The theme for Black History Month 2023 is Saluting Our Sisters.
We saw this as a great opportunity to talk with and celebrate three of our black, female carers: Anne Croft, Jenny Dindial and Linda Seddon.
You will be able to read their stories here.
Linda Seddon spoke to us recently about her caring role…
I was born in Manchester where I lived with my mum, my step dad, who adopted me, and a younger step-brother. I didn’t get to know my birth dad, who is Nigerian, until I was about 10 years old. I may have Nigerian genetics, but I’ve never been to Nigeria. I have only ever lived in England. When I was a little older, my ‘real’ dad wanted to take me to Africa to live there with him but I said a very firm, NO!
He and I saw each other all the time. I got on well with him, as did my mum. There was no animosity there. He knew my family and I got to know his family, too, including half brothers and sisters. It is a very complex family! It was good to spend time with family for my father’s 80th birthday in Manchester. I went on that day for a surprise visit. More recently, I found out that I had also had a half-brother but didn’t know until after he had died.
I first realised that I was seen as ‘different’ because of my skin colour when I went to school. Before then, I hadn’t even realised that my step dad was not my ‘real’ dad, even though he was white. I was affected by name-calling and picked on in other ways, too, just because I was black. I didn’t want to start any fights, but it was difficult. I got upset then and I still do, some times.
When I first left school, I worked in office administration. Later, when I moved to Sussex, I saw a job advertised for the youth service and decided to apply. I got the job and so I became a youth worker with East Sussex County Council. I worked in the Bexhill / Sidley area. I had my own children by then and sometimes they would turn up at sessions. This did not go down so well, so I was transferred out of the area.
How did I become a carer? It was when James, my partner, had an accident on his way to work. He was knocked off his bicycle by a van and his spine was fractured. The doctors told us that he’d be off work for 6 weeks, which, in itself, was a difficult time for us all. I could see further ahead, however, and just knew that he wasn’t going to get better. Although I became his carer then, it was about three or four years later that I finally realised and acknowledged this. James was still very young when he had the accident and I’ve now been his carer for 20 years.
I help with his medication including morphine patches. He is mobile, but I have to drive him anywhere he needs to go. We go out together at times that suit him, e.g. evenings when it’s not too busy because he can’t cope with being in busy places. He uses a stick but is wary of people butting into him because of the pain so it is best to let him choose what and when he wants to do things.
James is dyslexic but also has a condition that means he can’t remember things so well. We went to a conference together to learn more about this. It’s for this reason that I need to be with him at appointments because he forgets things. Sometimes, however, people think that I’m his paid carer rather than his partner.
I’m really proud of him taking a university course, which I proof read for him because of his dyslexia. He now has a BA in computer studies!
I think I’m a caring person, naturally. I do a lot of voluntary work so I already knew about Care for the Carers when I became a carer. When I saw the sign at my GP it prompted me to register. I’ve been involved for a lot of years, now.
Being involved with Care for the Carers gives me a chance to meet other people in similar situations, people who are also caring for their loved ones for however long that may be. It’s important to know that you’re not the only one and you can relate to and support each other because you have similar issues.
Nowadays, I refer people to Care for the Carers. It’s good to know that there is someone out there who thinks about you. Caring changes your life completely so, although you know that things will never be the same, being with other people in a similar situation does change your outlook on life.
Being of Nigerian heritage doesn’t impact on me in my caring role, but I am interested in meeting others from diverse cultures. Often people from different cultures just don’t think of themselves as carers and don’t realise they can get help.
I reassure people that CftC is there to look after carers because the perception is often that it just wants information. Another example is that Care for the Carers has helped me when applying for my personal budgets from East Sussex County Council. I’ve bought a television and, more recently, bought the geneology software that allows me to research my family.
Plus, I get to do lovely things as respite with other carers. I’m looking forward to going to Sheffield Park and the Bluebell Railway because I’ve never been before. I will also get to see people I’ve not seen for ages.
You have to be fit and well to be a carer, otherwise you can’t care for your loved ones. I have health issues, too so need to remember to take care of myself. How do I relax? I do jigsaws and geneology, for which I now have the right software. I also go to Northern Soul events and James comes too!
My tip to other carers? Remember that, unless there is a change in condition, you’ll always be a carer. Try to find people around you who are also carers who you can share your thoughts with.
