I'm 22 and have a learning disability. I suffer with anxiety which means that going out makes me really tense and scared. It means that I find it hard to go out by myself, or go to new places, or even be at home by myself. As I've grown up, my anxieties have become worse and worse, and I feel more and more isolated. I struggle to go out, and my parents have stopped going out as well because I don't like being on my own.
I wasn't surprised then when I heard that three quarters of young disabled people say they feel lonely.
I've had some really difficult situations which have just meant that going out isn't an option for me. A couple of years ago, I was on the bus home from college. I was wearing hearing aids and I was still getting used to them. A bunch of kids were nearby and being really noisy. I started crying because it made me feel really anxious. I stopped going to college after that. Last year was really tough. My mum and dad even took time off from work to stay with me because I hate being in the house by myself.
At the moment, I go out about two times a week. I would like to go out more but my anxiety stops me. Mencap research found that 1 in 3 young people with a learning disability spend less than 1 hour outside of their home on a typical Saturday. That doesn't surprise me.
I don't spend any time at all outside of my home on a Saturday and I know there are other people with a learning disability who find it even harder than I do to get out and about. I have friends who struggle to get out. They all have different needs but they all find it hard to socialise. I struggle to meet new people and when I have to do this it makes me really nervous and anxious.
When I'm at home by myself, I get really sad and lonely. I don't have anyone to talk to other than myself or my dog, Sherry. I don't think that it should be like that. There should be more opportunities for people with a learning disability to get out and about. There should be more clubs for people with a learning disability. There should be more people there to help people to get out and about and when we do go out people shouldn't feel awkward around us.
The general public needs to be more welcoming. They need to be more understanding of hidden disability. Sometimes people say to me, 'oh you don't look like you have a disability', and question if I'm lying. That makes me angry and annoyed. Just because my disability is a hidden one doesn't mean I don't experience the world in a different way. I think the general public need to be more understanding of what a learning disability is and how it can affect people. Without this people can remain locked in their own homes away from their communities for no other reason than they were born with a disability. Just small changes in how we act can make a big difference.