I’ve been a carer since I was 12 years old. At the time I didn’t realise that was my role, because to me I was just looking after someone I cared about. I did it without being asked.
As a child, my role as a carer wasn’t actually looking after my mum. It was more about caring for my twin, younger sister and myself. We didn’t want to be a burden to mum, so we would take away daily pressures from her – like ironing our school uniforms; making our own meals and trying our best at school. I’ll never forget the fear of arriving home and wondering what type of mood mum was in. Why, you may ask? My mum has schizophrenia.
And it didn’t matter what we did to make mum’s life easier – the ending would often always be the same: hospital. One symptom of being schizophrenic is delusions, and mum’s fantasies (being pregnant, for example), would eventually push us to desperation and we’d have to call the police, or the ambulance. Still, we never thought our mum had a mental health disorder. We just thought she was prone to feeling down and behaving erratically and sometimes aggressively.
Mum wasn’t diagnosed until I was 18 and at university studying accounting and management That was also the time I fully understood that I had taken on the role as a carer from childhood, and spoke about my situation with someone other than my sisters.