Regarding Black History Month? I think we should have Black History Year! It should be year round not just October! It is important, though, to celebrate and be proud of people who do well in their chosen fields against the odds.
Anne Croft, spoke candidly about her life and caring role…
“I’m approaching my 50th year but I still feel a very young 30, despite having MS, which I’ve had for 19 years. I have great colleagues and employers who look after me in my workplace and I’m fortunate that I am mobile so can still drive.
I work full time as a phlebotomist, checking bloods in a hospital laboratory, but recently I was head hunted by a company in London to teach phlebotomy there. This is my dream job! It’s taken a long time to get here, but I’m so pleased to have achieved this landmark.
I was brought up in Birmingham in a huge Caribbean family of 16 siblings! My parents came to the UK during the late 50’s, members of the Windrush generation.
In my job, I’m sometimes asked where I am from. “Birmingham!” I tell them. People sometimes try to push for a further answer but I can only tell them that I am British born and brought up. It’s useful to know about different coloured skin in my job, though. For example, when I’m teaching, I have to teach that it’s not so easy to take blood from a non-Caucasian because you can’t see the veins so well.
My husband and I have three white boys from my husband’s previous marriage and we share a daughter. I also brought my youngest brother to live with me when my mum died so this too, is a very large and a mixed family.
My caring role is for my step son, Connor, who is 28. I never think of him as my step son, though. I already knew his family when he was born and his mum passed away when he was just 14 months old. I married his dad when Connor was four years old so he only remembers me as his mum, therefore I am his mum.
He is such a lovable person, but sometimes I feel that he doesn’t have anyone else to compare himself with. Connor is gay and a vegan. It was difficult for him to come out. He wouldn’t tell his father but he did tell me.
He lacks in self-esteem and struggles with his mental health. This first became apparent when he was a teenager, when he was still at school. The school had concerns and it was they who suggested that we should watch him carefully for any signs of depression or mental illness.
It was when he was older and had his first job that the mental health issues started to really manifest themselves in the form of self-harming. There was a bad end to a relationship that he’d been in. He would go to work with a razor and it was then that I knew that this was serious. We just didn’t know what was going to come next and I had to constantly make sure that he was OK. This was also when I started to realise that I had become his carer. If I felt he was troubled, for example, I arranged GP appointments for him and took him to hospital appointments.
Although I am trained in a field of medicine, mental health as an illness is so specialised. I felt that I just didn’t have the tools to deal with it so, although I wanted to help him, I didn’t know how to. His dad was in denial and he was afraid of how to handle the illness. He does understand better now and just how serious the illness is.
Thankfully, Connor is much happier now, living an independent life with his partner. I do liaise with his partner. We support each other and it’s such a relief to have someone who realises the seriousness of the Connor’s condition and that we can support each other.
I also have a friend who is a counsellor. She supported Connor when he was younger. Everything was confidential but she could advise me on how best to support him.
To get his mind off things I would teach Connor to cook with the flavours and spices of the Caribbean. Cooking is sensory experience and you’re always talking as you go along. You don’t cook in silence. It’s a warming activity, especially baking. Connor would find recipe and I would bake things that he would give scores out of 10 for. We would hold a Bake Off! where we would involve him and everyone else in the family in the process.
To relax and have ‘me time’, I go to a choir. I’ve done this for 6 years or so. We do performances for charitable events including short marathons, singing at nursing homes and in schools. This is my relief. I learn new songs and, rather than listen to the radio, I listen to my songs to memorise the words. It’s such a healthy activity to do. Singing makes me feel happy! It puts me in a good mood. It’s also a great way to bring the family together as they all come to watch me and we make a family event of it by going out to eat together afterwards.
Once a month I still meet with the same counsellor friend. I can talk to her about how both me and Connor are getting on. She is one of only two friends I have who I will talk to other than family about my caring role. This is important to me.
I also have a monthly massage. This helps with my MS but it also helps me mentally. It’s a time when I don’t have to talk. I just enjoy it and relax.
My tip to other carers is to take time for yourself because you are going to need it. Also, have your best couple of friends who you can talk to.
Regarding Black History Month and the theme of Saluting Our Sisters? This should be about all women from all cultures and not just for a month, but all year round! Am I being too greedy?!
My life now? I haven’t let the MS get to me. I still work full time. I’m proud that I have brought up 5 children. I still have a very full and active life and my colleagues at work think I’m amazing.”
(We do too, Anne!)