(This a fictional account of what happened when Cait last visited her GP.)
Picture the scene. My GP is looking not at me but at his computer screen and mentally setting a stopwatch maybe.
(How many seconds am I allowed for a consultation nowadays?).
DoctorKnowitall: Well Mrs Thinkyouknowbetter, what seems to be the trouble?
Cait: I might be wrong but lately I have been feeling what I think may be symptoms of nostalgia for the past, DoctorKnowitall, it seems all I want to dwell on are the happy times gone by; what has disappeared and never will be again, like the ‘lost’ childhood of my own children, how it passed far too quickly.
Even my old schooldays I am looking back on and yearning for.
I’m also getting what must be nostalgic pains over the Old Ireland that is gone, gone , gone.
And I’m playing my Beatles records over and over.
It is so painful.
Tears start to fall.Dr Knowitall fished out a tissue from the nearly empty box on his desk, passed it to me, smiled unfeelingly and then told me that I was not alone; he assured me it is a very common condition and he thrust a Patient Information Leaflet into my shaky hands:
Read this, keep a diary and come and see me if the trouble persists.
Oh and look out for these symptoms: Lack of regret, a joyful melancholy. Heartburning, attacks of Present Day ‘disheartenment’
(there’s a new word ?).
But don’t worry because if the heart becomes blocked a Peacemaker can be fitted.
(ref. The term Peacemaker - Pinched from my own very dear hero, Tony Benn. it is a family term apparently).
If Excessive Longing and Over-Sentimentality become too intense to bear then go straight to your local A & E because matters of regret may come to light at any time.
Cait: Eh? What A & E?
Dr Knowitall: What do you mean, it’s been closed? Phone ShropDoc.
But don’t forget to contact NHS Direct first! We don't want to waste doctors' time do we?
PATIENT INFORMATION LEAFLET
Nostalgia, found far too often among the jaundiced and the melancholic, is a little known psychological condition but one that can affect all the organs physically, mainly the heart where it can cause a weakness that varies in its effects among individuals. There is no scientific evidence as yet to say whether there is in fact a genetic predisposition but it is thought that it will affect one in three of us at some time in our lifetime.
It is presented most frequently by the elderly but the most common time of onset is middle age, long after the reproduction and parenting stage of life is over. It is interesting to note that in areas where peoples have been misplaced geographically then its incidence is much increased, among the diaspora of the world for example. It is rarely found in the young, hence the expression young at heart. It seems to be present in both sexes in equal measure.
The brain can sometimes be badly affected as well because it is too often overworked and stressed due to the intensity of the thoughts engendered on mind games and because it is often forgotten that pastime-travel is just as tiring as real-time travel. For this reason GP’s will often suggest patients throw away their rose tinted spectacles and their blinkers.
Also, as people age, the memory quite often shows signs of partial or complete failure.
These symptoms worsen with age and the prognosis is therefore not good. There is no cure.
Signs of yearning are always seen. Note these down in your daily diary. Raised levels are always a classic pointer to the condition.
Reminiscence therapy sessions of nostalgia-bombardment have been tried as an exercise in inducing boredom or resistance to the task - these traits being common in the elderly. It can work wonders! Remember, like almost everything else that we have to confront in life, this condition can also be seen in a positive light if one has the right attitude.
It’s good to talk. Group therapy has proved to be the best help of all. Most folk can find a likeminded soul in almost any social setting. Or in an online group. Genealogy sites are especially helpful.
Avoid old photographs like the plague, also old films and TV series,old friends and reunions of any kind. Old songs can prove fatal, especially if you are a child of the sixties.
(when life began as far as I am concerned).
Whooops I have digressed.
Back to it.
A life well spent with happy memories, especially those stemming from childhood are probably the most common triggers of this condition.
(I’ll be OK then!).
Time spent in a much-loved place is probably the second most common trigger. Indeed it has to be said that thoughts of Times Gone By are to be avoided at all costs as they are at the root of most outbreaks. Personal relationships play a great part - lost loves and the like. As does the total lack of the benefit that is hindsight and the sometime- blocking of regrets. Cognitive therapy classes may help here.
Very little research has been carried out on the subject. So there is an opening here for the waste…. sorry investment, of masses of our, sorry…. government, money to tell us what we already know, sorry…publish new research findings.
Perhaps a charity could also be set up in its name? RSPN? If it made enough money it could always be invested overseas in a fail-safe high interest account? Somewhere very cold and inaccessible maybe? It would have to be kept secret though.
Whoops, I think I am digressing again.
As this leaflet was being printed, news has reached the NHS that the stress of modern life is bringing about a nostalgia epidemic and it is on a near-global scale. It seems everyone is ‘harking back’. (sounds painful).
Nostalgia is being hailed as the new ‘silent killer’.
Remember, try not to use nostalgia as an antidote to your disgust with present life as you know it.
Lament and disillusion may be antidotes but could prove fatal, they may even be a suicide risk.
Nostalgics Anonymous may be one to try. Look for a branch near you.
Or you could also start your own.
A plug here for my own book!
I live with a nostalgic and how I cope with it
100 Tips to prevent the condition affecting you as well
Go down the pub, sink a few beers and just wallow.
Sing along to Bob Dylan singing the auld song
May You Stay Forever Young.
Header picture, Connemara Farm is an oil painting by Elizabeth Ryan