Being a carer is important to me, especially since I’ve been doing it for half of my life. For 10 years, I have been a carer. 10 years ago to this day, my grandma fell down the stairs and my life changed forever. That’s when I gained adult responsibilities. Some people may identify as a carer, because health or social care services have classified them like that, others may not, out of choice or because they don’t know they are a carer.
I was at a carer’s conference on Friday and every carer there was identified. They like being a carer. I felt happy that I was with carers that felt the same as me. But I realise that people do not want to identify this way. I never used to see why…but now I can understand. Being a carer has a lot of negative connotations attached to it – its hard, difficult, heartbreaking…I could go on. But it also has its positives, it develops your resilience, it allows you to gain support (in most cases) and lets you spend extra time with the person/people you care for.
Being a carer can shape your identity, making it difficult, as one day that caring may come to an end. Transitioning is hard, I assure you. The longer you are a carer, I think the longer you see it as being a part of who you are. It becomes your identity, if you let it. For me, I wanted it to become a part of my identity, as soon as I realised I was a carer. Why would I not want to have this label, as being a carer has developed me as a person.
Then comes stigma. There is a lot of stigma that comes from being a carer, something that I am going to focus on in a blog post very soon! Carers are stigmatised against. It’s difficult and hard and this is ‘played upon’, I think. Carers have negative labels on them such as ‘loners’ and some are stigmatised because of who they care for, for example if they care for someone who has a mental health illness or an addiction. They can also be stigmatised against because of how caring affects them. This is one of the reasons I think people don’t identify as a carer.
Also it’s because people say ‘it’s what I should do’. It is your family/friend but at the same time, you have your own life. You are a person outside your caring responsibilities. Some people do not accept this and see themselves as only a carer and some go the opposite way and say that they aren’t a carer, that they are a daughter, a mother, a friend…doing it out of love.
This is why carer identity is so difficult. Every person that looks after someone with a disability, condition, mental health problem, addiction etc, is classed as a carer. But not everyone wants to be labelled like this. Not everyone wants to be seen as a carer. And for me, that’s okay!