Tag Archives: depression

“our ties to home”

The video below shows Elzara Batalova , of Crimean Tatar background, singing “Ey Güzel Qırım” (“Oh, You Beautiful Crimea”), a ballad in one of the many Turkic languages :

Hers is a song of nostalgia, of the passionate longing for home, as the following refrain – one of several – articulates:

I haven’t lived in this place

Haven’t been able to realize my old age

Have been yearning for home

Oh, you beautiful Crimea

I don’t know how many of you have been born outside the United States, neither do I have any insight into whether you miss your birthplace – no matter where it is.  As some or maybe all of you already know (About), I was born and raised in Turkey and lived there until the age of twenty-four.  Although, my move to North America is not about a migrant’s story, an opinion page in New York Times on immigrants and the overall global trend to leave home recently got my attention.  Unlike some other articles I had encountered over the thirty-six years I lived and worked in the States, the treatment of this issue by Dr. Susan J. Matt , a professor of history at Weber State University – and the author of Homesickness: An American History , is psychology-based.  The facts, figures and statistics, I will leave behind.  Should the topic appeal to your interest, you can easily locate the source (in my blog roll).

Based on her “nearly a decade’s research” on the subject, Prof. Matt first informs us in “The New Globalist Is Homesick” as follows: “The global desire to leave home arises from poverty and necessity, but it also grows out of a conviction that such mobility is possible.”  She then adds that “it also has high psychological costs” and that “many people who leave home in search of better prospects end up feeling displaced and depressed.”  Foremost important to me on a personal level is what she states next: “Few speak openly of the substantial pain of leaving home.”  We learn from her article how in the 19th century “[s]tories of the devastating effects of homesickness were common [… (e.g.] ‘Victim of Nostalgia: A Priest Dies Craving for a Sight of his Motherland.”)  What the article highlights next is, to me, a first-time fact:    “Today, explicit discussions of homesickness are rare, for the emotion is typically regarded as an embarrassing impediment to individual progress and prosperity.  This silence makes mobility appear deceptively easy.”

Here, I invite us to pause briefly in order to get into my head, approximately three decades ago: At a time, when I was craving to be back home.  My mother was the main reason for my longing, along with my youth love I had left behind.  With the exception of my letters to her and a few jotted notes, I, too, had kept my silence about the deeply rooted ache I used to feel. With my mother’s death, my letters also vanished. As for those scattered notes, I may eventually find them during another move, whenever that may happen.  Imagine now, if you please, my conditions to leave my home country as opposed to those Matt analysed: There was no necessity for me to leave my home country.  I left to pursuit my passion to further my studies.  Poverty was not an issue, either.  Still, during my first years here, I experienced feelings of immense loss.

“Technology also seduces us into thinking that migration is painless [,]” writes Matt and argues: If today’s ways of rapid communication “could truly vanquish homesickness and make us citizens of the world, Skype, Facebook, cellphones and e-mail would have cured a pain that has been around since ‘The Odyssey’.”  She also announces: “Homesickness continued to plague many who migrated.”  Her argument finds support in her own research of the Archives of General Psychiatry, regarding, for instance, the “rates of depression and anxiety” among “Mexican immigrants in the United States” being “40 percent higher than nonmigrant relatives remaining in Mexico.  A wealth of studies have documented that other newcomers to America also suffer from high rates of depression and ‘acculturative stress’.”  Matt ends her findings by stressing how limited “the cosmopolitan philosophy” is: “The idea that we can and should feel at home anyplace on the globe is based on a worldview that celebrates the solitary, mobile individual and envisions men and women as easily separated from family, from home and from the past. But this vision doesn’t square with our emotions, for our ties to home, although often underestimated, are strong and enduring.”

On a personal level, I admit to a realization at this stage in my life how strong and enduring my ties to home have, in fact, been.  When I say home, it is not even my birthplace I speak of.  It is, rather, that of my mother and of seven generations on her family side. When the name alone comes up – Sinop, the small harbor town that housed Diogenes, I face the oddest phenomenon of my entire life so far: A primal urge to be there.  Since I can’t, I have scenario-rich dreams about it; I composed one, to me one of my most illustrious and longest but also most meaningful poems for it; I lived the most exhilarating three-and-a-half months of my life in it; I mourned and continue to mourn the loss of my mother’s inheritance from it.  I have even gone to such extent to add to my living will for my ashes to be spread to its sea.

I believe to no longer underestimate my ties to home – the way I had been for long , neither do I undermine the fact how strong and enduring that connection can be.  As if our umbilical cord is still attached not only to our mothers but to our birthplaces at large as well.

I now end here with the hope that you will come back, perhaps even with your own story of leaving home, or, just because.  Before I do, however, I want to give you “Sinop Aşkı” (“Love of/for Sinop”), a short video (4:37) with still  images of the town, accompanied by modern Turkish Folk music.  The second video is a longer and live introductory piece in English (25:16).  We have started with a music piece.  Why not end on one.

I very much look forward to your next visit.



