Your Rainforest Mind

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What Do Gifted Teens Say About Their Struggles?

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photo courtesy of Ben White, Unsplash

The gifted adolescents that I have known grapple with existential depression, anxiety, loneliness, perfectionism, sensitivities, empathy, misdiagnoses, bullying, and serious frustrations with the school system. Here is “one” teen’s voice synthesized from the many that I have met over the years. All people will benefit when we take the time to understand our gifted children.

I’m in counseling because my parents are worried. I don’t have any real friends and I spend a lot of time in my room or on my phone. My grades are dropping. I’m actually failing in a couple classes. They’re afraid I’m depressed, maybe even suicidal. My parents are right to be concerned. I don’t know what’s wrong but I’ve been kind of a mess ever since I can remember. And lately, I’ve been wondering, what’s the point?

I remember being in kindergarten and I tried to talk with the other kids, you know, about stuff I’d read like the demise of the dinosaurs or how volcanoes work. They’d just look at me like I was from another planet and go play in the sandbox and I’d wonder what’s wrong with me. What am I missing? How could they not love dinosaurs? How could they not love reading?

Then my kindergarten teacher kept teaching about colors and shapes and counting to ten. And I’m thinking, what about multiplication? What’s wrong with me? I was supposed to sit still and fill in the blanks on the worksheets when what I wanted was to know the size of the universe.

It’s been that way for years. Sitting in a classroom, eager to learn something, anything, and hearing the same song over and over.  I’m so disappointed in people, in teachers. I stopped doing the homework in some of my classes and that’s why my grades are so bad. I just don’t see the point of repeating something I already know. People tell me to just do it, but it’s torture. And then there are the papers to write. Either I do so much research that I can’t possibly put it all in a 5 page paper so I never hand anything in or I know what I write won’t be good enough so I don’t even start. They say I’m lazy. Am I lazy?

There is one teacher, though, Mr. Grey, he keeps me in high school. He loves his subject, English literature, and he loves my curiosity and questions. He started a philosophy club where we could talk about film, literature, politics, anything. I’m usually the only one who shows up but he’s always there, getting my mind working hard. And it gives me hope. Makes life worth living. Someone who loves thinking outside the box; someone who isn’t intimidated or offended or annoyed by my insatiable appetite for learning. I’m really grateful for Mr. Gray.

I used to be very emotional. I cried a lot and my parents called me dramatic. I was also very sensitive to noise, textures and smells. I didn’t like birthday parties because they were so chaotic. I could tell my parents were extremely uncomfortable with this. But I care deeply about things and feel sad when I can see other kids getting hurt. 

And I worry a lot. I worry about climate change, world hunger, poverty, racism. What can I do that will make a difference?  Why am I here? What’s the meaning of life? My brain never stops. It’s exhausting.

You know, I just want someone my age to care, to think with me, to ask questions. I feel like such a freak. Our symphonic band went on a field trip to San Francisco. I was so excited to see the city, the art museums, the culture. All the other kids wanted to do was go to the mall. The mall. Like they’ve never seen a frickin’ mall. I couldn’t stand it and desperately wanted to leave the group but I didn’t want to create a scene so I kept my mouth shut. People think I’m moody and disagreeable but I’m really just incredibly tired of trying to fit in and feeling like a fool. I just want to be normal. I just want to have friends. I’m so lonely.

I guess I should also confess that I feel enormous anxiety when someone asks me to do something I’ve never done before and don’t know if I can do it well, and fast, and the best. You know, like sports for instance. I avoid sports, at all costs. And I quit piano because you have to practice to get good at it. I’m used to being the best and getting approval for it and I’m afraid that I’m really not as smart as everyone says. So, I don’t take any unnecessary risks.

People try and help me and I appreciate it, but it’s mostly inadequate. They come up with quick fixes and easy answers. I try and tell them gently that it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple. But they don’t get it. Sometimes the only thing I find soothing is my dog and a walk in the woods. I feel a deep kinship with nature and a sense of connection with trees and the wind. I still cry at a perfect sunset.

I can’t wait to get to college. Maybe there’ll be kids there I can relate to, who will accept me. Or maybe there’ll be a professor in the music department who can give me the feedback that I’m looking for. See, I’m in these bands at school and I get these awards but they’re meaningless, you know? I don’t deserve them. I make all these mistakes that no one seems to notice.  I don’t get it.  They tell me I’m the best trumpet player they’ve heard in years. But I know how much better I could sound.  What I play is crap. And they don’t hear it.

Then again, I’m scared to death of college. I’m not sure what I’d do if I were put in a class with really smart kids. What if the work is too hard? What if I don’t have all the answers? What’ll I do? Who am I then? How do I study for a test? I haven’t really had to crack a book yet. What if I can’t get the answers fast? And, what will I major in? I have so many interests. They say I can do anything I want like that’s a great thing. But all I feel is pressure and anxiety. How do I choose just one thing? What if I’m really not so smart and I’ve just been able to fake it all this time? 

Maybe I won’t go to college.

They say that I’m gifted but I don’t know. It sure doesn’t feel like a gift to me.

_____________________________________________

To my bloggEEs: Does this sound like you? What parts are familiar? Are you raising children who are struggling? How is it for you to see your children dealing with the same challenges you experienced?

This post is adapted from my new book Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists. The book is largely a compilation of my most popular blog posts 2014-2018 organized by topic. It includes suggestions for further exploration to guide you to greater self-acceptance, meaning, and purpose. It is a more light-hearted look at rainforest-mindedness so it is a good gift book for teens, educators, friends, and therapists. (My first book is more in-depth via case studies, strategies, and resources. You can find out more here.)

Author: Paula Prober

I'm a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in counseling gifted adults and consulting with parents of gifted children. The label "gifted" is often controversial and confusing. I use the metaphor of the rainforest to describe this population. Like the rainforest, these individuals are quite complex, highly sensitive, intense, multi-layered, and misunderstood. They're also curious, idealistic, highly intelligent, creative, perfectionistic, and they love learning. I've been an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I've written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, and Advanced Development Journal. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016 by GHF Press and is available on Amazon or at your independent bookstore. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists, was released in June 2019.

