Today Carers UK, the charity for unpaid carers, showcases entries in its fifth annual creative writing competition in a new anthology titled ‘Keeping Well, Keeping Connected’.
The anthology includes imaginative stories and inspired poems depicting the highs and lows of caring and being cared for.
For the last five years Carers UK has held an annual creative writing competition, inviting entries from both the general public and the country’s 6.5 million unpaid carers to portray what it’s like to support a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill.
Carers UK hopes the anthology will help raise awareness of the realities of looking after someone, as well as provide an escape and creative outlet for those currently caring.
Black Bear aka Carers Burnout* is a poem written by Melanie Lewis-Clubbe who cared for her mother, who has dementia, for four years until she needed 24 hour care and moved to a nursing home.
Melanie wrote the poem when reaching a low point while caring for her mother. Receiving positive feedback on her poetry has given her the impetus to write more poetry about caring.
I’m not a carer** is a poem written by Karen Ward, who leads the Carers Network at Nationwide Building Society’s administration centre, to help working carers identify themselves, find out about practical and emotional support available at work and know they are not alone in facing the challenges of juggling work and care.
Karen provides a safe place for carers to discuss their caring roles, arranging carer’s assessments and raising awareness with management and delivering workshops.
Michael Shann, founder of the charity’s creative writing competition and Head of Membership and Volunteering at Carers UK, said:
“At some point in our lives, many of us will care for a loved one or need care ourselves, yet caring often remains a hidden issue.
“This collection of poignant poems and short stories tell us about the joys that can be experienced, the learning that comes with caring, and the way it changes us. They also show the resilience and courage that can be required.
“We hope our new anthology shines a light on the enormous contribution carers make around the country and helps to raise awareness of the support Carers UK provides.”
The anthology includes 39 of the 500 entries in the 2018 creative writing competition which were received from far and wide, from experienced writers as well as those who’ve recently picked up writing as a hobby.
The collection can be bought for £5 in the Carers UK online shop: http://www.shopcarersuk.org/en/products/view-products/books/creative-writing-anthology-vol-5.
*I’m not a Carer by Karen Ward
It happened one day, out of the blue.
It happened to me, it could happen to you.
I wasn’t prepared. It wasn’t planned.
Didn’t see it coming, I didn’t understand.
I’m not a carer, it comes from the heart.
It’s done without thinking, I’m playing my part.
I’m nothing special or particularly good.
I’m just doing what anyone would.
Juggling my life can be a strain.
No one to share my joy and my pain.
I’m not a carer, I don’t get paid.
I’m not “in the system”, but my life is delayed.
What I need is support and care,
Like-minded people with whom I can share.
At work to-day I saw a note.
It brought a lump to my throat:
“Working Carers Network – time for tea…”
Was it really directed at me?
I AM a carer, understood and with choice.
I’m not alone and I have a VOICE!
**Black Bear (aka Carers Burnout) by Melanie Lewis-Clubbe
May I introduce you to my constant companion
Meet the one I call Black Bear
You may be more familiar with
His close relative Black Dog
We’ve been together for a while now
I didn’t invite him but he came anyway
I’ve kind of got used to having him around
Even though I hate his guts
He chewed up my self confidence
With those big, sharp teeth
And that huge cavernous mouth
Swallowed my sense of humour whole
He took my physical and mental health
And my ambition for a life free of permanent anxiety
He turned me into a shell of my former self
That is running on empty
What will you feast on next, Black Bear?
You’ve taken most of me already
There’s nothing left for you to have
To satiate your enormous appetite
My grief for the person I am losing to the D word
And the utter exhaustion and relentlessness makes me
Prickly like the sharp teeth in your mouth
Or the claws on your feet.
Because of you I am on permanent red alert
Ready to fight everybody and anybody
The wrong word and I lash out in a way
That would probably make you proud
You make me feel like a rubber duck lost at sea in a storm
That spends its life bobbing around the world’s oceans
Pushed this way and that by the wind and the tides
With no choice in which direction to go
I tolerate you only because
Of my love and respect
For the one who brought you
And I resist you with all my might
They say you should play dead to escape a bear
But I am not playing at it as I am already dead
When I am no longer needed by my loved one
Then perhaps I can rebuild my life without you
Praying with all my might that your relation
Black Dog will then not move in.
Support Groups by Emma Yeoman
When what’s holding you together is paper and string,
When you’re stretched to the limit, your patience worn thin,
When you’re asking and asking for things to be done,
When you’re crying out for help and still getting none
When you’ve had a bad day and have nowhere to turn,
When behaviours are bad, you’ve had to be stern,
When you feel like you’ve been the worst parent today,
When you’re so overwhelmed you’ve got nothing to say,
When you realise its not help from professionals you need,
Or the pages of information they tell you to read,
When you open your eyes and look closer to home,
You will see friends that are there, to drink coffee and moan,
Friends who have children with needs just like yours,
Groups that just chat, not searching for cures,
When the world feels like its going to swallow you whole,
Find a support group, make that your goal,
If I hadn’t done that, I don’t know where I would be,
I’d be drowning in questions in this Special needs sea.
When you realise you are on a long winding road,
You need to be able to sit, talk and offload.
The journey we are on is varied and long,
But if we do this together, as a group, we’ll be strong.