We’re home.

It’s hard to put down in writing what it feels like to be home. I have gone back and forth about how blisteringly critical I want to be of Ireland, especially since part of me deeply loves the country, and how much I want to try and look at the positives. At the end of the day, I’ve fallen to being brutally honest because I am still incredibly angry about the extent and level of trauma my daughter and I experienced in Ireland.

Quick catch up: In January I discovered there is a dedicated EDS clinic in Toronto, Ontario catering to kids 2-18. In February we talked to a solicitor about what we would need to do to legally be able to take Bella to Canada to access the clinic. On March 4th I applied to sponsor Joris, my husband, as my spouse so he could move to Canada too (the girls are already Canadian) which normally takes 12 months. For some reason I will thank the universe for, instead of taking the 12 months, Joris application flew through all the steps in 4.5 months. Granted we hauled arse with every new document and hoop immigration requested to get the stuff to them within days, it still went ludicrously fast. Suddenly in early July we got notice his visa was coming and we sold 80% of our belongings, shipped 18% and took 2% in 4 huge suitcases on a flight from Dublin to Toronto on August 13th 2019. Suddenly, after a whirlwind 8 months, we were sitting in my best friends van heading home from Pearson International Airport.

On Tuesday we registered my eldest at her new secondary school here in Ontario. We were there for about 2 hours signing paperwork, picking classes, getting her locker and having a tour. We made new friends through my best friend here and her daughter gave mine a tour and promised to look out for her. We got here in time that she starts grade 9 (first year of secondary school here) with everyone else her age, so she isn’t the new kid – her whole year are the new kids. Amazing timing.

In the 2 hours we were at the school, they validated my eldest’s struggles with her disability, anxiety and the fact that we’re getting her tested for learning disabilities more than her old school did in 2 years. They extended functional, reasonable accommodations that will facilitate her actually staying in school and going on to third level immediately. More than what we could get after fighting the school for a year in her old school in Ireland. They recognised her struggles aren’t laziness, they just need accommodations and she will do awesome things with her life. In fact when I had mentioned last year the accommodations I knew she could access here to her principal and resource teacher in Ireland, the resources teachers response was “Ah now, she’d be too clever for that and it would give her an unfair advantage!”. The fact that she equated a learning disability with being dumb should put her entire professional qualifications to question but, whatever. Casual ableism is fun too.

Instead of treating Bella like she was being difficult for her anxiety, her new guidance counselor laid out a plan for coping that Bella instantly felt safe doing. Her old school tried to ban her from contacting me during the day – which if you struggle with anxiety, taking away your comfortable coping mechanism and forcing you to do things that ALREADY make you anxious, you’ll understand how fucked up it was that they tried to limit her contact with me. One time she had such a bad panic attack we had to go collect her and when my husband walked into the school the principal didn’t even ASK how she was, he just got pissed off she contacted us instead of them. My husband just said “No” and walked away because all they cared about was limiting her access to us, her PARENTS. At her new school they said “As long as she isn’t doing it during class, she can be in touch with you as much as she wants.” Huh, it appears treating the kids with equality actually works!

The new school allows her to express herself too. They do not dictate uniforms, what they can do with their hair or piercings or jewellery, etc. There are reasonable limits, but in general she can dress how she wants to dress, have her hair the colour she likes and can pierce what she wants to pierce. Because your ability to learn isn’t dictated by how cookie cutter you are. And being different isn’t BAD here. In Ireland if you stood out someone would ALWAYS endeavour to take you down a notch, especially in school.

The relief we all felt leaving after registration is hard to explain to someone who hasn’t butted heads with the educational establishment in Ireland. All of a sudden instead of power struggles, gaslighting and mind games we’re experiencing equality, reasonable expectations, necessary accommodations and people who are invested in Bella enjoying and succeeding at school primarily instead of conforming and being forced to fake happy. *Angels singing*.

Our experiences with everything here have been similar. Everything we do might be tiring but it’s also reasonable, accessible and functional and the relief is IMMENSE. Getting bank accounts, ID, Drivers Licenses, buying a car, etc have all been straight forward and fundamentally enjoyable experiences. It’s is simply the case that whatever you have to do here is accessible, functional, reasonable and relatively easy to navigate. The effect is like being able to take a long deep breathe and relax for the first time in over a decade. Hell, being able to buy pain meds in 500 count bottles saves me mutiple trips to the chemist in a week and simple things like having wheel chair access buttons opening doors means I don’t strain my back or shoulder opening heavy doors. It sounds so small but its the small things that add up that drain all our resilience and energy when disabled.

Most importantly we feel safe with our kid being in school again and we feel safe living here. After being let down over and over again when awful stuff happened in Ireland from Garda not collecting evidence from the DV I experienced to the courts not being willing to prosecute the landlord who poisoned us with e.coli for 6 straight years. From birth trauma to being abandoned by the health system to die while I waited for years to see specialists with no one putting any effort into helping me with my disability besides my over worked GP, we all just feel safer here. That there is actual functional infrastructure and social safety nets.

I had been worried all along that I had grass is greener glasses on when planning our move, but in reality moving here has been a shock with just how much easier everything is to do. Ireland is a beautiful country with amazing people in it. It has an incredibly long way to go to escape the conformist catholic boot on its neck though. I cannot tell you what a relief it is to be out from underneath that boot.

-S

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