I’ve experienced loneliness, but thanks to a buddying scheme I feel less isolated

Saihan lives in East London and has autism. He campaigns for more understanding and support for people with disabilities.

My name is Saihan, I’m 17, and I was diagnosed with autism when I was young.

My experience of loneliness is continuous still to this day. I’ve been struggling with loneliness and isolation since long before the pandemic. Even before this pandemic, I’ve always stayed at home just watching TV and doing schoolwork.

I always sat alone

When I was at my old school, I always sat alone during break and lunchtime. I was just on the computer look for something to do and playing games. Games were blocked and finding fun things to do was impossible.

Even in my lessons, I would sit alone. When there was partner work, no one would want to work with me. Therefore, I would just do it by myself. I lost confidence in myself and was always being belittled. When there was group work, I would always be isolated and just hovering.

One time, my former peers just kept me with them and didn’t tell me to go away because they would get into trouble. Even though I was with them they excluded me from participation. People used to run away from me. It’s not good but it’s life. I accepted it a long time ago.

The only thing I find fun is doing schoolwork, learning and eating food. Every day, I always check my emails just in case there are any opportunities or things today.

Lockdown was isolating and scary

When the lockdown started to take effect, I found the whole thing quite isolating and scary. Usually, where there are things that make me anxious, I can go to my mental health sessions and I feel a lot better. When these stopped, I became even more worried.

My sessions with the Sense Buddying team were so important for me to get out and do different activities. When all of that stopped due to the pandemic, my buddy, Maria, came up with brilliant ways for us to still have sessions.

My buddy was someone to talk to outside of my family

Instead of arranging trips out, we started to arrange video chats. When we learned how to share a screen, we started holding our own movie sessions too. I’m interested in politics and history, so I really enjoyed The Kings Speech.

Having a volunteer buddy is really important to me. Maria is someone that I can talk to outside of my family which is really nice when I’m feeling anxious. She’s always really kind and helpful. Also, I learn a lot with her. If it wasn’t for my buddy, I wouldn’t know much about Dunkirk or the Ottomans! I still get worried about things from time to time but Maria helps me take my mind off things.

When this is all over, there are lots of things that I’m looking forward to doing. Seeing Maria for our sessions is definitely high on my list but I really want to go back and see everyone at the Sense office in London. Sense volunteers have helped me so much and I really want to volunteer my time too and help other people.

Having a Sense volunteer buddy has been so important for me, especially now, since some of my other services have had to stop. Thank you Maria, and all the other Sense Buddies out there for all your hard work and dedication!

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