I had a different topic in mind for this blog hop.  Then, as I fought yet another migraine, I decided to write this instead.  Let’s talk about the dark underbelly of being gifted.  Your health.

I’m not even talking about being twice exceptional like my son.  No, let’s talk about how being gifted can affect your health all by itself, nothing exceptional about it.

My gifted husband has migraines.  I, also gifted, have migraines.  My 5-year-old son has started having random massive headaches that make him sensitive to light…probably migraines.

Gifted individuals are wired differently.  Sometimes the wiring is better – to overclock your computer, as it were.  Sometimes the wiring isn’t exactly what we want and does weird stuff that makes your life miserable.

Take me, for example.  I have no way of truly knowing if my autoimmune diseases can be blamed on being gifted.  The very nature of autoimmune – the system going nuts and attacking itself – is by nature faulty wiring.  Some signal somewhere isn’t being read correctly, and my immune system goes nuts when it encounters my thyroid.  Thus the picture for this post: I’m not a junkie, promise!  I just take a few thyroid meds.

Migraines are also faulty wiring – triggered by oversensitivities that lead the brain to overreact.  I want to giggle every time I read WebMD’s blurb on migraines:

“The frequency with which headaches occur varies from person to person. Migraines may be rare, or strike several times a month.” WebMD

Several times a month?  Try several times a week, or more.  How about every day?  That’s life for Mr. Genius – a clean MRI, no obvious triggers happening, but random strings of migraines anyway.  I’m to the point of blaming it on the weather and hoping for the best.

And what about when your highly sensitive systems (overexcitabilities) are themselves migraine triggers?  Walking past a cigarette smoker will instantly trigger a migraine for my husband.  Staying outside in bright sunlight will trigger mine.  Actually, any headache will trigger mine – even a garden variety headache.  Fun stuff.

It’s not just about my head either – being highly sensitive affects a lot of things.

For example: I have a high pain tolerance.  I have a low pain threshold.  Put those together:  I can take a lot, but it hurts more than yours.  Perhaps not directly caused by gifted, but certainly caused by higher sensitivities.

Even my gut is affected.  After a recent bout of colitis the doctor tested me for something chronic like Chrohns or UC.  Despite years of colitis symptoms, she concluded that my system is just highly sensitive.

I asked if that meant it was all in my head?  She laughed, and told me no, it’s fairly common for people to have sensitive digestive systems.   The gut has the exact same type of nerves that the brain does – and there’s a lot of brain/gut connections that science still hasn’t unlocked.  She told me that the effective medications for gut super-sensitivity are antidepressants.

My stunned expression said it all – she laughed.  I like my brain and the way it works – my gut can get over itself and start dealing with the sensitivities without any system-wide medications!

What about mental health?

The brain is the key to everything.  What happens when it isn’t working quite right?  What about mental health – neurological health?   That’s a murky morass to dive into.  Dr. Marianne Kuzujanakid thinks that more doctors should be trained to deal with gifted kids and their dual diagnosis:

 

“When pediatric diagnoses are carelessly applied, gifted children are frequently mislabeled with ADHD, autistic, depressive, or bipolar disorders.” Marianne Kuzujanakis M.D. M.P.H. The Misunderstood Face of Giftedness.

 

Gifted kids are often misdiagnosed – or not diagnosed at all.  Gifted sensitivities and behaviors can mask mental illness or prevent diagnosis.  It’s so confusing!  The Engineer has an official diagnosis of ADHD and PDD-NOS (the old version of ASD, because he’s “borderline” autistic: they just don’t know without more testing.)   His doctors are positive he has ADHD.  I’m not so sure.

Sure, it looks and acts like ADHD in some ways, but it’s clearly not in others.  Some days I’m convinced it’s just giftedness and overexcitabilities.  Some days I’m positive his SPD is mimicking ADHD.  I have the benefit of seeing it all.  His doctors don’t see it all – and they see him after he’s been in a trigger situation for a while.

I can tell you that if the Engineer attended public school, his teachers would be enthusiastically advocating for ADHD medication.  How many kids like the Engineer are out there?  How many kids with psychomotor overexcitabilities are struggling to behave in a classroom setting when they just need to move and talk?

