"loneliness is different. Loneliness is unpleasant. This is something that can happen to anyone at any time"
And is there something you would like other people to know about loneliness?
The first thing is to differentiate. Being alone and to being lonely is not the same. So, being alone is a personal decision of course, this is something you decided for yourself and it is pleasant because you decided to create time simply for yourself. Loneliness is different. Loneliness is unpleasant. This is something that can happen to anyone at any time. So, one should know the difference between these two feelings I would say. And another thing I wanted to say is that it is very important to know the roots, where does it come from. To know the origin of the feeling. Are we seeking for a specific connection? What are our needs? The roots are always our needs, the human needs we have. And all our issues, problems, insecurities, it’s always connected to our needs. So every time I experience negative emotions, I always try to ask myself: Ok, what is my need at this moment? What do I want to do right now? What am I forgetting? This is my perspective how I see it.
Is there something you would like to share with those who are experiencing loneliness right now? Especially for those who are not experienced in dealing with emotions properly and for whom it is like the end of the world.
This is really-really hard to say because every time each person is experiencing it in a different way. It is more about to understand that this is not forever. Loneliness is not a fixed state of mind. This is something that can be discussed and overcome. And it’s good to speak about it openly. Because it’s common nowadays. I am experiencing this. And it’s completely okay to speak about it not only to close people but to people in general. I think this helps. And also, to find coping strategies for yourself because for everybody there is something else that helps one to overcome this. So basically, to find what is the right strategy for you to cope. This would be my main point.