Carrie is a young carer and today on our blog, Carrie shares her experience of being a young carer for her mother and how this impacts her day-to-day life.
Anyone with a knowledge of classic western films may be wondering what cowboys have to do with being a young carer. The answer is nothing. To those who have never heard of the film… the answer is still nothing. These are however, the categories I would put my experiences into from my years of being a carer. Having never met another young carer I am not qualified to speak for the experiences of everyone, but it does make me qualified to write about the loneliness of being different from other people my age. The isolation I felt between me and my peers, even my friends. The good, the bad and the ugly.
Before I start talking about the negatives of being a young carer, I want to make it clear that it hasn’t been a part of my life I would change. While I don’t want my Mum to be in pain, the responsibility, the maturity and the empathy that it has nurtured in me has helped to mould the person I am becoming. The maturity and responsibility enabled me to make decisions about my future after we left lockdown. I wasn’t happy in high school. The empathy led me to be a better listener to those I care about and a better daughter to my mother. It also developed a slightly sarcastic and dark sense of humour in me. However, it hasn’t always been plain sailing.
Despite the good elements of being a young carer, feeling separate from my friends and other people my own age had a large impact on my life. From a young age I found that when I spoke about what I was struggling with at home, even my closest friends would feel uncomfortable and get what I called ‘the look’. It made their faces close off and their eyes become distant. People would suddenly have another more important conversation or somewhere else to be. This led me to feel like I had to close off that part of my life to save their feelings while I was still expected to be there to listen to all aspects of their worries. I felt isolated and alone without anyone my own age to talk to about what worried me and some of those worries turned into resentment. I always felt alone at school to a certain extent and there became a ‘Home Carrie’ and a ‘School Carrie’ who grew to have completely different personalities.
However, I can’t just blame others for my own isolation because I think I might be just as responsible. The maturity that has helped make me into me, also meant I struggled to relate to the interests of my classmates. I started to push friends away and became shy and distant from others I didn’t know very well – even cold sometimes. When friends invited me to places, I started lying instead of giving honest answers as to why I couldn’t or wouldn’t join them to try and stop any awkwardness or uncomfortable answers. I was worrying about everything from the exorbitant price of going out with my friends, to the list of things that would be piling up at home and the problems my Mum may have been having while I was off not really enjoying myself. (None of these things I could tell my friends). I started to separate myself so much that I deleted social media accounts so that I would have an excuse for not keeping up with trends. Both lies however only served to push me further away from my friends and further isolate myself. This shouldn’t have been an excuse for some friends to isolate and bully me.
… And Everything In Between
As an only child from a single-parent household, it is hard to say how many of these issues would have still been present in my life. My family setup made me very different from most of my other friends who just found the concept to be strange. Now, when I reflect upon not being able to connect with friends, I find it impossible to know how much of this would be an inevitable characteristic of my personality. However, people have made it very clear to me from a young age that they weren’t willing to accommodate any of the issues I was trying to solve - they were my problem.
I am now more confident in making my own decisions than anyone else I know my own age, but I sometimes wonder if I would trade that in a heartbeat for a chance at the innocence I saw in others and that others never could find in me. I wish my circumstance had never presented themselves, but these were the cards I have been handed. With that in mind, the positives outweigh the negatives for me because now I am able to put myself in a situation where I don’t have to feel isolated. For example, by taking part in Young Scot's Innovators Panel and looking for volunteering opportunities. These are things that allow me to find people more like me while still keeping up with my caring responsibilities.
Help and Support
Young Scot would like to say a big thank you to Carrie for sharing her experience of being a young carer with us.
If you're a young carer in Scotland, know that there is help and support available to you. You might want to take a look at our young carer page packed full of information about being a young carer, what support is available and financial help. If you're 18 or under, you can also sign up for the Young Carers Package for free, this gives you access to exclusive Rewards and Opportunities and new Rewards are added on a regular basis! These include things like digital vouchers, wellbeing boxes and opportunities to enter competitions for prizes such as wireless headphones, family National Trust Membership and so much more!
If you're struggling with your mental health and emotional wellbeing, take a look at our #AyeFeel page which has a range of organisations you can speak to, mindfulness exercises, coping strategies and blogs from other young people. It's really important that you look after your own mental health and emotional wellbeing.
There are also organisations that can support you in your local area and provide you with opportunities to meet other young carers. Take a look at our page on support available to discover what's near you.
If you're interested in volunteering, visit the #YSHive page to see what volunteer opportunities are available with Young Scot.
Young Scot supports young people to share their own voices, views and opinions and works with partner organisations and professionals who are experts in different topics. The views expressed in this blog are those of the young people, organisations and/or individuals who have taken part in the blog, not necessarily the views of Young Scot.