I did an entirely unscientific survey the other day on my Facebook page, asking my friends to describe me in one word. In minutes, I got back: intense, exhausting, hilarious, passionate, determined, embracer, funny (3), intelligent, beautiful (kinda shocked by that one), inspirational, witty, human, gifted, busy, quirky, ardent, helpful, struggling, self-deprecating, frazzled, overwhelmed, high-strung, and sexy (thank you, dear husband!).

Huh. That’s funny. The first word I think of to describe myself is stressed.

Gifted adults and stress::peanut butter and jelly::peas and carrots::me and Jen-nay (name that movie). For as long as I can remember, I have been one huge mind-knot. It’s like mental Chinese handcuffs; you know, those woven things you stick your fingers into, and the harder you try to escape, the tighter they get. I once had a flute teacher recommend that I get hammered and then hit the practice room, the thought being that maybe being a little looser I’d be able to play better. She may have been on to something there, but I didn’t drink back then and rarely play my flute now. The world will never know…

But I know I’m not alone in this. I know there are other gifted adults who get into mind knots, who have an extremely difficult time controlling their stress, who have been teased about being addicted to stomach acid. It’s a horrible feeling. For someone who is just a tiny bit of a control freak, being controlled by stress is dreadful. Having that scream lodged in the back of the throat, crouched and ready to pounce without warning…sigh… I’ve tried yoga, acupuncture, therapy, lifted weights, dabbled in meditation, had “me” time, journaled, and generally expressed my feelings. The more I worked to manage my stress, the worse it got.

So I’ve made an executive decision. This is my wiring. This is the result of my biggest overexcitabilities, emotional and imaginational, hooking up; they popped out a little bundle of stress. It’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is. Then it hit me…if I worked with this wiring instead of against it, maybe the mind knot would loosen. Like homeschooling my 2e son; working with his intensities rather than against them gets us a lot further a lot faster. All those books I own on intensities and overexcitabilities and the like will now be read with me in mind as well. If I can harness these intensities for good rather than evil, I suspect I’ll feel a lot better. At the very least I’d like that scream to vamoose.

In the meantime, I really need to investigate some of those descriptive words. I don’t see myself in most of those words; only two. Wanna guess which ones? And if you were to ask your friends this question, what words would you see?
You can find Jen at Laughing at Chaos and on her Facebook page by the same name.

51 thoughts on “Stress and the gifted adult

  1. Those of us who are exquisitely sensitive often have to deal with not only our own overexcitabilities but with the sensitivities of others as we act as a “wick.” After decades of searching for the magic fix to soothe my nervous system, I have finally found a modality that works for me: energy healing. I am learning how to move energy in my body in a way that is healing and relaxing, and that also allows for great insight. For those who are beginners to energy work, I recommend Donna Eden’s books: Energy Medicine and Energy Medicine for Women. Thank you to all the authors of this website. Your posts are clever and meaningful.

    1. OMG! Yes! Acting as a “wick!” That is a fantastic way to describe it! I do indeed suck up others’ emotions and burn up! And I may try to find those books at the library. Thanks!

  2. I feel like i could have written this article myself. For whatever that’s worth. You are not alone in your wiring. I am in the acceptance phase as well, but not feeling the knot loosening just yet, so not all the way there I guess (wherever “there” is). 🙂

    1. There’s a “there?” 😉 LOL! No knot loosening here, just an investigation of the knot. You know, to see how it twists and how to undo it. 🙂

  3. My stress “wick” is outside throwing baskets for a required minimum of ten minutes. Then we will try to resume solving the conflict he (intense extrovert) and his (mellow introvert) brother are having.

    I’m curious about what words would be used to describe me. I’m a bit fearful of finding out however.

    1. Oy. We have a basketball hoop and I’m considering a tetherball. I recommend a small exercise trampoline.
      And I’d use “dedicated” to describe you. 🙂

  4. I love these posts. I feel just a tad less “crazy” when I come here. What a concept: to accept my wiring & say that’s just how I’m designed. Not sure I’m ready for that but I want to be! And the wick ~ perfect! I have been trying to explain to my 11yo highly gifted, super emotionally intense, DD that I can feel her stress from down the hall and it sets me off. Maybe I can try the wick concept to help her (us) understand what is happening. (and her little brother who frequently walks innocently into her maelstorms…)

    1. I can feel my husband from across the house. When he worked from home I finally had to move what passed for my office into the basement so there was a floor between us. I could feel his mood throughout the day and it was harshing my mellow. 😉 I joke, but it was horrible.

