Wherein I talk openly about the creative mind…


Hi all -

In light of the news about Robin Williams on Monday, I wanted to write a post that has been years in the making really. And a rare one that I decided to post on both of my sites...

Robin Williams’ death angered me in many ways, something that made me take pause. I wasn’t angry because of the tragedy of it all, but because another creative genius felt there was no way out. And more, I was angry because while his death started a much needed conversation about mental health issues and the stigma attached to those battling with a mental illness, it did not start even a ripple of the conversation I wish it had. Robin Williams was not ONLY and individual who had battled both depression and addiction, he was a genius. His very being meant he was intense.

So much of the conversations in these last days has attributed the creative genius to the mental illness, as though they always go together. But they don’t. The intensity DOES. And as a society, we don’t accept that intensity without also thinking in the back of our heads that there MUST be a mental illness piece.

How do I know this? It’s been my reality for ever.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a very intense, creative person. I am a divergent thinker, a gifted adult, and prone to strong emotions. When I create, be it books, music or choreography (yes, I composed concertos as a child and conducted string orchestras and music camp. I was also a theater-dance minor in school and dabbled in choreography), I see/hear the finished product in my head long before the first word/note/move existed. Like many famous artists, everything existed in my head in perfection. My job was simply to find a way to purge it from my thoughts and get it out for the world to see.

And therein was the problem.

Once the world could see it, it was scrutinized, criticized, commented on. Teachers when I was 8 told me I was crazy for believing I could get a random group of 7 and 8-year-olds together and do a Shakespeare play (think Little Rascals does Macbeth), but that didn’t keep me from wanting to try. When I recreated a South Pacific coral reef to scale in 7th grade as part of a project that advocated for the preservation of our oceans, my teacher thought me extreme. When I came up with a theory about the relationship between political cartoons and their influence on political culture of the 1700 and 1800s in high school, my US History teacher told me I I could never prove my ideas and I should just write a term paper of something–anything–else.

Such was my life growing up.

By the end of High School I learned just how strange and divergent I was. More, I learned that none of that was a “good” thing. Nerds and Geeks weren’t cool back then. Everything that was important to me, that made me “me”, was weird to the rest of the world. And being weird was definitely NOT celebrated.

I thought in pictures, and usually had five or more thoughts going on at once. To me, in my head, multiple realities were the norm. I couldn’t understand that other people didn’t conceptualize multi-dimensional thinking as I did. I lived in a profoundly lonely world, one in which I wasn’t accepted except by my mother (gifted in her own right) and an occasional friend.

So I cultivated new interests, ones that were more mundane. I got into fashion, modeling, and the like. I developed an eating disorder and my own intensities channeled themselves into much more destructive thinking. It would be easy to think of me as mentally ill. After all, I had developed a mental illness. But that wasn’t me. Not fully. It was a means to an end, a way to belong. And it worked in the short term. I had friends, but very few knew “me”. Heck, I barely knew me.

I was called overly dramatic, a drama queen, etc – all in response to my very extreme emotions. I don’t blame people for saying it really; from their perspective it was true. I was extreme and intense. I still am. And yes, I still lose friends because of it.

In college, my world imploded as my eating disorder spun out of control and I had to admit the problem. I sought help and got better. A lot better.

On the surface.

It wasn’t until many years later, after a load of therapy, maturity and a few personal crises that forced me to self-examine, that I learned the truth about who I was and why I acted the way I did. I learned what it meant to be gifted, to be intense.

See, I never thought of myself as smart, despite the “proof” in IQ tests, the GT label, etc. And no one ever explained to me that being smart, being gifted, MEANT asynchronous development. It meant I’d struggle with EQ, at least when I was younger. Most importantly, it meant that I was – I am – intense.

Why am I writing this crazy long post? It isn’t to brag, garnish sympathy, or anything else. It’s to talk, openly and honestly and what being gifted and creative has meant to me.

There is an intensity with which I approach life. This intensity DOES NOT mean I am crazy. It doesn’t mean I need to be fixed. When I say I need a break, when I speak openly about my intensity, I’m not looking for someone out there to “fix” me like I am a problem. I just want someone to know I’m at my limit and I need a break.

When I struggle socially, or I come off aloof, please know it isn’t intentional. My brain works fast – very fast. And sometimes, I get lost in it. That doesn’t mean I am uncaring or uninterested. In fact, the opposite is likely more true. I desperately care and I am profoundly interested. I am just somewhat lousy at showing in.

And when I get down, REALLY DOWN, I am seldom depressed. I am just overwhelmed by life and its emotions.

This is NOT TO SAY that other creative, gifted people aren’t depressed. Gifted people do get depressed.

I am lucky. I have done a TON of work in the field of giftedness, learning why I feel existential depression as often as I do, why I approach the world as I do, why I am so intense. I really think it is BECAUSE of this that I have significantly improved my EQ and learned what my personal “normal” is. I have also learned when I need to ask for help – when I am overwhelmed beyond all ability to cope. More importantly, I’ve learned how to receive help from others, even when they aren’t really able to relate.

