Somerset and Wessex Eating Disorders Association
"Serving those affected by eating disorders"
a Young Carer
What is a young carer?
A young carer helps or supports someone in their family or where they live who is unwell. You may feel different to other people and not able to talk about it.
“My brother was a young carer to me when I was at University the same university as him, though I was living in a land of denial and maybe he was blinkered to the pressure I must have put on him, he was a young carer.
I was anorexic, and then bulimic, I hurt myself in many ways infact I do not know how he managed to cope or not seem to notice the chaos and madness around him. Perhaps he found ways to cope by working long hours
I stole his food, I ate form the bin, I stored rotten vegetables under the stairs, I vomited lots and he remained calm and unconditional.
I do not know if he spoke to others about how it was but we lived with a silence about this and talked if we met about other surface things.
He helped me with work, he lent me his car but we both colluded to the unpleasant silence and paralysis of the voice that my eating disorder brought to out house through my thinness and my fatness he was just how he always was.
I cannot imagine how he managed to be successfully and share his house with a sister who was clearly unwell and in complete denial of her illness.”
Young carers have problems and worries like other growing and developing young people.
You may need to find someone at home or at University who you can talk to about how you feel and your own personal things as well as caring things like being away from home while they are so unwell at home.
You may want to check that they are offering you a confidential space and not gong to go behind your back to do or say anything
It is nice when someone asks how you are for a change not just about the person with an eating difficulty or your parents.
Why won’t my mum eat? Why do I take her breakfast every morning and she says thank you in such a cross way that I think she is angry with me and doesn’t love me, I worry about her I don't think she eats and then when she is out I go in her room and find the toast I made for her lying under her bed. Why?
What will happen when I leave home or go out?
As a young carer with a parent who has an eating disorder may find yourself
"My parents are worried about my sister she has lost lots of weight. I feel ashamed I wonder what I have done wrong. They notice her I don’t think they care about me. I have said to her to go to the doctor she says it is ok, I watched her at school, I tried to make her eat, I stayed with her at break times, I didn't have my own friends well maybe my friend and what keeps us together is her anorexia. I am worried how she will survive now I am off to University. What will happen?"
As a young carer with a sibling with an eating disorder you may find yourself
"Look out for your mate they may have an eating disorder”
How may I know if my mate has an Eating disorder?
You may notice several of the following indicators that your mate is struggling with food problems:
These are all possible indicators of an eating disorder
Visit www.swedauk.org for more factual information.
Supporting someone else
It can be very difficult and exhausting for both you and your mate when one of you has an eating disorder. It is important to look after yourself. Being at University is hard, you are away from home and studying in a new environment.
A house mate’s eating disorder can have a huge impact on your life style. It is important that you are able to feel comfortable and at home in your home. It is important that you can put in clear boundaries about what is ok for you.
This may be hard especially knowing your mate is having a tough time in the next room. If you don’t put in clear limits you may find that you get angry and resent your mate and that will make it difficult for both of you as the eating disorder will encroach on both of your lives.
Being a good Friend.
Their eating difficulties are not yours, you are not there to fix them if you think you can do this you will definitely feel inadequate. No one can make someone better from an Eating Disorder, you can support your mate on their journey, you can listen and be there and support them to get to the med. centre, G.P. , Nurse, S.U. Welfare officer or Uni. Counsellor or to contact 18-25‘s to find what other help is about.
When I feel rejected?
Sometimes people have tried to be very kind. They have asked their mate, how did you sleep, how was your day? How are you feeling ? All in an attempt to let their friend know that they are there to offer support and that they care.
For someone with an Eating Disorder this may seem like you are intruding in their life, and they may become angry and shut you out more. Yet if you ask no questions it may seem like you don’t care?
So how do I support them?
If you find it hard then you can book to see the counsellor or email the 18-25 Project.
Get support for yourself.
Remember in life it is often the people we trust the most who we hurt the most.
