How To Save The Gifted Kids We’re Losing To Suicide

How To Save The Gifted Kids We’re Losing To Suicide

On Nov 1, 2015, the world changed.

Nov 1, 6:51pm

My heart has shattered
Into a thousand felted pieces
Sew me together again

That day, at approximately 4:45 pm decision was made that affected:

  • Me
  • A father
  • A brother
  • A sister
  • 2 Grandfathers
  • 2 Grandmothers
  • 6 aunts
  • 3 uncles
  • 7 cousins
  • 1 girlfriend who was on text
  • 1 best friend who made the same decision 18 days later 500 miles away
  • 6 teachers
  • 30+ school staff
  • 418 classmates
  • 6825 community members
  • Innumerable others

That decision was made by a 13-year-old boy. MY thirteen-year-old son:

Jamison Cole Jacobsen

 

The theory of 6 degrees of separation states “ at any time one person is only 6 people away from being connected to any other human…on this planet.  Six Degrees of Separation means that YOU are linked by a string of 7 or fewer acquaintances to Beyonce, Gandhi, — the Queen of England.

It also means that Heath Ledger, Robin Williams, and the Las Vegas shooter are only six degrees of separation away from you and that they, like you, are linked to the decision my son made less than two years ago on a fall night, 25 days from today.

Jamison was an extraordinary child. From the moment his spirit touched the earth and he drew his first breath until he breathed his last he penetrated every moment with exuberance. Knowing Jamison was like touching fire. His love, joy and infectious laughter surrounded him as did his never-ending inquisitive questions and comments.

“Did you know cat-lovers make better partners because they are more emotionally connected?” as he sharpened his fingernails into a point.

“Mom, did you know that you should not travel closer than 10 feet to another moving vehicle?” as he read the driving manual for fun sitting in his car booster chair at five.

“No, I can’t cut my toenail, I’m working on a way to turn off my light from my bed.

Always pushing the limits, Jamison did everything at 150% and 200mph. He did first and thought about it later. His love to challenge pressed him to explore and experiment and his agility lent him the ability to press far ahead of his peers in many ways.

When he arrived at kindergarten I was told he was “different.” I didn’t know that adding numbers on license plates or reading from the car manuals was unusual. Nor was I aware a spiritual breakdown at the age 7 was out of the ordinary.

I didn’t know. No one ever really does.

 

My life has been marked by suicide:

  • My grandmother’s
  • My mother’s countless attempts
  • My sister
  • My brother-in-law
  • My son

Is this unfortunate? Fortunate? The answer is both. The remaining question is who else will have to die for us to change? Will it be your daughter, your son, your nephew, your sister?

Shortly after the time, Jamison entered school, he was diagnosed with ADHD. So, I was told I had a gifted child with a 98% chance of disability.

This is what they call “Twice Exceptional,” – a talented child with a disability and these “2E” children turn into adults.  In Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, this is called being a

Double Winner.

There’s an extremely high correlation between IQ, abstract thinking, mental illness, and suicide.

The state and district in which we lived, did the best they could but lacked the funding needed to meet Jamison where he was at.  What do you do with a child who can’t sit still but can ask you questions about the justice of life at seven and then argue intelligently with you about your answers?

What do we do with these creative, brilliant children who don’t fit anywhere?

At the last band concert, I attended for Jamison. I picked him out of the crowd in black pants that were too small, no socks and a ragged shirt. Instead of hanging around with the other students after the concert he put away every chair neatly stacking them on the rack.

I will not forget the day I ran out of gas two weeks before his death when he carried 3 gallons of gas for about ½ mile for me – while students at the high school across the way at in HS field taunted him. I got angry.

He said, “It’s okay Mom, they don’t know anything. I’m okay Mom.”

Second grade. That’s when the bullying began. Second grade. Why so young? What is it about these children that identify them as targets? Why are sensitive, creative children targeted?  Is it because they care too much, is it because they’re too out there?  Too different?

Sensitive children turn into adults with chemical dependency issues. We shun these people. Why do we think we are so different from one another?

What makes you or I think that WE are the definition of normal?

As it turns out, there are a set of characteristics these “gifted” children and individuals generally display.

There IS a difference between being bright and being gifted:

  • One knows the book answers, the other asks the questions.
  • One gets A’s, the other, most likely by 5th grade is struggling to keep up.
  • Yet, these are children that know approximately 60% of all kindergarten material on the first day of class.

These kids express what is called OVER EXCITABILITIES — inborn intensities including a heightened ability to respond to stimuli.  Essentially, these individuals experience life in 3d in a 2d world. Everything is important, everything.

They are labeled as:

  • Overly Sensitive
  • Highly Self Aware and aware of their environment
  • Intense

They often look like this:

    1. The Intellect
      Curious, questioning, and sharp, a child with intellectual overexcitability asks the questions that flummox you, makes the connections that amaze you, and arrives at understandings that leave your curriculum in the dust. They will want to go deep into interesting topics, talk about theoretical concepts, and move faster through content than you can handle.
    2. The Imagination
      Fueled by creativity, a love of stories and drawings, and fictional worlds, students with this overexcitability might daydream, doodle, or otherwise occupy their minds while a dull teacher drones on.
    3. The Senses
      Despite the provocative name, we’re talking literally about the five senses here. Students with sensual overexcitability receive more input from their senses than expected. This could show up as a strong reaction to sounds, light, and textures, or tastes. This reaction could be positive, with a desire to continue experiencing a sensation, or negative, driving the student away from the stimulus.
    4. The Physical
      Students with psychomotor overexcitability appear to simply have too much energy. It might manifest as fidgety behavior, rapid, excessive talking, and overactive physical behavior. It sounds an awful lot like ADHD, and might easily be misidentified as such.
    5. The Emotional
      Tragedies, injustice, and reminders of mortality might trigger an unexpectedly emotional response from students who experience emotional overexcitability. As a teacher, it might appear that they are over-dramatic or seeking attention. However, these students simply feel emotions more intensely, whether joy or sadness. This sensitivity could show up as strong compassion, empathy, and care for others.  In a word:

INTENSE

 

At about 5 pm on Nov 1st, having viewed a YouTube video a levitation and texted a “girl” friend in his room. My son took a tether ball on a chain, that I had asked him to get rid of many times…wrapped it around the clothing bar in his closet stood on a plastic dresser two feet away from the living room where his family was watching a movie and gave into despair.

Despair at what?

 

Not belonging I imagine. Being different. Why?  Because he was different and yet, he was the same as every single one of us.  Given to impulsivity, in those moments as the dresser broke beneath his feet and he struggled, I imagine he changed his mind — but for my little boy, it was too late.

The guilt people feel when someone they love takes their life is unimaginable. The decisions they make carry on. Ripples. Grief brings with it inexpressible pain. Anger at the bullying, anger at God for allowing him to be different, anger at me for not knowing.

Jamison was in counseling during this time. He was attending weekly sessions with a licensed therapist. He was meeting with his school counselor. He was asked repeatedly if he was ok.

Why didn’t anyone know?

When he came to school on Halloween wearing a t-shirt he made bearing the words, “Life Hands You Lemons,” – handing out lemons — how do you know the next day he is going to stop living life altogether?

I don’t know the answer.

In the time since Jamison’s death, I’ve read mounds of information on mental illness, on bullying, on giftedness, on sensitivity.

Here is what I do know:

  • These are the children that demand our attention.
  • They are the kids who make us wonder
  • They are the arguers
  • The expressive
  • The dramatic
  • The emotional
  • The artists
  • They are different
  • They question and they don’t understand why the world works the way it does and….because we don’t have the answers…

We ignore the questions.

 

Because like loaded sponges dripping from the weight of pulling in every bit of stimulus around, these people make us work:

They DEMAND more

 

These are the world-changers and we’re losing them…WHY?  There are many, many reasons, I can’t claim to know. But what I do know I give to you.  We are losing these students and people because:

  • We lack love.
  • We lack tolerance.
  • We lack time.
  • We lack acceptance.

We lose them because we TELL them to live in community but model independence and isolation. We exchange and celebrate personal achievement over the health of the whole. Just look at the division in our country today.

We tell them in 4th grade, “It’s time to grow up. “Work out your problems with your peers. Stop tattling.” We turn them away, then wonder we why they won’t, 24 months later they don’t or won’t share their deepest emotional hurts and embarrassments with us.

Our model is broken.

If I could change the entire structure of the educational system in America, I would. If it were worth the battle to start legislation if I thought laws would change these facts. I would dedicate the rest of my life to doing so.  The reality is that legislation and administration can only do so much.

The basis of being for every single human reading this is this: we want to know and be known, we want acceptance, we want to belong.

Acceptance     •     Love     •     Value

These are taught through action, through modeling, through asking, through being involved. They are learned by seeing that adults care more about being present and knowing the child, by stressing their strengths and accepting their weaknesses, than making sure they line up and fit in a box.  They are relayed by caring MORE about the person; the individual inside the body RATHER THAN forcing the body and mind to conform to something we can understand…into something we can manage, and ultimately control.

Community.

 

It’s not just needed by our young people, it’s what we as Americans need to do to continue existing. If we don’t change. If we don’t stop looking for the right answer and accept people as they are despite their differences. If we don’t allow and promote people’s strengths. If we don’t STOP reach out a hand we will all lose – and sooner than we might imagine.

Nov 3rd, 9:51pm
I wish…
I would have written down
Every funny thing you said
Closed them in a book
Wrapped it in red thread
Bound you to my heart
Shut my ears to the noise
Paid attention instead

I wish I could change the world. I wish I could somehow be God. I wish I could wipe away my own tears, the tears of my son, they tears of Hailey’s family, Seth’s family, the tears recently shed at Freeman HS, the tears of these ripped pieces in the fabric of our society. I wish…

Instead, I will have to settle for the small message I do carry and hope that I reach six, who reach six, who reach six. In my lifetime, I would settle for this community of 16 square miles called Lakeland, learn and begin to show the world what LOVE really looks like.

It’s not just the right thing to do, it can be our only response:

Beauty from Ashes; Death to Life

Weaving a Blanket of Hope

Weaving a Blanket of Hope

It’s almost that time; November 1st. The fall leaves are turning and the jack o’ lanterns beam their shady faces in front of the Fred Meyer next to the fall mums.

I miss you.

This is my son. 13. A bright star that lit up everyone’s daily walk with his never-ending curiosity and inability to stay still.

Curious
Impulsive
Brilliant
Insatiable

jamisonlittleLast year about this time we sat on the bench together at his younger brother’s football game. He had just spent time at an early Halloween party and my ex’s brother and wife were dropping him back to me. He snuggled up to my side, in his usual way. His new haircut rounding out his boyish face showing so much the signs of his leaving boyhood and becoming a young man. I was proud. This child was the one for whom I prayed. He was the gift given. Joy for the mourning of losing my first born.

Jamison and I could always talk. I teased him about his girlfriend and asked him if he was going to kiss her. He said, “Mom, really. I’ve got to work up to that and we’re not even at holding hands yet.”

“How long do you estimate it will take?” I asked, giggling and poking him in the side.

“Not sure.” he said, “approximately 6-8 months.”

He threw his head back in his carefree way and smirked a half smile. I laughed, so very close to my own heart. It was like our souls were woven together through time. People used to tell me that this child though an adopted was very much similar to me. They were right and over time he had become a refuge and friend in the emptiness of my marriage.

“Jamison, can you help me carry this?”

“Jamison want to come to the store with me?”

Middle spent most of his time with his Dad. Two peas in a pod I would always say. Middle loved sports and Dad loved Middle. That’s how it is sometimes. You don’t mean to, and truly you love them all equally, but each parent always holds a little more dearly to one child over the other. We are strange creatures. Despite our attempts to control; to adhere to the rules we write on our hearts, we never really be how we want to be, do exactly as we desire or keep from becoming what hope most to avoid. Looking back, twinges of guilt over my unconscious favoritism ping me.

Loneliness the maker of broken people – I don’t understand why he felt like he had to go.

