Name: Shannon James
Book Title, Author, Publisher & Year of Publication: Camp Outlook by Brenda Baker, Second Story Press (2014)
How long have you been a Young Carer? When I was ten, my mom was pretty depressed because she wanted to have another child but was having a hard time. Because my parents were preoccupied with in vitro treatments and the miscarriages my mother kept having, I had to fend for myself by trying to reason things out on my own. My brother Gabriel came along when I was 12, and since he was born with Down’s Syndrome that made me a Young Carer in an entirely different way.
Who do you care for and how? I’ve had to care for myself, trying to deal with my feelings of sadness, anger and frustration on my own because my parents were too overwhelmed with their own feelings to help me figure out mine. Now that Gabriel is in my life I help with his physical care, changing his diaper and doing exercises to help strengthen his weak muscles.
How has being a Young Carer affected your life? My mother’s problems with infertility caused a real crisis of faith for me. While I did believe in God, I couldn’t understand why he would let my mom have miscarriages or why he would let Gabe be born with Down’s Syndrome. I just couldn’t believe in a god that would do those things on purpose, and I felt angry when people would say God gave Gabe to us because my parents were special.
It’s been hard. My parents expect me to be a grown up – to not give them any trouble because I should understand they already have so much to deal with thanks to my brother. But I’m still just a kid, and I have feelings about everything too. I’ve met a few people I can be honest with about what’s going on inside me, but sometimes I get my feelings out by doing things my parents don’t like or understand.
I’ve come to understand that Gabe is unique and that I don’t need to be ashamed of him. I’m also super aware he will need my protection as he grows in case the real world is harsh, and that one day I will most likely be in charge of his care when my parents die. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it has also opened my eyes to how people with intellectual disabilities are treated and how I want to change that for Gabe’s sake.
What is your favourite activity? My father is a rock musician in his spare time and I inherited his ability to sing. I can pick up songs easily and am secretly proud of my abilities.