Written by Dmytro H.
Editted by Vosot Ikeida
I am a hikikomori in Ukraine, 30 years old now.
From now, I am going to tell you how I became one and I am living in the country where a war is going on. Looking back at the past, it always seems so ridiculous and is not just like a fictional novel or movie. Sometimes I doubt all these things actually happened to me.
It will be a long story, so it will be divided into a few chapters and published as a series. I would be happy if you read all through till the end.
I was very energetic, curious, and naughty in my childhood. However, my parents never found or supported my inspirations or interests, but only scolded me for "mischief", sometimes very harshly. My father used corporal punishment often.
I didn't attend kindergarten. I was very close friends with my cousin sister, to the point where I asserted that I would "marry" her when I grew up. However, I had very few friends in school or in the neighborhood.
After completing 1.5 years of elementary school, my family moved to another city, which further alienated me from other children. The choice of middle/high school specialization was made by my parents without considering my personal interests or aspirations. At that time, I was too young to have a clear idea of what I wanted to pursue after school.
I had no friends during middle/high school and experienced constant bullying. I had no one to protect me, and I never spoke about it or fought back. I endured the bullying. Two years before finishing school, I finally found a "true" friend, or so I thought. It was more of a pact we made to avoid individual bullying. After this, the bullying mostly stopped. However, it turned out that this "friend" was morally a terrible person. This friendship eventually led me to perform poorly in my studies, resulting in almost the worst possible grades. I started skipping classes as well. At one point, my "friend" even stole a classmate's mobile phone, making me an unwilling accomplice to the crime because I couldn't betray my "true friend." After all, you're not supposed to betray your "true friends," right?
The "true friend" ended up transferring to a different school before the start of the second-to-last year of high school. I completely cut ties with him. Once again, I had no friends, but at this point, I didn't experience much bullying because everyone was more or less "grown up."
During my middle/high school years, I developed crushes on four different classmates, but I never made any moves to express my feelings due to being too shy. The fifth crush was an outsider girl from a family friends' family, but these crushes had been mostly platonic.
Before the last two years of school, I went on a trip to London with the fifth girl I liked and some other randomly selected students from across the country. My expectations were to have a honeymoon-like experience with my "future wife." However, reality was quite the opposite. I faced the most intense and horrible bullying ever, inflicted by my roommates, surpassing even the experiences of middle/high school. My attempts to express my feelings to my crush were met with absolute rejection, while she showed clear disinterest in me. She actually hung out with my bullies for most of her time.
Also I was experiencing a cultural shock from spending two weeks in a completely foreign environment and being away from my parents for the first time in my life. There was a spoon of honey in a barrel of tar – a pleasant experience from the trip itself and a few adequate and good kids. I managed to befriend a bit, near the very end of the trip.
The final two years of high school were eventful. I developed a strong desire for knowledge purely for the sake of it, without any practical purpose. I improved in almost all subjects and surprisingly ranked third in the class's grade rating list, much to the confusion of the teachers.
During this period, I experienced my last two "loves." The last one was a roller coaster ride and the most devastating. It was the first time I had something resembling a "date," a relatively private conversation of around 10-20 minutes where we discussed our interests and such.
I had entertained the idea of asking her to go out for the prom together, but I lacked the confidence to do so and decided not to participate in the dance nonsense. Then, to my surprise, SHE invited me to the prom waltz dance. She went ahead and asked me herself. What a plot twist. It was kind of an embarrassing situation, as I was supposed to be "manly".
At the prom, the dance and everything went relatively well. Then I got extremely disgusted when everybody consumed C2H5OH poison, which is the way I refer to a substance more commonly known as alcohol, after the party. When I saw the video footage of myself dancing, I realized I looked so awkward, frustrated, and depressed. I had, and still have, bad posture.
The girl went on to study at a different university in the same city as me: Kyiv, and I never saw her again, except for the occasional conversations on Facebook chat. There was a moment when she clearly hinted at going to the theater together, which was again, her initiative, but I was either too dense or too afraid to notice it at the time, and I realized it only years later while reading back conversations.
I am sure so many people, especially men, have a kind of fantasy to set a splendid goal of life, which all the humans in this world respect or even worship you for, while being young. So I did. At the university, I was thinking of becoming a "genius inventor" and starting a company that would manufacture my "inventions”, just like Jimmy Neutron or Lewis from Meet the Robinsons, which I was an avid fan of.
Based on this idea, I made a tragically flawed university choice: economics, just because of the popularity of this career in society and my fantasy of creating an “invention company”. Also I really didn’t want to go my family’s traditional law oriented career route.
This choice resulted in almost total alienation from other students in all 4 years of study, not having any friends, not visiting any places of interest in the capital city. Living there, it was very tough for me to share a pretty small room in the dormitory too.
In the last year of university, my parents managed to rent a flat for me. At that point I became totally disillusioned in my childhood fantasies, while realizing that I ruined all my future existence with stupid choices.
This was the first time I turned into hardcore, extreme hikikomori. I didn’t visit the university at all, didn’t answer any phone calls, even from parents, and only consumed junk food like chips, frozen pizza, soda, or croutons. I was just escaping into movies and videogames all day. This continued for 1-2 months and almost resulted in me being expelled from the university.
My parents visited me in person. I got physically assaulted by Dad, my main powerful notebook PC was confiscated, and Mom stayed to oversee me. They forced me to finish the university, with some bribery and outsourcing of my graduate "science" work. Somehow this worked and I could “finish” my university. I was given the paper: degree certificate, which is useless and I have never used since. Then I left the capital city, and returned to my hometown Kherson.
