Written anonymously by a Young Adult Carer.
Lockdown has certainly meant a big change for me and my family. To be honest, I have embraced it with open arms. Suffering with (amongst other things) chronic fatigue syndrome, type one diabetes, and severe social anxiety has meant that college has been extremely challenging for me. It has been the source of much stress, exhaustion, and anxiety. However, it is also the only the only thing that forces me to be away from my sister and mum - it encourages me to interact with classmates, not succumb to my anxiety and depressive episodes, and push myself to achieve.
My sister has been struggling, as always, with her various health conditions (M.E, POTS, hypermobility, ‘low mood’). Having time away from college has enabled me to spend more time caring for her, for example by helping her bathe, wash her hair, brush her teeth, and wash her face. Lockdown has taken a toll on her mental health – she gains much support and from being around her friends, classmates, and teachers, as well as from having clear goals set out for her to work towards in terms of her art class. College, for my sister, has therefore been vital in terms of boosting her mood and maintaining her mental well-being.
As a consequence of having no college to attend, Alena has struggled more with anxiety and low-mood, and the amount of times I’ve had to support her through emotional episodes has certainly increased.
Lockdown has also exacerbated certain physical symptoms, such as her fainting episodes brought on by her POTS, due to decreased mobility. So, I’ve had to do more caring for my sister both in terms of her physical and mental health.
Luckily, we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to get hold of all our medications without too much of a problem. This is only through the kindness of others, though – friends offering to collect it and bring it round to our house or, more recently, the chemist bringing it out to the car dressed in PPE.
Getting enough food has been trickier, especially earlier on in the pandemic. As we all have health conditions we feel that we are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, especially with me being diabetic. We have barely left the house, and none of us have been in any shops since lockdown. Therefore, we have had to rely on food deliveries or, again, the kindness of friends who have gone to the shop themselves to pick up and drop off products we have needed.
I do believe I am at risk of developing some level of agoraphobia. At home is the only place I can be there with and for my mum and my sister. It is the only place where I do not feel debilitating anxiety. It is the only place I feel safe and comfortable and happy. Though I wish all the suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic would cease immediately, at the same time I wish lockdown would never end.
Each time the government announces that restrictions are being eased more, my anxiety level spikes. I’m also fearful that going back to college in September will put me at risk of catching COVID-19. I would be fearful as to how this would affect me, but also my sister and my mum if I were to transmit it to them. I do feel that the expectation of having all students back in colleges/secondary schools by September, and threatening them with a fine if they don’t attend, is a cold one. Many, like me, will be fearing for their life.
Many would love to be back at college but would sacrifice it in order to protect themselves, or a chronically ill family member. They would ignore their desperate desire to go out with friends, to eat out at restaurants, to go and enjoy a sunny day on the beach – yet they will force themselves to stay at home, despite the detriment to their physical and mental health that might have.
I know that many young adult carers will be struggling massively during this uncertain time. I feel that certain anxieties could be eased if they were supported more by the government – for example, schemes in place to help deliver food and medicine to those who are at risk (even if not clinically vulnerable), and more understanding of student’s very valid fears surrounding the return to education would be greatly appreciated, I’m sure.
You are not alone.