How Befriending Changed My Life

Jane doing art work

In an increasingly digital world it’s often said that we’re more ‘social’ than ever before and, in many ways, this is true. However, it is also true that disconnection, isolation and loneliness are on the rise. Today to mark loneliness week, Jane Bullivant, 25, who shares how Young Start Funded project, Link Befriending transformed her life for the better by helping her to connect when she felt alone in the world.

“For a long time, the only word I felt described me was lost. As a child I struggled to cope with every day things, such as attending classes or even sitting still and so I often felt misunderstood and labeled as a problem. For this reason, High School was an unpleasant experience for me. My anxiety meant I struggled to relate with people my age and by fourteen I was taken out of regular classes with my peers and placed in the Learning Support department. I think that because you couldn’t ‘see’ what was wrong it was hard for them to understand how best to support me and I found this quite difficult. Soon I started to protect myself from the world – distancing and isolating myself from everyone. Around this time, I was self-harming, because I thought it would help me survive my terrifying life.

Everything changed when I got involved with Link Befriending whose approach wasn’t like anything I’d experienced from other services. By this point I wasn’t socialising with my peers and could barely cope going anyplace that wasn’t home, especially at the weekends or evenings. Living on a remote farm in rural fife, with no access to public transport, also gave me less of an incentive to go out. I felt completely alone.

Over four years I had three incredible befrienders; all with different ages, backgrounds and experiences. They didn’t try to change me or make me better, they just accepted me for being me. I really liked was that they weren’t counsellors – they were just normal, supportive, understanding and non-judgmental people who helped which is what I needed most in my life.  Words can describe what that meant.

A monoprint of a flying bird created by Jane

Through working with Link I gained more confidence in myself, learned to trust and more importantly it gave me something to look forward to. I began to feel more comfortable talking to people and learnt how to express my feelings more clearly. I learnt that it was OK to have fun and how to enjoy life again. All this didn’t happen overnight but it was worth it. Everything that I gained from the experience has had a positive impact on my life. I’ve just gained a first-class degree Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design at Dundee University and have been offered a residency. I hope to continue building my career as an artist and am working towards building a foundry at home.  

I have a lot of great memories from my adventures with my befrienders. Even after all this time I get invited to the summer BBQ’s and a yearly summer catch up of what I’ve been up to. Being invited means a lot because it proves to me that I was never just a name or a number on a piece of paper. I was a person worth helping.”

Link Befriending project is based in East Fife and Levenmouth and was recently awarded £87,000 to expand their service to Glenrothes. The group support young people aged 12 – 18, who have experienced social isolation due to mental health issues, by matching them with a befriender. 

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