Keep One Ear Out

A beautiful article written by Ms. Bradley who was Amanda’s Gifted and Talented Coordinator when she was in high school. Learn more about her, and about Imaginational Overexcitabilities.

I learned so much from her about Imaginational Overexcitabilites during her four years in high school.

Amanda showed up in my office as a freshman with her jet black hair hanging in messy shards over her glasses. As the high school’s Gifted & Talented Coordinator I understood that something was drawing her into my office, I just didn’t know what. So I asked questions and I listened.

I learned, first of all, that her life was fueled by music. Loud music. Music that was heavy and deep. Music that resonated with the complex emotions of her feelings.

I also learned that she was a perfectionistic artist. Her pencil drawings could have come to life they were so real. I was awe struck. But her drawings were rarely good enough for her. The anime characters she created were more than art to her. When her friends weren’t there to hang out with, her anime characters would “come to life and walk with her to class.”

When Amanda first told me this I was both worried and fascinated. I explained Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities to her since I felt she was exhibiting them. But, knowing that mental illness can also affect someone’s reality, I consulted with a psychologist friend to determine whether or not I should be concerned about Amanda. The psychologist recommended I ask Amanda, “Do these anime characters ever tell you what to do?” I did and she responded, “Mrs. Bradley, they are a figment of my imagination, so no, they don’t tell me what to do. I am in control of them, not the other way around.” I was less concerned.

Amanda’s ability to lose herself in her imagination was her salvation, and ultimately her demise. She had been out of high school for a few years when she was walking to her job along the railroad tracks near her home, as she had been doing for months, and listening to music wearing noise cancellation headphones. She didn’t hear or see the train coming behind her. The headphones blocked out the blaring train whistle. And the train couldn’t stop.

If I had known how her life would end, what would I have said differently to her all those years ago? Have I learned anything from Amanda about Imaginational Overexcitabilities that will help me enlighten other gifted students about their own inventiveness in this area?

First of all, I will celebrate their remarkable abilities to utilize their incredible and creative imaginations. Then, I will caution them that while the temptation to live in an alternative universe of imagery and invention may be strong, not to lose themselves to the extent that they shut out reality entirely. Keep one ear out. Let’s keep our loved ones safe by cautioning them to be wary of becoming all-consumed in a world of fantasy.

~ Terry Bradley