Filed under Reflections

R.A.: A Disease for the Well-to-do and the Unremitting Optimist

If you have been living under the despotic rule of the autoimmune system disorder Rheumatoid Arthritis, you know what I am claiming here: This disease is not for anyone who is struggling financially and is also not equipped with chronic optimism.  A comprehensive health insurance helps, of course: Minus the minimal deductible, it covers the very expensive monthly medication some of us rely on to complete basic functions (mine is a weekly self-injectable protein shot – no other treatment helped me).  There is, however, something we seek to attain just like non-sufferers: “Quality of life”.  Our goal is to enable ourselves with that very slippery gift beyond the mere act of medically suppressing what accompanies us every day for twenty-four hours.

Getting up to greet the new morning is, to many, a cause for happiness.  For the realization alone that there are a multitude of problems of fatal impact in the world.  We, after all – among numerous other gains, have our health, right?  Not so for someone with R.A.  We appear healthy on the outside – if we have not yet been hit with external deformations, that is.

Allow me to lend us a scenario around someone like me: Healthy in the exterior.

It is the onset of a new day.  Time to get up and head to work.  A full-time teaching job that recognizes no evenings or weekends as your own.  Using up all your energy supplies – in other words, not being able to “budget your energy”, as is required from R.A. patients, the workday somehow is a success of some degree.  At the time of arrival at home, however, you are drained yet must generate energy from somewhere in order to meet the demands of those hidden work hours that just go on and on.  Taking over your weekends, one week at a time.  Lest a flare-up occurs, then you walk through your work responsibility like one of the creatures some of your students seem to prefer to know better than the actual course material: A Zombie.  When back at home, you dismiss everything that awaits your attention in order to get back to life.  Postponing every deadline in sight.  Thus, leaving control to those unrelenting piles of more and more accumulating responsibilities.

Unless you own a self-cleaning home or live in an assisted community environment, you must – at least on occasion – clean your residential place.  Unless you belong to the “financially well-to-do” class, you yourself must attend to that process on your own.  Just like the persistent hills of work-related duties during a flare-up, your cleanliness-needy living quarters fall only short of shouting at you in despair to gather the cleaning supplies.

When relying on paid services is out of the question, laundry chores with R.A. don’t come with an easier-to follow-manual.  Dishwashing, though, has a gentler call.

What I list here include only the basic necessities to run a household, and only touch on their raw surface.  Furthermore, completing any or all of these processes despite R.A. merely constitutes quality of a living space.  How about attaining “quality of life” to which we, R.A. sufferers and non-sufferers alike, are all entitled?

A critical self-help, better yet, self-improvement action is maintaining a healthy weight and keeping physically active.  Simple enough in theory, isn’t it?  Let us quickly scan through what I have summed up before: Preparing well-balanced meals and committing to a regular exercise routine await time and energy.  What, though, is left for someone with this disorder outside a constant work schedule and the desperate need to rest to make that labor possible?  A cruel lose-lose situation arises: The more inactive you are, the worse your body’s condition gets.  The more your physical shape deteriorates, the more sedentary you become.

“Quality of life” also entails experiencing the world around us as well as socializing, doesn’t it?  We want to mark our lives with at least some meaningful moments, either by traveling or being out there in our surroundings.  To feel, to hear, to see life.  As a crucial part of this living process, we also want to interact with people we like, care about or love.  To meet with our family and friends as often as they want to be around us.  Instead of dreading their invitations for a social gathering or outing.  For, we have to decline yet once again a joyous opportunity on account of the incessant feelings of fatigue under which we are weakened.  Our family members and friends – meaning very well – don’t (and can’t possibly) realize what living with this disorder means.  What daily activities they are capable of doing without even thinking, involve for us.

Whether our steady companion – bouts of depression – remains so very loyal to us because of our physical limitations or the lack of intellectual and emotional fulfillments due to those restrictions, remains an unknown.  Then again, why look forward to an answer?  One would, after all, force us to attempt something anew, for which we won’t have the time or energy in the first place.

While I end on a negative note, I must add how a sense of humor helps me most of the time to get through what it is that is with me all the time.  When an infecton seems to be in attack while I am being treated for another, it then gets to be quite difficult to laugh off that condition.  Those difficult instances are what I intended to get the word out for on a personal level today.  From our health care professionals, we hear either good or bad news as far as our R.A.  Based on a pain-assessment survey with your doctor’s office, for instance, you are managed well – if your response to painful happenings on your body surpasses some majority of patients, that is.  But don’t we know the best regardless, how this issue reaches far beyond a mere pain detection or its so-called “management”?

I know, as you do: We are not alone.  Still, R.A. is a disease that has the capacity of leading one to live a lonely life.  Whether or not you, too, are living with this condition, seems not to matter; for, any chronic disease must surely have an impact on one’s psyche.  Please comment, if you can and do relate.  Your sense of optimism but also pessimism may yield to an exchange of ideas or insights into lifestyles where details don’t appear as gloomy as they do on my blog site today.

You have my thanks for listening.


Filed under Reflections