Have you been homesick? The holidays can be particularly trying for people who suffer from homesickness. Our friend Wikipedia claims that homesickness can be traced back to the Old Testament and the Odyssey. Even Hippocrates spoke of heimveh, a nostalgic reaction to being away from home.
Feeling homesick is common to young people. Summer camp is notorious for sparking various degrees of excitement, fear, or terror in young children. College students and soldiers are also common victims of homesickness in various degrees. Nearly everyonemisses something from home when they are away: parents, siblings, dog, horse, fish, bed, the objects to be missed are innumerable. A certain degree of FOMO (fear of missing out) is to be expected. The intensity of the feeling varies greatly. In clinical terms, severe homesickness is related to separation anxiety and can manifest in depression and all the physical symptoms depression involves, including indigestion and inability to function in daily responsibilities.
In my twenties, I was dumfounded to learn that a man ten years my senior and a natural leader, had experienced severe homesickness when he went to basic training. Not only that, but he continued to battle bouts of homesickness as an adult.
Last summer I rented a room to a college student. He was a nice, gregarious young man with an internship at a local tech firm. Though he seemed to blend into the corporate culture like a decoy duck and make friends by batting his long lashes, I sensed his homesickness. During his ten weeks here, his parents came for a visit. His need was palpable. The youngest of the litter, his connection with his mother is unmistakable, both physically and emotionally. He has returned to Boise, now with a diploma and a permanent job. This time he has his own apartment—his first living experience without family or roommates. While he loves aspects of his new adulthood, homesickness still lurks, though he never voices it directly. He was over the moon about his two-week Christmas visit back home to Kansas.
I wonder if homesickness is more prevalent in people from large families. My natural born leader also came from a tight family with great respect and adoration for each other. Tamar Chansky, a psychologist and author of Freeing Yourself From Anxiety, asserts that homesickness may be about missing home, but it is also about not yet feeling comfortable where you are. In its mildest forms homesickness is simply a form of nostalgia. In its more severe forms it mimics a grief reaction, which if unabated, can cause serious debilitation.
Coming from a small family that was never very close, I’ve never felt more than mild FOMO. Even as a kid, I was thrilled to get away from home. I’ve always been excited to experiencing something new. After a certain time, I do miss my bed and my pillow.
Have you experience homesickness? Do you still? What about home do you think fed (or feeds) those feelings?