On homesickness

Nostalgia's not what it used to be

Nostalgia’s not what it used to be (Photo credit: marc e marc)

In one of those weird moments of simultaneity, after I wrote yesterday’s post about homesickness, I opened my bedtime reading to find William Fiennes talking about the same thing. (Although he made no reference to projectile piss at a Madness concert.)

Fiennes describes how the condition was given a medical designation as far back as 1688, by a Swiss physician named Hofer. He called it ‘Nostalgia’, and described it as a ‘serious disease’ characterised by the following symptoms:

‘…continued sadness, disturbed sleep either wakeful or continuous, decrease of strength, hunger, thirst, senses diminished, and cares or even palpitations of the heart, frequent sighs, also stupidity of the mind – attending to nothing hardly, other than an idea of the Fatherland.’

The idea was picked up again in 1754 by a fella called De Meyserey, who observed ‘nostalgia’ in a military context. He emphasised the importance of ‘keeping any soldier who showed signs of homesickness busy, diverted, occupied by tasks or vigorous activity. He recommended medications that would allow the blood and humours to circulate more easily…’

Anyone who has experienced grief will recognise the symptoms, and the prescription for its ‘relief’. Diversions, medications. Anything to help contain the spread of the ‘disease’.

The passage in Fiennes’ book (The Snow Geese) helped elucidate my feelings of ‘homesickness’ within the context of my grief.

For grief is a ‘sickness’ in itself, impacting on every aspect of my new life. And as far as I can see, there is no cure other than to keep going.