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Christine McGuinness opens up about loneliness and missing out on friendships

Christine-McGuinness, who was diagnosed with autism at age 33, says she struggled to make friends as a teenager. (Getty Images)
Christine-McGuinness, who was diagnosed with autism at age 33, says she struggled to make friends as a teenager. (Getty Images)

Christine McGuinness has spoken candidly about struggling with making friends, which led to her feeling lonely for years.

The model and TV personality, 36, reflected on how she found it “extremely scary” to connect with others because of her previous experiences with people who let her down.

McGuinness, who was diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2021 as an adult, told The Times in a new interview that she wants to be more open to making new friends and having new experiences.

She is due to appear in the BBC2 series Pilgrimage: The Road Through North Wales, which launches on Good Friday, 29 March. Through the journey, which McGuinness took with six other personalities, the mum-of-three said she learned that "not everyone is bad in the world".

McGuinness has previously spoken about abuse she suffered during her childhood and teenage years. In her 2023 documentary, Unmasking My Autism, she alleged that she was sexually abused from the age of nine to 11 by the same man, and raped when she was 14.

She met her now-ex-husband Paddy McGuinness when she was 19 and he was 33. They married in 2011 and share their children, 10-year-old twins Leo and Penelope, and seven-year-old Felicity, all of whom have also been diagnosed with autism.

Watch: Christine McGuinness says Pilgrimage helped her tackle fear of dying

The Real Housewives of Cheshire star wrote in her autobiography A Beautiful Nightmare that she spent large amounts of time during her marriage to Paddy staying at home by herself.

“"I didn’t have a hen party as I didn’t have any friends," she wrote. "I was so lonely I actually thought if it was my funeral, no one would come."

But since becoming an activist for autism and separating amicably from Paddy in 2022, McGuinness said she no longer wants to "just exist anymore".

"I don’t want to just stay safe," she told the publication. "I want to live… it is almost like a rebirth."

McGuinness praised the pilgrimage with helping her open up to others. "I thought people would think I was really odd because of the things I ate or said, but the cast members were all incredibly kind.

"It’s taught me that not everyone is bad in the world. I used to find the unknown really scary, and I still do find it extremely scary not knowing what life’s going to bring," she said.

"So I’m trying to turn that feeling into excitement instead of fear."

Pilgrimage: The Road Through North Wales,29-03-2024,Announcement,Christine McGuinness, Eshaan Akbar, Sonali Shah, Tom Rosenthal, Michaela Strachan, Spencer Matthews, Amanda Lovett ,CTVC,TBC
Christine McGuinness will appear on Pilgrimage: The Road Through North Wales on BB2, launching on Friday 29 March. (BBC)

She continued: "Those years I missed out on friendships, I thought I was fine. I didn’t realise how sad and lonely I was. It’s only recently, as I’ve been doing more, I’m like, ‘Wow, there’s a whole life to live out there that I didn’t know existed’ because I very much stayed at home’."

McGuinness often speaks out about her experiences as an autistic woman who did not know about her condition until she was 33 years old.

Last year, in her BBC documentary, she revealed: "When I was younger, I really struggled at school, I struggled to make friends to socialise, and to fit in, it was at home I always felt the most comfortable."

She left school at age 14 because she "couldn’t cope in certain situations", she told Heart’s Dirty Mother Pukka podcast. "No one understood that I didn’t understand what the problem was. But even though I had family around, my mum, I absolutely loved my mum so much, she had absolutely no idea that that’s how I felt."

Speaking to Yahoo UK recently, she said: "Since my diagnosis, it's really made me want to just get out there and grab opportunities with both hands. I want to say yes to more things that I would always say no to in the past, because I find socialising quite awkward.

"I don’t really like being pushed out of my comfort zone, but I’m realising more and more that I want to live, I want to do more things, I want to have good memories, I want to make friends, I want to learn more about other people, and the only way I can do that is by pushing myself a bit."

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