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.

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

Your Story Is What You Make Of It. Turning 40.

Your Story Is What You Make Of It. Turning 40.

I’m 40 today.

For a woman to age gracefully she has to have that je ne sais quoi; that I don’t care, come what may attitude.

Growing up and growing old takes guts. It takes even more guts to do it well.

I never thought I would be where I am at today. When I was 20 I didn’t think much about my future beyond marrying and having children. I liked to write, craft, travel and eat. That’s what The Husband and I did for 8 years in our 20′s. We drove to San Fransisco on $500 for 10 days, we stayed in dark parking lots. We had a lot fun and got fat, but that’s a different story.

Turning 40 is confusing. You feel like crap one moment and ecstatic the next. That must be why they say “Uh oh. You’re turning the big 4-0.” I read somewhere that 40 is the new 30, 80 is the new 60. Funny things happen as you grow old. Your boobs and rear get lower, your soul gets wiser, but your spirit doesn’t age.

You’re still you, inside there. Like Peter Pan.

I’m 40 today.

I get out of the shower, wipe the steam off the mirror and stare at the lines on my face, I take a deep breath and then let it out. Maybe I should visit the dermatologist, I wonder. Isn’t that what you do when you turn 40? They did start sending me email offers recently. How do they know that stuff?

A moment passes, I take a step back and dry off my body as I think about the story I’ve played a part of in it for the last 40 years.

Life is never what it should be, it’s what you make of it. There are no should’s. In life, we find ourselves in situations and circumstances we didn’t choose. When we’re kids we don’t know any different, we think we’re just like everyone else or rather that everyone else is like us. Somewhere around high-school, the lid blows off and we start to see our story from the outside of the box.

I glance at body and then at my floor. For a moment, I think about how far I am from where I wanted to be by now. My mind goes to all the things I haven’t yet accomplished.

  • Write a book.
  • Speak around the world and inspire others.
  • Visit Africa. Work with sex traffiking victims.
  • Be more consistent.
  • Be more kind.
  • Love more deeply.
  • Be more thoughtful.
  • Be more present.

But…it’s all too easy to get stuck in the be more’s do more’s. I know this because…

I’m 40 today.

  • I thought at 40, I would have a big house in the suburbs – I do.
  • I thought at 40, I would be married with a gaggle of children – I am.
  • I thought at 40, I would be an entrepreneur – I am.
  • I thought at 40, I would be a mentor and business coach – I am.

I thought at 40, I would have arrived; arrived at that glorious place called – who the hell knows – it’s wherever you think you’re going to arrive at in your 20s and 30s.

But, somewhere, around the middle of your 30′s, if you’re like me, you begin to come to the realization that you never really do arrive. You begin to understand that there isn’t some big Ah-Ha you’re missing that everyone else gets. You begin to see that our stories are just strings that extend from before time into eternity; strings that stretch out along the horizon. In reality, we’re all just wandering and stumbling forward along the path in our own storybooks – like Peter Pan.

My story is what I make of it; your story is what you make of it.

You and I would not be who we are if we had not traveled the darkness of our paths. We would not be who we are if we had not stood in the sunshine and burned our faces. We would not be who we are if the tears we cried did not moisten our cheeks. We would not be who we are if you did not fall down and scrape our knees and break our bones. We would not be who we are if our hearts themselves did not burst into the billion tiny pieces that scatter the pathway of our lives.

Our stories define us for better or for worse.

We get to choose. We get to make the choice to pick up each drop of pain and every ounce of joy from the journey and carefully place them in our backpacks to use for good. Or we get to choose to let them weigh us down. We get to choose to set our gaze, turn our faces toward the sun; toward the unknown; toward the future; choose to let every particle fuel us. Or not.

If you make the choice to let your pain fuel you then you have power. When you meet someone on the pathway that needs a hand – you have something to offer them. You can carefully tend their hurt with a bandage that once covered the scars you bear. You can caress the soul of the stranger with the hand of mercy you never had. You can choose to dig deeply into your past, pull out every gem leave them like sparkling dust in your wake.

This is life. It’s a rollercoaster in a amusement park – if you choose to see it that way. We all go through it, but the strong choose to own their brokenness. They embrace the ups as well as the downs. They accept the wounds of this life and choose to let the ashes of ruin ignite their fire. They take in every failure and through labor, they birth beauty.

You get to choose to let your story be your strength, to let it carry you into the unknown; to let it break bonds and unite hearts. Be strong. Let every bruise fuel your step; let every joy be your song.

Choose life.

I wipe the steam off the mirror once more and peer at my face. This time, I smile. I earned and love every single last of the damn lines that etch my face. They remind me of who I am. They remind me that…

Today, I am 40.

I love my life, I love myself. I am Precious. Loved. Miraculous. Beautiful. Capable. Wise.  So are you.

Happy Birthday, Gorgeous.

All My Love,

Daun