We asked women with disabilities what their daily life looks like during the pandemic. What they go through from morning to evening, what activities keep them busy, what they talk about with themselves or other members of the household, what changed in their daily routine, what their greatest obstacles under the new circumstances are and how they overcome them, what aspects of their character help them or make it more difficult to cope with the situation, what their sources of support are, if there is a good side to what is going on, what new things they have discovered about themselves during the state of emergency, how isolation affects their relations with others, what makes them angry, are their days in isolation too long or too short, what is the first thing they will do when this is over…? This is how the instant column Quarantine Notes on the Disability Portal came to be. Below are the notes of Ljilja Slišković, sportswoman and activist for rights of persons with disabilities. Ljilja is the only wheelchair user from Žepče (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and one of the two women with disabilities in the world who dived in extreme conditions-under ice.
My days in isolation are just like any other day before covid. Maybe I’m a bit sarcastic, but that’s generally what the everyday life of persons with disabilities looks like. I don’t know how silly this may sound to some, but it’s not far from the truth. As an active and social person, I miss people a little, I miss escaping into changes of this everyday life.
I start my mornings with coffee, of course, and a bit more nicotine than usual. I think about how to use the day in the best possible way, because regardless of the situation, each new day has its own magic. I live in the country and every morning I take my coffee watching nature waking up. Just as isolation didn’t stop nature running its course, so I need to accept this new way of life and find a bright spot in all this. It’s not the first time my life has changed from the root, and still it will all pass.
I live with my mother who is 63, three nephews and sister-in-law. Life in a village gives us some freedom. We have animals to take care of, my mother takes care of them mostly. I am in charge of the children while my sister-in-law is at work. I have breakfast with them, I plan what we will have for lunch and do other housework, like a real housewife, which I usually never like doing.
To break the routine, I decided to sew masks in my free time, for children and adults, on a voluntary basis, for friends and for all those who need them. In conversations with different individuals, I heard that this is nonsense, as masks don’t protect, so it’s best just to sit around and be a smart aleck. It’s better to have some protection than none! It doesn’t discourage me, I keep on working, regardless of what others think. When I got really stiff from working on the machine and sewing, I asked my friend from Banja Luka to record some exercises for me so that I could stretch. I do them regularly at least once a day, they’re really useful and I would recommend everyone who sits for a long time to activate themselves this way. In the afternoons, I take a stroll in the wheelchair, some two kilometers. Just to note, it’s all uphill, so after the isolation I will look like a female Rambo. The kids and I put up a darts board in the garage, and we practice. They spend a lot of time playing different games because they can go outside. We’re here alone, we don’t have contact with other people, so we are really staying in isolation.
I get hundreds of messages on the phone. At first it was interesting, I answered everyone’s calls and messages. I felt it was impolite not to return calls to all distant cousins and so-called friends, but then I said: –Enough! They exhaust me, so I don’t have enough strength or will to talk to my closest family members. I started to become a bit rude, I don’t reply to anyone anymore who is not there for me otherwise. Facebook is a separate topic in itself! At the beginning of this isolation: millions of friend requests! I accepted them all, some out of curiosity, some because I thought I had met these persons before, so it felt impolite not to accept. Then there is this whole circus orchestrated by the male population. You wouldn’t believe what people are involved in! Just horrible! I am convinced that a lot of women, especially women with disabilities, experienced this, but they are too embarrassed to say. I was exposed to sexual harassment and I was contacted by those who have a fetish for women with disabilities. I was so rude and cruel in my replies that they did not dare contact me again. In the end, I decided not to have photos on Facebook, so my friends and family tease me that this is also a way to attract attention. I don’t know what to say, people have a lot of time on their hands and they get all kinds of ideas. The things I saw and heard: the degree of human perversion is unbelievable!
As the days pass, it seems to me that I have more chores in isolation and that I get tired more than usual. I can’t remember every single detail clearly, but the most important thing is that there is no monotony. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was a bit scared: – How and why is this happening? Uncertainty was the cause of my greatest fears: – What can we expect tomorrow? Still, we can’t give up and wait for things to sort themselves out over time, every individual is responsible for themselves, even for others. We need to find as many positive things as we can and occupy our attention focusing on them. We don’t talk to the nephews a lot and we don’t burden them with the topic of the corona virus, though they hear and see a lot, as the media are constantly present, but we try to explain to them that this is something that will soon be over and everything will be like before. They’re good children, they don’t spend much time in front of the screen, they spend a lot of time outside, so I too do something new with them every day. In these times, it’s an advantage to live in the country.
I got in touch with my diver friends from Rijeka, so we had an online lecture on the theoretical part of diving. When this is over and the theoretical part learned, I am left with the practical part and new adventures. I don’t know what more to say, my journalist really dragged me into this writing, but I would be happiest if I could sit with here somewhere, having coffee, with me talking and her writing. I read a wonderful message this morning, so I am sharing it with you:
– What the world needs more than a good hand wash is a thorough washing of the heart, soul and mind.
I hope we will all take some time to think during this period of isolation, reexamine ourselves first of all, then try to be at least a bit better persons tomorrow.