Keia was about eight years old when she started helping her stepdad care for her mum. Joining Spurgeons Young Carers in Wolverhampton gave her self-confidence. Now at University, she looks back at how her experiences have shaped her.
“Mum has Borderline Personality Disorder, so a lot of the time caring involved trying to get her out of the headspace she was in. It was tough for my stepdad as he took on caring for her and four kids. I tried to help him out with cooking, shopping, cleaning and so on.
“I found it really hard to get in touch with who I was as a person because my focus was always on looking after Mum. But when I was around thirteen, my high school got me into Spurgeons Young Carers at Wolverhampton. I’d go every fortnight – it was two hours of freedom from home and all the responsibilities there and became like a second home. It was great being with other young carers – they ‘got’ what challenges I had and I didn’t need to explain my life to them like I did with friends at school.
‘‘We’d just talk and watch movies and play games. And I had Angie and Eve (Spurgeons Young Carers staff members) for support and counselling. It all helped me become much more confident and gave me space to think about what I wanted to do with my life.
“I’d always loved acting; from early on, I was in a lot of school plays. I loved ‘becoming’ someone else in a world where I could pretend everything was OK. Later, it became more about the audience and giving them the opportunity to escape into a different world. I couldn’t see how I could do drama if I was carer for my mum, but my drama teachers encouraged me to pursue higher education.
“When my mum found out I wanted to go to university, she tried to persuade me to go to Wolverhampton so I could stay at home. But I really needed to live away, so I went to Aberystwyth.
“At first I kept going home. I was worried Mum might not manage without me, but also my own identity was so wrapped up in being a young carer that it was a bit scary to suddenly have this chance to make my own way in the world and focus on my own future.
“Then I realised actually she and Dad were doing OK and managing without me – and I was managing without them too.
“I’ve learned to like myself more. I’m quite bossy and impatient, and I used to think that was bad. But I’ve learned that’s who I am, and actually those can be the positive qualities of leadership and focus now I’m learning how to handle them.
“It’s been good for me, leaving home and going to University. I guess many young carers don’t consider doing what I’ve done. But it’s such a good opportunity to step back from being a young carer and think through your own hopes and dreams. It helps you see things more clearly, and to discover who you are beyond that identity as a young carer. As I found, that can be quite scary, but also a big release too. I’m very grateful to Angie and the team at Spurgeons Young Carers for helping me start that journey.”
About Spurgeons Young Carers Services:
Spurgeons delivers support to young people up to the age of 18 who are caring for a family member with an illness or disability in the West Midlands through our Birmingham Young Carers and Wolverhampton Young Carers services.
The Birmingham Young Carers service was a finalist in two categories at the 2019 Children and Young People Now Awards in the PSHE Education Award and the Young Carers Award for its particular focus on supporting young carers looking after a parent with a drug or alcohol dependency.
To learn more about our work with Young Carers, click here.