This does not make it ok to be hurt though You have the right to say NO email us for support at email@example.com
Why won’t they just eat?
It is important to know that eating disorders are not just about food. They are a psychological condition that affects the whole inside person. What you see is their way with food and their bodies, this is an indicator of something being difficult inside, things that may have no words.
They look better so why aren’t they?
Someone may have put on weight and this can often leave the person in a more difficult place. They are trying to manage their difficult inside feelings and to study and try life without reverting back to their old food ways. In a place of finding their life solutions your mate may need and be able to accept more support.
Remember having an eating disorder is not like having a small cut that heals outside and is gone.
The outside person may seem healed and the inside person may still hurt but there is no plaster to say I am hurting inside. The pain may be invisible to us on the outside .
Support at University
It may seem like there is no point in going to speak to someone about all this because nothing changes. You may be fed up with all the support you are giving or you may find that you want to understand more or to help your friend and other people at Uni.
Perhaps you would be interested in starting up an eating disorders Training with NSLP ( National Student Learning Programme) or in training to be a volunteer at Uni.
You may want to set up a support group for friends who help mates with an eating disorder or indeed for people who have eating disorders.
We are happy to help train you and set up support groups at your University. In order to do this we often meet with interested students, the student Union President, Student welfare staff, University Counsellors, Tutors and people who are interested to see what is the best way forward at your University.
So do contact the 18-25 Team - firstname.lastname@example.org
Caring—The unpaid job
Caring is a tough relentless job. It takes enormous strength and dedication to be a carer and even more to create your own life.
It is tough being a Young Carer. It is a difficult and unpaid job, often with people with eating disorders you will see little changes and feel that it is all too much to manage.
It is important to look after yourself, build up a life for yourself, find out how to help and who else can help you are not responsible for the person who has an eating disorder you are responsible for looking after you. You cannot make them well , you can support them by helping yourself Sometimes it is really important to have a counsellor of friends you can talk to and talk about how you feel and things that are happening in your own life.
It may feel as if you lose out big time on things that other young people have and do like friends, parties, social occasions, youth clubs, school trips and residentials which makes doing these things when you are away at University or college very hard to do and scary.
As a young Carer
You may want to check the NICE guidelines at www.nice.org to see if your relative is getting the support from the NHS they need and if you could get some support and family therapy to help you. Also look in your area for voluntary and self help groups.
The national EDA has a contact list.
Think about the caring you do
If you were going to write and tell someone about the real life of a young carer what would they need to know?
Talk to a tutor, teacher or counsellor, doctor or social worker about how you feel
Possible Strategies for you
If you are at school, perhaps you can ask to have a mobile to phone home at lunchtime and speak to your parent or sibling.
Before you leave home you may want to talk to your family GP about your worries and let him/her be responsible to make sure your parent/ sibling is well. You don’t have to hold secrets that people may ask you to do, suggest they go with you to the doctor and talk about things if they wont tell them you are worried and it is too painful for you to watch and you are going to the doctor for advice of what to do for yourself.
Maybe you can find a quiet space to eat lunch with your sibling.
You may speak to student welfare to help you adjust to college and uni life.
Maybe you and your sibling can be on different sittings at lunch and be in different tutor groups or courses. If your parent ask you to go to the same Uni to look after you sibling you can say NO.
Maybe the teachers and lectures can understand the pressures you are under if you tell them and help you with homework deadlines and with exam situations
Perhaps you can speak to your tutor , doctor or a counsellor each week or if you are very worried or anxious
Perhaps there is a quiet room where you can go on campus if it gets too much.
Create a list of places you can get help , so that could be your emergency numbers, and contacts as well as places for you to go and be safe and understood. It is better to know these things and have prepared strategies to manage situations.
Where can you be heard and get support
National carers association, 20/25 Glasshouse Yard, London
© 2004 ~ 2013 Somerset and Wessex Eating Disorders Association