Kerrie answers some questions about loneliness for the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission.
Have you ever felt lonely?
Yes, I get lonely sometimes. It's a difficult balance for me between liking to be by myself sometimes and getting lonely if I'm alone too much. I guess it gets complicated when I am lonely but feel I can't socialize.
What is a situation where you have felt lonely?
I feel very lonely at home. I don't live with my mum and instead stay in a hostel. There are staff, which means I have other people to talk to but I struggle to initial casual conversations with them.
I also can't talk to most of the other residents as they're sometimes mean. I'm not sure whether this is due to them not understanding me (which happens sometimes. I try to socialize but I struggle. They then think I don't like them and get angry.), or whether we just don't get along.
How this is connected to your autism?
As far as I'm aware, everyone experiences loneliness sometimes. I think autism makes it different because of the social difficulties it can sometime come with. I can't speak on for anyone else but for me, personally, I struggle with socializing a lot. I can only read a few facial expressions and mostly just with people I've known for a while. I also struggle with knowing what to say and continuing on conversations, as well as initiating new ones. There are other things that connect my autism to my loneliness but these are a few.
What's the difference between being lonely and alone?
I spend a fair amount of time alone in my room but I'm not often lonely there. When I feel safe, I am perfectly content by myself. I also go out by myself sometimes, where there are other people but they're strangers. I don't think this counts as being alone. I think of being lonely as when I crave company but this is barely ever fixed by being near strangers (they often scare me).
If I'm lonely I need to be with a friendly person in order to feel better, like mum or someone I am familiar with. I am more likely- though not always- to experience loneliness when I'm around other people, who I don't get on with, don't know or don't know much.
What impact has being lonely had on you?
In the short-term, being lonely makes my tummy hurt and makes me feel empty inside, which isn't nice (it's close to sadness, feeling empty. I describe feeling happy as 'having a warm happy kitty living in my tummy' so feeling empty is kind of the opposite). I usually either spend time around a friendly person or distract myself until I can, to try and cope with it.
In the longer-term, I think being lonely so much contributed in my low mood/depression. I try to spend time with people each day (like my mum or my tutor or hostel staff), even if I'm not actually lonely so I'm not alone all the time. Like I mentioned before, I like being alone but I don't like feeling lonely so I try to avoid that feeling.
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