I was in Nashville last week, and met with my psychotherapist twice, and was introduced to a psychiatrist, whom I met with twice. My therapist recommended I meet with this psychiatrist because of my chronic, persistent, depression.
It’s not your typical depression, where you’re incapacitated with sleep, incapable of pleasure, obsessing with death, lack of eating, and the like. No. This depression is existential in nature, and always has been, which is probably why it’s so persistent and enduring. The age old questions that leave me feeling alone, and that life is inherently meaningless, have plagued me since childhood. We all die eventually, sometimes sooner and sometimes later. This brief period of wakefulness that we call life is a fleeting dream we neurotically try to make sense of. Then there’s the overwhelming weight of possibility, which paralyzes most decisions. What to choose when you can do anything? What to think when everything catches your attention? What to study when everything is fascinating? It leaves me with a certain angst, a frustration, that materializes into… well… feelings of suicide. But not because of an emotional reaction. Mostly because of a lack of emotion, a neutrality that pervades all aspects of experience. Then there’s the feeling of isolation, the realization that we are forever alone, that no matter how close we come to another person, physically, mentally, emotionally, we’ll always be forever apart, trapped and contained within the headspace enveloping conscious experience.
So the psychiatrist I met with gave me some diagnostic questionnaires after I provided a brief (and I mean brief) overview of my life, and ultimately determined that I was suffering from existential depression.
He indicated that it was obvious I had a high IQ, and that gifted people often suffer from existential depression, most from a lack of meaningful stimulation or challenges in their life.
Whenever someone speaks to me about being gifted, I have this awkward reaction. Half is my ego delighting that some other mind acknowledges the rarity of my condition, and thinks that I have some value, some intellectual value. This is immensely validating, especially since I struggle with vast emptiness and unworthiness, qualities I’m forever attempting to cast off, and compensate for. Who wouldn’t feel nice?
But then there’s the realization that my ego is inflating, and the other half of me becomes embarrassed, like I’m under inspection, in the spotlight, only to be discovered that I’m a sham, a complete fraud, like fools gold. The bigger your ego, the bigger your ignorance. I don’t want to be ignorant. If you think you’re so smart, you’re more likely to make serious errors in judgement, because you fail to acknowledge your errors in reasoning, and the overall frailties of the human mind.
Intelligent? Maybe. I have a way with words, perhaps more than most people. I can adapt quickly to any audience and individual, so I can appeal to their mind’s attention, stroke it, enrapt it with feeling and inspiration, captivate their curiosity. I can read, and have an uncanny ability to absorb information and learn quickly. Very quickly. These are qualities that I know I possess. But so what?
I also know I have immense trouble concentrating. My attention is ethereal, fleeting, wandering. It sabotages my most sincere efforts to apply myself to tasks. What’s required by me is passion and curiosity for a subject. I need to be totally absorbed in order for this attention to focus. But even then, it leads to lateral thinking that leads to bunny trails and non-sequiturs.
Because of this attention defect, or trait, my processing speed for problems requiring prolonged concentration is greatly inhibited. I struggle to focus, to keep the problem and its particulars in mind, so they escape to the periphery and I’m forced to circle back around to the beginning and gather all my thoughts again. This is time consuming, and makes me come across as slightly indolent.
So, while I know I’m bright, I also know that I feel stupid and slow. And I’ve always struggled historically in academia, in the formal education setting, but never with learning, per say. I absorb just fine, at my own pace, especially in a I have the company and support of another person to guide and engage me.
All this being said, my psychotherapist and psychiatrist recommend I restart my interest in learning and academia, and devote myself to serious learning once again. They believe this will give my life more meaning and significance. Which, I agree. I just tabled thinking so I could focus on building my career and achieving financial freedom. But perhaps these aren’t so mutually exclusive.