What about the gifted kid with the existential depression?  Despair over the world’s social ills can be well warranted – but does it need medication for depression?  And how about the kid who has narrow, deep interests that mimics Autism?  Does he need ABA therapy or just interactions with people who share his interests?

Dr. Kuzujanakis thinks that giftedness should be considered before slapping a label on a kid (or prescribing a medication):

“It is crucial to properly distinguish pathology while accurately addressing concerns. Sometimes the best remedy is simply proper educational placement.” Dr. Kuzujanakis, The Misunderstood Face Of Giftedness

I’m not even delving into the wonderful world of 2e, where it’s often extremely difficult to get the diagnosis you need because giftedness masks the signs of other conditions.

 

Being gifted is so hard in so many ways.  Health is just one of them – and one of the most crucial ones, especially for children in school.  Misdiagnosis or underdiagnosis can brutally affect a kid who is struggling and needs help.  A lot of people say they don’t care about labels, especially if they’re homeschooling.  I say labels are important: they help us pinpoint strategies for helping kids cope, or for helping us parent them effectively.

As a gifted adult, having the proper label can be critical to getting a doctor to take you seriously.  I can’t tell you how hard I had to fight to get doctors to take my health seriously: to them, it was all in my head.  Having the right label, even if it’s one they’re not familiar with at times, helps me manage my issues and provides a better quality of life.

Health matters.  Understanding your health as a gifted individual is critical to getting the help you need.  Don’t write it off as a gifted quirk and ignore it.

 

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and text

 

This post is part of the Gifted Homeschooler’s Forum blog hop on The Difficulties of Being Gifted.  Please go here to read more about the downsides of being gifted, and how that might affect you or your child.

 

 

 

The Health Aspect Of Gifted

19 thoughts on “The Health Aspect Of Gifted

  • March 17, 2017 at 7:20 am
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    These are a lot like the complex of health problems that come with joint hypermobility, which I also have. I would add skin problems to the list.

    Also:
    Gifted = less sleep
    JHM = weird sleep
    Gifted + JHM = get interested in karezza and non-orgasmic sex so you have something to do in the long hours of darkness

    I have a couple of tricks for gut sensitivity. I had great success with probiotics but I’m sure you’ve already familiar with them. The other thing is to starve yourself for 36 hours (night, day, night) only drinking water, whenever your gut is acting up. For me this is like a reset button on my gut and I can go more than a month between needing to do it.

    For migraines, maybe Celi could live up to her name and trepan you 🙂

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    • March 17, 2017 at 4:04 pm
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      Ouch, trepanning – the solution of last choice! Love your list, it’s very on point. I’m moderately hypermobile too (hip, arm, knees) and it’s a bear, I can’t imagine being more affected by it. I love your reset idea, I’ll have to try that next time!

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      • March 18, 2017 at 10:26 am
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        Glad to meet a fellow sufferer of ‘the squish’. I have a mild version but the worst thing is the unpredictability. Horriffic weightlifting injury – osteopath fixes the worst of it in a matter of minutes. Go in a floatation tank – shoulder pain for a year.

        The GRO research has got me wondering if gifted people are different enough that what is good advice for others isn’t for the gifted. Could what would be a healthy diet and good exercise program for most people be less effective or even damaging to the gifted? The same with stress management, mindfulness and meditation. Trying to quiet the mind is a cognitve insult, a direct attack on a fundamental part of a gifted person. I think the mind has to be satisfied and possibly exausted before anything can be accomplished in that direction. I also tried Radical Acceptance. When I let the hate come it’s like a massive engine firing on all cylinders. This was like sitting in a tepid puddle. I don’t know what that was about but I wanted no further part of it.

        Not just psychologically alone, physiologically alone too? *long string of expletives and sound of things breaking*

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        • March 19, 2017 at 7:49 pm
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          Honestly, I don’t think it’s a matter of being different enough that conventional advice doesn’t work – it’s more that we’re highly individualistic. What works for you might not work for me, and vice versa. And yes, meditation never worked for me either – so frustrating! I’m calm and at peace in nature – it’s enough stimulation for me to react to without being highly distracted. Go figure!

