‘I have really fond memories of my childhood. I know what it’s like not to be a carer, so suddenly having to look after my Mum was a shock to the system.’
Tessa was only 12 when her Mum developed complex mental health and physical health issues. Tessa was thrown into the role of parent, and says caring for her Mum soon ‘took over her whole existence’.
‘I had to basically do everything that involved being outside – paying bills, shopping, taking out the rubbish, everything.’
Along with OCD and agoraphobia, an anxiety condition that makes people fear leaving the house, Tessa’s mother developed mobility issues that began to impact her mental health as well. Although home life was incredibly hard for Tessa, school remained a high priority for her.
‘No one in my family had gone to university, so I was always motivated to do well at school. A part of it might have been the idea that someday I could pay for my Mum’s treatment, give her a better life.’
‘School knew I was a young carer but I don’t think they realised how it impacted me, and I just didn’t know how to articulate it. I also struggled with my own mental health at the time and I felt really emotionally detached from my Mum – I was just exhausted both mentally and emotionally.’
But despite the struggles Tessa was facing, and along with often being late for school and having a lot of absences when she needed to be there for her Mum, Tessa achieved great results for her G.C.S.E’s and A Levels and went on to university, where she studied English Language and Linguistics with help from a grant from the One Degree More programme, developed by the Wiltshire Community Foundation.
The One Degree More programme which has reached its 10th year, this year, is a university bursary grant programme that supports young people aged 17 – 24 from low income families who want to gain an undergraduate university degree. “The grant helps those students overcome difficult financial circumstances and achieve their ambitions, some of which may not have been possible without the support of the foundation.”
Now living away from home in Cardiff studying her Masters in Linguistics, Tessa says moving away has really helped her to reflect.
‘You come away from home and you realise things. For a while I was really angry about it, my relationship with my Mum was strained for around two years, but after counselling I’ve been able to process a lot of it.’
‘I really had to create boundaries for my Mum so I could get on with my own life. I still identify as her carer even though I don’t live with her anymore, because I still provide a lot of emotional support and I’m very involved with her health and social care.’
Tessa, an aspiring author, has excelled despite her circumstances. She graduated with a first for her undergrad degree and is greatly enjoying her masters. Tessa, an aspiring author, has written a poem about her experience of being a young adult carer - read it here.
‘If I could give advice to my 13-year-old self, or anyone else who is a young carer or a young adult carer and going through it now, just keep in mind that it will get better and don’t be afraid to strike out and do what you love doing. It’s your life.’
If you are a young adult carer and need advice, information or support, or would like to find out more about funding for university, check out the resource library, or contact us here. You are not alone.