81 thoughts on “What Do Gifted Teens Say About Their Struggles?

  1. Yes, to all of this. This is my story too. Even hidden in our caves of introspection and often painful awareness, we are in good company. The wind and trees are speaking the same secrets to this teen and to me, and to all of us. When we find rapture in these things, we are finding one another.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Why is this narrative so consistent and long lived?

    Substitute out a couple general characteristics for a couple personal ones and it’s biographical. Remove the possibility of a gifted program which mid60s to late 70s did not exist where I lived. Throw in undiagnosed learning difficulties of 2E and it fits like a well-worn shoe.

    Why with so much individual diversity does this work as a template for so many of us?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sounds a whole lot like my story. I loved school for about ten minutes until I began to realize that it was less about learning and more about being trained to take orders so we would grow up to be predictable, compliant workers and…

    “Hey hey hey! Just hold on there mister.”
    “What?”
    “Are you saying what I think you are saying?”
    “That the education system is broken on purpose? Yup.”
    “Don’t you think saying such things is irresponsible? Don’t you think it besmirches the hard work of dedicated educators? Don’t you think it sounds like some kind of wacko conspiracy theory?”
    “Maybe it would be if I was talking about 40 years ago when I was still a kid in school. But clearly little has changed, and that can’t be a coincidence. They didn’t teach me much in school, but I can still tell when something doesn’t add up.”

    Liked by 4 people

    • I read about this not long ago, Mark, that our school education system is designed for exactly that: to produce compliant, systemic, robotic workers… I know I struggled in many of my jobs because I could not conform and often got frustrated at managers’ decisions or should I say indecisions when the answers were staring at me right in the face… employers say that want creative, out of the box thinkers… but not really…

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      • I’m not into conspiracy theories and yet it just doesn’t seem to be a random coincidence the way things are set up, does it? Not just the education system but employment, the economy, politics, healthcare, culture, etc. It all seems suspiciously designed to keep the whole dang circus on the tracks going off of a cliff as in so many cartoons.

        I read the book “Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm” and while the concept it poses that “Gaia” has an intelligent plan and that we are somehow a part of it seems at least plausible (and encouraging), would it then also be plausible that a part of that plan is that some of us should be ever so maladjusted that we are resisting or even helping to correct the current course that we are on?

        Beats me. All I know is I have been asking these big questions since I was a teen, and I’m not sure I’m getting any closer to an answer.

        It all makes me one sad clown.

        Liked by 2 people

    • One purpose of school is actually to educate, as a carry-over from the late Medieval European university system and the tradition of scholarship.

      A related purpose, again from the European university system, is grooming of the next generation of the aristocracy. You still see this in the so-called “Ivy League,” or “Top Schools” in the US. The point is not the formal education, which is actually nearly identical to undergraduate programs in “lesser” schools, but instead the rubbing-of-shoulders with other people being groomed to be senators and circuit court judges.

      Another purpose, particularly in the US, has been — as you say — to train compliant workers who can show up on time and service 17th century industrial processes.

      Another purpose is to acculturate citizens in a secular society. This function has historically been performed by tribe, community, and religion. In an eclectic, national, secular society, you need something else to teach the national traditions (e.g. what is democracy?).

      A more recent purpose is to hold people out of the workforce. The numbers simply don’t add up: if you count all potential workers in any country, and compare it to the number of jobs available, it leaves a lot of people without work. There’s a lot of fiddling with statistics to hide this basic fact: the official unemployment figures are computed from unemployment insurance payments. These end after (depending on the state) about two years. So anyone who is chronically without work is not, by definition, “unemployed.” People in prison are not unemployed. People in the military are not unemployed (they were considered such until the Reagan years, probably because before that, military careerists were vastly outnumbered by draftees?) And students are not unemployed. The entire idea of “get an education and get a better job” has some empirical backing, but it means you are entering the workforce at 20 or 22, instead of 16-18. It also serves as a way to triage resumes: when you have 2000 applicants for one position, a simple way to (legally) eliminate applications is to raise the required education level. My father went through this social transition: he was an autodidact, taught himself surveying, and ended up in his later years in a desk job, all without a high school diploma. Sometime in the 1960’s he was forced to get a GED to keep his job, and was then passed up for promotions because he didn’t have a college degree. It was a major cultural shift during that decade.

      A still more recent purpose is educational profits, particularly educational “debt servicing.” It has been creating a dangerous form of indentured servitude. The upside of that is that people are starting to recognize that trades are no longer something to look down on. A competent electrician is hard to find in a lot of places; same with a good plumber.

      Education has been a political football for a very long time, and has a lot of cross-purposes built into it.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I hesitated to OK this comment, Themon. I’m guessing you know why. I’d prefer that this space be used for personal reflections on the topic rather than something like this, your understanding/opinions about the education system… I don’t want us to get into debates about these complex topics although I suspect some of you would enjoy that and would love a place to get more deeply into philosophies and theories. Sorry! But let’s keep this a safe place for personal experiences. I write in another comment below about how I monitor sharing. Make sense?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for your reply. I have a hard time expressing similar things which I intuitively feel to be true but cannot explain satisfactorily.

        One of my favorite quotes on topics such as this is by someone who no doubt had a Rainforest Mind, Buckminster Fuller.

        He said “We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

        This quote resonates with me because I believe I am one of the “one in ten thousand (that) can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest”.

        I would have a half dozen patents or more if I wasn’t constantly fighting to simply survive, a needless, wasteful struggle IMO. Not just for me, but for my family and friends, my community and for the local economy which is based almost solely on a singular sunset industry that local politicians are desperately, futilely trying to revive, much to the dismay of much of the rest of the world.

        I want to shake people awake but… UGH!!

