My Life As A Young Carer
- Frances Acquaah
There are 178,000 young people under 18 that have caring responsibilities. Barnardos defines a young carer as children who help look after a member of the family who is sick, disabled or has health problems this also includes misusing drugs and alcohol. 17-year-old Christopher is one of the 178,000
One of my earliest memories was coming home one day and not being able to open the back door. I was trying to push it and I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t opening. When I looked through the window, I saw my mum lying there on the floor. She seemed unconscious. It’s not the best but it’s the one I remember most vividly. I want to say I was eight but it sounds so young. I think I was about nine or ten.
My mum was in a car accident and her injuries kept getting worse. She was diagnosed with a degenerative disease called Fibromyalgia which is kind of like MS. I’ve been taking care of her since I was six years old. It’s meant I’ve had to do a lot of growing up quite quickly.
My day-to-day routine would be waking up very early to help my mum out of bed, then helping her up and down the stairs. I’d let the dogs out and take them out for a walk do the washing up, and then make breakfast. I would go to school and then it would be same thing all over again when I got home.
I was bullied in primary school so I hated it. I would change schools a lot. I would always complain to my mum and she would move me. I wasn’t ever interested in my education to be honest. I got decent grades but I never really bothered to try, I was just more focused on trying to care for my mum. My teachers called it “coasting” – they said I was coasting through education.
”I was on my own and nobody really understood my situation; I barely understood my situation – it was very painful.”
I think its because young carers tend to have more introverted personalities and when you have an introverted personality it’s easier for you to become a target. I use to come home and tell my mum I wanted to move to a different school all the time. My mum realised there was a pattern and eventually she stopped moving me around.
When I was younger it felt really lonely, obviously because you’re being bullied, but when you’re with people it’s kind of different. It’s like you can share the pain. I was on my own and nobody really understood my situation; I barely understood my situation – it was very painful.
Right now my priority is mainly college because of exams. My parents decided it was time I focused on my education so I moved to London in September to live with my dad. I still care for my mum during the weekends. The main difference about living in London is that there is a lot more food in the house. When I was in Cardiff there was never really any food in the house because of financial issues. Living with my dad is teaching me how to become a man.
I’m used to a lot of change. The first time my mum’s disability was initially explained to me I believed she was going to be dying in a few years so I was always thinking in the back of my mind my mum could be going soon and I should get ready for that. I say it casually now but little things stop bothering you after a while.
There’s not a lot that bothers you because you’re always thinking about the things that are so much worse. You get used to bad things happening. So moving around a lot never seemed like a big issue.
When you’re a young carer it can feel very lonely so it’s important to know that you’re not the only one out there. Having support groups to share your issues with it can make it easier for you…they say a problem shared is a problem halved.
As told to Frances Acquaah