Last night, my husband said, “you’re doing it again—you’re making too big a deal out of Thanksgiving—you’re building it up and making too much of it with all this planning and you’re just going to get disappointed after it comes and goes and it ends up not living up to your expectations. You always do this during the holidays…” I do have a tendency to try and make an extravaganza out of the holidays, especially when I’m feeling good (and this year, I’m feeling good)—so, it got me to thinking: how much of my behavior is based on my personality and how much of it is based on the fact that I’m bipolar?
Being extreme just comes with the territory of being bipolar—when our chemicals are imbalanced, we can be manically in the clouds or depressively wallowing within the center of the earth. Even though I’ve been relatively stable for some time, I still sometimes notice that I have remnant behaviors from my past days of chemical craziness—I’ll spend too much, I’ll cook too much—mainly I’ll do things on too big a scale—too loudly, too excitedly, too “manically.” So, was my instinct to spend $385 on new table settings and centerpieces for the dining room and kitchen tables in preparation for hosting Thanksgiving this year in our new house just another example of my habitual manic-ness? It doesn’t feel like a sign of true chemical mania…it feels more like an old habit, a familiar response, a personal preference for doing things up big, a need to make the holidays more exciting, more spectacular, bigger, better, brighter, “happier.” I think I have a genuine preference for jazzed up, glammed up, holiday “affairs.” Or, is it, as my daughter believes, that I spent all that money both because I am bipolar (even though I’m relatively stable) and because I have a “big” personality?…
…My husband says that holidays “always end up being less than you anticipated, and then you end up being disappointed, and besides, our parents don’t care about the table settings, they’re coming to spend time with us”…yes, but…it certainly doesn’t feel like I will end up being disappointed this year, it certainly came as a surprise to hear my husband say that I’m just doing the same thing this holiday season that I do every year and that I’m inevitably going to end up feeling deflated, regretful, unhappy, coming to him for consolation just like I do every time…especially since I’ve worked so hard in therapy this past year to “stabilize,” “evolve” and “grow.”
I have decided to choose to think it’s a good remnant of my old ways of doing things that I’ve again decided to go big this Thanksgiving—a nod to optimism, good cheer and a celebration of family togetherness. After all, I’m not the only one who’s excited about this holiday—Chloe is just as excited as I am—and she’s excited for the same real reasons I am: seeing our family and having a break from school—the table settings are just a way to celebrate those real things; so, I might still be a little of the old me, but personality does persist throughout your lifetime…
Here’s hoping I can effectively break the cycle of “morning after” disappointment to prove to myself that I’ve really made the kind of lasting changes in myself in therapy that I hope I have! Only time will tell if I am satisfied with this Thanksgiving after it is over, but I am fairly convinced that I will be—this would prove that personality and mood might have similar tendencies, but that personality is distinct from mood. It is more probable, however, that past is really prologue, that I’ll probably be at least a little disappointed by something small that doesn’t happen the way I hoped it would, and that Chloe is correct in deducing that this “grandiose” tendency of mine is both due to me being bipolar and to my personality. The truth probably also is that personality and mood are so intertwined that perhaps only the finest psychologist (hopefully mine in our next session) could reliably tell them apart!
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