Young adult carer Kirsty tells us about life as a young carer and the #CareForMeToo campaign.

In my role as a MindMate Ambassador, one particular area of work that I have focused on is the mental health of young carers and young adult carers in Leeds. Today, the 31st January 2019 is Young Carers Awareness Day. This year, to raise awareness of young carers, the Carers Trust are running the #CareForMeToo campaign which focuses on the mental health of young carers. You can find out more information about the campaign here on the Carers Trust website.

Young Carers/Young Adult Carers and mental health:

If I was to say that I didn’t suffer with mental health then that would be a lie. Truth is, we all have mental health issues and there has been times throughout my teenage years and mid 20’s in which my mental health deteriorated.

As a young adult carer, caring for others when you are trying to look after your own mental health isn’t easy. You become some-what less important and at times I forget to #CareForMeToo, because, instead, I am holding everyone else together. When you have been doing your caring role for a long time, caring for everyone just becomes the norm. I first started being a young carer around 8 years old. I had to grow up very quickly. I didn’t even know I was a carer until age 22. I didn’t know any different or how to look after myself.

At times when my caring role increases or gets more demanding I find myself getting more stressed out, feeling fed up and my mood can drop. It was only last year in a CBT group that I started to learn how to soothe myself which basically means looking after yourself; like a mother soothing a crying baby.

How I have started to soothe myself:

  • Art therapy/journalling – I use a range of materials, paints etc
  • I draw, write, cut and stick
  • Positivity journal – I record my positive achievements throughout the week (I’ve been guilty of letting this slip a lot lately)
  • Reading a book
  • Yoga
  • Fresh bedding, sleep oils and sprays
  • Going shopping and buying myself something (new clothes or stationary)
  • I talk to someone – usually a helpline

People regularly end up telling me to look after myself but at times I am not able to. Sometimes I feel so rubbish and exhausted that it is too difficult to even try to attempt the activities above. Working full time alongside my caring role, at times I don’t feel I have the time or energy to soothe myself and #CareForMeToo. I’ll come home from work and I’ll have to go do the shopping or sort out the bills. If I spend time going to yoga or shopping to soothe myself, my head and heart is often torn in two. I feel guilty for not being at home and feel worse for not making time for myself. My ability to soothe myself has been pretty non-existent lately. Just like my caring role continues so does my mental health.

I was lucky enough to get CBT for my mental health. It was a long fight. A fight to get people to listen to me. Regarding my caring role, mental health professionals have told me that I “just have to deal with it” and “things are never going to change” in relation to my caring role. They don’t care about the effects your caring role has on your mental health. Being a carer and its impact just isn’t acknowledged.

In Leeds we are very lucky to have carer support services for young people up to age 25. If you think you may be a young carer/young adult carer please speak to an adult you trust, someone at school or get in touch with the services below.

Barnardo’s – Willow Young Carers (up to 17 years)

Young adult carer service at Carers Leeds (for 16-25 year olds)

You can also find out more about being a young carer on MindMate here.