The wonderful Helen has been back for more blog therapy today and this time she’s giving us an insight into the frustrations she has to deal with on a day to day basis with her disability. Take it away H….
Blog Therapy 2 – Going Dutch
I’m a born worrier, but of late I’ve been more upset than normal. I read people’s tweets and timelines, I chat to real life friends & I’m jealous. Not of their new phone or latest Mulberry* bag, but of the fact they can take their kids to the park, do messy play or bake some cupcakes. You see I can’t do those normal, everyday things with my toddler without it being a military operation because I’m disabled. I can’t stop worrying how my disability will affect my daughter and I know I need to overcome this for both our sakes.
I became disabled at the age of 28 through illness, I was previously very fit and well. The best way I can describe how becoming disabled affects you is to ask you to read this piece which I stumbled across thanks to @MotherScuffer. It’s an excerpt from an analogy written to describe parenting a disabled child, but it also works well describing the life-altering change of becoming disabled from previously being able-bodied too.
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The gondolas in Venice. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”
“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.” But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.
Holland versus Italy
Using this analogy, before I became disabled my husband and I were well on track for a life in Italy, but when I became ill we ended up in Holland and our lives completely changed. I hated Holland at first, the piece above describes my journey perfectly as I came to terms with my disability. And although Mr W would prefer life in Italy, he has adapted to life in Holland too. I’m lucky – he’s a once-in-a-lifetime travel companion & he learns the lingo quickly.
We’d been living in Holland for over 10 years when Lia was born there, almost 3 years ago now. And this is where the problem of Going Dutch really started for me. To me it feels like Lia was meant to have Italian citizenship, but she’s ended up Dutch instead. This worries me – she isn’t ever going to truly know what normal everyday life in Italy is like until she’s an adult & gets her own passport to get there.
I know things could be worse – we could be metaphorically living in Siberia or in a country with spiders the size of dinner plates. The rational part of me counts my daily blessings of living in Holland, of which there are many. We have Lia full-stop and she is healthy herself – she is the biggest blessing I could ever have. We have our families spend a lot of time with us in Holland and some amazing friends to help and support us there. I know all of these things and yet I still can’t help but worry about Lia growing up in Holland.
- What if when she grows up Lia holds it against me that she’s Dutch? Italy has the best ice cream & she loves ice cream. Lia will inevitably miss out on opportunities in life because of me, though we will try to minimise this.
- What effect will Holland have on her? She’s already used to seeing me in hospital, bed bound & in pain. I see the confusion in her eyes when I’m unable to get out of bed some days, her fright when I suddenly squeal with the intense pain of a shock muscle spasm and it breaks my heart every time.
- Most, if not all, of her friends will be from Italian families & she’s going to an Italian school. She’s going to stick out like a sore thumb being Dutch. Kids pick on other kids who are different. Is she going to get bullied because of being Dutch?
And so on, and so on…
At the moment I’m finding that socialising with other families is like I’m torturing myself by reading Italian guidebooks all the time. I get tantalising glimpses of Italian family life, one that’s not ever going to happen for us – I’m never going to leave Holland again, I know that.
So what do I do? I can’t ignore the fact that Italy exists. So I know I somehow need to come to terms with all of this – to learn to enjoy being a family living in Holland, to wake up and smell the tulips if you like. And I need to do this soon so that I can be the best tour guide to Holland, and to life, that I can possibly be for my daughter.
*not true, would give my right arm for a Mulberry bag, for the record.
If you would like to take part in Blog Therapy, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. No problem big or small x
Photo credit – Google image search