Sadness, and feeling useless and invisible to others – this is what loneliness felt like to me while growing up.
I was eight years old when I ended up at a residential home in Germany. My parents went through a painful separation and therefore we had to move out from home. By the time I was 19, I was completely secluded from my family and this led to increasing feelings of loneliness and depression. At an age when a sense of belonging, acknowledgement and acceptance from others is crucial, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting any attention from others my age like most young people do.
The loneliness I felt back then was one which can be described as perceiving oneself as if being left ‘alone’ in a world which seemed scary. This debilitating fear led sway to a lot of confusion and insecurities about myself and my life journey.
When I arrived in Malta I didn’t even know a single word in Maltese even though my father was Maltese, this didn’t not help my integration at all.
If I could go back in time, I would make sure that people had listened to me when I was young. The people I was surrounded with never asked me about my situation.
More than anything, my childhood experiences taught me how important it is to be there for others.
Loneliness is not necessarily being on your own, it’s the feeling that you are alone, even when you are surrounded by other people. It’s an emotion that you cannot help but feel. Children may feel lonely but not necessarily understand why they feel this way. While growing up children need support, and someone who helps them express their biggest fears, elicit their curiosity and foster their interests.
At the children’s home where I grew up, my carers should have taken the time to ask me if I wanted to join in playing with other kids. They should’ve shown an interest in how I was feeling. Instead, they spoke to me as I was a patient to be cured from a disease, most often in offices which felt cold and impersonal. In a more casual and relaxed environment, it would have been much easier for me to share my emotions.
I hope that my children feel that I am there for them and that they can trust me. Today, I have friends and a family, and I am back in contact with my mother and brother. Today, I feel strong, and I no longer feel scared to become lonely again. That being said,, life is full of hurdles and unpleasant surprises and one day I might find my strength tested again.
The reason why I called on the YMCA loneliness response line was to share my story and to give hope to all those who are going through feelings of isolation similar to those that I felt while growing up. When the YMCA volunteer asked If I needed any help, I smiled and then replied that nowadays I have a lot of challenges to confront with, but loneliness was not one of them.
At that moment I had my daughter on my lap, my other two kids laughing in the background, while my wife was looking at me with a sense of pride while on her desk studying for her next exam. No I am not lonely, but if I will ever be, I’m sure that this time around I won’t hesitate to ask for help.
YMCA’s Loneliness Response Line was launched on 23rd March 2020 as a COVID-19 response. Do not hesitate to call one of our volunteers on 99928625. You may visit the YMCA Malta website for more information about their services, and if you wish to help you may send a blank message on 50619212 for a donation of €11.65.