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Author Gary Sweeney, wrote a brilliant memoir about growing up with his great-grandparents’ support. His book, The Light of Other Days, shows us the positive person that his great-grandfather was in his life, rather than focusing on his abusive parents, teachers and others. The title’s intent is to focus on the good days that have been or will be, rather than the deep darkness of the present. Gary experienced depression and lives with anxiety and sensory processing issues. He has a talent for describing dealing with those struggles growing up. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has lived through something similar or who has a child going through it.

Gary grew up attending Catholic School in Philadelphia. It was a fear-based culture where children were scared into obedience. Tormented with anxiety, he did not do well emotionally under that system. Many children experience this, and it becomes so overwhelming for some that they eventually kill themselves because they can’t deal with the terror and confusion of the way they’re being taught they must live. Those in authority threatened him with fire and brimstone, assuming Gary was acting out. They did not consider that his behavior might be coming from anxiety or overstimulation. Worse, his stepfather would tell him that “bad guys would going to come take him away in the night if he didn’t stop misbehaving”, and Gary wasn’t sure what he was doing wrong. No one validated his struggles except his great-grandfather. Anyone who perceived that he was feeling anxious would minimize his feelings, telling him to “stop feeling that way”.

At daycare, they had a designated nap time. All the other children would fall asleep on command, but Gary could not, and felt trapped on his floor mat. He described it as being stuck in quicksand. All the sounds happening nearby were blaring in his ears as he waited for it to be over. He had to find a way to cope, so he counted 60 seconds 30 times every day. That way, there was an end in sight, and he knew when it was.

Of the many things that Gary’s great-grandfather taught him or did for him, the most important lesson, was to be in the present. Gary doesn’t remember any gifts anyone gave him, but he remembers the places he went with his great-grandfather and the fun and positive feelings he has about the time they spent together. He learned how important it is for a child to have an authority figure who believes that their struggles are real, comforts them and doesn’t take advantage of their fears. His current life mission is to be there for his daughters.

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“I can tell you that being in a Catholic school environment, where they use fear as a motivator… [As] someone who already has anxiety, you don’t need any additional fear piled on top of what you already have going on in your head.” @GarySweeney @MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge

“We want to not have anxiety. It’s not like we gravitate to it because we enjoy it.” @MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge

“Hope means having a reason to keep going.” @GarySweeney @MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge


Topics Discussed

  • Anxiety in children
  • Positive parental figures
  • Parenting children with anxiety


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