        Liked by 2 people

        • I hope we’re not wearing out the rope that Paula gave us in leaving this one up. So I just say, your reply resonates a lot here with me, Mark V. And: UBI will be the answer, I think. (At least, serious debate is being given room in the public discourse and experiments of that nature have begun in Europe, in the US – Stockton, CA – and elsewhere in the world).

          On a slightly different note – and I believe this to be all the more true for rainforest minds: I’ve followed the incredible surge of talent popping up left and right in the field of music – which happens to be one of my interests and hopefully gifts – and that talent populating YouTube, Instagram and other social media channels. I’m just in awe and breathless over the incredible number and depth of talent – with it’s iconic figure Jacob Collier at the top of that wave of new talent IMHO – and I’d reason it’s because music and video technology became affordable. Now extrapolate that phenomenon across other ways of expressing talent, scientific, creative and otherwise – and we’d see a TSUNAMI of great ideas all propelling humankind in a direction we couldn’t even have anticipated some 20, 30 years ago!

          We as multi-gifted individuals who are sorely trying to find footing in the world and repeatedly having a hard time doing so for the reasons you mention above is a travesty of global proportions, again IMHO. But… and I really believe this today… I think, things are slowly beginning to change. Places like this and other virtual “meeting points” and hangouts help with that evolution – I think. So Paula… I understand your reluctance to permit posts and comments of this kind for fear of digressing too far from your original topic. And yes, of course, you want to keep things focussed and tidy, I get it. It is your blog and your rules of house apply. I just think that thoughts like the above are all connected with each of our struggles to find a good place in the world and to find ways of freely expressing ourselves and gifts in productive ways that foster connection, communication, communion and collaboration. No? ❤

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          • Yes! Going “off topic” isn’t a problem. It’s more when someone is, say, lecturing or pontificating about a topic without tying it back to themselves. When you add “in my humble opinion,” for example, that’s a good way to frame what you’re saying. I also want to avoid advice giving, telling someone else what they ought to do. Again, there can be empathy and suggestions, but framed from the “this has worked for me” place. All that said, I’ve RARELY had to delete a comment. Basically, you all are doing a great job! In fact, someone told me this is the best place on the internet for comments! (maybe a little hyperbole but….) Love this: “…foster connection, communication, communion, and collaboration.” Thanks, y’all!!

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          • Sorry for not replying sooner but my life is currently chaotic for reasons discussed and others that I have written about before.

            Speaking of travesties, I know uttering “shoulds” is kind of a no-no for the gifted since it usually only serves to make us feel shame and guilt. But honestly I really SHOULD have spent the past year working on creative, innovative projects rather than spending most of my time down in the mud fighting the latest in a long line of unscrupulous landlords, and then the need to move again, my 12th move in the last 15 years.

            I am poor and vulnerable to these types of people for various reasons, but a big one is that I do not make a very good employee. Things indeed are changing as you suggest, but not fast enough. Employers are still not looking for autodidactic multipotentialites, and banks are not giving loans to entrepreneurs who do not have a specialty and have a hard time describing exactly what they do or what they are offering. (In case you have not read it, a good essay on the topic called “The Too Many Aptitudes Problem” has been going around the net for years.)

            I do not fit into this world – at least not yet – so I am trying to create one of my own.

            For example, 20 years ago all I had was a guitar to compose songs on, and some paper and pens to write and draw with. But now with a computer, a camera, some software and a graphics tablet, I can compose, record, mix and master my own music that spans the spectrum from rock to orchestral movie scores, create my own music videos, and I can write, illustrate and design books and websites and release all of it onto the internet without any outside help.

            It all still feels like an extremely arduous path to take, but the fact there is even a slim chance of succeeding on a shoestring budget with my multi-disciplinary approach keeps me going.

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            • I’m glad you’re continuing to create, Mark, and that you have the tools!

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              • One of my favorite stories about filmmaker Werner Herzog is that he made his first movies with a camera he stole from film school.

                If rules needlessly prevent us from expressing our greatest gifts and sharing them with the world then they are rules worth breaking.

                And that’s all I have to say about that. 😉

                Liked by 2 people

            • I’m on a similar path, Mark V, and I feel every single bit of your fight (my own past decade has been nothing short of hell, a hell I never imagined could or would have happened to me from what I had been taught in earlier years). If it’s any consolation: We might not fit in just yet, so I’m trying to bring myself to an understanding that you, I and many more with a number of gifts are pioneers paving the way for others to come (just look at what Jacob Collier is doing with technology – and I’d argue he had the PERFECT environment that a mulit-gifted person NEEDS to nourish and expand on their gifts). The good news is: Now we GET TO use ALL our gifts at once for reasons of technology enabling us to do so. AND we don’t have to pay the “middle man” any longer. Yes, it’s brutal amounts of work and the other challenge is not to overexploit ourselves and burn out too quickly. However, I’m telling myself, so long as I get to get up every morning with all limbs in place, breathing and heart working alright, roof over my head and food in the fridge, fire in the oven and – most important – my gear working all fine, life’s good (it isn’t always good and it’s far from being real good; but we’re gettin’ there, aren’t we?). Trust me – I know TO A T.! what you’re talking about. Been through much of that myself, losing former jobs one after another despite busting my behind, getting bullied, getting evicted, at one point almost having become homeless, then a period of indeed being without a home to myself, the list goes on.

              My daily routine starts like this: “What is good now?”. When I find it, I practice gratitude. That doesn’t do away with the mean people trying to bring us down in their typical chainsaw ways… but it helps to solidify confidence and a sense of calm and serenity. Not always and not every day. But all the more often. Let’s press on, shall we? 🙂

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              • Thanks for the support.

                I was at the pub the other night when a Police song came on. I said to a musician friend of mine that I have been closely studying great drummers such as Stewart Copeland so that I can program better sounding drums.

                He interjected “Yeah but you’ll never be able to make realistic sounding drums like that.”

                “Why not?” I said. “Lots of hit records since the 1970’s have programmed drums on them…”

                “Which ones?!” he demanded, clearly getting irritated.

