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Existential Depression

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depressed-childExistential depression. Until a short while ago, I never knew such a thing existed. That is, until a good friend in Australia forwarded an article she had found. When I read it, I went “Wow! This is so me!” It describes perfectly how I have felt my entire life, especially my childhood. Titled Existential Depression in Gifted Children, one of the key paragraphs was this:

“Because gifted children are able to consider the possibilities of how things might be, they tend to be idealists. However, they are simultaneously able to see that the world is falling short of how it might be. Because they are intense, gifted children feel keenly the disappointment and frustration which occurs when ideals are not reached. Similarly, these youngsters quickly spot the inconsistencies, arbitrariness and absurdities in society and in the behaviors of those around them. Traditions are questioned or challenged.”

It goes on to state that this awareness can lead to a form of anger over the arbitrariness of the world. However, their insights also lead these people to realize that this anger is useless, as it is directed at “fate”, something beyond their control. And anger that is powerless devolves into depression.

Now, I never considered myself a “gifted child” when I was growing up. We didn’t have such things. You were just a “good student”. In retrospect and given today’s standards and definitions, I probably was a “gifted child”. Not Mozart-level. But far enough up there to be singled out in elementary school for advanced classes and given the opportunity to skip an entire year of school. (Which I declined. One of the few smart choices I made in my life, by the way.)

Does knowing what afflicts me cure me? Hardly! But it at least helps me to understand myself better, which gives me yet another tool to help me deal with the depression when it becomes particularly strong, as it has these past few days. Knowing where it comes from and what motivates it gives me a slight edge against it. And I’ll take every edge I can get in this life-long battle.

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