Today is Young Carers Awareness day 2017 – run by Carers Trust to raise awareness of the 700,000 young people (some as young as 5) looking after family members/friends in the UK. This years’ theme is ‘When I Grow Up’ so I’ve shared some of my thoughts from that time in my life, and what I’ve actually grown up to do.
When I was 14, I was a member of the UK Youth Parliament. I represented the young people of Bristol on a national platform, attended meetings, and took part in campaigns to let the government know what young people wanted. I met MPs, Ministers, and even the Prime Minister. I must have come across as pretty confident. To be able to stand up in meetings with hundreds of people and talk about issues like bullying, votes at 16 and sex education took a lot of guts.
However behind that was a very different story. I was waging a war inside my head, picked on in school and with a home life that wasn’t exactly easy either. My Mum was ill, eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and I had become a young carer. At school every day I was miserable, and at home I had to run the household because she couldn’t.
All around me people were thinking about what they wanted to be when they grew up, starting to make plans for the GCSEs, A Levels, and Degree courses they would do in the next few years. I was just trying to imagine getting through the day so I could crawl into my futon in front of the telly and pass out. I didn’t really know what the future would bring, and though I had ideas about being an actress or a writer, I didn’t really think they could ever happen. Growing up just meant more scary things; more paying the bills, feeding myself, and deep down I thought I would always be alone too. When you’re 16 staying in a flat on a rough estate by yourself, unable to sleep because you’re so scared and lonely, it’s difficult to imagine a life that you’ve never known.
Fast forward to today, and things have changed a lot. I’m 25 now, and living in London. I went to University here, graduated with a 2:1 in creative writing, and did lots of exciting work and volunteering along the way. I may have given up my dreams of acting (I was never very good!) but I’m now communications coordinator at a students’ union, using my writing and digital skills to support the work we do and connect with students. I’m also working towards becoming a real, published author!
Sadly my Mum passed away 4 years ago, but I know she was proud of the young woman I fought to become. I’ve travelled the country for work, took part in conferences and events in the youth sector, was assistant editor of my uni magazine for a year, and stood up in front of 750 people to tell them about my story.
When I was younger I wanted to be happy when I grew up. I wanted to have a ‘normal’ life, and be able to make my own decisions. What I’ve learnt is that despite being ill my Mum still wanted me to go and follow my dreams. That ‘normal’ doesn’t exist, and that you can build your life up despite a difficult start, even because of it.
If you are struggling, feeling like you will never grow up to achieve your dreams, that life is too difficult and you were not made to win, I promise things will get better. Dreams can come true, and life has a way of going in directions that might even be further than your wildest dreams!
If you’re affected by any of the issues I’ve mentioned you can find great resources and support from Carers Trust.