                I named a few as he scoffed before he interrupted me again.

                “So what is your goal? Why are you spending so much time on this recording stuff? To be a music producer?”

                “Because I can’t afford to pay someone to produce my songs. I either learn to do it myself or I do nothing…”

                “You think you can produce your own records??” he said angrily.

                I changed the subject because in that moment I finally realized something: I will never get through to him. I have never gotten through to him (and many others like him), not because he thinks my goals are impossible, but because he wants to think they are impossible. He’s afraid, and my boundary-pushing and rule-breaking threatens the view of the world that he still understands and feels comfortable in.

                He’s not alone, in fact he’s actually quite typical. I gave up trying to collaborate with people because I can’t work with anyone who immediately wants to impose their own mental limitations on me, simply because those limitations make them feel more comfortable.

                The irony is you just need to spend a couple of minutes on social media and you get the impression that almost everyone is living their best life, facing their fears, seizing the moment, and being spontaneous, creative and adventurous.

                What a bunch of BS. Lip service made to make themselves look and feel better. Which would be fine if they didn’t also attack anyone who actually goes about the messy business of trying new things, failing, and trying again…

                To be honest it makes me very angry and bitter.

                The sad part of all of this is that for a socially anxious introvert, many of the creative projects I did manage to finish often brought many people together. Even the ones who were initially skeptical of my ability to accomplish those goals!

                And yet with every new project it seems as if nothing that came before matters, and that once again I am seen to have set an unattainable goal for myself, and so their support is minimal if not entirely suspended.

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                • Well, again – can’t risk to “hog” Paula’s place here for a conversation that revolves around something not everyone in her audience of visitors might be versed in. All I can say is that I feel you very much, Mark, have been to that in music – or other creative expressions, like photography and writing – a lot. It is a mundane thing to say that there’ll be haters along the way, people who are jealous ever BEFORE you’re successful for the mere fact that you DARE to try and fail and get back up and try some more. It too me FIVE DECADES to understand that even THIS, this approach of trying to be our very best with what we got, makes a lot of people uncomfortable at least and often times aggressive and bullyish in its wake, because they clearly sense that what you’re attempting to do is something they hadn’t even bothered to try for themselves. And yes, with the simply act of pushing the envelope for yourself, you threaten their worldview and comfort zone and there is plenty of people who have never had anything else in mind for themselves and their lives than staying within the boundaries of said comfort zone – and hence they reprimand and punish everyone else who dares to go beyond that. (or s.th. like that, all the above telling from my very numerous and STILL VERY HURTFUL experiences along those lines and with similar people, ESPECIALLY in the world of arts/creative expression, would you believe…).

                  I’m struggling for words of comfort here… I guess the only comfort is in reassuring ourselves that this is what WE MUST DO for ourselves and all that in the vein of good self-care and in seeing our potential(s) nourished, developed and as such RESPECTED and ACCEPTED (which in and of itsself is not an easy chunk to swallow IMHO).

                  As for drums: I did – and still often do – the same thing. I have now made online friends with a very talented drummer who kindly agrees to collaborate on a zero-budget basis for now (always hoping for a budget to come along the way once there is a finished product, of course). I have found other collaborators now whom I feel on the same page with, musically and as human beings and burgeoning friends as well. But prior to that, I’ve been in the exact same place as you were in and just used loops, which I then cut and edited to suit the piece I was working on. Lately, on Macs and with Logic Studio X there is this VERY cool feature called – of all things 😉 – “drummer” – and it really works in an incredibly AUTHENTIC way! But this is now definitely something we’d have to take to the respective forums and groups. I just wanted to bring it to your attention. If you’re working on a PC, then I’m sure there’ll be VST plugins or other software that enables you to do something similar. What I’m saying is: Yes, it is CORRECT to just disregard they haters and naysayers and not give them your precious time and wonderful ability to respect everyone’s opinion and stance. Once they don’t support you or even do worse, attack you for wanting to be your very best, my suggestion would be to simply leave them behind (but not hold grudges either for that will bind your energy to theirs and thus hinder you). Paula? Yay or nay? But I have to cap it here, I guess. Just felt so spot-on reminded of my own journey and process here and felt pressed to let mark know he’s a) not alone in that and b) that I think some of those experiences are almost typical “inevitables” for RFM-ed folks, no? 😉 Peace.

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                  • Sorry for some typos or missing letters/phrases (brain is working in an overclocked mode all the time ;-), fingers not 😉 )

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                  • Thank you. I do believe this ties in to the general discussion because this all really began to be a burden when I was a teenager and didn’t know why I was so different. If I am wrong my apologies for my transgressions.

                    Since then I have gone through a personal transformation with how I regard myself, giftedness and the troubles it has caused. First I thought (and it was suggested to me) that it was a parenting problem, then it was an education problem, then it was a “brain chemistry” problem (back when that was still an acceptable marketing strategy for pills), then a healthcare problem and most recently a welfare problem.

                    If there is any value in my suffering then it is that I now know it is all those things and more. It is a culture problem. Not that I think for a second that I don’t have a ton of responsibilities to do whatever I can to better myself and my surroundings, but as powerful as some of my gifts are, I cannot single-handedly change ignorance, stigma and the dangers they pose to vulnerable people.

                    Here’s an example of how that can play out (I beg forgiveness for yet another story):
                    Years ago a doctor put me on an anti-psychotic, citing the “negative effects” of schizophrenia such as low mood, low energy and low motivation that they might alleviate. I had to be hospitalized during the first two weeks on the medication while they monitored me for potentially fatal side effects.

                    One day the doc came into my room and asked to see the sketch I was working on, which was of a prototype of an idea I had for a new kind of bicycle drive-train.

                    “This is pretty interesting!” he said. “Can I show this to my colleagues?”
                    “Sure.” I said, and he called in another doctor and a couple of residents.

                    For 10 minutes they enthusiastically discussed the merits of my design, and they all agreed that it was very promising and well worth pursuing (although I never did pursue that idea because I was on welfare after the day I entered that hospital).