  5. I love this post! Its interesting to me to view giftedness through the eyes of a mother as well as having a personal perspective of my own childhood. I had the childhood experience of having loving and supportive family members who operated at a similar level and speed as I did. I did not realize HOW different I was than most people. What?! Everyone doesn’t operate on six to seven hours sleep?! Everyone doesn’t work full time, drop the kids off at school, go grocery shopping on their lunch hour, pick the kids back up, cook dinner, work on homework…plus all other things in a day?! It used to puzzle me when people would comment, “I don’t know how you do it.” I would think think, isnt this just what motherhood is like? Recently a close friend told me I should spend some time with some non-intellectually gifted four year olds. That it would help me understand our PG daughters and keep things in perspective. Understanding my daughters and teaching them to manage and harness their energy is also teaching me and that child inside that was once them. A real game changing realization for me!

    1. My dad is incredibly gifted but would deny it, just as my brother does. :/ So growing up, then college (living in the honors dorm), then marrying an incredibly gifted man…it wasn’t until I had kids that I realized just how different my upbringing was. You mean other families don’t go to the library on a summer night for fun? Or watch Nova? Huh. What a shame. 😉 So now I take my boys to the library on a summer night and Netflix-stream cool/awesome documentaries. We’re all happy. LOL

      1. What? Every family doesn’t get bored with just flying kites and decide one summer to design their own? I hear so many in this community lament about feeling so different and isolated as children. It makes me so very thankful for my family and so very thankful I grew up believing thatdesigning designing kites was the norm (still would argue its perfectly normal and everyone should give it a go.)

      2. Huh. What’s wrong with designing kites? I totally think I need to do that this summer with the boys!
        Drives me crazy that employers WANT creative, out of the box thinkers, but schools and society do their best to beat that out of us. Kite designing is awesome.

  6. If I asked my friends to peg me in a word I am sure I’d get a similar batch of words. I’m not gifted though I’m married to a gifted man and mother to a 2e son. Sometimes we think too much … especially about the things that really aren’t deserved of such emotional investment. Stress creates a physiological response in the body which then serves it back creating that overwhelmingly tumultuous and stressed feeling. I relate the relationship between mind and body kind of like a gyroscope. Meditation works for me though I’ll admit that busy minds take longer to quiet! I read a book some years ago called “Women who run with the wolves” … be daring and have a read, go primal, go back to the basics and start collecting some bones. Life really needn’t be that complex – think Maslow 🙂 Most of all … breathe.

      1. I’m definitely not gifted though my idiosyncratic ways occasionally see me labelled ‘special’ :D. The boys in my family have the IQ – I’ve been blessed with the EQ. And yes, Maslow’s a personal favourite … simplicity really is the key to an uncluttered mind and life. Easier in theory I know.

      2. You’d be surprised how idiosyncratic ways and “special” usually ends up with a person realizing that she is gifted. 😉 Gifted isn’t all intellectual, it’s wiring.

  7. Yoga helps me quite a bit, but my attempts at meditation are laughable. I especially love the instructions that tell us to, when we notice a (“a?” Try a maelstrom) thought ‘floating’ in, just acknowledge it and let it just float away. Right.

    1. I’ll concede meditation is not easy … especially the part about allowing thoughts to flow freely through one’s mind without dwelling on them. It takes a long time to get the hang of it but I’m tenacious if nothing else. I count – starting at one and sometimes I don’t get past 10 before a thought starts to occupy my zen space 🙂 All of that said, Yoga requires a great deal of concentration and is also great for your health.

  8. Thanks for your comments. I’ve been described as many of the same (“intense” usually gets under my skin, I prefer passionate). In any case, it’s nice to know that others are described similarly and with good reasons. As I navigate having a highly giften son, it is only through him that I’ve seen my own giften issues. In any case, thanks for the insight, it was helpful!

  9. thanks for this…..
    It’s great to have NAGC for the kids but sometimes we grownups need some suport too….