I was then coerced into completing an additional 2 years of study to obtain a master's degree. This time, I enrolled in a local university, studying through extramural mode. It seemed that I gained some attention from female students, but by this point, I had become disillusioned by all my previous "adventures." From that time until now, I remain convinced that "love" does not exist and is merely a fabricated, abstract concept found in fictional stories.
After finishing this degree, I reverted to being hikikomori again, now free from any real obligations. I mostly just played games, watched YouTube, movies, and anime. I also accidentally met a guy from Spain on Steam, who wasn’t as social or hikikomori as me, but still a fellow NEET at that time. We played many co-op games together and I still keep contact with him today. I guess he is my only, albeit “virtual”, friend.
At one point I got encouraged by my parents to get a driving license, even though not really wanting to have a car or having money to maintain it. Due to some strange condition, I lost consciousness while a medical professional was giving a lecture about emergency injuries treatment during car crashes. I just imagined all the stuff too vividly. Of course to the great embarrassment of the full class of students watching. I still managed to pass the tests in the end. I drove the family car for a while, but I eventually grew tired of it because my father would give driving instructions from the back seat so aggressively. As a result, I stopped driving. And I have lost all driving skills and traffic rules knowledge by now.
Job and Socialization
Then my father's 50th anniversary party came along. This event itself brought a great deal of shock to me, but nobody really told me to "get a hold of myself" or anything like that.
I hastily made plans to socialize and to find a job. My socialization plan involved joining the local "Anime Fans' club." I expected it to be like the typical anime club portrayed in animations, where a lonely protagonist finds a cute, introverted "soulmate" and connects with other like-minded individuals who share their interests.
However, the reality was quite different. Everybody in the club turned out to be extremely social and outgoing, not particularly interested in anime or any of my other interests. They mostly focused on social games and activities. In my desperation to arrive on time for the club, I ended up severely breaking my leg while chasing a departing bus. As a result, my attempts at socializing turned into a complete disaster.
After this, I focused on trying to improve my skills. Computers had always fascinated me since my childhood, and I became a huge fanatic. Since I had accepted the fact that I would never be able to effectively communicate with humans, I decided to focus on learning how to communicate with computers instead. I learned C++ programming language by myself via various free online tutorials and by making many small custom programs. I even created my own custom game engine, but It didn’t progress much beyond basic experimentation since I couldn't come up with a compelling and innovative game idea.
After about a year of this self-study I found a job position for "Junior C++ programmer". This was pretty strange and rare for our small city, so I applied and somehow was accepted. At first, everything went pretty smoothly. I couldn’t actually believe that I was able to function amongst other human beings and fulfill my tasks. However, as time passed, the situation got worse and worse. The number of people in our relatively small "open office" grew from 5 to 9. Most of my colleagues were engaged or married and often boasted about their relationships. One of the women was always giving me way too much attention and was constantly trying to "drag me out of my shell", to “socialize” me.
The company regularly organized large parties disguised as "team building events" where they often consumed much C2H5OH. These events were mandatory and not attending them would be punished the same as not coming to regular work without medical leave. On top of all this, the payment I received was "under the table" and provided only in cash put in envelopes, to evade government salary taxes. The company's primary source of income came from Japanese individuals' gambling addiction in currency trading speculation. The program I was assisting in developing was a trading simulator, and most of our customers were from Japan. It wasn’t direct trading, but I still felt pretty bad about being a part of this, of potentially hooking people on an illusion of "legitimate" easy money-making.
So, after a year, when I had mostly finished the big project I was a part of, I made a decision to quit this job, before I went completely mad by all the social events and other nasty stuff.
The Enemy Broke My Hardcore Hikikomori Days
Thus, I had escaped into the virtual worlds and I made myself isolated from the outside completely for two and half years. This was probably the happiest time for me. I had much money - although, “dirty”- saved up, I was able to not feel any worries or depression, assemble very powerful gaming PCs, to engage in escapism freely, to make custom mods for the PC to make cooling more efficient, etc.
Then, suddenly, an unexpected event unfolded. The Titans… Oh no, that’s a wrong story. Suddenly, the Russians attacked us!
The Russian Armed Forces came over to Kherson on 24 February 2022 from their base in Russian-occupied Crimea, which is located in the south-east of our city.
In the middle of my blissful escape from reality, I suddenly found myself in the middle of an actual warzone. The funny thing is that it was while I was playing some WWII and other shooter games, the actual gunfire was heard from outside of my room’s window.
My hometown Kherson became a significant battleground against the invaders. We were living in a private residential area of the city, so we were constantly forced to seek refuge in the cold and damp cellar to shield ourselves from bombs, rockets, and mortar fire. Fortunately, nothing struck close to our vicinity, but intense battles and explosions raged just two kilometers away.
On 2 March, our city quickly fell under enemy control as supply lines were severed, leading to depleting provisions in local stores. We had a real fear of facing hunger. Water and electricity became major issues. Later, there were threats of forced “conscription” into the Russian army, using civilians as cannon fodder.
Because of this, our family decided to take a huge risk and evacuate from the city and try to reach free Ukrainian territory. There were no "green corridors" guaranteed by both sides; only unofficial evacuation routes through the dangerous "no man's land" without any assurances.
…Continued to Chapter 2