                    Looking back on that time and the subsequent years that I willingly allowed that doctor and others to take from me, I realized that it wasn’t just a failure of science or medicine, it was a failure of our culture.

                    Because if I was able to conjure a new invention idea and do the hard mental work of going over it in my mind, all while being doped to the gills by the debilitating side effects of anti-psychotics, then I clearly did not lack in energy or motivation. No, I only lacked energy and motivation they way most doctors expect “normal people” in our culture show it, which is by taking one predictable, linear step after another. (School > Job > Bank Loan > blah blah blah)

                    I was not suffering from schizoaffective disorder or any of the other ailments they tried to label me with, I was simply bored and traumatized by a culture that aggressively tries to push us into neat little boxes, at the peril of extinguishing our unique gifts.

                    In other words, burning down the rainforest, much like what is happening at this very moment. (A coincidence?)

                    But I have said enough.
                    I am going to go away for awhile as I finish moving and then I’m taking a break from the world and hopefully get back to creating art once I am settled in. (Including doing some drumming!) 🙂
                    Thanks again.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    • Don’t go away just yet, Mark!!! Paula – along the lines of your call to action in your latest post, do you think, this could be one of the questions and topics to touch upon, i.e. what Mark and I – and I’m afraid other RFMs – have had to experience, namely the shunning, the stigma, the being marginalized or not being taken seriously to being flat out getting treated in abusive ways, i.e. what happens to the gifted child or adult that simply wasn’t able – or not being given the opportunity – to thrive? How can and must we cope with some of the REAL side effects of giftedness, which are what Mark and I have experienced, the stigma, the getting singled out, the overstepping of boundaries – involuntarily or voluntarily by the normally gifted, and in violent ways in Mark’s and my case -, how do we begin to cope with old and NEW trauma along the lines of what Mark wrote?

                      I’m aware it’s a bit of a can of worms and a tall order to tackle. But don’t you think, there is some validity in those experiences, too? After all, we can’t all be Jacob Colliers or the gifted Korean kid whose parents removed any obstacle for them so they could fully – and joyfully and ultimately successfully – immerse themselves in their gifts and in the process of evolving them? Mark?

                      If I could, this would be my modest request in terms of making suggestions what else to discuss per your latest post. Thank you!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • P.S. Along the lines of my suggested topic and request for discussion, I’m also living on welfare, have been since 2011 and became 100% incapacitated in 2007 after a long series of bullying situations at work, many periods of unemployment, a dozen of times of “reinventing myself” and making due with former employers, the list goes on. Now I’m on welfare, I’ve been without a home several times (not homeless in the streets, though, thank god, I wouldn’t survive for a single week given my frail health), and at this point I’m in the process of divorcing bio family from my life for good for reasons of having contributed to major trauma in early days and later – including NOW -, and deep-seated trauma is one of the reasons I have ultimately become incapacitated.

                      While I understand that we as a group can’t discuss every single aspect, again, I think I can see a pattern happen for those who weren’t lucky enough to find good circumstances, which allowed them to peacefully immerse themselves in their gifts and giftedness and joyfully and purposefully work on evolving those gifts to the benefit of all (and unless you do the WORK part, there isn’t much to show for in the eyes of society as it stands today. “Oh yeah, you think you can do this better? Who do you think you are? Got something to show for me? No? EFF off, then”, sort of mouthing away and rhetorically condensing some of the typical responses we might get met with when making bold suggestins or uttering ideas noone else may have thought of until then…). And the pattern is something akin to a space shuttle reentering the Earth’s atmosphere: If the object hits Earth’s atmospheric shield at too sharp an angle, it risks burning to ashes from friction heating up to several thousand degrees, if the angle is too flat, it risks bouncing off and back into the abyss of the cosmos. Following that analogy, it is my experience that if we don’t mange to find that ONE PERFECT angle – and there is only ONE – to “enter into” whatever the situation in a workplace might be, we also risk getting burnt (or chainsawn) to the ground or getting “bounced off” as in rejected entirely.

                      I guess my point is – in part – about how to best communicate with the normally gifted folks out there in order to get to a mutual level of understanding (never entirely, but at least in the current matter at stake, in e.g. a work situation).

                      Thank you!

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • renovatio06, if you email me via the About page form and provide more of your background, I can think about how to approach these issues in a blog post like the one on Ricardo. I’m not sure if I’ll write something specific to what you and Mark are saying but some details about your struggles and your early years might shed some light. Good to send directly to me, rather than continue in the comments for now. Make sense? It would be helpful if you include where you are living and where you grew up.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Thanks, Paula. Just did (warning for length… tried to be brief, but five decades with major rifts produce a bit of … fallout 😉 O:) )

                      Liked by 1 person

  4. With school starting next week, my 12 year old’s anxiety is in full swing. Daily life with him. It’s so hard trying to help him through all he deals with in a day.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. hey…I cried when your words tiptoed through my brain cells, dripped through all the holes, still crying, school is supposed to start the lifelong fireworks love affair of learning but for me as soon as I put one foot inside the school perimeter prison the lights turned off, forever, what I learned in school was that it was all about beauty queens and popularity and socializing and I was just the weird, awkward, freaky kid that made everyone else nervous, the un-exploded bomb, I refused to join the sheep pack mentality so was given a permanent exclusion ticket that promised a life sentence of loneliness and ostracized and always, always never being allowed to forget how different and wrong and evil I was, the more my differences stood out the further away I was swept from that longed for place, the place everyone else was invited to, the place called “normal”, so I taught myself to be stupid, to dim down the search lights in my lighthouse, to hide, to conceal, to fake and this is where I am now, forty odd years down the line, a plastic surgeon of the emotional kind always covering up and sucking out and changing the unacceptable differences of me, a little chameleon that has totally forgotten her birth colors, instead colored in by other people’s demands of what I must do to be accepted, and I devour your words over and over again and grieve and I stand alone on the barren earth, cold winds heart shredding and look out at the total and utter deforestation devastation of my mind and realize what I have destroyed all because all I strove for was a place on that island called “normal”, a place I never really wanted to be in the first instance, acid rain hurt flooding into my soul compost where nothing grows anymore, living but dead, all because a school system, a supposed place to dive deep into the journey of learning, in safety preferred to create little ant armies of self sameness all marching along together, instead of embracing the colorful chaos gift of birthing butterflies and dragonflies and mystical, magical creatures, I grieve in my black and white aloneness