  10. The timing of your post is exquisite as always, as I have been living with that “scream in the back of your throat” feeling all week. I know that I live with a level of existential anxiety that just is…and normally, it is a good thing – something that propels and feeds my writing and helps to create all manner of great thing. And sometimes it is not good at all! Something that overwhelms me, paralyzing me, and making the simple tasks too difficult. It is at those times that I must hide away for a bit, getting deeply into my writing or my thoughts, and just be.
    Gifted adults and stress – words are are somewhat synonymous I think.

    1. I’m awed that your existential anxiety feeds your writing; mine does the exact opposite. The higher my stress the harder it is to find words. I’m going nuts right now.

      1. I use my writing as a way to release that stress. You know, it’s interesting and a horrible cycle…and something I think I will write about in today’s post…

      2. It suddenly hit me today. I write from intense emotion. Stress stifles all emotion, it’s how I cope. Shut down feelings, muscle through it all. Right now under unholy amounts of stress, emotion is locked in a box, writing suffers. It is a horrible cycle, and one I wish I could break.

  11. Hi, There is a website by Linda Silverman who coined the term Visual Spacial Learners. The website goes with the Gifted Development Center in Colorado. She has some articles on adult gifted women that might put you at ease. Gifted doesn’t have to equal stressed, even if a lot in society points us in that direction. I own and am currently reading Upside-down brilliance in an effort towards getting a handle on my own 2-e needs as well as other needs in my family. Good luck!

    1. Thanks! I’m familiar with Dr. Silverman; my son was tested at the GDC twice before we moved to Chicago last summer. I should reread her articles, but I tend to have a hard time reading about giftedness; after surviving the day I’m not terribly keen on reading about what I just survived. LOL! I rarely read anything regarding giftedness with myself in mind, but with my sons and husband in mind instead. Need to rethink that.

      1. I know what you mean,I’m kinda spent by the end of the day. But late at night when the house is quiet if I have room to recover a little the next day, and not a lot of appts. i find when I read about people who have had similar struggles it recharges me.
        I’m so glad you got a chance to have your son tested there, I’m way over in Upstate/Western New York so I don’t know If I’ll be able to have any of my children tested there before they age out.
        The giftedness comes from somewhere, not just from the guys :). As a group women seem less eagar to claim giftedness. My husband says it comes from somewhere and looks at me. And I look right back at him, I’m getting more comfortable with it. It really explaind parts of my childhood like nothing else. I always was the kid in the class who was asking the teacher if he/she was talking about such and so, the teacher would smile and say “You’re right, we’re just not there yet.” I knew I was different even back then.
        Enjoy your discoveries about yourself…
        Sincerely, Anna.

      2. We were very lucky to live 30 minutes from the GDC, otherwise we would have had a much different journey. I’m so grateful we had that opportunity, for all of us in the family.

  12. Hi, You might have heard this name by now, or not but Linda Silverman has been working with the gifted population for over 30 years and her website Gifted Development Center in Colorado has articles that focus on being a gifted woman.
    We are oftentimes invisible. Gifted women seem to deny their giftedness and that in turn can create stresses, I think. I’m currently reading her book Upside Down Brilliance. Good read, good illustrations as well adds a bit of humor. 🙂
    Being gifted and poss 2-e ( still testing my reaction to Strattera- ADHD inattentive Poss.)
    There’s a lot to read out there for gifteds, not so much for Gifted Adult Women. It doesn’t have to equal stress though even if the whole of society is pushing towards that direction.
    Being content with who you are, who you’ve been crafted to be, is liberating. Yes, we see things and sense things differently-isn’t that amazing!
    Thank you for your post and blog.
    Sincerely, Anna

    1. I’m sorry I didn’t think my first response posted. So um sorry for the re-run here. Oops.
      Sincerely, Anna

  13. Your post sounds exactly like me! I never would have read anything about “gifted” prior to my 5 year old being ID highly gifted. The more I read, the more questions I have about my own childhood and current experiences/intensities. How does an adult determine if it is indeed giftedness?

