During National Carers Week, I think we all give more thought to what being a carer actually means. Most of the time, we are the same as the young carers out there who think "it's just what we do" but during this week, we can't open a paper or watch the tv without the impact of caring jumping out at us.
I always think of being a carer as travelling on ......
We spend our good days at the top of the Circle Line, relaxed and confident. These are the days when the services have actually worked together, you are getting the support you need, your child or young person is getting the support they need. Perhaps you have won a battle to get your child into the school you need, perhaps you have managed to get a place on a Young Carer's event for your other child or perhaps you have just managed to get more than three hours sleep.
Sadly, however, we also spend days at the bottom of the Circle Line, withdrawn, exhausted or despairing that things may never get better.
When we are having a good day, we all know how quickly one little thing can send us spinning down to the bottom. Then when we are at the bottom, it is so much more difficult to get back to the top. It's like being on the Pirate Ship at the Funfair - you swing back and to until you get enough momentum to hit the top.
You start to climb back up the side of the Circle Line but you hit "self pity" and it is so difficult to get past here. Everyone expects you to be there; in fact a lot of people find it easier to deal with you there as it fits in with their idea of how you should be acting. However, this just knocks you back down to sorrow and anger and you have to start the climb again.
I firmly believe that when we all work together, the practitioners and others involved in my life, should be able to give me that little push (I do mean metaphorically) and help me get back to the top of the Circle Line.
Then, because we just refuse to fit into boxes, I also have to point out that although I may be "relaxed" today when you meet me, I may not be "relaxed" the next time. I may be "relaxed" and "confident" but my husband may be at "despair" and then don't forget my children will possibly be somewhere different too. The dynamics of the family can be our biggest strength at times but can also be the weakest link.
One of the other issues with the Circle Line is that it's not easy to get off. The other lines offer universal services so access to them is not always available. If we continue the Circle Line analogy, then this is when there are only escalators where we need a lift or only visual signs when I cannot read. Those who work with our families can usually jump off the Circle Line and access Universal services. One day, we can only hope that this will be a possibility for all of us too.