Thanksgiving Day is Coming: How to Avoid a Holiday Meltdown

Did anybody decompensate at last year's Thanksgiving Day feast, when there were no pearl onions in cream sauce, notwithstanding the fact that nobody has ever eaten a single pearl onion in cream sauce, since GreatGrandma Libby died forty-five years ago?

Was it you?

I think I figured it out. Unfortunately, this flash of brilliance came to me the morning before, during a hypomanic surge that got me ready for my stuffing/broth/cranberry sauce/pie-making marathon. But not in time to prevent the scene by preparing said onions.

Somebody's anterior cingulate cortex blew a fuse.

Of course, I don't know for sure. It is one more hypothesis that I would like to test in that Million Dollar fMRI machine that I have requested for years for Christmas. Some girls want a pony. I want an fMRI machine. I don't expect it this year either.
But here is the hypothesis:

The Anterior Cingulate Cortex and the Amygdala

The rising cost of that Thanksgiving feast, the family-splitting political debates, the impending government shutdown, the war in the Middle East, climate change -- your anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is doing all that it can to calm your amygdala. That is one of its jobs. Partnered with the prefrontal cortex, it exercises executive function over your amygdala. 

Your amygdala is convinced you are about to die and is sending out
non-stop messages to your adrenal gland to keep pumping out those glucocorticoids. All those glucocorticoids are destroying your hippocampus, not to mention your heart. The amygdala must be brought under control!

So your ACC has plenty of work to do already, and needs for you to help it out by deep breathing. And yoga. And crystals.

The Anterior Cingulate Cortex and the Thanksgiving Table

But it also has another job, which is to detect abnormalities in patterns. You know those games where you are supposed to find five details that differ in two nearly identical pictures? That's a job for the ACC. But what with climate change and all that other stuff, or last year's version of all that stuff, when somebody's ACC detected a variation in the Thanksgiving Day feast table, i.e., the missing pearl onions, that was just one thing too many. And it blew a fuse, releasing the amygdala from its cage. And this time, the amygdala did not send out the message to freeze. It came out fighting.

Couldn't we all use a little peace this year? Just for one day? Here is what you can do:

If you are the cook, poll your guests about what food item they Have. To. Have. In my family, we serve three different types of cranberry sauce. Because we have to have each one.

If you are not the cook, do a bit of self reflection beforehand. What do you have to have? Then give the cook a break, so the cook doesn't have a meltdown. Bring your own damn pearl onions.

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