So, this is me. And it is many other gifted individuals. We are not broken in our intensities. But we do

need acceptance, even when we seem crazy. And if we do actually break, because it can certainly happen (especially when we receive the constant message that we are crazy because of our intensities, or when we fail to connect socially because there are so few who “get us”), we need acceptance even more.

And we need the world, our family, our friends, our therapists, etc to understand that our baseline – our “normal” – is DIFFERENT from everyone else. If you force us into your version of “normal”, or medicate us to some random definition of  “normal”, we still are not “normal” from our perspective, and we will reject your version of help.

Sometimes with deadly consequences.

Gifted creatives are blessed with passions that burn brighter than the sun. And sometimes we get burned in the wake of our own intensities.

Happy National Gifted Parenting Week


Several years ago, one of my favorite organizations, SENG, started National Gifted Parenting Week as a way to support parents of high potential children. THIS WEEK is the celebration for 2014. With that in mind, I decided to give you a list of some of the articles I’ve written about giftedness and parenting gifted children over the years.

My work with gifted children is THE reason I started writing nonfiction in the first place. And although my work extends beyond the needs of gifted children, this population is still very near and dear to my heart. Their needs continue to go unmet and I a working on new seminars, workshops, keynotes and books to help support the diverse needs of gifted children and their parents.

And with that, here is a list of my past articles you may be interested in. I also included a few of my articles related to introverts as many gifted children are also introverted. Once my new website, An Intense Life, gets up and running, I will have a permanent listing of these for all of you:

You can also find links on my new author website, Christine Fonseca, under the media room tab.

 Have a great day!

