Recently, Jennifer Harvey Sallin posted about the stages of adult giftedness discovery on the Intergifted Blog. I’ve been a (quiet) member of the Intergifted Facebook group for a while now and have enjoyed the discussions, but have felt my experiences were quite different to ones that others were going through. I knew it was due to being ‘twice exceptional’ and barely being able to do what I needed to get through each day.
Now, this article is fascinating. Because my experience has been entirely different. And I don’t just think it is because I’m only mildly gifted. I’m sharing my ep
The first and third stages that were listed were denial and anger. I don’t believe I’ve really experienced them.
During the denial stage: “There’s no way I could be gifted!”
The thing is, I’ve never been formally identified as gifted. When I was around 4-5, I apparently ‘became’ my imaginary friend. I was infatuated with a kids singer called Don Spencer. He was awesome, he was on Play School. A teacher or health professional told my mum that kids who have imaginary friends are smart, however children who become their imaginary friends are really intelligent.
That was the whole foundation of me being gifted. No formal assessments, no support. I know before the age of 10 I stood out because I was reading Michael Crichton books and memorizing the scientific names of birds. I remember telling my grade 5 teacher about the lutino mutation of the yellow tailed black cockatoo. Now, that isn’t particularly nerdy or a sign of giftedness because there are a lot of young naturalists who know a lot more then I did back then. However, they had mentors that taught them and now have access to the internet.
When my friend first told me I was possibly gifted my first thought was “Oh, that makes sense.” There was nothing to emotionally process. Part of me is curious as to what this means. Does having severe mental health issues, and all the questioning associated with it, make it easier for me to process these new discoveries?
EXCITEMENT – “This explains so much of my life!”
I definitely experienced this stage. Again though, I viewed it from the framework of having mental health issues. I wrote more about the process here. The excitement was less about other facets of my life and more about how it meant I wasn’t lazy when it came to treating/managing my anxiety.
Now that I’m doing better and have more cognitive awareness, this is actually bloody depressing. I get some life changing information and I’m excited because it means I can justify my behavior. It shows how much crap you get for being ‘lazy’ on those days I can’t function.
My mum did pull me up when I mentioned the ‘gifted’ word, similar to what the article mentioned. She reminded me it was a teacher in primary school that said it. That one comment did bring up issues with being the misunderstood nerd, however a lot of that misunderstanding was also tied up in being incredibly social phobic and depressed in high school. It’s a conundrum, that’s for sure!
ANGER – “Why didn’t anyone tell me this before?” and “Why don’t others care now?”
I don’t think I’m going through the anger stage in regards to giftedness, however I feel like I am going through so much anger right now in regards to other parts of my life. It’s less about the knowledge of giftedness. It is more about the information I’ve discovered as a result of this journey.
I fucked up VCE. Not once, twice. I still nightmare about that. I’m so intelligent – that isn’t bragging – and yet I screwed it up so magnificently. Then I got expelled from uni. It’s a miraculous sequence of screw ups. It would eat me up if I let it.
I don’t believe that knowing I was gifted could have helped much. It would have made little fucking difference when dissociating and hearing voices. There are little things that could have made life easier. Understanding learning styles. Teaching myself how to learn. There is so much anger when it comes to my adult life but my hunch is that it is less about giftedness.
I haven’t fully nutted this out yet – mostly because I don’t want to revisit specific wounds when I’m in such a vulnerable state. Apparently I’m a cranky pants when my meds are messing with digestion.
BARGAINING / DEPRESSION / PANIC – “Can I give it back?”…”OMG I can’t give it back!”
I haven’t really gone through this yet. Jen said:
My clients have reported feeling fragmented, torn, in doubt, and sometimes unable to choose their direction during this stage. Existential depression and panic (both forms of anger at and fear of life turned inward toward the self) can occur here, along with extreme confusion or depersonalization.
That has described most of my adult life… moreso with trying to figure out employment while under extreme personal press. Fragmented in regards to giftedness? Not really. I don’t really have much social life and most of my friends are nerds anyway (hey, it’s part of being a naturalist. I mean, what is there to give back? I love exploring new ideas and making connections.
I do wonder if my experience here is muted because of the anxiety. I mean, disconnection with reality and barely being able to function? Giftedness seems like nothing in comparison. It’s possible this experience will change as I get better and explore being gifted.
ACCEPTANCE – “Ok, this is how I am. How am I going to use it to my advantage?”
I feel like I skipped pretty much to hear. Maybe this is because I have to be so cutthroat when it comes to problem solving? I have such limited mental resources that I often go “Ok. This is making you feel (x feelings). Let’s work through this.” Working through issues takes so much mental energy.
I may have instinctively known to skip to this stage because this is the only one I could really do anything about? Probably not, just chucking ideas around. I’ve LOVED connecting the dots and learning the specifics about how it makes more different, moreso because I can hack my life to make it easier. I don’t think I’ve resented any of the particular challenges it presents, probably because the anxiety overshadows everything.
REBUILDING – “I’m doing the work to rebuild myself based on who I am.”
I think this is where I am now but as part of a larger framework. I’m rebuilding my personal and professional life outside of the ‘survival/crisis mode’ I’ve been in for the past few years. This has actually been really hard because of the amount of emotional shit I’ve had to process.
This is probably connected to Dabrowski somehow – high up on the positive disintegration thingy. High Fives to me. This part really stood out to me:
Since gifted people tend to judge themselves and build their self expectations based on their theoretical potential rather than their actual potential, they are often disillusioned by their actual progress. Gifted coaches know that trap and keep you from falling into it during this stage by helping you realistically build up a life based on your actual potential. We help you stay realistic and focused on using your theoretical potential as a source of inspiration but not as a standard, and your actual potential as a realistic planning tool.
This is probably going to be incredibly bloody difficult as being gifted means it is such a fucking contrast when I’m ill. It’s like “I’ve seen how awesome things can be. Now I have to decide between two incredibly basic things because I have no mental energy today.”
It is going to be so fascinating to explore and play around with this. I’ve already had to do a lot of mental work about not getting bummed out about not being able to achieve my theoretical potential. Would love to read more 😀
CREATIVITY – “What else can I create from my unique self?”
Not here yet but this part is going to be so much fun 😀
But if this doesn’t seem to fit you, then why are you posting about it?
I am struggling to find much information about how giftedness impacts on generalized anxiety disorder. I’ve had to hack together bits of information from various sources. There is a massive need for this. I know because I desperately need it.
I’m not in a position to join up all of the pieces yet. I don’t know how much cognitive function I’ve got back yet and even then, a lot of mental energy goes into rebuilding my business AND doing the mental work required to recover from severe mental health issues.
My hope is that by posting this, it may contribute to the narrative. It may make someone out there think and research. Or, I may be able to use this post to put the pieces together later. It should be fun! 😀