    Liked by 4 people

    • You are not alone anymore, Rosie. Welcome home. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, school was agony if you did not conform to the social norms, yearn for popularity or compete with your same sex peers in being the most glamorous/popular… and it was hell if you deliberately and overtly went against the grain… I have girls who were mean to me back in high school tell me at a school reunion that they were JEALOUS of me… I had it all… apparently… wow, if only they knew…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Paula, you made me tear up (again)…

    I was always busy reading books (but not silly Harry Potter) and learning on my own (Encarta Encyclopedia and SimCity comes to mind from when I was 9-10 and we first got a computer, but didn’t have internet). I remember crying at home from elementary school on about how hard it was to make and keep friends and why I wasn’t understood…though a few key teachers were the light in my days. On the band trips, everyone wanted to go shopping and get ice cream and I was thinking/saying “WE HAVE MUSIC WORKSHOPS WITH AMAZING PROs THIS AFTERNOON…helloooooo??!!”. Turns out practicing one’s instrument on the trip outside of the rehearsals was frowned upon by all participants.

    My dog Abby was my best friend and we went on many an escape-walk. She even patiently waited for me while I read a few chapters in my tree fort. The trees, Abby, plus clay and paint at school and home and MUSIC at all times were my ‘counsellors’–no one ever suggested I see a human one. I flew under the radar at school and my parents didn’t believe in ‘shrinks’, plus there was no health insurance to cover such appointments. Playing violin in community orchestras with adults starting at age 14 was a life-saver.

    Side rant: I would start writing essays a 1-2 days before and that worked well; it still worked for many classes during the last year of my BA. Sadly, I could do papers for my BEd the night before as they honestly didn’t expect ANYTHING of us–it was gravely depressing that future educators were assumed and allowed to be clueless and disinterested in the world, not to seek any depth or interconnections. Profs just wrote “P” for Pass on most papers (“Pass”/”Fail” system and box-checking for the Ministry of Education)…so little discussion/debate/curiosity. Doing my BEd was the most depressing period of my life as I realized in Week 1 that the university system that produces educators is actually more broken than the school system, as it is trying to produce ‘educators’ to fit a broken school system of mediocrity and apathy. In the “Exceptionalities” class (offered AFTER both practicums and worth 1 credit of the 60 for the degree), the prof *skipped* giftedness–she said we weren’t likely to come across it! A student covered it in a self-selected topic presentation and did a great job, but that WAS IT.

    When I had previously coordinated student support with school counsellors on my main practicum (related to anxiety, depression, bullying, family issues), my practicum supervisors got mad at me; they said that it wasn’t part of student teaching to coordinate with counsellors and refused to include my efforts in my practicum reports. Luckily, the counsellors told me that I was the only student teacher to ever have reached out like that and that the students benefited greatly. (My supervisors weren’t reaching out to counsellors to support students themselves…what a tragedy).

    I’m relieved to be out of that box now, and more connected to nature through my new job in a non-profit, trying to improve educational opportunities and equity issues, both in and outside the school system.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “In the “Exceptionalities” class (offered AFTER both practicums and worth 1 credit of the 60 for the degree), the prof *skipped* giftedness–she said we weren’t likely to come across it! ”

      This is too much. But it also explains a lot.

      Perhaps what your professor meant is that she wouldn’t recognize giftedness if it bit her.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences, cmd1122. I’m glad that you are now in a place where you can be more of yourself while doing work that will have an impact.

      Like

  7. I wish, I really do, that it wasnt so recognizable. but the school system is just as broken in my country. but as kid you have to spend 5 days in it every week. 5 long boring mind numming days of repetitions, stupid questions, and being bullied even by the teachers. ( they dont like it when a 8 year old makes them look stupid in front of the rest of the class).
    Add in some chainsaws at home and it is amazing I am a half way functioning adult ( sort of at least).

    Liked by 2 people

    • So far, I haven’t heard from anyone in any country who is saying that their public schooling system over all works quite well for gifted children. Are there any of you out there?? (of course, I only hear from a small segment of society so can’t make a generalization) Thankfully, there are individual teachers (and individual schools) who are fabulous and who love, appreciate, and know what to do for these kids, but the structure of many public education models seems to still be lacking in many cases. I suppose humans overall still don’t prioritize the education of our children.

      Like

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve never attended public school and am now a young teenager in community college, yet I can identify so much with the concerns expressed in this article.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I do think kids these days suffer from anxiety to a greater degree than we did in our generation. I attribute that mostly to two sources: lack of time spent freely in groups of other children; and social media.

    I had my little girl home this summer for just a week after vacation, and then day camp, and she was so miserable. I tried taking her to playgrounds but there weren’t any kids past four or so. All the kids her age were either on vacation or at day camp. I talked at dinner about how it was when I was a kid – all the mothers threw the kids out of the house around 9 am and we just roamed the city in packs. Sometimes we had lunch, sometimes we didn’t come home until the news that our mothers were hollering out the back door reached us through the grapevine.

    So I sent her back to day camp, and she’s happy again. Her good friend who lives two blocks away was there.

    My big boy is still home, but he doesn’t like to go out with other kids. He likes to stay home all day working on math (yay CTY online!) and music (yay city full of music teachers), and touch base with me every couple of hours. And also intensive outpatient therapy.

    Giftedness is so complex that even people who spent their whole lives in the tension of their own gifted experience can be confronted with kids who are gifted in a completely different way. And not know what to do about that.

    The latest for me is trying to wrap my head around Semantic Pragmatic Disorder. At least we have a name for it now.