Throw Back Tuesday: Passion – The Core of the Gifted


Hi everyone! I am just getting back from a long weekend and well, I am behind. No big shock though, right?!? To deal with blogging I decided to do a throw-back-Tuesday post from last year. The topic – PASSION and Intensities. I hope you enjoy it:

~~~

You’ve heard me say before that gifted individuals are, at their core, intense. This intensity extends into every aspect of their being – the way their brain functions, the way their sensory system interacts with the world, and the way they feel about the world. It is, in my opinion, a core aspect of the gifted individual.

The world often looks at the cognitive aspects of their intensity favorably, complimenting them on their academic prowess, or giving accolades for the unique problem-solving skills or creative approaches gifted individuals often demonstrate.

This is not typically true with the emotional aspects of being. These are looked at with a less favorable eye. When they are young, gifted individuals are often thought to be overly dramatic, engaging in tantrumming behavior over seemingly little events.

As they age, a gifted person may find it hard to find relationships because of their intensities – they give so much to every friendship, every love interest, that  it often scares the other individual.

As a gifted adult, I can tell you that learning to deal with the intense aspects of giftedness has been a unique challenge. I feel things at such a deep level, am easily wounded, and can often appear somewhat unbalanced because of my intensities.

Nothing is farther from the truth, however.

My intensities make me strong.

Let me say that again – my intensities, or my passion, for whatever it is I am doing makes me strong. It gives me the focus I need to push past the things that are difficult in order to reach my goals. And it enables me to connect to others in a way that has helped my art, my job….everything.

I say this to encourage you to view the intense aspects of your giftedness, or the giftedness within your children for what it truly is – PASSION.

It is passion that enables humans to create and invent. Passion that raises art to the sublime. Passion that gives us a reason to continue.

Passion.

Confessions of a Teenage Beauty Queen


dreamstime_6634032I was hanging out on FB yesterday and stumbled across a great article from a father to his young daughter. In it, he redefines our cultural ideas of beauty. If you haven’t read it – CLICK HERE and read it. That post was so touching to me. Sure, it had a great message – one sorely needed at a time when so many girls are at risk, partially due to what our culture teaches them.

But that isn’t the only reason. This topic is highly personal to me.

I grew up without a father figure until I was in my early teens. By then, I had already developed body dsymorphia – I saw myself as an obese girl even though I was a normal weight for my size. There are a ton of reasons why the body image problems developed (and that’s for another post), but suffice it to say it was a huge issue for me. For years I facilitated between periods of anorexia and bouts of bulimia. I was a mess.

And no one knew.

I kept all of that hidden away from the rest of the world. My weight stayed somewhat constant. I was in beauty pageants, even won a few. I modeled and even went to NYC. My weird quirks were normal with models and beauty queens. We were all suffering body image problems. I never told anyone about my secret rituals around food. Never admitted how ill I was.

In college, my first time away, my gifted introverted self hit crisis mode. I saw a counselor for the first time. It was terrifying. And like any bright, scared, soon-to-be-adult, I ended counseling as soon as I felt “ok”.

For the next several years, I hit the depth of my body image issues until finally I couldn’t ignore the pain any longer, and I again sought help. I had a great therapist. I stopped  and purging. Stopped the anorexia.

At least for a while.

But, although I stopped behaving like an anorexic, I hadn’t fully healed the core of my body issues. And so I became an emotional eater, and a new issue with food (or maybe the same issue reborn) blossomed.

It has taken more years than I care to admit to become more comfortable with my body. I have only just started to allow pictures of me, only now refused to inhibit my speaking career related to my body issues. I am finally in a place of healing, acceptance. I’ve done the work on the core issues, replaced emotional eating with healthy eating and no longer engage in the rituals.

In short, I am finally happy with “who” I am now. I’ve learned that diminishing myself serves no one, least of all me. I’m not willing to hate myself in order to be liked by others, something I thought I had to do in my youth. I’m better. Stronger.

It has been a long and difficult road. I wish someone had noticed the turmoil I was in, wish a trusted adult had said the words the father in the above article said to his daughter. But I am grateful that I DID figure things out. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, more resilient than I ever gave myself credit for being.

I am proud to say I have two amazingly strong daughters. They are healthy, fit, and not focused on cultural norms for beauty. They are self-confident and feel quite comfortable forging their own path. I would like to think I had something to do with it – who knows. Most of the time I am fairly certain they just came onto the planet with an amazing amount of resiliency and emotional intelligence. There are my example, my ideal.

Strong. Resilient. Intelligent.

I stand here now humbled and grateful – for the strength I’ve found, the life I have, and ability to give to our children the strength I once needed.

Whew – okay. There you go. Confessions of this victim of our cultural definition of beauty…

What confessions do you have to share?

Supporting Your Child’s Passions


parent and child talking

How many of you take the time to nurture your passions? Do you spend time on them? Use your passions to help direct your life goals? Anything?

How about the passions your children have? Do you help them nurture their passions? Do you actively encourage your children to explore the things they are most passionate about?

If you are like most people, you are inconsistent about both your passions and those of your children. In fact, you may not even be sure of what these “passions” are. Am I right?

Here’s a little way you can get on track with supporting your children’s passions, as well as your own.

First, help your children identify the things they most care about. Have them make lists, idea posters, digital scrapbooks – anything that will help them clarify the things they care most about. And if you haven’t done that for yourself, I would advise making this a fun project you both can do.

Once there is once clarity about the things you care most about, encourage your children to find one thing they can do weekly (or monthly) to embrace that passion. If they are into fashion, talk about making fashion boards or a starting up a fashion blog. If cooking is their thing, give them some freedoms in the kitchen to cook (safely) and explore. 

I think we often downplay our children’s passions as fleeting hobbies. While this will be true at times, it won’t always be true. The more we can nurture and support the interests our children have, the more we give them permission to be whomever they authentically are. 

Our children are the future – let’s help them embrace it with passion and creativity, shall we?!?

Finding Inspiration in Julia Mancuso


I am always looking for inspiration – both from within and without. This past weekend, I found the perfect dose of my daily inspiration in a brief spotlight of Julia Mancuso, Olympic downhill skier.

Julia is from Maui, an island near and dear to my heart. About ten years ago or so, when recovering from a particularly tough bought of burnout (nothing like being super intense), I went to Maui for the first time. I lovingly say I found my smile on the road to Hana. Maui – the environment, the lifestyle, the spirit that embodies the Hawaiian culture – speaks to me in a way that is profound. It isn’t surprising then, that Julia, raised in this setting, works to live a balanced life.  Rather than muscling through adversity, as many other athletes preach and many of us attempt, Julia letting go and relaxing into the moment.

Wow! I know this…and yet, man did I need to hear it.

I am a person that regularly pushes through adversity, often ignoring my body’s pleas to slow down. Stop. I wind myself into a mess this way. Repeatedly.

The result, I get loads done. But, at what cost? Right now, the “cost” has been a never-ending bout of bronchitis that is going on it’s seventh week.

NOT FUN!

So, I think it is time for me to take a page from Julia’s playbook. Stop pushing through the fatigue. Stop ignoring the pleas from my body and start listening to “me”. Today, I took the first step and I let go of the “plans” for writing and marketing this week and just listening to my body, resting when needed, etc. I’ll be sure to let you know how it works out.

In the meantime, check out this fabulous article about Julia and her balanced approach to life

More Than Shy: A Request for Help


parent and child talking

As many of you know, I announced the sale of my next nonfiction book, MORE THAN SHY: A Parent’s Guide to Social Anxiety, to Prufrock Press. The book will be released in early 2015, which of course means that I am knee-deep in the research phase now. This book covers social anxiety from the perspective of the biological aspects of social anxiety, the behavioral and environmental factors of anxiety, and specific strategies for parents and educators on the topic of social anxiety. I have some personal stories and Frequently Asked Questions I plan on adding – but I need more.

And that is where all of you come in.  As I’ve done with the majority of my books, I will be holding online focus groups and surveying parents, educators, and even children about this topic and I would LOVE to involve all of you! So, please take a moment and complete this form and let me know if you’d like to help in some way. I will be in touch by the end of the month with more information.

Thanks and here’s the link to the form just in case the form doesn’t come up on your computer or mobile device. – https://docs.google.com/forms/d/169hA6TeEn8QGmAnGdZ-i7zbOtTvPvk51vveJuv5zr9c/viewform