Pyjama Girl and the Christmas shopping list
3rd December 2003
Despite my best retail efforts, I still have a list of things I need to buy for my nearest and dearest. Every year I decide that this Christmas I shall be Scrooge. As the bonbons and mince pies take over shop shelves (I swear it was as early as September this year when the first festive items appeared in my local supermarket), I take a vow of abstinence, determining that I shall neither overindulge nor overspend.
I set a meagre budget and start to plan, working out that everyone will get some sort of modern equivalent of soap-on-a-rope. Christmas should be about love and laughter, not commercialisation.
But invariably, somewhere between the middle of December and Christmas Eve, it all starts to unravel. I find myself looking guiltily at the array of paltry pressies and dash to the shops, credit card in hand, and start to spend, spend, spend. After all, I love these people I'm buying presents for. Surely they deserve more than a scented candle? Or if it is a scented candle they desire, then let it be Jo Malone.
But this year it's a bit different, because even though my moods have been stabilised on medication, I spend an unhealthy amount of time checking for signs that I'm either slipping down into depression or veering off into hypomania. And the first signs of hypomania tend to be shopping bags mounting up near the front door.
So now when I buy anything, I find myself spending about a day and a half trying to work out whether I actually need it or whether I'm just spending gratuitously. And then when I've worked out that I really do need whatever it is I've just bought, I spend another day working out whether I'm merely justifying the purchase or whether I really, really need it. Until I eventually decide that it's too much hassle to take it back anyway, so it's staying.
With most of my family in Australia, I used to find little things to send them - keep it light and post it early were the golden rules. But no more. The internet has sorted that. No more international postage either, just a quick surf to find whatever my nieces' and nephews' hearts desire, typing in a credit card number and ticking an onscreen box for tasteful giftwrapping (these Australian web retailers are terribly helpful). No shopping, no queues at the post office, no need to check last post dates. So the Password Journal is already on its way to my nine-year-old niece (she insists it's what she wants), and the GameBoy version of Harry Potter Quidditch will be in a nephew's stocking. (We take no responsibility for ruining Christmas for Liz's nephew and niece by publishing what they're getting from their aunt Liz this year - Ed).
My parents just moved house, so I cunningly combined their Christmas and housewarming presents. They wanted some Australian native plants, and I found this lovely site called Koala Natives (who could resist?) and looked up a few attractive 'shrubs'. In fact, these shrubs looked so attractive that I bought eight of them, figuring they've got a big front yard to fill and these would look pretty in a corner. But apparently I somewhat under-estimated. Shrub may be a little word giving the impression of a little plant, but these so-called shrubs grow to five metres tall. I've told them to think of it as the gift that keeps on giving (and giving, and giving!) Note to self: read the small print when buying gifts on websites.
Anyway, keeping the shopping under control is just one of my festive challenges. The second sign that my mood is taking off is that I become the life and soul of the party, usually aided by generous quantities of alcohol. When things are 'normal', I'm neither abstemious nor a big drinker. But when I'm 'going up' - wa-hey! It's party night, even if it's Monday.
Based on my own experiences, I am a little bit concerned about the mental health of the nation. If excessive expenditure and consumption are the signs of hypomania, then maybe madness really is contagious. I mean, have you seen Oxford Street lately? Retail sales are booming! And who hasn't got at least one Christmas party scheduled on a Monday night ...? Don't all head to the psychiatrist at once.
Live community panel
Listen to our regular razor sharp talk show online, or subscribe to it as a podcast. Spread the word: it's where disability and reality almost collide.