Does materialism make your Bipolar worse?




It’s such a leading question I reckon most can guess my answer – a resounding yes!

Before extolling the virtues of a simpler life let me nail down a few things.


I’m not against capitalism – far from it.

I’m not a hypocrite – I like the nice things in life.

I’ve not had a religious experience.


But let me pose a secondary question – how much is enough?

And that’s what I’ve been grappling with and to which I’ve found the answer. I think!

First the impact of materialism on Bipolar: well our minds may be capable of great things at certain times in the cycle, but at other times one can barely function. From the media and elsewhere and it seems since we were children, we are fed on a diet that links happiness with financial and material success. Too often we see the measure of a man by the size of his wallet. Brand is king and without some of them, the world makes us feel inadequate. I went out with a woman who fitted Oscar Wilde’s aphorism to a tee – ‘she was a woman who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing’.  Just why is it that people with an expensive watch just have to tell you what it cost. Or how much the ring cost. I knew in detail what her son had earned and what car he was buying. Tedious doesn’t begin to describe it.

When you have Bipolar you have little enough self-esteem as it is, without being made to feel inadequate because you’re not sporting the latest Range Rover. I realised that the pursuit of money and material things as somehow delivering a recognition of one’s status was dumb. It’s a zero sum game – that is unless you are Carlos Slim or maybe Bill Gates, you are a failure. There is always someone better off than you.  Of course that’s simplistic but it leads back to how much is enough. If one aspires to own a Range Rover as evidence you’ve made it, the once you’ve got it – then what?

I shamefacedly admit that I was one of those who pursued all these things and more, and looking back, rarely, if ever, felt happy and content. Add in the pressure of mortgages where you’ve over stretched, cars on leases you can’t really justify, holidays to the right destinations, and life becomes an intolerable Merry go Round of a never ending pursuit of status based purchases.

So how did this epiphany occur? Well I’d like to pretend I worked it out all by myself, but like most things in life it was events that shaped me. A divorce, a lost company, a new life in Dubai, all combined to force matters on me – like selling my home, getting rid of the mortgage, getting rid of the car etc. And though at one point the thought of all that would have made me go weak at the knees, I found I rather enjoyed the freedom of no debts, no home to insure, and no car to keep me from staying fit. The net consequence was a fitter body, fewer anxieties and no sleepless nights mentally balancing the books.  And the real pay off? – a massive reduction in Bipolar episodes!

I no longer feel like I am unwilling Hamster on a wheel. Once you opt out the race so to speak and no longer compare yourself with a peer group all pursuing the same, life becomes significantly more agreeable.

Works for me!

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