In the mind: Growing up with ‘not a normal dad’ – BBC News

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Image caption Keavy, 15, helps look after her mum, dad and little sister

What is it like growing up with a parent who needs reminding to take the medication that stems the voices in his head? And what is it like to be the father who relies on his young daughters to get him through the day?

BBC News takes a look into the life of a family from Oxfordshire. In their own words, 15-year-old Keavy, nine-year-old Kara, mum Kate and dad Rob describe how they cope with mental illness and physical disability.


Image caption Rob, who has bipolar disorder, said he is currently coping well with the condition

I have bipolar disorder, a personality disorder and am a recovering alcoholic.

The girls keep saying to me “you’re not a normal dad”. I don’t think they mean it rudely – but I’m not.

I’m OK at the moment, but in September I had a bad time. I had voices in my head.

I think I’d just had enough. I stopped for a cigarette on a railway bridge and then I was sort of hanging over the edge. Literally hanging over. The next thing I knew there were three police cars there.

I had to go down to Eastbourne hospital mental health place. They kept me going until I got better again and now I can go back whenever I want if I need them.

I take medication three times a day. Once in the morning, lunchtime and a big dose in the evening – it makes me sleep better.

People call you mental. You’re not – it’s just a word that people associate you with.

I don’t know what it is really – I just can’t handle stuff sometimes.


Image caption Keavy helps her dad with day-to-day tasks like remembering passwords

I feel like because I’m the older one of me and Kara I should be the one taking it all on, not her, because I want her to have a childhood as much as possible – to have what I didn’t really get.

Since the age of four, when I’ve been able to do stuff I’ve been helping.

I did look after Mum – who uses a wheelchair – at first, but then all this with Dad came. So I took that on board as well.

It doesn’t really affect school as much as it used to. When I first started caring for Dad it used to scare me a bit with his moods, because I didn’t really understand.

But as I’ve become older and people have told me about it, I can understand.

So I don’t really worry about what he’s going to be like when I come home.

I used to go to a young carers’ club but then it got cut. Kara has her club now, which I help out at.

But we’ve just found out that from next month Kara’s club is going to be cut too.

Some days I feel like running away from it all – but then I sit and think and look at it and realise that there are people probably in a worse situation than me, and thinking about it I’ve got it quite lucky.

At least we’ve got each other.

It makes me different to other people but it’s like a good kind of different.

You’re your own person – you’re not like all your friends. You kind of stand out from the crowd. It gives you a sense of pride.


Image caption Nine-year-old Kara sometimes needs to remind her dad to take his medication

It can be a bit hard sometimes. Sometimes I have to get Dad medication. He sometimes forgets things and you have to tell him over and over again.

I go to a special club every fortnight and I do different things like playing in the barn and making stuff.

When I’m there I feel relaxed and calm. If I didn’t have a club to go to I’d be stressed out.

The family has just been told that Kara’s club is going to be closed.


Image caption Kate, who has spinal bifida, said she is “so proud” of her daughters

I was born with spinal bifida which means I’m not actually paralysed but there’s a split in my spine. I can move my legs, but I can’t walk.

I just want Rob to be a normal dad and a normal husband – like you see other families out and about, laughing and joking.

It upsets me. It’s really hard.

Rob gets confused about things quite a bit. Keavy will sit down and explain things to him. Like if it’s on the iPad or something, he doesn’t quite get it for the first couple of times. She’s very patient and will sit there and explain it all over to him again.

He’s got a few passwords and he keeps forgetting what they are so he tells Keavy what they are and she remembers them for him.

My girls are my world. They’re so special and I’m so proud to have two lovely girls who help.

I wouldn’t want to be in their position if I was their age. I’d want to be going out doing things instead of looking after my mum and dad.

Keavy’s story is featured on Inside Out South, Monday at 19:30 on BBC One, and afterwards on the BBC iPlayer for 28 days.

In The Mind – a series exploring mental health issues

Explained: What is mental health and where can I go for help?

Mood assessment: Could I be depressed?

In The Mind: BBC News special report (or follow “Mental healthtag in the BBC News app)

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