Thiago (22)

“I came to Antwerp to work as a software engineer in 2019. As much as it has been a fun adventure, it has been very isolating too. As an expat, I don’t have much of a support system here in Belgium. No family, no long term friends. So I felt quite alone during lockdown and wondered if I’d better go back to Brazil. But leaving Belgium would also mean leaving the life I had built for myself and all the opportunities that came with it. On the other hand, I had no idea when I was gonna see my family again. Would I ever even see my grandparents again? I couldn’t talk to my family because I didn’t want to have them worry about me. So I was alone with all these thoughts and had no outlet.
I felt like everything around me was falling apart. I felt like I was failing at my job and my studies. I couldn’t progress in the gym anymore. Was I wasting my time here? I was really unhappy and ashamed of myself. I didn’t feel like seeing people, talking to people. It was hard going through that experience alone. It took a big toll on me mentally. I used to be a very outgoing and social person. I was a fun, easy-going guy to be around. And suddenly I didn’t recognize myself anymore. Everything annoyed me. One small inconvenience in the morning could ruin my whole day. It was a really confusing time for me. 

I don’t feel a 100% like myself yet, but things have been going better lately. A huge part of that has been being able to go out and exercise. It was a big realization for me. I’ve never considered myself an athletic person. I still don’t. But to my surprise, I felt like going out and exercise renewed my will to get to the end of the week. I think a lot of people can relate to this. Because every day in lockdown kind of became the same. You’re just waiting for it to be over. And now there was something to look forward to. 

Exercising was the first thing I got back from my ‘old’ life before lockdown. It gave me a sense of getting somewhere, of progress. That feeling was lost in me for the greater part of 2020 and 2021. And when that one thing fell back into place and so did the rest. I feel better physically and mentally too. I feel more energized and social. I feel like going outside and doing things. It has been such a revelation for me. I really didn’t know that being able to work out would make such a difference for me, but somehow it did. “


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