In her new blog for the PHA UK, 21-year-old Raya Mynot reflects on navigating friendships through illness and lockdowns.

Since leaving school and college I’ve had so many friends come and go. Friendships come and go throughout everyone’s life, but I have definitely found that making friends was never my strong point.

I have always been really shy and was always worried about being judged by other people. Once I left school and college, I lost a lot of friends. This was mainly due to the covid lockdown as I had to shield and they just never really understood. Looking back now they actually weren’t very nice friends.

Of course, not being in school or college made making friends a lot more difficult. However due to having a social media account for my rescue hamsters during lockdown, it meant I had a few online friends that I really enjoyed talking to.

Unfortunately, a lot of them lived too far away so meeting was never possible. After the lockdown I also had quite bad social anxiety and hated talking to people in person. It took me a long time to even want to leave the house and do things other than pop to the shops.

Social media has really helped me to gain more confidence talking to people and it is also something that I really enjoy. When I did make friends through my social media channels I was very wary of telling them about my PH in fear they would judge me just like people did in school.

However, one day I took the plunge and actually posted it on my Instagram story. All of my followers were incredibly supportive, and it felt amazing to not have a secret anymore.

Everyone just wanted to learn and understand. It was just so refreshing to have such a positive reaction.

I also think age played a big factor. Most of followers were my age and had left school so I think maturity levels were just a lot higher in general. I was no longer worried about being judged and my whole view on making friends had just completely changed.

I think In school it’s just such a pressurised environment and everyone is very focused on how they look and keeping up with the latest trends.

I’ve made so many new friends through just having the same hobbies and interests. I have enjoyed making friends way more as an adult then I ever did in school.

Now let me introduce you to Charlie. This person has become an incredibly special person to me. We met through my Instagram account for my hamsters as they had hamsters too.

We have been friends since the very beginning of lockdown. We were in a big group chat together and would talk every day. Now they are just one person I could never live without.

Charlie has also not had an easy ride through life, so we were able to really relate to each other in a lot of things. They just ‘get me’. They understand and even if they didn’t, they’d still do their upmost to be there for me.

We love talking all things hamsters, horses, and Grey’s Anatomy. We just have so much in common, it’s crazy! Charlie is just the most down to earth, amazing human being I’ve ever met. They have never once judged me or my PH and I’m always truly grateful.

They also don’t  live too far away so we get to see each other pretty often, which is so lovely. Our mums love catching up with each other too! I will never be able to thank Charlie enough for just being the most amazing friend. I also know they will be reading this, so Charlie, thank you for everything. I love you so much!