    1. Hi Samantha, if you goto Linda Silverman’s site, she has a side by side comparison between Giftedness and another thing, anyways that list is a good indicator of giftedness. when mom’s saw 3/4 of the list the likelyhood of giftedness was about 84% or so towards giftedness. It kindof looks a little different for an adult , but its close. I don’t remember if she has a list for gifted women, but the list is pretty good. You can kindof look back in your experience at school…as a youngster and picture if that was you.
      Granted there are some things that can mimic giftedness. This is also covered in the book Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults. Its actually readable even though written by a bunch of Ph.D.’s and an M.D. My special scenario is a blend of Giftedness shaded by some A.D.H.D.(inattentive) My Dr.s and I are testing out Strattera to see if it can help with focusing. It seems to. With the 2-e pop. what happens is the giftedness is clouded by the L.D. and the L. D. is nearly invisible by the gifteness and a bright person’s ability to hide it with coping mechanisms that don’t always work as we get older/tired/stressed. Its actually quite interesting. I hope my writing this was clear enough, I’m actually much better verbalizing my answers that writing/typing them down (also and indicator). I hope this helps your search for answers, and I hope the moderators don’t mind me replying. i’ve just been working on finding out what makes me tick for some time now. So I have the books at my fingertips. Good Luck!
      Sincerely, Anna

  14. Wired, stress, fast pace – cycles, chaos – all true. Immersed in whatever I do and have to remember to come up for a breath. Experience the exhaustion – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Knowing where and how to get to moments of center is key for me – a deep breath, walking meditations work better for me (putting thoughts into motion and pass them buy with observing what is on the path). Understanding it is wiring was key. I have a few years on most of you and have created a tool box that works for me. It is wiring, but not all the same pattern and thus the tools are not the same for each of us. Thanks so much for the post Jen and everyone’s comments are rejuvenating!

  15. Love this! As a young girl, I was often told to ” relax” and “smile more.” I look back and see my lack of a poker face meant the world see the wheels turn.

    I’ve tried to “fix” it, too. Now I know that if I squelch my need to move, I get weird. Walking meditation, weight lifting, vigorous yoga and even a hardcore weight lifting work better for me than any “peace” centered tactic. I’ve also learned that if I don’t indulge in a certain amount of intellectual wanderlust daily, my spirit turns dry. Thank heavens that I live in the age of Google so I can get my hit of knowledge on the fly.

  16. Christine, You are a remarkable lady! I have been writing you email in my head for months, since reading “Emotional Intensities in Gifted Children,” I found it in the VRMS library -who knew it was there -and why didn’t we? All I could think was OMG! This is me, she’s talking about me! Am I loser because I’m an adult and still don’t have enough coping skills (or meds) to deal with all those intensities? That I have “Stress Puppy” tattooed on my forehead? You helped me realize that all of the things I thought were “wrong” with me, things I’ve thought of my whole life as “character flaws” are things that I can’t eradicate or change. We may be able to gain coping skills, but those intensities are hard-wired into our gifted brains. So, we stress, and we work, and we excel -if we are allowed to do so. Thank you for your insight, research, and wisdom. You have helped me see things differently, with hope and humor, knowing that my future will always be beset by crazy insecurities and intensities, but also, that I have the brains and the fortitude to overcome the negative parts, and exploit the positive. Thank you.

    1. Thank you! Words like yours keep me going. You, and others like you, are the reason I write the nonfiction I write. For too long too many of us have felt basically crazy because of WHO we are. It’s time to come from a place of acceptance and see the blessings of living life from an intense point of view, because to me at least, there is nothing more amazing that getting the opportunity to live an intense life and truly suck the marrow out of every experience.

  17. Descriptive words only skim the surface in my opinion. Gifted absorb the human condition. They thrive for balance, restoration of mother earth and seek pure goodness. Overexcitabilities, a mere by product of complex porous systems, gets confused for many things in this society. People assume far too much. They don’t fully comprehend high energy and quick emotional fluctuations, nor do they value shyness, introversion, intensity and keen perception. Some think this a being weird and too much to handle…while others feel inspired by this immense drive to understand and care for the broken winged among us. As our idealism beckons through existential depression, at different points and time, this hinders and disenchants the gifted during unfair events like murder and other values deemed essential, not blind to what’s absolute and pivotal on various levels and abstractions. Why injustice can’t ever be overlooked nor abandoned, this intense stress gets manifested through positive or negative reactions; much dependent on the environment we live in, the faces we see, how we embrace sensitivity and whether we can allow time for self actualization, purpose. As a young girl, I would cry over the news and ask far too many questions. I was considered hyperactive, compassionate, emotional and overly sensitive. I basically tested out of high school my freshman year and went to a good college thereafter. Never happy about how they taught subjects being that I was unable to follow linear patterns too well, I felt bored and restless. Glad there’s an audience for this important field, this has most definitely helped countless people with intense natures.

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