Like most life trials, Caring is a responsibility that arrives without a manual, the gift of hindsight or any kind of hand to help you up from it’s shitty pitfalls. Although I’ve learned some of my most valuable lessons from my plethora of sensational fuck-ups, I often look back on my experience as a Carer and think about how my life could have been easier had I known the right questions to ask, who to talk to and how to find out what help was available to me.
I have a list longer than my gangly arm of things I wish I could teleport into my 16-22 year old mind, from the old adage of “It gets better” to “Because of everything you’re doing now, you’ll be invited to Downing Street. Despite stealing some soap, you get invited back a few years later. Take a bigger bag…”
This A-Z series is a culmination of my experiences, inappropriate anecdotes and retrospective hints and tips for dealing with common perils faced by Carers. So let’s learn our ABC’s!
A is for:
John Donne said that ‘No man is an island’ but an inherent part of Caring is the aching loneliness- a feeling that you’re completely isolated , ostracised and have broken away from society’s norms. Although I always preferred to handle practical responsibilities alone emotionally I felt like Wilson from Castaway; bobbing through the sea life without sense of purpose or direction whilst my mum manically, and often through thick tears, shouted my name from the top of the stairs: “Amy! Amyyy!” Usually followed by information of a Stroke related toileting accident: “There’s poo on the floor and I think it might be mine…”
Support for Carers can be found in so many places, whether it’s in online groups and forums or even on the shoulder of a friend. You’d be surprised at how responsive and understanding friends can be once you’re honest with them about how much you’re struggling. Just invite them onto your island…
Anger is a huge emotion to deal with for anybody, let alone being coupled with the stress of a Caring role. I found that any anger I experienced as a Carer was bred from resentment. I’ve never resented my mum or Katie, merely the situation I found myself in. Becoming a Carer isn’t a conscious decision; I fell into my role aged 16 with no warning. The anger I felt at this point was directed primarily towards my estranged family; they were fully aware of the situation I was in yet were never forthcoming with any assistance. I resented them for enjoying their lives and felt angry because I was alone, coping with issues that were seemingly beyond my tender years. These pangs never lasted long though. With a strong, single mother as my role model, I quickly learned to harness any acrimonious feelings and turn them into a raw determination to be the best damn Carer I could be.
I can’t give advice on how to handle your emotions because they’re exclusive to you, but I think the most important piece of information I can impart is that you must never feel like you have to justify your mindset. Never feel guilty for feeling angry; shit happens, swearing helps…
A Carers Assessment is as important to a Carer as attention is to a Kardashian; it’s needed and sometimes we’ve had to force people to give it to us. My town’s council tends to lavish importance on providing us with an over-abundance of fountains so needless to say I was never offered one, but the 2014 Care Act states that, providing you meet the relevant criteria, it is now a legal requirement. If you haven’t yet been provided with one by Social Services, download Carers UK’s handy factsheet, call your local council and demand to be assessed. They should oblige but if not, make like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar: “Stop breaking the law, asshole!”*
*I wouldn’t actually recommend saying this, but if we’re taking the Lawyer movie angle, I’m all for sticking ‘em with the Bend and Snap from Legally Blonde. “Works every time…”