Although I have never been a materialistic person, living with a mental illness has increased my appreciation for the most basic things. I recognise the ‘need’ for money in the sense that it helps one lead a comfortable existence. I know it provides us with shelter, warmth, food, entertainment…but I don’t think it is a ‘cure-all’ commodity.
This has been particularly evident to me over the last few weeks. The run up to Christmas has seen us inundated with adverts for the latest this, that or the next thing. Shops have gone to every effort to push their seasonal merchandise down our throats, supermarkets have been bursting at the seams with people stockpiling food in quantities that might feed a small country for a week. Now that Christmas is over television commercials are dominated by January Sales (which now, bizarrely, begin on Christmas Eve) and Summer Holiday deals. In short, we live in a society dominated by the need to buy – electronics, cars, holidays, clothes…
But none of these things will cure me or anyone else dealing with an enduring, tiring, burdensome disease (of body or mind). Things that mean more to me than anything are handmade cards from people I’ve never met in person, but who care enough to go to the effort of creating something for me, something that contains a message specific to me and my life right now. And small trinkets that I can look at every day, that remind me of someone, somewhere coping with similar problems. And the box of Play-Doh sent to me from someone who swears by it as a relaxation tool, encouraging me to give it a try. And the phone call on Christmas morning from my favourite three-year-old, so excited he was making no sense. Photographs of the people for whom I keep going. Stocking fillers of puzzle books and sketch pads, because those are the things that keep me distracted when I feel particularly unwell. Tweets and texts from people, again whom I’ve never met, ‘just checking in’ because they’ve not heard from me in a while.
I’m not criticising people that can afford and enjoy the finer things in life. But, when you’ve been at the bottom of a cavernous black hole, unable to find the ladder that will help you out, you quickly learn what’s important and what’s not.