    My kids both love their school and are looking forward to going back in the fall. I would like to say that a few dozen more times, because I’ve never been able to say it before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So great, Dr. Dad, that your kids love their school. Thanks for telling us about your kiddos. I don’t know what Semantic Pragmatic Disorder is…

      Like

      • Hi Paula. Yes, I repeat the phrase “Both my kids like their school and are looking forward to going back to school this fall” every time I have the opportunity because I like it so much. I really thought that was never going to happen. I know that I never liked any school I went to as a child.

        Semantic Pragmatic Disorder (aka Social Communication Disorder, or some jumbling of those words) is new in the DSM-V (which also did away with Aspergers and PDD-NOS as diagnoses). It’s sort of like all the social aspects of high-functioning autism (or Aspergers), but without the stereotypical behavior and repetition. In my son’s case, it explains a lot. Here is the best write-up I’ve seen:

        https://www.afasic.org.uk/download/859/

        My girl is the opposite. She’s too sophisticated for her own good. She had a minor issue at day camp because of her repeated use of sarcasm (she suggested a counselor who insisted on walking behind her just wanted to watch her shake her booty).

        The head counselor tried to tell her, and later me, that children of 8 don’t understand sarcasm, but my daughter gave a good explanation of it (“It’s like when you’re at a restaurant looking at your empty plate, and the waiter asks you how it was and you say “Terrible.”)

        We agreed on the story that many of her classmates may not understand her correctly when she uses sarcasm, so she should be careful with it and use it rarely around children. I suggested to her that she could tell the head counselor “You’re right. I won’t ever use sarcasm again,” and she laughed her head off.

        Yes, the school really does accommodate both my troublemakers. Happily.

        And yes, my kids are night and day. She cracks sarcastic jokes at the dinner table, and it busts us up and my son goes “What? What?” because he can’t process sarcasm.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. This was so me… It hurts to read it. My son (10y) is living this now. Thank the goddess I have your book at the ready. After a couple of rough years, we decided to switch schools this year and he is now after a few months slowly finding himself again.. I hope I can guide him in ways my parents could not. Thank you for your blogs, you are the best! 😘 💐

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This write up made my cried buckets bec this is me too. I dread the praises and was always trying to prove everyone wrong, instead of working hard to meet expectations because the I dread the pressure.

    There was one guidance counselor who noticed me and even though she left my school, she sent me a letter to tell me to apply for admission to our country’s science high school because according to her, that was where I belong. When I went there, I heard a teacher telling students that he was expecting me to excel but I didn’t. I was too busy surviving being away from my parents. I enjoyed living independently.

    Reading this brings back a lot of memories and worries for my little one. I have a six yr old who was assessed as profoundly gifted when he was 5.5. He isn’t this kid in the article bec he has a lot of friends and is very sociable. Still my fear is there bec I don’t know what would happen when he is older.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You know… I grew up believing that “everyone is a unique special snowflake” stuff, so I never expected to find people who were like me. In the rare occasions that I did, it was a surprise. But now I keep finding dialogues that are *so* similar… and it is weird. (Like, I remember the adults being super concerned because in second grade I had an assignment to respond to: “Who do you want to be like when you grow up?” And I wrote about how I wanted to be like myself. I couldn’t imagine anything else.) This, too, is so similar, but I differed with the dialogue you posted because I really didn’t mind that nobody else wanted to research dinosaurs and volcanoes – I didn’t need their help or excitement. I would play make believe with them (maybe, or maybe not), and then go back to my dinosaurs or whatever it was that day. And when I took a school trip to Santa Fe, I was perfectly happy being the only student who visited the Georgia O’Keefe museum instead of going souvenir shopping. It was better, actually. It was quiet. Sometimes I did have to go with the pack for one reason or another, and sometimes it was distressing, but I find that as an adult I can now go back and make up for some of those things.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I get the impression that this edition of Your Rainforest Mind on teens is written to encapsulate all aspects of what a gifted teenager struggles with. I don’t think ALL gifted teenagers struggle with ALL these areas. This is what bothers me sometimes when I read blogs like these. Either I am not gifted (and sometimes I really think I am not though ever since my son tested gifted at 5 years of age, it explained so much about my childhood and that of my siblings) or the struggles vary greatly. At school, for me, it was a breeze yes. But I never complained. I never had major issues with teachers or with the material. Same at university (only at university I was more outspoken and didn’t always agree with the professors…). However, my son can’t even get through preschool – he has not been diagnosed with ADHD or ASD, despite being assessed… serious anger and emotional issues… I feel like I already have a teenager… what’s to come when he IS a teenager. Goodness help me if this is what he struggles with when he is a teenager, because there are enough struggles now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree, Caroline. Certainly not all teens have these exact struggles. Some of them love school and do well, for example. There are many variables. (ie. For some kids who are abused at home, school is their sanctuary.) That said, this describes many of the kids I’ve known over the years. And, of course, giftedness is complex so not everyone will resonate with each challenge described here. Thanks for bringing this up so I can clarify. For your son, there are good books out now about parenting gifted children so you ought to be able to find some resources for support!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think your impression is correct, Caroline. The description is a pastiche, rather than an explanation from one single person.

      Gifted people come in all sorts, just like non-gifted people. Perhaps you and your son are both gifted, and yet otherwise quite different.

      I know that’s the case for my son and myself. He seems gifted to me, he tests gifted, but he’s also very much unlike myself and unlike my wife (also gifted).

      I breezed through school, never bringing a book home and mostly goofing off, and still managed to accelerate. My wife was a straight-A student all the way through, and accelerated even more than I did. Many things that were easy for us are great struggles for our son. We don’t really understand why they’re so hard, though his recent diagnoses and therapy are giving us a better conceptual framework.

