My dear friend E. lost her 24-year-old son A. to a drug overdose last week.
The news could not have come as more of a shock. I still don’t know any details about what led up to this loss, and am waiting for some time to pass before reaching out.
E. and I were very close friends for years (I was present at A.’s home birth), but we drifted apart as our belief systems diverged – and I know at this point she is leaning most heavily on the people still within her spiritual group who can help her make sense of this loss through their unique lens of the world and what death means.
With that said, I wanted to take a brief moment on this blog to acknowledge the sometimes-devastating impact that creativity, giftedness, and intensity can have on young people – especially during this mind-numbingly challenging era of COVID-19, when finding one’s way through the world has suddenly become (is it possible?) even more difficult.
What I know about A. is that he studied art in college and was a talented photographer, hoping to eventually earn a living through his craft, and working temporarily as an Uber driver. What I don’t know is:
- Had A. been struggling with drug challenges for years, or was this a tragic sudden accident?
- Was the overdose intentional?
And, most importantly:
- What could we, any of us, have done to prevent this?
I am grateful that life never got tough enough for me as a gifted teen and young adult to seriously consider either drugs or suicide*. At varying times I hated life, couldn’t understand life, wanted “out” of life, felt I didn’t belong in life, withdrew from life – but I thankfully made it through the roughest spots and managed to reach later adulthood.
I sincerely believe that we – society, not just individuals or families – need to do whatever we can to nurture and hold up young people (i.e., adolescents and adults under the age of 25) as their prefrontal cortices continue to develop. While they may be brilliant, creative, and independent individuals – and possibly even parents already themselves – folks in this age range are at heightened risk of making choices that are more informed by the very-real intensity of their emotions than by “rational” decision-making – and drugs can be an appealing and far-too-readily-available “option” to manage those emotions.
My own kids aren’t teenagers – not quite yet. However, we’re nearly there, and I’m incredibly grateful for all the wise practitioners and fellow parents out there who have paved the way with invaluable information and advice, which I will be readily tapping into.
In the meantime, I’m sending virtual love and support to all the gifted, sensitive, artistic, “too much” people out there who are hurting right now.
We can and will make it through this unprecedented time together.
* The Mind Matters podcast has dedicated three of its 68 episodes (episodes 39-41) to the topic of suicide in gifted populations. They are well worth a listen.