For National Carers Week in October, we are celebrating the wonderful, resilient, brave and hardworking carers who support our community of people living with a disability. In this blog, Christina shares her story about becoming a carer to her own mother at a very young age.
When I was nine years old, my Mum was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. She was put into a psychiatric ward and I was placed into foster care for almost a year. When my Mum was well enough to leave and come home, I became her carer.
It was just Mum and I living together at home as my older brother and sister had moved out. My caring role included looking after the household; cooking, cleaning, paying bills and budgeting. And of course, looking after Mum.
At first, the role was very intense as they attempted to get the right dose of medication, so Mum had many side effects. This meant that I had to feed her, dress her, shower her and do everything for her as she was pretty incapacitated. As the medication became more suited to her, I was in charge of getting her to her appointments, ensuring she took her medication and generally helping her do the things she wanted.
This was before the NDIS was created, so unfortunately there wasn’t as much awareness for mental illness being a disability, and there wasn’t a lot of supports in the community. Being a carer significantly impacted my life, both negatively and positively. I dropped out of school early to look after Mum and started working to provide more income for our family. I grew up very quickly and didn’t experience as much as my friends because I was always looking after Mum.
On the positive side, it significantly strengthened my relationship with my Mum. I was never closer to any other person over that time. We talked about everything and she knew that I was always there for her.
It made me resilient because I have been able to push through any challenge thrown my way. It exposed me to people from all walks of life and gave me empathy and understanding.
It gave me a strong passion for helping people and exposed my genuine enjoyment of budgets and numbers.
Being a carer is the most rewarding and challenging role that a person can have.
Being a carer at such a young age, especially to a parent, comes with its own set of challenges. It’s also a very defining role that starts to form who you are as a person. It takes a person of incredible strength to stand up and take care of another person. I often felt that I had no choice, but I could have left when old enough. I chose not to.
A tough choice
I think it is essential that carers know how important they are, and even though they feel they have no choice, they are making a choice by being there. A tough choice that contains a lot of self-sacrifices.
Carers are strong and brave.
They advocate hard for the people they care for and push through any adversities. A lot of the time, young carers teach themselves how to look after themselves by looking after someone else.
Carers are the greatest resource that we have as a community to ensure that people with disabilities have their needs met and opportunities to improve their situation and strive for their own goals.