I studied Anthropology as part of my medical degree a few years ago and part of our course looked at narratives in medicine. We often use military metaphors in the context of the illnesses and diseases that affect us: we ‘fight’ disease; our body has ‘defences’; when someone dies, especially after long illness, they have ‘lost their battle’. I find this stuff absolutely fascinating, and many authors more eloquent than I have written about it.

As part of my own story-telling, in the last couple of weeks, I viewed homesickness as something I had snap out of. Not a big deal, just like a cold – sit it out, plenty of fluids, analgesia and it will go. Except it didn’t: and the symptoms were getting worse. I would wake up feeling sad and despondent and in the same day I’d bounce back, enthusiastic and ready to take on the world, and that in itself was leaving me exhausted and emotional.

Waikiki beach, Hawaii 2009. I took this photo the day a huge wave of homesickness overcame me

I opened up to some of the people in my life and a very wise friend told me to think of homesickness as a chronic illness – it’s not something I can merely purge from my system, but something I must learn to manage. And she’s quite right. Homesickness can be debilitating; its unpredictable nature means I may wake up and have a good day or a bad day, or both. I cannot ‘help’ feeling the way I feel and there are triggers that will set it off. I may go years feeling fine, then an event may take me back to the early stages feeling vulnerable and desperately scrambling for the tools to deal with it.

There’s no easy solution. I can feel the strings of home tugging at me and with the lack of job security, I have to constantly re-evaluate my plans. But the place I call home is constantly changing, even as I speak (my mother is having the bathroom done) trinkets move, books get sold, furniture moves around, so the place I remember is not the same place I’d return to. At this stage, I still have time on my hands and I aim to have something to focus on each day, be it taking photographs, running, cooking or meditating. If circumstances force me out, then I’d like to look back knowing I soaked up every available opportunity in the place I attempted to call home.

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