I can gauge my emotional health by the things I want to watch on TV.
You see, I’ve always been a bit of a telly and film snob. I would gladly take QI over Celebrity Juice; Little Miss Sunshine over Sleepless in Seattle; Dangermouse over Thundercats any day.
I blame my mum. She raised me to believe that the BBC was better than ITV. I still haven’t worked out why. Maybe she just fancied Bergerac.
Sometimes though when life feels a bit overwhelming all I can cope with is Come Dine With Me on constant loop. Or Grand Designs. As pretentious as he can be, there’s something oddly re-assuring about having Kevin McLoud in a hard helmet in my living room.
But I know I’m really depressed when I start searching Netflix for Jennifer Aniston movies.
After my mum got diagnosed with terminal cancer and for the 18 months up until she died, I only wanted to watch films with Jennifer Aniston: The Switch (awful); Wanderlust (awful); Marley & Me (awful, with a cute dog); Along Came Polly (beyond awful).
I couldn’t stop myself. I needed them. Undemanding, hollow fluff. It was my heroin. My escapism from reality: mum’s out-of-the-blue diagnosis, appointments with consultants who seemed to almost enjoy reminding us that it was terminal, seeing the fear day by day etch another line into my mum’s lovely face, then watching her decline and holding her hand as she died.
At the end of every day I’d go home and let Jennifer Aniston make me feel better. For 98 minutes, at least. Then I’d spend the next 98 minutes hating myself for not watching a Michael Haneke film.
I think the NHS should update their emotional health tests. Introduce a new sliding scale system:
Patient craves films containing:
Either that, or Jennifer Aniston should be given an award for services to the bereaved.
Right after mum died, my brother, stepdad and I left the hospice, went home and watched Dad’s Army. It sounds like a strange thing to do right after you lose someone you love dearly, but it felt quite comforting. Maybe it was the nostalgia of old times, the normality of a typical evening’s old-school TV.
Mum would have approved though. It was BBC after all.
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