Ogi Kirlov, Riahovo, Bulgaria

I was born on the 5 June 1970 in a very small village called Riahovo that is situated on the banks of the river Danube, in Bulgaria. At the time of my birth the country was under Communist rule and as a consequence the people’s lives were severely restricted; they were poor, controlled and dominated by fear. My family lived an ordinary life like everyone else and was really affected by the political system. Due to fear of this oppressive regime; the only safe place to express oneself was within the family setting and unfortunately my family members often expressed themselves through rage. I was first a witness and then became a victim to many terrifying experiences. As a child the sense of being a helpless, worthless, terrified young boy was growing inside me and the difficulties in my family provoked these feelings more. On many occasions at a very early age I remember running away from home and being brought back by my family in a very tearful state. At this time I started to question why I was alive and the purpose of my existence. I was about 12 or 13 years old when I started to have suicidal thoughts. Although I didn’t know it then, I can see clearly now that I was severely depressed. From the outside I am sure that I looked pretty normal but my experience inside was very different. I had repetitive thoughts about killing myself; was numb to my feelings, and felt like a time bomb that was ready to explode. I didn’t like myself or the life I was living and wouldn’t share my thoughts with others as I thought that they may spoil my fantasy of taking my own life. I was doing a lot of sport at the time which became a healthy obsession that helped to keep me going and ultimately saved my life. Sport helped me to release the internal pressure I felt; successfully avoid my feelings and supported me to maintain my sanity. I finally reached a point in life where I consciously chose to live; as although the life I experienced was terrifying, the thought of death was worse.

At around the age of 21 I started doing active therapy which became my new obsession. I experienced wonderful moments of relief and the feelings I had suppressed started to come to the surface. The most valuable thing I learnt from this therapy was the importance of talking about my feelings and listening to what others had to share. As a result of the therapy I felt that life was returning to me and I thought I could handle anything. However, I was proven very wrong when I met my first girlfriend and the ‘Pandora’s Box’ of suppressed emotions flooded the relationship with feelings that \I hadn’t previously allowed myself to feel. It was tough experience to go through but it was worth it, and we ended up as friends. In my next relationship I witnessed dysfunctional parts of my inner world as issues came up and it became clear for me to see. I realised that fighting myself was not a helpful way to continue living and I started to develop a friendlier approach towards myself.

Now I’m nearly 50, and although I continue to carry issues from my childhood, my attitude has changed. Now rather than try to erase these issues, I embrace them. I now have a wonderful family where love, care and playfulness are at the core of us being together. After many years of blaming my parents for my situation I am now able to love and appreciate them and recognise that they did their best. Nowadays, I see life as an opportunity for love to expand and replace fear. I see that even in my darkest moments there was a flicker of light and that is hope to me. My advice for those who are experiencing dark times is to find a way to talk to someone about it. I regret that I didn’t do that when I was younger; as it would have saved me from a lot of suffering.

Love Ogi