Abi, who is 15, has been a carer her whole life: she looks after her older brother, eight-year-old sister and supports her mum, a single parent. Abi has taken part in our workshops via her local young carer service since she was seven. They give her a rare opportunity to take some time out for herself and have unlocked a life-long love of creativity.
Being a young carer
I look after my brother Johnny who has autism and learning disabilities. I also look after my mum, who gets very stressed, and my little sister, who can get very scared when my brother is getting angry or being loud.
Because Johnny has autism, if there’s a small change in our life he can get very angry and very irritated. Johnny is older than me, so I’ve been caring my whole life. I couldn’t really help out when I was a toddler, but it has been something I’ve always had to live with and deal with.
Most of my caring is offering emotional support, just being there and calming everyone down. With Johnny it’s also taking him to see buses, because he loves buses and it helps him to be happy. Because Johnny gets so excited when he sees buses, going out with him also means explaining to some members of the public why he can get a bit loud and jumpy.
Johnny gets called a lot of names in public. People get angry at him if he’s being too loud or he’s not being considerate to other people, which he can’t help. I do a lot of sticking up for Johnny but some people are not very nice and laugh at him.
My mum gets very stressed, especially with housing and money issues. I try to speak to her and calm her down if she gets angry. I go shopping for her for bread, milk and those things that we need quite often.
Being a young carer is a blessing and a curse. I’m proud of the caring role that I have and that I’m able to help. At the same time, caring responsibilities prevent me from doing stuff most people my age would do, and I miss out on a lot of opportunities. To be able to care for someone, to be able to look after someone, it’s a big responsibility and it’s something to be very proud of.
You have to grow up very fast as a young carer and almost be an adult as a kid. You mature fast when you’re looking after someone else.
“Being a young carer is a blessing and a curse. I’m proud of the caring role that I have and that I’m able to help.”
I get quite a lot of schoolwork, especially because I’m near GCSE time now. I often get up at 4am or 5am, so I can fit it some homework and have enough time in the day to look after Johnny. I don’t get much sleep because I go to bed late and get up early to fit in as much work as I can. It’s very tiring.
When I do get free time, I like to make short films with my sister. We go through loads of different music to try and get inspired and create a short film from what we come up with. Looking after someone can be a really difficult and stressful task so in my free time I like doing things that calm me down.
Being creative with Create
I did a film project with Create, and that’s what started my love for making short films. We made a range of short films, using different filming methods and different gadgets. The artist also introduced us to editing software, which is the one I use now.
I’ve been taking part in Create workshops for around eight years now. I’ve done lots of artforms: animation, film making, scriptwriting, jewellery making, painting, music and so many more.
I’ve learnt a lot through Create workshops and working with professional artists. I’ve also learnt skills by experimenting on my own, having a lot of failed attempts and then finally creating something good.
Getting to meet other kids who are in the same situation as I am is very different from being at school with people my age who don’t understand the caring role as much. All of us understand how much these workshops mean to us. I think that is something we share, so it’s like a big family because we’re all in the same situation in life.
Create has also helped me with my caring role. You need a break from something in order to do your best and be in a positive mindset. Create gives me a break and allows me to see the positives in my caring role and the positives in life. The workshops give you a couple of hours not to have the stress of caring and just be a kid again.
Without creativity I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. I definitely wouldn’t be as happy as I am. It’s something to fall back on when I’m sad or not in the best mood. It’s something that will always be there and that no one can take away.
Without creativity I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. I definitely wouldn’t be as happy as I am.
Being able to unlock the creative side of your brain is very therapeutic. For me, all artforms are therapeutic; it’s a way to release your emotions and energy that you have built up.
Being creative makes me feel really accomplished, proud and happy. It also lets me dream.
Abi was the subject of our BBC Radio 4 appeal, presented by Isy Suttie, which was broadcast on Sunday 20 and Thursday 24 September 2020. You can listen to the appeal here.
Artwork by Abi
Abi created the following animation with a group of other young carers on Create’s art:space project: