Intelligence

Image: American Mensa
When I was nine years old, I was identified as being a gifted learner, and I entered a special enrichment program at my public elementary school in Georgia. It was called TAG (talented and gifted). About six of us were pulled out of our regular fourth grade classes and treated to classes on various subjects. I enjoyed learning about optical illusions, jazz, ancient Egypt, and astronomy, among many other things. I vividly remember both of my teachers, who worked as a team to teach the classes. One was male and one was female. Last year, I looked up my female teacher on Facebook and found her. It has been great to catch up with her after all of these years, and also to let her know that she was one of my favorite teachers.

There's a stigma to having a high intelligence, and discussing one's own intelligence is awkward in a similar way to discussing one's own mental illness. I was diagnosed with a high IQ ten years before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I. Perhaps already understanding that I marched to the beat of a different drummer made it easier for me to accept the fact that I have a mental illness.

Now I'm a member of Mensa, "The International High IQ Society". I joined in 2000, and it wasn't until this year that I disclosed my bipolar disorder to anyone in my local chapter. To my surprise, the day I made my announcement by sharing this blog in our chapter's Facebook group, a woman who's only three years older than I am, let me know that she has Bipolar Disorder II, and commented, "I'm also on the L&L regimen". It's great to know that I'm not alone in being exceptional in ways that society views as both positive and negative. It's funny how high intelligence is considered to be a good thing, but you're never supposed to mention that you possess the gift. Since I made my disclosure about having bipolar disorder, I've learned that in addition to one other member of my Mensa chapter having bipolar disorder, there's one person in my chapter with dyslexia, and another with Asperger's Syndrome. It is clear that having a high IQ does not ward off life's disorders!

Sometimes people ask me if my intelligence has helped me deal with my bipolar disorder. Although I have flashes of intelligence during mania, hypomania, and even depression, I feel that I'm at my most intelligent when my mood is stabilized by my medication. When I'm stable, I'm able to be rational and logical, and it's easy for me to understand that I have to do many things in order to be at my best: eat healthy food, exercise, reduce stress, follow my routines, get regular sleep, etc.-- and I do these things. So, I don't believe that intelligence means that I can conquer bipolar disorder, but I do believe that intelligence makes it easier for me to participate in my treatment by choosing the right psychiatrist, medications, therapist, and support group for me, and realizing that I have to adapt my lifestyle in many ways in order to save myself.

11 comments:

  1. Anonymous2/23/2012

    Thanks for sharing this. I was also selected for the gifted program in 2nd grade. It was a bit traumatic because it was a new program and I was the only one. As an introvert you can imagine how difficult that was. However, I am SUPER grateful that I have been given so many gifts... as far as BP - well, that's a gift of perspective and compassion I guess! Have a great day! Take care! - Jennifer from FB

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  2. Hi Jennifer! I'm glad that you can relate to this post and I doubt that you're the only one. I'm grateful for many things too. I think it really helps to remain grateful and hopeful. You have a great day and take care too!

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    1. You know me well from previous comments and my e-book : "Power of Positivity". Your point on the possible relationship between intelligence and bipolar disorder is interesting .. I was never tested in my school years for intelligence because they said I had a "reading problem". As it turned out, I was later diagnosed with "mild dyslexia".I found it difficult to focus on basic class room demands and was said that I appeared to "day dream" in the class...But, so many of my teachers (and professors in collage) told me that My insights and positive attitude was my best asset to a successful life .. One year out of Collage, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed Lithium, of which I still use for the past 42 years..My dyslexia ? It's basically gone .. My bipolar ? It seems totally in control with 28 years of episode free stability. So, what is the answer/connection with high IQ, dyslexia, Asperger's Syndrome,etc and bipolar disorder with gaining ultimate stability...Perhaps it is learning to use "Positivity" in our Lives.

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    2. Positivity is very important. Thanks for continuing to share your message!

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  3. Anonymous2/24/2012

    My parents thought that I was retarded until I was in 6th grade. I was severely depressed and seriously withdrawn. They were surprised to find I had a higher than normal IQ after all my siblings were tested when my brother was in the process of finding out he had dyslexia. I don't think I'm MENSA material, it's not something that is going to help me in life at this point to find out. I seek out intelligent people. And I realize that intelligence is usually feared and hated in people not because knowledgeable people show intelligence but because some intelligent people have little to no sense of empathy. Delivery is important. My sister is a highly intelligent person, more so than I. I know that here this sounds like i am "one of those" people who fear intelligent people, but I don't believe I am. My sister is very helpful but tends to try to outshine others. Her confidence is wonderful but her ability to listen instead of instruct can become overpowering.
    Maybe I am lucky enough to know many people who are intelligent. Maybe I am more empathic and perceptive than I am smart. I don't know.
    This was an interesting blog account. Thanks for writing it. I wish I had been placed in AP (Advanced Placement) groups instead of Special Education when I was a young. I would have felt less out of place and less looked down upon when I finally was put in AP classes as a teenager. Personally, I like people who are nice no matter what there intelligence level. I've found that I can learn from anyone.

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  4. I'm sorry that your depression lasted for so long, but I'm glad you're doing better now. I also believe that talents should be used for good and that kindness goes a long way. I have found that everyone offers unique insights and knowledge, and I enjoy associating with many different kinds of people.

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  5. It is important to recognize that we're all special and good always comes with bad. Intelligence is a very gross psychometric approximation of some quantity believed to be fixed. Neither insight nor development comes from an assessment administered in 2nd grade. We are the sums of our experiences, so let's endeavor to have productive ones. Thanks for listening.

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  6. Reading your blawg reminded me that 4th grade was for me, too, the year that I was inducted into a gifted program. This was in a public school in Berkeley, CA. 1974. I remember nothing of the program, probably because it was overshadowed by a harrowing life at home. The only memory I have is being confronted by a black girl in the hallway on the way to the gifted class one day. She was probably my age and I was probably looking at her because I was an unrepentant studier of people. She naturally accused me of staring at her and walked up to me and demanded what my problem was. I don't recall my response, except that it was meek and presumably unsatisfactory to her, for she hauled back her hand and slapped me across my face with such force that I heard the report of it crackle across the ceiling. And then she walked away in disgust and I remained for what seemed like many minutes cemented to where I stood, utterly stultified. Of the gifted program, as I said, I recall nothing.

    The funny things is that I was diagnosed Bipolar I a few weeks ago at the venerable age of 49. 30 years I bobbled along thinking my depressive and manic periods were normal! I too am taking Lamictal. But I'm so early in I'm only at 50mg., not even a therapeutic dose, according to my psychiatrist.

    I deeply enjoyed your story and thoughts. Thank you, Nick

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  7. I wish you the best. The good thing about being diagnosed at this time is that there are more and better medications than there have ever been. You should be able to avoid bad side effects.

    Your story about your experience in school was entertaining.

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  8. Anonymous7/29/2014

    Thank you Andrea for sharing this very personal part of you life.
    I am in France where i live and was diagnosed Bipolar 1 1/2 years ago and i am also Hi IQ. Your describing of your intelligence at her best when stabilized by medication gives me hope that some day i ll stop having this feeling of numbness ...
    Thank you again
    Marie Helene

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    1. I hope you start feeling better soon. I believe that I am at my best when I am stable on medications, but there has been a fine line between stable and overmedicated for me. I am a believer in taking the least medication possible to remain stable, and I believe too many people are overmedicated. Keep learning about bipolar disorder and the medications and work with your doctor on taking the lowest doses possible. Also, therapy helps a lot and may reduce your need for medications. Being overmedicated can lead to numbness.

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