Our neighbour for the last 12 years has sadly received some terrible health news since we were here last . He has been told that there is no treatment for him and that he should simply enjoy what life he has left. He was showing us his brand new pick up truck and from being a quiet man, who really only nodded hello, he has become a gregarious chatty neighbour, who has so much to say. It is as though, now he knows that he is on borrowed time, that his whole personality has altered. His wife came to apologise for him, which of course there was no need for but she is finding the transformation in her 76 year old husband difficult to adjust to.
Of course , he is not the only person who has been changed by health news: stroke survivors that I know who make a good physical recovery, such as Yorkshire Grandma’s husband, lose part of their original personality and other parts become exaggerated.
We will never know the impact that Joshua’s diagnosis has had on my personality but he has certainly changed me: I am more emotional than I was and I like to think that I have more empathy with my fellow special needs parents than I would have had otherwise. But in a strange way, I worry less about smaller issues , as Joshua puts many work worries, for instance, into perspective. I was not anxious for example, presenting to a large potential client last week, I enjoyed the opportunity. So it is not that having Joshua has made me stronger necessarily, but it has made my view the world very differently. I certainly do not plan very far ahead now – there is no point, as anything could happen before then , so a week ahead tends to be as far away as I can plan.
Joshua was the first experience in my life that I could not control or influence by my own hard work and desire to make it different. Then my Dad’s vascular dementia and my own three miscarriages followed on as further examples of how simply wishing something was different, was not enough to change anything.
I think I would have had better sleeping patterns without Joshua in my life, the impact of 17 years of disturbed nights, is now taking its toll. I am not sure that I would have discovered this blogging outlet if I had not had anything like life with Joshua to share and I am surprised that I never run out of topics to write about.
But I am not sure that we are born with an assigned personality; it changes and develops over time , being shaped by the people that we are close to and the experiences that we encounter along the way. I imagine that becoming a parent shapes everyone , but the impact of SEN parenthood will be even more dramatic and that impact is likely to last longer too. We can only embrace these personality shifts, rather than trying to fight them as they may be a simple coping mechanism.