I was caring from I was four years old. My Mother had physical illnesses, and then I became aware of my Father’s depression.
My childhood was one of curtained windows, hushed voices telling me to be quiet to let my Mother sleep.
Sometimes it seemed, that we lived in perpetual dusk, my siblings and I.
As the eldest, it became my job to shield the younger children.
They had to get tea and biscuits when they came home, and they had to come home to a bright, clean house.
My parents also helped anyone in the family who was drinking, and much of that work fell to me.
I had to guard the door of a Pub in case a cousin appeared, and tell my parents where they were.
Adults stumbled, did not walk straight, and I followed, quiet and watchful in their wake.
I did not know yet of Emily Bronte, and her unconditional love for Bramwell.
How she would be the one to go and bring him home, how she never judged him. I did resent those alcoholics, whom I blamed for ruining our holidays, our Christmas.
When I was fifteen, I became ill.
I was admitted to a Hospital, and the adults in my life, my parents and Doctors, tried to figure out why I was depressed.
No-one mentioned being a carer.
I did not make the connection myself.
I would only tell the Doctor that I had to get home, that they could never manage without me.
I know that being a a carer did not make me ill.
But it may have been a contributing factor. I carried a lot on young shoulders, and there was less time to be a child or spontaneous.
From the adult’s perspective, the question I have is this…
How many people in need of Psychiatric care are carers?
I recollect that the patients I met, my friends, would often report that they were the only girl, or oldest girl in the family.
If you are one of those two things, you are very likely to become a carer.
In trying to get better, I had to recollect that time of my life. I still have caring duties now, but I am a adult, not a child any longer.
As an adult I am equal to these demands, though I may sometimes get tired, and need a break.
It is the child that I remember, and pulling back the curtains, letting the light into the hall.