“I think you may be gifted, too.”
It was like something had clicked in my brain. One of my closest friends had recently moved to Geelong and we were catching up on a years worth of gossip. She was talking about her experience getting diagnosed as gifted and how it had reframed how she viewed herself.
I’d been diagnosed as being gifted as a child, so it was no big deal to be reminded. What was phenomenal, though, was her explanation of how it impacted on your brain.
How does this impact on my brain?
This is the bit where I need to go nerdy and summarize some of my readings. Trust me – this is only a fraction of the information out there!
There is the abundant available evidence that gifted children show enhanced sensory activation and awareness. Gifted brains are essentially “hyper-sensitive,” and can be rendered even more so through training.
via Brock and Fernette Eide
Later, they said:
However, these same neurological characteristics carry a number of potential drawbacks, including sensory, emotional, and memory overload, sensory hypersensitivities, personal disorganization, sensory distractibility, delayed processing due to “analysis paralysis” (or getting “lost in thought” due to an excess of options), and mental fatigue.
Lynne Azpeitia expanded on this in an article about gifted adults.
Gifted adults have a special problem awareness. They have the ability to predict consequences, see relationships, and foresee problems which are likely to occur.
Because gifted adults know more what is at stake, risk taking for a gifted person may be more difficult than for others because it may take longer for them to decide.
via Characteristics of Gifted & Creative Adults
Additionally, the speed of my brain means that I can see outcomes before they occur.
You tend to jump ahead. This can occur when you read, listen to someone talk or when you consider an issue. You often see what has not happened yet. Outcomes seems obvious to you because you are considering the variables in a way many are not.
via Qualities of The Gifted
This completely changes how I view my anxiety disorder
I imagine that most people reading that would go “Big Deal. So your life is a little bit more difficult.” It can be hard to have a sympathy for a ‘problem’ that has such clear advantages.
In my case, though, I feel it exacerbates some of my anxiety symptoms. I’ve proven to be pretty difficult to treat. I’ve always been pretty good at CBT and fighting my negative thoughts. One of my issues was that I always had highly logical counterarguments for whatever positive thing I was trying to tell myself.
Viewing it from a ‘gifted’ framework though, this means that I can’t beat myself up for being lazy. If anything, I have to work harder then most people to fight my anxious brain. This can. and definitely will, be reframed as a sign of strength instead of weakness. I’m alive and doing quite well considering the amount of stress I’m under.
The information about being highly sensitive isn’t anything new – it is something that overlaps between being incredibly anxious and what is described as a ‘highly sensitive person.’ The mental fatigue and emotional overload was reassuring though because I always beat myself up for being lazy.
See, I often look at my childhood and consider my entire adult life to be a failure after failure. I still struggle to leave the house. I get exhausted so easily and have very little show for the past 10 years. Sometimes I can lose days and weeks either fighting my own brain or letting the exhaustion take over for as long as is needed.
It’s brutal. And, seeing as I’m medicated and rocking CBT, I assumed it was a personal flaw. I understand the science behind why my mind goes stupid on me and do the recommended techniques. I know it doesn’t explain everything and being gifted is only one small part of a complicated brain.
It does give me permission to go easier on myself.
While this is mostly an extension of stuff I already know, I do think the concept of overexcitability is fascinating. You can get an overview of it here.
Gifted Services has an overexcitability checklist. One of those listed was Emotional. The PDF said:
Emotional – intensity of feeling:, complex emotions and feelings, extremes of emotion, sensitivity, identification with the feelings of others, difficulty adjusting to change. (Piechowski 1999)
via Gifted Services.com.au
Then, on SENGifted, they say:
Emotional intensity can be expressed in many different ways:
as intensity of feeling: positive feelings, negative feelings, both positive and negative feelings together, extremes of emotion, complex emotions that seemingly move from one feeling to another over a short time period, identification with the feelings of other people, laughing and crying together
in the body: the body mirrors the emotions and feelings are often expressed as bodily symptoms such as tense stomach, sinking heart, blushing, headache, nausea
fears and anxieties, feelings of guilt, feelings of being out of control
emotional ties and attachments to others, empathy and concern for others, sensitivity in relationships, attachment to animals, difficulty in adjusting to new environments, loneliness, conflicts with others over the depth of relationships
critical self-evaluation and self-judgment, feelings of inadequacy and inferiority.
via SEN Gifted
Huh. A lot of correlation between anxiety and being gifted. I’m not sure exactly what this means but it will be something interesting to research.
What am I doing now?
Basically, I’m reading a bunch of books and drawing connections between ideas. It feels like my anxiety research has come to a standstill and that this can be very beneficial. A lot of the material is either repetitive or targeted towards children so it’s going to be a hard slog.
Here are some of the things I want to cover.
The research did show a common theme of perfectionism. This is a concept I’ve explored with schema therapy and I’ll definitely be exploring that later.
I’ll have to speak to mum about what I was like as a kid to get more insights about this, but it could be fascinating.
By “understanding the nature of thinking” we mean the sort of metacognitive training (or “thinking about thinking”) that would allow gifted thinkers more effectively to direct and manage their own thinking. This training would equip them to understand the nature of memory, sensory processing, mental organization and learning styles, and would arm them with knowledge of mnemonic, organizational, interpersonal, and other problem solving strategies
via Brains On Fire
I like to think I’m pretty good at metacognition, to a degree. However, I reckon that there is a lot to learn and benefit from. I’d just need to figure out where to start!
Being Gifted and disabled
There is a term called twice exceptional and I found that to be liberating. However, there is very little targeted at adults, especially ones with an ‘easy’ disability like anxiety.
I am so excited about where this research journey ends. Even if it doesn’t come up with much, it’s really fascinating.