“Hi, I’m Vicky and I’m a carer. So, what is a carer? According to Direct Gov.uk, a carer is ‘someone who looks after and supports a friend, relative or neighbour who couldn’t manage without their help.’
Although somehow I don’t think this definition was written by a carer. We don’t just look after someone; we’re a counsellor, paramedic and a pharmacist all in one. We’re so many things but for me, foremost, I am a mum. I’m a mum to someone who has an invisible illness that so many people don’t understand.
My son was an intelligent, sociable, funny 14 year old before mental illness took hold of him. Gradually that person disappeared. I’ll always be his mum, but over time I also became his carer. It was a gradual process which at the time I didn’t realise was happening. He’s my son, so of course I was going to look after him, that’s what a parent does, but it became so much more. After numerous sleepless nights, ambulances and the police, I realised I’d become his carer.
Not only was my son changing before my eyes, but I was too. My once busy social life became non-existent which meant my confidence disappeared. My health deteriorated as I had to be alert 24/7 trying to keep him safe. I felt like a failure as yet again, I sat by his hospital bed after another overdose attempt. I felt so alone.
My local mental health service offered virtually no support, so it was all up to me. I’m no expert, I had no idea whether the things I did or said were helping or making things worse. I spent hours researching his diagnosis so I knew what was going on. My days were filled talking on the phone to nurses, doctors, chemists and consultants.
As well as caring for my son, I had to keep on top of the everyday chores and ensure I spent whatever time I could with my eldest son. All this time I was wearing my ‘I’m fine’ mask, when inside my heart was breaking and I was falling apart.
But somehow, I’ve found the strength to carry on. I’ve accepted help from Making Space’s Cambridgeshire Carers Service, who have been absolutely wonderful. They support me so I can carry on looking after my son. And I will.”