I’m currently at my parents’ house for a couple days for the Thanksgiving holiday. My brother, his wife, and their four kids are here too. We have seven of us sleeping in the basement but at least I get my old bedroom. That way I can retreat and regroup if need be. But my brothers’ kids are well behaved and old enough they shouldn’t give me many problems.
This is the first time in months I have been back to my old childhood home. A lot has changed in this town since I moved out in 2005. For one, all of my old high school friends have moved away. The cousins that stayed have families of their own. Most of my old teachers have retired or moved to bigger schools. All my grandparents and a couple of my uncles have died. My old grade school was torn down. The retail store I worked in during the summers went out of business. In many ways this isn’t the same town I grew up in during the 80s and 90s. I haven’t been getting back to my parents’ place much the last several years as none of my old friends live around here anymore. In many ways, this is no longer my town. It doesn’t feel like home and it hasn’t for several years.
I bring up growing up and the changes my parents’ place have gone under because, with my mental illness, those years I grew up here seem like someone else’s life. I started having problems with depression and anxiety when I was seventeen. I was doing quite well in school and involved in many different activities. It seemed like I was on the fast track to a career and life of my dreams, at least that was until the depression and anxiety started. Twenty years later, my seventeen year old self wouldn’t even recognize the thirty seven year old man I am now. I imagine my seventeen year old self would have seen who I am today as a failure. Back then I knew nothing of mental illness and disability. Like many teenagers, I also didn’t have as much empathy as many adults who have had their ups and downs, wins and losses.
If nothing else, fighting this mental illness for twenty years has taught me how to have more empathy for people different than myself. It has taught me patience and how to accept things I can’t change. It has taught me that, contrary to popular belief, life isn’t about keeping up with other people. Life is mainly about competing with your self and being the best you that you are capable of being. He who dies with the most toys is just as dead as anyone else in the cemetery.
I haven’t been giving much time to reflecting on the past for the last few years. I have mainly been focused on the present and future possibilities. I normally have little use for nostalgic thoughts. But I’m sure having them now that I’m at my childhood home for the first time in months. I guess the nostalgia has shown me how much I lost because of this mental illness. Yet, in spite of the life that never was, I think I still have a great deal to stay alive for. I’m interested to see what the next twenty years in this life of mental illness will show me. I can only guess what changes will have come by the time 2037 rolls in.