This morning, as I read the BBC’s piece on footballer Jesus Navas and how he’s struggled for years with homesickness, I was transported back to a place I’d completely forgotten about. Perhaps, rather, locked away. Suddenly – I was 8 again.
It was Monday morning at school. Emma, my best bud, was driven to distraction because that weekend was her 9th birthday party: the rules for which were – 1. wear a body and 2. wear double denim. Nice idea. I could do that. See you there! But that wasn’t it. By Wednesday there was another rule. The most important one, apparently. 3. Bring a sleeping bag. Oh fuck, I thought. I can’t do that.
My perfectly rational fears – in chronological order – were as follows:
What if my parents die while I’m away?
What if I walk into a room and remember it’s not my house and burst into tears?
What if someone hugs me and I start crying because I miss the warmth of my mother’s bosom?
What if I shit myself?
And a couple of other questions:
Whatever happened to the balloon man? I like him. He does sing songs then home time…!
Why not the disco bus like last year? That was brilliant! I mean, parked at the end of your road like that, it was depressing sure but…
…oh,I could have vomited all over her. Her shoes, her hair. I could have exploded all over the classroom I was that sickened by the idea. By the prospect of spending an entire night away from my family, with all my friends – laughing and giggling about, I don’t know, Ace Of Base, ugh, it had me in a flu like shvitz.
Emma leant in, after inhaling a massive straw-ful of chocolate Nesquick, and whispered those words every best friend longs to hear… “you’re sleeping next to ME”. And with that I turned to face the wall, covered, as it was, in paintings of Aztec vases and swallowed a lump the size of a golf ball.
I feigned excitement and trembled for the rest of the week in anticipation of my first ever slumber party (and inevitable public shaming). Everyone made such a hoo-ha about the fact I’d never slept away from home before. No camp. No PGL, nothing. (*PGL?? How could people want their parents to GET LOST???) There was a reason I hadn’t gone away. I didn’t want to. Not at all. Not even a bit. Andalsobecausemymumwasirrationallyoverprotective.
HOWEVER, the overall theme – as if double denim, burgers and bodices weren’t enough – was Beverly Hills 90210. Emma’s mum was giving away THEMED diaries as going home presents. THEMED MAGNETIC DIARIES. So here was my dichotomy : Go to the sleepover, risk never seeing my family again, DIE inside a hundred times and probably cry a lot, leave with a 90210 diary but no self respect. OR – don’t go, stay at home, be happy, don’t get a diary, but be made to regret it for the rest of my waking life.
That Saturday, leaning against Emma’s banister for moral support, clutching hold of my comfort blanket and pillow, I stared at my mum in disbelief as she dangled her car keys.
“We’ll give her back tomorrow” said Emma’s mum, tapping me on the nose, expecting me to say something witty. She got nothing. “Bye Kitty” – said mum, staring into my soul. She knew it too. She knew full well that this was the last time we were ever going to see each other. And as she turned on her heel, the fear of god that had lived inside my bladder for nearly 4 whole days finally surfaced – initially as an impish whimpering sound, then evolving into an outright whale. I was whaling. Like a 3 year old. It was over.
My over-anxious tears soaked mum’s coat sleeves and I heard a muffled voice say she “knew it was coming”. Was I that predictable? Then I looked up and saw that the daft bat was only crying too. Awesome. Totally totally awesome.
After that complete shit show of mother and daughter neediness, I’m pleased to say that I did stay at Emma’s house that night, didn’t cry again, and was the complete life and soul of the party. I think I even stripped at one point.
But I did continue to battle homesickness well into my teens. Sometimes only preemptively like at Emma’s. But often during. After GCSEs, I went to Spain and mum had the audacity to hide a note in my bag saying how much she loved me. The minute before, I’d been wondering if I was going to get laid. Suddenly I wanted to get into my PJs and eat egg.
70% of people suffer adult homesickness when they first leave home. And perhaps it won’t come as a surprise that during the entire car journey to Birmingham university in October 2003, age 19, I whaled again – but quietly. In fact, the homesickness was preemptive and when I arrived, all consuming, that time. It got so bad that I left uni after about a month. A combination of lovesickness and homesickness – enough to give anyone quincy and drop out.
Luckily, maturity and a little bit of life experience saw me through and ridded me of homesickness completely in just 6 months. By the time it came to starting uni the following October, I practically ran there.
I hope this wee tale is a comfort to anyone going through extreme homesickness at the moment. It does get better and you can totally get over it for good. Don’t be embarrassed though. Loads of people get it, and if you’re running out of ways to cope, there are things you can do. And if they don’t work, a little bit of cognitive therapy will sort you out in no time.
for more info on this visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22764986