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Boxing with nerve
I can hardly remember what life was before 2009. I was only 10 at the time, and after that caring was all I knew.
Here’s the specifics; my mother injured her spine at work and caused permanent nerve damage. She had to have major surgery, where three of her spinal discs were replaced with metal ones, and then fused to the bone. She cannot feel three fingers on her right side, and has constant pins and needles. Due to the location of this injury she also gets incredible headaches and migraines. My Dad likes to describe it like this; you're at a music concert, let's say ACDC. You've had a bit to drink so you can't focus correctly. You go to the bathroom but can still hear the music, ebbing and pulsing because that's the nature of rock, you can still hear the kerfuffle of the crowd, even though its slightly muffled. Then someone you know walks in, and starts demanding your attention. They bang on your stall door, yelling and clambering and screaming. Sometimes they go away but they return frequently. That's the kind of situation in my mum's head, the pain is the rock concert, the flare ups the person, and my mum is the one inside the bathroom stall just trying to think clearly and get on with her business. She also deals with a number of mental illnesses that she doesn't like to explain, but boy is it hard to deal with that some days.
Now imagine a boxing ring. But it's me and my mum. Because of what she deals with every day her muscles are bigger, and because of her emotional turmoil her gloves are tougher. And I’m the skinny unprepared one, bruised already from last night's match. She throws the first punch; all the things I need to do tonight on top of what I already had planned. The other fist, I’m never good enough for her. She leaps forward; her scripts have run out so I’ve only got 10mins to get down to the pharmacy before it shuts.
And then there's the other side, when she has a particularly bad flare up, and she's in bed for several days on end, crying. And there’s nothing I can do to ease that pain for her. Even if I go in there and give her a cuddle or a plush toy (which is usually my go to, because if I can't be there she'll have something), talk to her, give her a glass of orange juice or something, she'll still be in pain.
I imagine that other young carers, some whom I’ve met and some who I haven't met yet, deal with all sorts of emotional baggage. Rather than just going home to do homework, chill out and maybe do some chores, we have to deal with next level stuff. I know there are young carers who deal with so much more than I and I think they're amazing for that, in comparison I feel like such a complainer. That's something I also recognise, my caring role is normal for me, so I feel like the awesome work that YAC does is wasted on my brother and I, but it's also something I am so so grateful for. There have been days when if I didn't have that kind of support base I don’t know where I’d be.
To you, young carers, reading this; even if you feel like your caring role isn't important, it is. I still feel like I’m not a carer all the time, I could do so much more, but I want to get on with my own life. It's okay to put yourself first. And it's okay if you hate it too, it's okay if you don't do everything, it's just important that you know that what you're doing for your loved one is important, even if they don't recognise it.
My piece of advice to my fellow young carers is don't be afraid to reach out. YAC and Raw Energy know their stuff. And don't be afraid to contact other young carers too - they are encyclopaedias of knowledge. So know this, you can put yourself first, and you are appreciated – even if who you care for doesn’t show it.