I’m interested in the evolution of the carer. I was curious to know the definition of the term, I guess to compare it to my own reality as a carer. I wondered if the definition has changed at all over the years, so began my research with my 1964 Concise Oxford Dictionary (‘of Current English’ it says on the first page – amusing to me in 2016.) Interesting – no such term. Of course, it has the word ‘care’ – “feel concern or interest for or about; provide food, attendance, etc, for children, invalids, etc).” Care/taker was there, but that is defined as “a person hired to take charge’ esp. of house in owner’s absence”.
My second resource was Google. Definition of carer: “a family member or paid worker who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person.” This seems a bit muddy- I assume the family member looking after a child is not one of the parents…otherwise all parents would be carers. However we are not – there is a difference between the two.
Next I find the Carer Recognition Act 2010 Guidelines on the DSS website. Under this Act, I find carers defined as “…people who provide personal care, support and assistance to another individual in need of support due to disability, medical condition, including terminal or chronic illness, mental illness or is frail and aged.” I relate to this definition as it specifies mental illness, and I am carer in this field.
So when did the term ‘carer’ evolve? It’s something I’ve never considered before. But being a carer was something I hadn’t ever envisaged for myself either.
My story ‘officially’ began in 2013. I had an 11 year old daughter, Jessie, with a diagnosis of Acute Mood Dysregulation Disorder (pre-cursor to Bipolar), PTSD – chronic and complex, and acute anxiety, who refused to go to school. She suffered trauma in 2010, which triggered her anxiety and apparently her latent mental health disorders. She had become volatile. Violent. Angry. Aggressive. Abusive. I was yelling and shouting, trying to assert my authority and gain control. It wasn’t working, to say the least!
I was working part time as a P.A. to a financial advisor, also a very understanding boss. I worked alone in the office two out my three days. That meant, depending on Jessie’s mood, I could take her to work with me. Unfortunately those days were not often, and as it approached tax time and the busy period, I resigned. It was horrible being so unreliable, and so a huge stress lifted when that worry was eliminated. There was enough to worry about at home. I do have a lovely picture she drew me one day, of me sitting at my desk working. I learnt to hang on to those little treasures, when most of the time I was faced with hate and abuse.
She was like a little raging bull that grew into size in her episodes – just like her father. Unlike an abusive partner though, you can’t leave your abusive child. I remember thinking that a lot back then. Luckily the love for my child is stronger than any love I’ve ever experienced in my life travels!
We became very well known by our local Police. Each time I called the ambulance when my daughter was in a full blown episode, we’d have at least two Police vehicles arrive first. This was occurring at least 3 times a week, resulting in my girl being taken by ambulance and sectioned by Police each time. We would sit for hours at the hospital waiting for her to be assessed by a member of the mental health care team, then they would send her back home until the next visit. This went on for around 3 years, but I could not get her admitted anywhere. It was an absolute farce.
On 2 occasions I refused to take her home – she needed help, I needed some respite. I was exhausted. Worried to the core about my baby, scared of her, so sick of cleaning up a smashed up house, wishing I could fix it all and make her happy and confident again. It was such a roller coaster and I felt like I was failing dismally as a mother. I know nothing can give back what Jessie’s abuser took from her. And it was too late to be considering the suitability of her father for fatherhood. These things were already part of my daughter’s life tapestry – sadly hindsight cannot change the past.
As life is, change is certain. With the help of fantastic psychiatrists, counsellors, and in particular one brilliant caseworker, we haven’t had Police here since January 2014. I’ve learned about my daughter’s issues and how to deal with her differently. Jessie’s learned ways of coping with her big emotions, both the ups and the downs, so her aggression is no longer a concern. I’m happy to say she is down to only one tablet a day. Unfortunately though she has refused school had this year home from school. It has been a huge backward step, but comparatively she’s progressed hugely.
I’ve found being a carer for a child with mental health issues to very isolating, which I’ve come to understand. We cannot imagine what others go through unless we have had similar experiences. Our homosapien primal instincts of self preservation still show as judgement and fear unfortunately.