For a number of months, I felt personally slighted that Jamison dared to leave me. Angry, screaming through tears as I drove somewhere – anywhere trying to escape my grief. Escaping is impossible; grief pours over you like a brazen sea. The waves come when they do. You stand cemented in knee deep water waiting, watching the horizon. Occasionally, forgetting going about your day, talking with friends, doing your work – until without warning, a wave washes over you like a tsunami pulling you under into suffocating darkness again. You struggle for days to clamor to your feet again only to be plunged under.

When Jamie died, I felt a strange fire. I knew that his death would change the world. I knew it would be the catalyst that would make me write. I knew it would bring me to the end of myself. I knew that I could not letdauntattoo him pass through this dimension without allowing his soul to altering this world and through my release to alter yours. I have no idea what this means except that I am to open myself up to you; to share the depths of my heart with you – whatever may come.

Life finds us flayed open sometimes. Pain bursts from the depths of the universe of souls and we feel strangely connected to those who have suffered before and have suffering yet to come. We are a connection of strings; a blanket of bleeding hearts, knit together with common circumstances and tragedy. As pain our pain fades, our wounds scab over and healing takes hold we tighten to pull together and strengthen those still raw and oozing. Tragedy leaves us always as at the cross-road; dive into bitterness or release the weight and weave the blanket of hope.

I chose hope.  You too, ok? Everyday. Over and over again.  Don’t let your scars be for naught.

“….to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise  instead of a spirit of despair.”

Until next time.

All My Love,

Daun

PS.  I send out personal blog posts like this one as well as training, resources and tips/tricks on how to leverage technology to raise your voice online.  You can choose how you would like to interact with me by clicking here.

Hell is to…

Hell is to…

Of all the things that irk me the most, it’s got to be individuals that have the potential to make a difference, to live with joy, to push past the choices in this life they don’t get to make but choose not to.

I get it, I understand. And you know, you are right, I don’t know your story. But, I do know The Story. I know what it feels like to have life ripped from your hands. I know what it feels like to give birth to death. I know what it feels like to make choices that change your children. I know failure. I know pain. I know the human existence, I live it right next to you. You are not alone. You are not unique in the sense that you are broken and battered. You are not alone in this: you have a choice.

Stay where you are, in the middle of the mess and drown or choose to get up walk. You are a light to this world, stand up and shine. Do it now.

I do not believe in hell except this – Hell is to see the potential of your human life played out on a screen; the music roars and the trailer rolls announcing you to humanity. The movie is to watch it unfold. The only difference between the two; your choice between living life and living death.

#chooselife

Grace & Peace,
Daun

Giving Death To A Child

Giving Death To A Child

Why is there no term such as “giving death to a child,” for it is the same sentiment? It involves the labor, the fight, the surrender, the same pain as giving birth, only in reverse. Life comes into this world in agony, it leaves with the same.

How can we say human life in the interim is not worth all that we give it? To live with fullness? To infuse every day with joy?

#chooselife

Enduring Tragedy

Enduring Tragedy

If you have endured tragedy, if your heart has been ripped apart, if you’ve been lower than you ever knew to be possible and you are still breathing, still waking, still thinking, then you are capable of dreaming. Not only are you capable of dreaming, you become capable of achieving greater than you ever before thought possible. When you have lost that which you didn’t think you could endure to lose and survived; you earn the antidote to failure. You confront Fear in the arena and you are offered the choice to become a Survivor if you choose…but only if you choose.

Dear Jamison, I Wish

Dear Jamison, I Wish

Dear Jamison,

There’s a dead spot in my heart.

It’s like a dull wooden spot that has calcified. Like, The Chronicles of Narnia when the witch freezes over the characters and they turn to stone. My heart is hardened over, blue – but I’m still very much alive.

I am dead within being alive.

The thoughts of I wish never stop. I wish I would have put you in high school classes, I wish I would have gotten you a mentor. I wish I would have stayed home.

I wish.

The wishing never stops, Jamison. It’s a wish that pushes up against the calcified portion of my heart and burns through like a firefly trapped in a glass jar; bumping, bumping, bumping against the colorless wall but never escaping its prison.

I wish.

All My Love,

Momma