It was only when I spoke up about it that something started to change.
Growing up as a young carer, I found it hard to balance looking after my disabled brother and finding time for my mental health.
In my home environment, it was difficult to step back and take time for myself. My brother has cerebral palsy, autism and epilepsy, meaning he needs 24/7 care. After my stepdad left, this care was shared between me and my mum. It seemed impossible.
Having divorced parents meant that every other weekend we would stay at my dad's. My mum and stepdad were able to recharge and have the rest they needed. However, I still felt like I was trapped in this cycle of helping my brother out. I couldn’t take the break that everyone else got and this took a toll on my mental health, as well as my education.
I couldn’t take the break that everyone else got.
I was used to helping out and sacrificing my time to look after my brother, but as I got to the stage of doing my GCSE exams, finding the time to look after my brother and do sufficient revision was incredibly difficult to achieve.
As I was quite young, when I started to develop what I know now was anxiety and depression, it got passed off as just hormones and stress of exams. I felt like my feelings were rejected because of my age and no one considered what I felt, making me even more lonely.
It was only when I spoke up about it that something started to change. I became more aware of mental health and that’s when I realised what I might have been suffering from wasn’t hormones but actually mental illness. After being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I learnt what I needed to do to be able to cope better when caring for someone else.
Here are some tips for looking after yourself - because you should always come first:
I learnt what I needed to do to be able to cope better.
Tips for looking after yourself as a young carer
take regular steps back
Give yourself a break to recharge and take time for yourself to do the things you enjoy!
ask for help
Even with regular breaks, when you feel like you are reaching a breaking point, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It can sometimes feel like you are completely alone, but I can assure you, there are people wanting to help you.
look out for yourself
Don’t sacrifice your own mental health for somebody else’s. To be able to help somebody you love, you need to be able to feel well enough in yourself to give your all to the person you are looking after.
Therapy isn’t just for people at breaking point. Looking after someone that requires a lot of your physical and mental attention can be incredibly draining, so talking to a therapist can help get some of your concerns and worries out into the open.
talk to others
Talk to other people who are in similar situations as you. Have conversations with people who get and understand what you may be feeling, and they might have some really useful tips on how they deal with their mental health too. When I did it, it made me feel like I wasn’t the only one who was suffering.
Always make time for the things that make you happy. Be kind to yourself and don’t take on the guilt. Just do your best, but remember you can’t do it all. The caregiving journey might be challenging but you do not do that journey alone. Your best is enough.
More information and advice
We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.
Where to get help
However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.
If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.
Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.
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