Abbey Connected: The pain you can’t see

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‘“Mr. Holliday, have you ever been to the tropics?”’ This question was asked of my father some 38 years ago by Dr Gutman, his highly-skilled (if somewhat  ironically-named) gastroenterologist. The answer was no, as he had rarely been out of Peterborough at the time – and why would he? (Only people who have visited Peterborough will understand the comedic nature of this statement.)

Surrounded by medical professionals, my father lay nervously in his hospital bed and waited for an explanation for the question he had just been posed. “Coeliac,” proclaimed Dr Gutman. For a moment I thought he was requesting the unsung hero of the vegetable world, but my 11 year old mind then registered – “is this finally a diagnosis?” Apparently his fingernails hid the answer to a long-standing medical quandary.

My Dad had suffered for many years with crippling stomach pains. Never complaining, and when my worried self asked if he was ok, the reply was always the same –  “I’m ok son, how are you?” See…he was a superhero. Granted he couldn’t fly, or swing between buildings from a spider’s web, and his reverse parking was shocking, but he was strong. He had mental resolve. He dealt with the pain you couldn’t see. 

His diet changed overnight. Bread out of a tin and gluten free cakes made by my Nan. The bread was more sawdust than substance and the cake…well you could stamp on it for several minutes and it still refused to buckle. So an abrupt lifestyle change that brought little pleasure. Nowadays the ‘free-from’ range offers a plethora of choice, but back then, it was stark. Once again, he never complained.

What mattered to him whenever concern and anxiety about his health engulfed me was smiling back and supporting me. Showing me he had this. Looking out for me. 

I suspect this story resonates in some way with a number of our readers, who may have family members challenged by pain not visible to those closest to them, or indeed have experienced this themselves. Whether emotional, mental or physical, the challenge to remain upright on a daily basis can be testing. The thought of the battle itself can render us weary, yet a stride at a time and we keep going. Resilience.

We are led to believe Gen Zs (people born between 1996 and 2010) are snowflakes who lack resilience – but that simply isn’t true. Not at The Abbey at least. We encourage these students, and those younger, to be open-minded in the face of adversity and embrace the bumps in the road. Learning from failure can provide a purposeful route to success, so we make challenge important and meaningful – not something you have to endure. Flipping that narrative prepares them for what’s ahead. 

Commitment, drive and determination is displayed daily, whether it be a Reception student showing courage and spirit when learning to write, through to Year 11 and 13 students who are currently immersed in exams – a process requiring self-belief, dedication and you guessed it, resilience. 

Our amazing teachers are the architects of student progress and learning. They also encourage each girl to be the best version of themselves, to take risks and to remain principled and open-minded at all times. This is proof the Abbey Learner Profile is alive and kicking each day at this incredible school.

However, we are all teachers of resilience. We show our children that anything is possible, despite repeated attempts to blow us off course. We show them a challenge must be embraced.

In my life, things have gone full circle. I, like my father, also have a condition, and as today is World IBD Day, it allows me to nod to the sufferers of pain you can’t see. Despite this condition, I am the luckiest guy in the world, because I learnt from the best, and when asked by my boys how I’m feeling when things are rough, I simply answer, “I’m ok son, how are you?”

Pete Holliday, Director of Marketing and Admissions

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