Iona’s story- Mental Health Awareness week 2022 and overcoming loneliness
"I don’t recognise myself from back then. When I was in my late teens loneliness and depression took over."
“I experienced an intense period of loneliness and poor mental health after leaving school. I didn’t really leave the house. It affected my mental health badly, and isolation made things worse. It can be difficult to break the cycle. I knew I needed to change things but you can’t because you feel so bad and so you leave the house less and less and end up feeling worse. Things just spiral.
I was diagnosed as autistic when I was 19 and I find it impossible to separate this from my loneliness. I was really depressed before I got my diagnosis. I felt terrible. I got to the point where I did want to end my life – I was so low and didn’t see there was any hope for change.
Going outside of your comfort zone is really important. It’s hard but starting with small things can help. So I decided to start volunteering and signed up to the Saltire Awards, a scheme in Scotland where you can volunteer with different charities.
Volunteering made me feel like I was contributing something meaningful, and people recognised my skills and encouraged me. It really helped. I got to go to social events too! It really did change my life in lots of ways. I don’t recognise myself from back then. When I was in my late teens loneliness and depression took over. I just feel like an entirely different person today.
It’s important to find balance. If you are someone who likes solitude, giving yourself space for that is important as you start to build new connections and relationships.
I like my own company to decompress. Being autistic means I get quite overwhelmed with sensory things and sometimes I need to have time to be alone or just have a day at home.
A lot of autistic young people end up feeling isolated. It’s a big problem within our community. If you have problems with socialising or if you’ve been bullied, it can cause people to retreat. It’s important to have time to focus on yourself. Be your own best friend first.”
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