Thanksgiving is one of my hypomanic seasons. I'm getting better at not taking on projects that worry my wife. In fact, I have given up gingerbread houses altogether. Which is not to discourage you, just to acknowledge that they were once my one great weakness. That woman in the fringed dress down there? - Each bit of fringe was an individually placed sprinkle, separated out from a container of red, green, and white sprinkles. See what I mean?
But I did learn some things from my hypomanic gingerbread houses. And learning is good for the brain. The following post is a repeat from ten years ago, when I was in the throes of it. It explored the relationship between gingerbread and cognitive behavioral therapy. I am one of many who have a love/hate relationship with CBT, which I freely acknowledged to my CBT therapist in our first session. Nevertheless, she persisted, and I persisted, and I do rely on it daily and have written about it from a variety of angles. So here it is again, for those of you who want to explore CBT and also for those of you who want to know how to make a nine patch quilt out of fruit rollups:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - Gingerbread Style, 11-25-2010
First Cognitive Therapy Technique -- DistractionMy therapist said Think of something you might find enjoyable. You don't have to do it. You don't even have to enjoy it. The goal is not to move your mood from 1 to 10. Any mood change is a bonus. The goal is simply to give you something else to think about [-- besides what I had been thinking about.]
Distraction is one of those really irritating CBT techniques. I am traumatized and can't stop thinking about this. Okay, so think about something else. I pay money for this?
But my other therapist, totally different method, said pretty much the same thing. And I was six weeks from a major project I had promised for the holiday season. And I am not sure it would have worked except that the wheel was ready to turn from early autumn danger to late autumn hypomania. But he did and it was. So...
She said think about it.
I guess I overshot the mark.
To Diagnose Hypomania -- Pay Attention
I used to churn out 10-12 gingerbread houses each season, back in my undiagnosed days. I used the Joy of Cooking recipe and floor plan. But each and every one was one of a kind: a log cabin made of pretzel sticks and peanuts for the chimney, another with candy canes on the roof for a chalet effect... No, I wasn't manic. I was excited...
It could be said I don't know when to quit. So a simple suggestion, think about something you might enjoy instead of what you are thinking about right now, became a fourteen inch high, furnished gingerbread house.
See what I mean? Once I decided to tile the kitchen floor with candy corn, I was gone. Note the faucets for the aluminum kitchen sink. And the handles on the refrigerator. There is a fireplace hearth down there, made of a Milano cookie. Even as I was installing these things, I knew I was out of control. But I could not stop.
I refer to this as my diagnosable gingerbread house.
Metaphor Alert -- Community
This is the essence of community. Christians call it the Body of Christ. If the house were all ribbon candy, how would it stand? If the house were all support, what would cover the kitchen floor?
Anyway, diagnosable. The roof also collapsed, the weight bearing walls notwithstanding, because I pushed too hard while attaching it. Be gentle with yourself, my friends. The stronger parts can injure the weaker. Self-restraint is especially important where you are strong.
Even if it is irritating.
Another Cognitive Therapy Technique -- Dialectical Thinking
I was making a lot of mistakes. Boy, was I learning.
Dialectical thinking means that life is not divided into black and white. One can hold a painful thought and a positive one in the same brain at the same time. That and valium got me through.
I learned not to use a double barrel aged single malt scotch as a brace to hold up a wall while assembling, like the soup cans above. The bottle was missing only as much as is pictured here before I made that particular mistake. Sigh.
After mopping up the nearly full bottle of scotch and as much shattered glass as I could find, it was time, it was time to stop working on the prototype. Well, after I built the fire in the fireplace.
Two hot tamales, cut on the bias, a couple little pretzel sticks and a sprinkling of ribbon candy crumbs. The back of the fireplace is the inside of a mint Milano with the white frosting scraped off.
Like I said, diagnosable.
To be continued...