Loneliness, like many of the negative emotions we experience as neurodivergent people, is not specific to us. Loneliness (not to be confused with the act of simply being alone, which can be a wonderfully positive experience) can occur for a multitude of reasons. Sadly, autistic people are in one of the many groups that are particularly vulnerable to it.

This can be for a multitude of reasons, including the following:

Feeling different and/or being made to feel like an outsider.

Anxiousness about social interaction.

Sensory overload that makes moving around in our bright, fast and noisy world so painful for many of us.

Rejection sensitivity preventing us from reaching out to people.

The exhaustion involved with masking.

Co-occurring conditions impacting our physical and mental health.

Lack of access to paid employment and education.

And so many more. Every day is a challenge for many autistics and ADHDers. Loneliness is hardly surprising when we look back through this list.

This is why finding our communities is so important. Huge numbers of neurodivergent people find these communities online, often never to meet these people in the flesh. What does that matter? It doesn’t! Making connections is what matters, finding commonalities, mutual understanding – just that feeling of being amongst people who get it.

I set up a Community Cafe for those experiencing loneliness (me included) in my local area during lockdown, after I responded to an appeal to run one by our local council. It was a really difficult challenge because the people I was trying to reach were so isolated, they weren’t on social media, they weren’t in online communities, they didn’t have connections with others. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it worked, little by little and with a lot of plugging and patience. Now that lockdown is over, the Cafe continues to thrive in the real world – in our local community centre. It’s aim is the same – to give people a sense of community. I don’t go because I hate the pressure of regular clubs, and I have nothing in common with any of them (sweeping statement of the year) but I hear they all have a very nice time!

What do we take from this, as neurodivergent people? We need to find our tribe! Even if we are the most private, self-contained individuals, just knowing our gang is out there to tap into when we want to, is a great comfort.

And here’s a link to the NAS website with advice on combating loneliness