      For all you know your stormy preschooler will become a mellow teenager. Our model preschooler became a very complicated teenager.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. My heart is crying. It’s creepy and fascinating at the same time because I feel like you’re stalking my life. Really interesting that people with RM can relate to this post, I mean, how is it possible that we can share similar experiences with different background culture etc? Thanks Paula. This is a masterpiece!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I’m from Malaysia 🙂 and A muslim.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Paula, I see you have two new books on a similar topic. Can you please share the difference between the books?

    Like

    • Yes! Thanks for asking, Vicky. Your Rainforest Mind is an in-depth look at giftedness in adults and teens using case studies from counseling clients. It includes many resources for more information. Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind is a more light-hearted book that is a compilation of my most popular blog posts organized by topic. It includes writing exercises for inner exploration. Here are more details and reviews: https://rainforestmind.wordpress.com/your-rainforest-mind-the-book/

      Like

      • Thank you Paula,
        I was confused by the new book cover and didn’t realize I already have your first book. Now I am excited to purchase the new one.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh yes, I keep forgetting to mention that to people. I never liked the cover for my first book so when the publisher changed hands, the new editor let me redo the cover! Thanks so much, Vicky! Enjoy book two!

          Like

  17. This is so powerful. I’m in tears. This describes my 15 y/o son who is struggling with similar issues. And also, ironically, me as a child and even an adult. It’s only been since experiencing my own child’s world that I have recognized that I was most likely an undiagnosed gifted child. So many similarities that we share and only through seeing these similar traits over the years has the lens come into focus and offered me the realization that I too have the rainforest mind. I wonder how my life might have been different if my parents and the schools had the knowledge and understanding to adequately address my needs. Thank you for sharing this.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Can’t begin to tell you how much I “love” this – the quotation marks for having struggled or rather struggling NOW in the very same way: Existential loneliness, anxieties to the umpteenth degree, feeling in despair over the way the world and people presents itsself to me (largely disappoint in people and the shallow nature of relationships at large) etc. etc., pretty much ALL of the above is what I’m feeling now as well (but it hadn’t hit me until only a couple of years ago when I learned about food intolerances and started feeling AT HOME in my body for the first time after applying and still adhering to major dietary changes, all of which cast me out of the mainstream box as well….). Sigh… the gargantuan mountain of adversity IN ME – as opposed or compared to the bulk of people – is TOO MUCH, even for myself. I feel too deeply, deeper than is healthy for me, I care too much – they typically “exploit” me, emotionally, leaving me drained and feeling empty and cast away after the facts -, I worry too much, I see too much – usually I FORESEE how situations are going to play out and typically, I’m almost always right… the list goes on, yada, yada…

    Being gifted … I’m sorry to say, doesn’t feel much like a gift 😥 I wish I had found a place where I belong and fit in, at least in part. It’s insane to “live” like this, it’s just impossible… Again, sorry. Don’t mean to bring the room down. I wish I had someone like you living in the area whom I could see and talk to at least once a week (initially), maybe less frequently over time. Have researched help for gifted people in my neck of the woods, but have to figure out a way of getting to sustain myself before I can commit to gifted people counselling… (Have landed myself in an impossible, hopeless looking situation, which I can’t seem to get out of anymore while fully relying on and applying ALL my resources and burning them at full throttle 24/7)

    Liked by 3 people

    • I am so sorry things are so difficult right now, renovatio06. I’m glad that you’re here. Sending you love. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry to sound so grave. I’m hoping for things to get better. I must find work that I can do and maybe then scout a therapist in my corner of the world. The big questions, though, I guess I won’t answer them and only get to take it one step at a time, from one day to another. Hopefully, some modicum of serenity will ensue. Thanks for sending the love, Paula, thanks for being here and doing this important work!

        Liked by 1 person

    • I definitely feel ya, renovatio06. All of this applies to me too, and I’ve been thinking of cutting down on the gluten. I think I will! You didn’t bring down the room at all. Sharing how you feel and struggle is generous, honest, and totally relatable.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you so much, @ellabirt. I found nutrition to be extremely important to watch and adjust accordingly, if our system doesn’t agree with it or if we don’t feel good from it (physically; the emotional aspects will follow). Dairy is my total no-no – I’ve eliminated ALL dairy and stuck to it since I learnt that my system can’t process it (which came with MAJOR non-beneficial side effects for all those 40+ years prior, bordering on physical illness and indeed producing illnesses of all kinds, allergies, psiorasis and more) and it’s made ALL the difference in terms of brain power, vitality, mood and a lot more. AND altering my diet so drastically has brought me HOME into my body for the first time EVER since I’ve lived on this planet. I can’t stress the significance of that change enough and thus can’t stress enough, what a difference diet can make, telling from my experience (but hearing similar things from others)

        So… if I might – if that’s o.k. as a one-timer, Paula…?: I can only encourage you to follow that idea with all rigor you got in yourself. I’m fairly positive you’re going to see major results. (that is if you stick to it, at least for a good while; try finding something to replace gluten or the foods containing gluten that’s as tasty and that you will derive some pleasure from).

        Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I do monitor comments for when people go into theoretical concepts venting or advice giving. That is discouraged and I’ve had to delete a few comments along the way. (not many) But if you’re speaking about your personal experience of something that worked for you, and then recommending it from that standpoint, it’s fine. I know a number of RFMs who have sensitivities to foods, medicines, chemicals, pollutants, etc.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, I’m recounting my personal experience above, Paula. If I had meant to get into a general discussion about the correlations between sensitivity at large and foods that foster or attenuate it, I’m aware that this would not be the place other than just sharing. (I do begin to wonder about such correlations, but like I said – that’s not for here). Respecting rule of house 😉

            Liked by 2 people

  19. Reblogged this on Living Small in a Big World and commented:
    This post particularly hits home, as my 12 year old expresses their thoughts on starting High School next year. A little part of me hopes that they can find their tribe there at school, that like me, they will find some like-minded folk, who thirty odd years down the track, still keep in contact.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Pingback: A Short Guide to the Complicated Life of Gifted Adolescents or Young Adults | Your Rainforest Mind

  21. I feel the exact same way about parties. My anxiety kicks in

    Liked by 1 person

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