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RJ Mitte: By 13, I was the main breadwinner for my family. It was scary but necessary

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The Breaking Bad star on fishing with his grandparents, finding out that he had a disability, and being adopted

My grandparents would take me out fishing in their boat once a week from when I about two or three, growing up in in Texas and Louisiana. I loved it. The biggest fish I ever caught was a 1,200lb marlin but you name it, and Ive caught it. I dont get to go out as much these days, but I still enjoy it when I do. I find it calming.

For most of my childhood I had casts on both my feet. So I was always falling in the boat and knocking things overboard. There was never a dull moment on that boat. One time, I cast out and ended up hooking Poppa, my grandfather, in the head. He was sitting in the back, so I couldnt see him. I just kept yanking and yanking and ended up setting the hook in his head. So we had to go to the hospital, and every time we hit a wave, it would send shocks down his spine. Poppa joked Id caught the biggest fish of theday. It was pretty funny.

My grandfather started taking me hunting when I was six. Wed hunt deer. We wouldnt always get stuff, but we enjoyed it. Wed drive out in the woods, make a camp and wake up at about 3am. I had my own rifle. Ive only shot one deer in my life, though, when I was eight or nine.

My parents got divorced when I was nine months old, and my father would only pop in and see me once a year, if that. I dont have much contact with him. He remarried when I was quite young and they had their own little family. He does his own thing. We are kind of estranged. But I dont feel like hes missing from my life. My mother and I are extremely close and we still live together, along with my 12-year-old sister, Lacey.

RJ
RJ Mitte, far left, with the cast of Breaking Bad. Photograph: Alamy

I didnt know anything was wrong with me when I was growing up. I thought everyone went to occupational and speech therapy, I thought these were common things. I thought I was quite normal until I went to school and someone told me it wasnt normal to have a disability. That was shocking to me. I asked my mom, why did this happen, why am I affected this way? She told me, and we moved on. You have to accept what cant be fixed, and live for today like theres not going to be a tomorrow.

My mother was paralysed for six years, from a month after my sister was born. She was in a car accident a car ploughed into her at 40mph and ruptured her spine. Afterwards, she couldnt lift Lacey because of the operations shed had. So I took care of Lacey. Theres a 12-year gap between us and her dad wasnt really around, so I guess I was a bit of a father figure to her as well as a brother. I changed her diapers, made up her bottles, fed her, rocked her, bathed her – everything, I did it.

I had a lot of responsibility at the age of 12. By 13, I was the main breadwinner for my family. It was scary but necessary. I started off working as an extra, and I had to keep getting jobs to pay the bills. It evolved into a career very quickly. I think that accident changed our lives. It changed the dynamics of my relationship with my sister. Lacey is my baby, my little girl. We are still very close.

I take my sister everywhere with me. Ill take her to dinner, to parties anyplace I can bring her, I will. Shes 12 but looks like shes 24 so I dont have trouble getting her in anywhere. Despite the age gap, it feels like we have everything in common. We both like watching cartoons and playing video games, and well make music together shes a singer. But of course, we have moments when we fight, thats part of being brother and sister and living in the same house. Its inevitable.

I was eight when I found out I was adopted. My step-brother told me. Hed overheard my mum and my stepdad at the time talking about it, and he threw it in my face. But I didnt really care. It didnt seem relevant, because I never once in my life felt unloved or like I was a burden.

I do and dont want to trace my biological parents. If I find out, I find out. If I dont, I dont. Im not really looking for them. Ive got so many other problems that trying to find my biological parents is not something that I want to deal with right now. Its not a priority … unless theyre loaded. If theyre loadedand deceased, and Im in a will somewhere, Im all for it. Or if theyre part of the royal family, that would be pretty rad, too. Other than that, I dont really care.

My mom and grandparents always said to me: you can do whatever you want. Cant wasnt an option for my grandfather. If I told him I couldnt do something, hed tell me I was going to do it. Hed say: because you told me you couldnt do it, Im going to force you to do it. If you want it enough, it can be done. He helped to make me who I am today.

RJ Mitte supports the disability charity Scope. The charity runs a Role Models programme in schools across the UK that educates young people about disability.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/dec/23/rj-mitte-by-13-i-was-the-main-breadwinner-for-my-family-it-was-scary-but-necessary