I’m closer to my younger brother than most siblings, we’re more like friends.
He doesn’t have much contact with others his age or people who understand that he struggles with social skills due to his Asperger’s. When mum is busy, I nag him about homework, revision and eating properly. He just wants sweets so I make sure he has his 5 a day.
When he’s upset, I try to work out what he’s feeling and help him to count to ten and take deep breaths – he sometimes isn’t sure why he is upset. He definitely doesn’t like uncertainty. At dad’s, I am the one more used to his behaviour when he is stressed.
My friends say I talk to them sometimes like a parent – caring must have developed my nurturing side. They get on well with him which is good. He’ll come to the cinema with us if there’s an autism friendly screening. He can get upset if I stay overnight with friends, he’s scared that something will happen to me and I won’t come back. So I ring him when I get on the train and a couple of times extra. It’s such a simple thing that I can do to reassure him – my friends are fine about it, and will say Hi on the phone.
We’ve talked a lot about when I go away to university to study film production and won’t be able to come home much. It makes me less excited about uni but I know I need to go, because I want to study where the course is.
I don’t really tell people that I am a young carer because of his privacy. Sixth form know but I don’t really need much from them. They are understanding if I need to take a phone call.
To help me to take time out from thinking about my brother’s needs I like taking photos of nature; photography helps me to de-stress and discover who I am.
I enjoyed the young carer festival a couple of years ago, meeting other young carers. I trained as a peer mentor to help other young carers at school.
My message to other young carers is you are not alone, even if you feel isolated. I talk to my friends and have counselling sessions quite regularly. I was a closed off, stressed person. Talk to people so you are not bottling up stress. Carers in Bedfordshire is there to help.