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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Barclay

I Suffer From URS

I have long suffered from a not-so-rare, but often undiagnosed, condition known as URS.

Walkway with American Football and helmet, B&W Image

Over the years, as I have battled this condition, it has caused long bouts of depression, restlessness, and sometimes hopelessness. When it flares up, I can get stuck in a downward cycle for weeks, maybe longer.

I'm not sure exactly when I first noticed symptoms of URS, but I'm guessing it was around my mid to late twenties. URS usually has mild symptoms to begin with, but, if left untreated, can increase to the point where it can be absolutely debilitating. It sneaks up on you, too. There is nothing you can do to prevent it; in fact, it's a condition that lies dormant in all of us. It is sometimes brought on by social media, class reunions, or long moments of quiet reflection. There is no medicine that can cure it; no preventative measures to ensure that you won't be affected by it.

My guess is that at this point, you have no idea what I'm talking about.

Brace yourself.

You have likely been living with URS yourself. You may have experienced some symptoms and couldn't identify the cause.

Before I help you diagnose this condition in your life, I need to be clear: I am NOT a medical doctor, psychologist, or licensed therapist, BUT...

I LOVE movies.

Now, before you discount me or what I'm about to say, let me talk about URS by some of its other names. It could also be called "S.C.W.", but that probably doesn't help, either, does it?

How about this? "Should. Coulda. Woulda."?

URS, or "Uncle Rico Syndrome," as I have dubbed it, is all about getting stuck on: -"What should have been." -"What could have happened." -"What would have been different if...."

If you have never seen the 2004 classic, Napoleon Dynamite, Uncle Rico is a shell of a man who longs to return to 1982 to have one more chance to capture football glory. At one point in the movie, he relates the story of how he was benched during a big game. He laments over how the coach didn't put him in the game during the fourth quarter, claiming that would have made all the difference in the end. As he stares off into space, Uncle Rico bemoans the fact that things would have been different; they would have won the game, he would have gone on to play in the NFL, and he'd be making millions.

He lives so much in the past in his head, it costs him a relationship and some money. He even bought a "time machine!" SPOILER ALERT: It didn't work.

The thought of someone being so stuck in the past is laughable and makes for a great character in a movie.


The problem is that all of us, to one degree or another, wrestle with URS.

We can get in our heads and live in the past. It's so easy to start down the road of "I wonder what my life would be like if...." It happens to all of us, and, to some degree, I feel like we have little control over those thoughts popping up. At the same time, I don't think we need to dwell on those thoughts, either. It's been said that you can't keep birds from flying over your head, but you don't have to let them build a nest in your hair.

I think it's good to reflect on our past and learn from our mistakes, celebrate our successes, and remember where we have come from. The problem comes when we get stuck in the "coulda's."

"I could have been a successful athlete if..."

"I could be in such a better place financially if..."

"I could have taken that job, and my life would be so much better."

The short responses to those statements, in order, are: "You weren't. You're not. And You didn't." There's nothing you can do about it. You can accept it and move on, or you can allow it to become a source of bitterness and a built-in excuse for failing.

Uncle Rico, for example, can blame his station in life, his financial situation, and his relationship problems on his coach. He would say that if the coach had just put him in the big game, everything would be different for him.

Guess what.

He may be right!

His life MAY have turned out completely different. He MAY have been the hero. He MAY have gone on to achieve all of his dreams and live a life better than he could ever imagine. OR would have all gone really badly for him.

I can paint a picture of a zillion things that could have gone wrong for him if the coach had put him in the game. Either way, I have a friend who always says, "If "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas!"

First, I know that makes my friend sound like he's 150 years old. Second, he's right. You can't live off "ifs" and "buts." There is nothing you can do now about the way things have played out.

I know that sucks. I know that hurts. I know you probably don't like the way EVERYTHING in your life has gone. You should mourn the things that have gone wrong and things that didn't go the way you wanted. There are things we should be upset or sad about. We should mourn and grieve things that hurt.


Please don't let the past ruin what lies ahead.

If we get stuck wishing our past played out differently and spend all of our energy on the "shoulda, coulda, woulda's," we won't be able to enjoy and thrive in the here and now!

Think about your life in 1, 3, and 5 years from this EXACT moment.

Will future you be saying the same things about why you haven't moved forward, met your goals, and enjoyed your life? Will future you be saying, "I wish I hadn't spent the last (1, 3, or 5) year(s) stuck in the past. I could've been so much further down the road to where I want to be."

Do you see the cycle that URS can catch us in? It's like a black hole that just keeps causing us to dwell in the past, adding more "wasted" years and giving us more regrets and guilt until we finally say, "It's too late. I've wasted too much time."

Now, I want to be clear before I finish here: Some of you have experienced real pain and hurt. I don't want to diminish that in any way. What I am NOT saying is to ignore it and move on. What I AM saying is to process it, get through it, and move forward. For some of you, that means working through your past with professional help. I want to encourage you to seek out a licensed professional counselor to help you unpack, process, and heal so that you can be free to move forward.

At the end of the day, what I've been trying to say is this:

How about today, you and I take whatever step we need to take in order to move forward toward the rest of our lives INSTEAD of getting stuck in the hurt and heartache of the past?

It won't be easy. But it WILL be worth it.


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