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  • March 16, 2017 at 11:41 am
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    I love the quote from Dr. Kuzujanakis (so true re: educational placement!), but most of all, what you said at the end about not ignoring your health. Thank you for a wonderful post.

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    • March 17, 2017 at 2:15 am
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      Thanks for commenting!

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  • March 15, 2017 at 9:59 pm
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    I am excited to learn more about the GRO project (https://www.gro-gifted.org/), where they are researching the gifted brain-gut connection. I have always had sensitivity issues to food and I get headaches too. This is a field of research that will bring so much help to all of us! Thanks for exploring this topic.

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    • March 15, 2017 at 11:13 pm
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      Thank you for mentioning the GRO project – I hadn’t heard of that one yet! The more we discover, the more we can help our kids (and ourselves!) Thanks for commenting 🙂

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  • March 14, 2017 at 6:32 am
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    Ouch, those migraines must be tough. 🙁 I love that you’ve explored this angle to the topic.

    I’m super-sensitive health-wise, too, though my health is much better now my kids are older (more sleep helps no end – another benefit of homeschooling!). I also notice a clear pattern between negative emotion and bodily symptoms, whether it’s an immediate headache/stomach ache or a cold virus a few days later. I write a lot about the importance of self-care, but really I don’t have a choice unless I want to take to my bed permanently! 😀

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  • March 13, 2017 at 4:49 pm
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    This is what I tell everyone who asks me about labels: “Having the right label, even if it’s one they’re not familiar with at times, helps me manage my issues and provides a better quality of life.”

    http://preschoolengineer.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  • March 13, 2017 at 4:44 pm
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    A large number of people who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome/ myalgic encephalomyelitis and fibromyalgia are identified as overachievers. People who make great contributions to society…until they can’t.

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    • March 13, 2017 at 7:53 pm
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      Agreed – medical science only knows so much, and can’t always pinpoint why the two are connected (or what to do about it.) We’re a mystery 🙂

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  • March 13, 2017 at 3:03 pm
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    So true, Mary! My six year old suffers from chronic stomach aches. No allergy or digestion issues. Just giftedness and high anxiety.

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    • March 13, 2017 at 7:52 pm
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      I’m becoming increasingly convinced that mental = physical. Especially for kids who can’t always articulate what’s going on. Poor kiddo!

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  • March 13, 2017 at 2:55 pm
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    Oh my, yes. Let me throw another one in there: allergies and food intolerance. Everyone in my house needs to avoid something, and it makes family meals a constant challenge.

    A pediatric nurse recently put it in perspective when we went in for hives that appeared when we went out. Some kids, she said, just have really sensitive immune systems. Suddenly everything made sense.

    I do want to put in a good word for medication. A prescription to treat my PTSD (which I’m pretty sure I’m more prone to because of the way I’m wired) has been life changing, and for the better (oh, this is what it’s like to not have constant, disruptive mental chatter…) But tell your doctor it did nothing for my sensitive digestive system 🙂

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    • March 13, 2017 at 7:55 pm
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      Ooof! That medication sounds brutal! And yes, I completely forgot to point out the allergies and intolerances – I guess that’s such a part of our normal lives that it didn’t occur to me to mention it!

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      • March 13, 2017 at 8:05 pm
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        No, it’s not brutal at all, and much better than the PTSD symptoms

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        • March 13, 2017 at 8:09 pm
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          I can only imagine what that’s like. My thyroid issues are fairly simple, so I’m super glad we finally found a medication that works. I tell people I love Big Pharma all the time and they think I’m nuts lol! If it wasn’t for my meds I’d be a vegetable.

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          • March 13, 2017 at 8:17 pm
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            You have my sympathy! One side of my family has thyroid issues, and their lives improved dramatically once they were diagnosed and given the medication they needed.

            But as for my children…I go back and forth. Hopefully by the time they have children we’ll have clearer guidance, especially when they’re so differently wired.

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