Loneliness and chronic illness can be difficult for everyone. Whether you’re a child, teen, young adult and so on. It comes in all shapes and sizes. I’m Rosie, Youth Talk’s Fundraising and Communications Assistant who is really enjoying working at this amazing charity on the Government Kickstart Scheme.
Today I’m going to be talking about living with a chronic illness and the loneliness that comes with it, from my own experiences.
Before being diagnosed, I felt very lost. I was very unwell and had no idea why, I had to stop hanging out with friends, going out with family, even going to school at the time was too difficult. I got called lazy, attention seeking and told I was “just skipping school”. Although that was hard, it actually got much harder and lonelier once I got the diagnosis.
I was 15 years old when I got diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS for short), it has a massive impact on all parts of your life and at the time, over 5 years ago now, it wasn’t very well known, even by doctors. During this time, I have had to work against family members that didn’t believe me, losing friends who didn’t want to deal with someone who was ill, and losing out on my teenage years due to not being able to really leave my house. This made me feel isolated, alone, anxious and depressed.
My school years were hard, having to miss out on so much, but the worst for me was when I went to University. I decided to go during the pandemic, that in itself was hard. I saw a lot of people struggling with loneliness, as a whole, our year was confined to our accommodation and that’s not good for anyone. University and chronic illness have always been a worry of mine but when I went, I was in a good place and thought “this will be great!”. It was until it wasn’t. I became unwell, stopped being able to make it into university, then I wasn’t able to go to the shops, wasn’t able to leave my room or get out of bed. I became stuck between four walls of a tiny box room.
That’s when my own flat mates stopped talking to me, stopped acknowledging my existence, didn’t believe that I was unwell, even though they could see it. This caused my mental health to deteriorate, I would get so anxious, I couldn’t be in my own kitchen. Leaving my room became something I would dread. I watched people who acted nice and friendly when I was able to join in, become people I didn’t know or would want to know. As things started to open up, I watched them all leave, go out and enjoy themselves, wishing I could do that too.
Now I’ve gone on about how hard it was, but I’m now home and able to hang out with real friends, who have stuck by me. I’m also enjoying working at Youth Talk, my role is primarily home based which helps me to manage my POTS, the team been really supportive, kind, caring and fun to work with.
Over the years, I’ve had people help me learn and develop coping strategies. The main one for me was getting myself out of the bad situation I was in. I got brought home from Uni, to where my support was. I found my safe space where I could talk and surrounded myself with people I know cared and wanted to help me. With a chronic illness, one of T H E most important ones, is congratulating every little win, even if that’s just getting out of bed.
If you or any 13 – 25 year olds who live, work or study in the St Albans District are struggling with loneliness and don’t feel you’ve anyone to turn to, our experienced, professional counsellors are here to help. https://youthtalk.org.uk/help-for-you/