13 September 2021

Miah's story: young carer with borderline personality disorder speaks out

| Dominic Giannini
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Miah Jagoe-Shaw with sisters Cody and Paige as young children

From left: Miah Jagoe-Shaw with her younger sisters, Cody and Paige. Photo: Supplied.

It was a tough childhood for Miah Jagoe-Shaw, who was often unable to attend school – and was isolated when she was well enough to go – after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder at 16.

Struggling with emotional distress, anxiety and social exclusion all her life, it wasn’t until Miah was hospitalised that she was able to be diagnosed.

The only education Miah received was when she helped her younger sisters with their schoolwork as she retreated to an isolation room at school.

Borderline personality disorder – which includes self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behaviour, and an intense fear of abandonment – can result in anger, impulsiveness and mood swings that push others away.

Miah’s teachers did not understand the disorder and she was often labelled too difficult to deal with.

“It’s hard to explain to someone how borderline personality disorder impacts everyday life,” she says. “The majority of the teachers were unable or unwilling to help as it was something they had never dealt with before.”

It was only through special circumstances that Miah’s school allowed her to pass year 10. But following the diagnosis and proper management techniques, she was able to graduate year 12 early with honours.

Despite her isolating and challenging childhood, the now 21-year-old decided to take the lessons she had learned from her disorder and use them to help other people with a disability.

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This includes her two younger sisters, with Cody, 18, experiencing mood swings and bouts of depression, and Paige, 15, struggling with extreme anxiety.

On top of her disorder, Miah is studying a Diploma of Counselling, working as a case manager at Relationships Australia, and is the sole carer for her sisters on weekends.

“I have a number of family members with disabilities so to be able to give back to the community in this way is extremely rewarding and validating in regard to how far I have come,” she says.

“Although it is challenging at times, the love we have for each other outweighs the adversities.

“It is like hanging with my best friends 24/7 and I hope I can give others a level of support my sisters have given me.”

But not all young carers are able to keep on top of their education, with many finding it easier to drop out of school rather than trying to fit into a system that is failing them, an ACT inquiry into education and inclusion was told in May 2021.

There are almost half a million carers under the age of 25 around Australia, but due to their caring role, almost half of them don’t finish high school and two in three experience mental illness.

Miah has applied for the Young Carer Bursary program – which offers $3000 bursaries to 1000 carers each year – to help cover the costs of her diploma, as well as additional resources, such as textbooks, to support her study.

Applications for the Young Carer Bursary program close on 30 September, 2021. More information and the application portal is available here.

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