I read about another “gifted suicide” this week in the news. I read she was given every label they could find to slap on her except the one she needed to make it out of the system alive: gifted.
She wasn’t bipolar, she wasn’t depressive. Something tells me she became depressive because she felt all those labels she was given were wrong. I am sure she felt it in her entire body that everything they were telling her about herself was wrong. I am sure she knew instinctively it wasn’t what was going on. I am sure it wrecked her, the same way it wrecked me, to have the deepest conviction that she was right, but then if she was, how come everyone in the world was telling her she was wrong.
I truly believe that receiving an improper diagnosis breaks down your own self-image (and sense of worth) in a visceral way that is hard to exist. Then comes the argument of authority: a trained professional’ opinion is always worth more to everyone around than the self-image of a teenage girl (or grown adult in my case). It’s hard to fight the rest of the world when you’re the only one who believes your own truth.
It’s a lot of pressure to live with. Especially if you’re hypersensitive. Especially if you are gifted, especially if you’re a teenager. I can tell you these things because I feel that’s what I went through only a few months ago.
I had amazing social capital when I was having a hard time. It was, somehow, a phrase a friend of mine told me years ago that stopped me from going through with it. Everything in my body was telling me she was right and it came down to « I don’t have the right. » when the moment came. I took the blade away and shook it of for a few minutes. Too close for comfort is an understatement.
I had legitimate issues last year, (out of a divorce and into a difficult breakup, adapting to living alone and the financial strain of being a single parent with the same monthly payments to make.) I decided to ask for help and was immediately labeled as bipolar and/or narcissistic at the emergency room.
I cannot tell you how wrecked I was to hear those things, how wrong they felt to me, how inaccurate it felt to me. I cannot tell you how much doubt it set in my mind and the emotional toil it took on me. I began to relive and re-question every single human interaction I had ever had over and over again. The anxiety that came from that was impossible to live with.
It led to months of going around the system until I could “land somewhere” as one doctor called it.
I took a blade to my wrist during that time. I took a blade to my wrist and I meant it. No one knew I was down there. I didn’t call anyone about it till weeks later. I took a blade to my wrist in the second basement bathroom at work. I took an Olfa knife, sharpest ones on the market, put in a fresh blade in there, sharp as could be. I took it out about three inches long. I held it firmly in my right hand. I locked my left wrist against my knee, pressed my right hand like a wedge against my wrist, blade inwards and down. All I had to do was push my weight down on it and it would have gone in like warm butter. All it took was for me to take a breath and let my body down on it. There would have been nowhere to go and I knew exactly what I was doing.
One deep breath, release, and that was it. I was out in minutes, too late to do anything about it. The thing is, I didn’t feel like I wanted to die. A fourteen years old girl wrote it better than I could. “I don’t feel like I want to die, but I’d rather not be alive.”
The problem with the (public) healthcare system is that they’re not really trained to deal with the gifted mind. I have to say the younger doctors (med students I met) were more open minded to the reality, but the oldest ones were overwhelmingly dismissive of it. (That’s my opinion anyways.)
It took months to finally get a good meeting with three therapist (two students and one professor) that were open minded to that and it was a very constructive, very helpful few hours. I have to recognize that. But a lot could have happened in those few months (and a lot did).
I told them I was going to a private clinic that dealt almost exclusively with gifted people. It seemed rare (if not new) to them. One of them asked for their contact information and I liked that a lot.
The person I found, who was trained to deal with gifted people, didn’t see me as crazy or abnormal. She knew it was possible for someone to feel emotions that viscerally, she knew it was possible for someone to have so many thoughts all at once and to struggle with the moral implications of certain choices (and the underlining level of anxiety that comes with it).
Statistically, people are often considered gifted when their intelligence is in the top 2% of the population. It sounds arrogant to say that but it is what it is: a statistical distribution of certain people in the world that live with faster brain patterns. I know it sounds like a weird problem to complain about (and I am not complaining) but it does come with a lot of difficulties. Sure, I learn faster than almost anyone around, but for some people it comes with paralysing anxiety, others have absolutely no social skills. I personally find if physically exhausting like you wouldn’t imagine and the social isolation can become very, VERY real.
It was a saving grace for me to have someone recognize that and accept that I could feel certain things that deeply, think about other with that level of intensity and I am still alive to this day while that young girl is not.
So where am I going with this now? How do I wrap this up?
Is there a solution?
I think there are some. One of them is actually simple and could be applied immediately.
An adapted school system that screens and recognized different types of intelligences would be a dream, but I don’t see it happening in the short term.
For now, at least there should be a directive in the public healthcare system to screen people for giftedness way more systematically especially when dealing with hypersensitive people. That test should most definitely be granted BEFORE handing out a definitive diagnosis of any disorder (bipolar, manic, depressive or any other.) Best case scenario, you can guide that kid to the proper care she needs. Worst case scenario, you spent a few hours on a possible diagnosis that came back negative and you can get it out of the way.
It’s a few hours (and maybe 1000$) that could not only save a lot of lives, but most of all, provide accurate care to those of us who live with those issues on a daily basis. It would prevent months (if not years) of “going around the system” (which will be WAY more expensive than the test itself anyways) only to land back at the starting point.
I found a solution. I don’t know how to get it out there. Posting this online feels like an utter waste of time but it’s what I got right now.
I’ll write this to a handful of people I know who have a foot in psychology departments, probably talk about it at the next Mensa general assembly, someone with some leverage somewhere may hear about it and have the credentials to act on it (because I really I don’t!)
Spread the word and take care?